Just about everyone is familiar with the classic image of The Invisible Man, whether it’s Claude Rains in bandages and a trench coat or the revisionist take with Kevin Bacon in foundation makeup and a hoodie. While both were great films, they both underscored the inherent detriments to being invisible.
In my world, I see authors who feel like the Invisible Man all the time. They’ve toiled tirelessly to write their books and get them published, and then languish as they wait to get noticed by an audience they know would appreciate their messages, if only they knew the book existed.
Well, to reference another great film, promoting a book is not like the magic of Field of Dreams, in which the only thing Kevin Costner needed to do in order to get people to flock to his baseball field in the middle of his corn crops was simply to build it. In the book world, if you write it, they will NOT come; you need to make them aware that you and your book exist.
Please take note that you need to create awareness not just of your book, but also of yourself. Depending on whose statistics you trust, there are more than 370,000 new books published annually. If all you want to do is push your book, you’ll be one of several hundreds of the thousands of cans of literary beans on the shelf. The key differentiator in that equation isn’t your message, it’s you. It is virtually impossible to write any kind of book, be it fiction, nonfiction or self-help, without investing a piece of yourself in it. Your life, your experiences, your expertise are inextricably linked to the message of your book. You can no more separate you from your book than you could snap your arm off and hang it on the shelf until you needed it later.
Understanding that is the first step in understanding how to build awareness for your book through the use of public relations strategies and tactics. With my clients, I don’t start with the book. I start with the author. To show you why, let me work backwards from the results of any good PR campaign, the media placement.
The goal of any PR campaign is to get the media to publish a story about you and your message or to get interviews on radio and TV that allow you to expound on your expertise and experience. The key reason for this approach is that the media isn’t interested in helping people promote their books. They don’t exist to provide coverage for you. They exist to inform and entertain their audience, so they are far less interested in authors who want to use the free media to sell their books than they are in experts who have valuable information for their readers, listeners and viewers.
We pitch our clients not as authors, but rather, as experts who have written a book centered on their expertise or experiences. That approach allows our clients to speak directly to the message of their books and mention their books in a context that is valuable to the news media. This is in contrast to many thousands of authors who are turned down by the media because they focus on the least newsworthy element of their appeal, the fact they wrote books.
While it may seem like a game of semantics, I assure you it’s not. In 2011, we booked more than 2,000 radio interviews and nearly 400 TV interviews for our clients using that strategy. In addition, our print campaigns in 2011 registered a combined print circulation and online audited visitors per month of nearly 10 billion. That is a direct reflection of our approach, because the media needs content that speaks to the needs of their audiences, not press releases that are aimed at the sole purpose of helping an author sell a book.
In this way, we lift the cloak of invisibility and enable authors to be noticed and respected for what they know and what they have to say, which are the key components that would make their books appealing in the first place.