Free PR for her book; what a surprise!
Back in 1998, my wife Nadine’s very first book, Green Tea: The Natural Secret for a Healthier Life, was published by Kensington. Unfortunately, Kensington considered the book a “backlister” from day one, so they did almost nothing to publicize it—hardly any marketing or PR at all.
We didn’t much care because we were so happy that she had become a published author, and she was proud of her book. We were disappointed, however, that we only found her book in a few book stores.
And then the checks started to come
Despite the lack of PR or marketing, Nadine began receiving royalty checks! And they kept coming—$400, $500 even $800 every six months. This struck us as odd because still no PR had been done for the book and we rarely saw it in the bookstores. But naturally, we didn’t want to insult the publisher by refusing to accept the money, so we deposited each check as it came and forgot all about it until six months later when another one arrived!
The puzzle continued for years until one day, my wife happened to Google her book and was amazed to discover that it was being publicized on quite a few websites, all of which were selling green tea. Quite a few green tea websites included her book on their list of recommended reading. (Googling was still a new thing back then, which is why it took us so long to get around to doing it.)
PR without asking!
Each of these websites had a review and/or image of Nadine’s book as part of their plan to promote the green tea they were selling. Many of them either sold the book themselves or linked the reader to the book on Amazon or another online bookstore.
These websites were “interested parties” who knew that publicizing Nadine’s book would help them sell their products. So even though Nadine did not endorse or even know about their products, they were giving her all kinds of free PR!
Most authors are surprised to find that they can’t rely on their publishers to promote their books for them; only a few books get the VIP marketing treatment. This means that chances are good that you will be on your own in this department and could use some help. So will it be worth your time to figure out who might provide that help, hopefully for free?
The answer is those “interested parties”—that is, people, companies, or entire industries that want to see your book publicized because it shines a favorable light on themselves or their product(s).
One of the major interested parties for my wife’s book turned out to be Jamba Juice, a nationwide chain of juice beverage shops. When they began selling four kinds of green tea shakes in 2005, they purchased and displayed copies of her book to sell in their stores as part of their marketing campaign. This amounted to lots of free PR for Nadine. Eventually, she sold 80,000 copies of her book.
Can you generate free PR for your book?
The answer is yes. Suppose your unpublished book is about cancer. Ask yourself who the interested parties might be. You could try approaching the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen, and other cancer support groups. One or more of these groups may have a publishing arm that might want to publish your book, allowing you to bypass the New York publishers altogether in favor of one that really cares about your topic and will value your book highly. One of the cancer organizations may help support your book with a grant, a promise to purchase a certain number of copies from the eventual publisher, promotion on their websites, inserting a flyer for your book in their mailings, or handing your book out at their events.
Another example: Suppose your book is written for or about senior citizens. Who are the interested parties? AARP comes to mind right away, and Googling “senior citizen support groups” produces a whopping 9,830,000 hits. If only a few hundred of these are relevant and interested, you’ve got yourself quite a bit of potential free publicity and support.
In the same vein, Googling “arthritis support groups” produces 1,540,000 hits; “diabetes support groups,” 4,340,000; and “pain support groups,” 14,500,000. Of course, most of these hits will be worthless. But even if only 1 percent are relevant and slightly helpful, you’re in great PR shape!
Think free PR!
From the moment you get your book idea, start thinking—and keep thinking—about free PR. Think about who wants to see your book published and promoted because it benefits them. Then tell them about your book, because if they promote it to help themselves, they’ll also be helping you.
For ideas on building the media platform that all book authors need, see “A Media Platform – A Must for Book Authors.”