A publicist is a person whose job it is to generate and manage publicity for something, usually a person, a book, a film or a company. A good publicist can make or break your book – but they can also be very expensive! As an author who’s just starting out, having a publicist would be extremely valuable, but it may be out of your price range.
If that’s the case, don’t worry! With a little bit of work and a lot of confidence in yourself, you can be your own publicist. Being your own publicist is like being your own advocate – telling everyone how much you believe in yourself and your book.
Develop Your Personal Brand
The first key to being your own publicist is to develop your personal brand. As Simon Sinek once said, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” Translated into selling a book, they buy the why behind your story. What are you trying to say? Why is it important?
As an author, you need to know who you are and why you’re writing. Why do you feel the need to share stories? Once you’ve decided that, you need to stick to that narrative.
Ask yourself: What’s the message you want to share with people? Do you want to be open and honest or more aloof? What are the issues you’re passionate about? When you have the answers to those questions, stick to them – that’s your brand. That’s what you put into the world. Don’t try to be a new person every single day. Be yourself in every interaction.
Research Your Target Audience
The best way to promote yourself is to know who would be interested in talking to you. When you pitch yourself, which we’ll talk about later, you’ll have a better chance of achieving success if you pitch to an outlet or engagement that’s interested in what you do.
You should try to understand your audience and where they go for information. What publications do they read? What social media accounts do they follow? What other personalities are they interested in?
Make a list of the publications that your audience reads. Don’t limit yourself to print – look for blogs, influential social media accounts (check Twitter and Instagram), and other online publications to spread the word about your work.
The more you know about your target audience, the better. You want to put content out that’s relevant to your audience. See what gets the most engagement when you’re researching these publications – which stories have the most shares, the most likes, the most comments? Finding out the content your audience likes will help you deliver it to them better.
Use Social Media to Build a Following
These days, media outlets want to be able to predict how interested their audience will be in reading about you. Your social media accounts are considered “social proof”: that is, an indication of how many people want to hear what you have to say. Invest time in growing your social media following. But don’t go for cheap followers (or, worse, buy followers). Your followers should be engaged with what you do. If you have tens of thousands of followers but no one likes your posts, it’ll look like your followers are fake.
Create a passionate, involved following. You can encourage engagement on platforms like Instagram by posting prompts and asking for users to comment. You can also team up with other authors with similar audiences to get more exposure. The more you put yourself out there, the better. Be consistent with the amount and type of content you post.
Pitch Yourself for News Coverage and Speaking Engagements
Once you have your brand, your social media, and your audience targeted it’s time to pitch!
Pitching is when you send out queries about your story to publications or speaking engagements. Before you send out your pitch, do your research about the publication. You should know exactly who their target audience is and what type of content is on their site. Don’t pitch a long-form article if the blog only publishes listicles. What you send needs to fit the publication’s parameters.
When you send out pitch emails, make sure they’re straight to the point and engaging. The people you’re pitching to will likely get dozens (or maybe even hundreds) of emails a day. You need to catch their attention and establish the value of writing about you quickly.
Start with your subject line - it needs to capture attention right away. Remember, your first job is to get them to open your email. A boring subject line will never help.
You can find the names of journalists and contact information for journalists on their websites, but you can also subscribe to services like JustReachOut for help generating lists of the right publications to talk to.
Never Stop Selling
The final key to being your own publicist is to never stop selling yourself! You never know who is a great potential contact. Get out there and talk!