Saturday, June 5, 2010

Publicity 101, By Publicists Sabrina Sumsion

What are you doing to gain publicity for your book? If you are a smart author, you are engaged in many activities that will inform the general public that your book exists. Since publicity is a term many people have heard but don’t really understand, here is a short introduction.

Publicity is free coverage of your book or yourself in the media. Anything that will increase the public’s awareness is considered publicity. Advertising in a media outlet such as a newspaper ad or television commercial is a good way to gain public awareness as well but I always encourage authors to pursue free routes first.

You want publicity to gain the public awareness but as you gain awareness, you need to overcome the “who cares?” factor. The public in general has so much information coming at them all the time, many people develop filters to block out the extra noise. As you strive for publicity, keep in mind that you need to deliver information the general public wants.

To overcome the “who care?” factor, you must either educate, entertain or enlighten your audience. Education benefits your audience by giving them tools or information to improve their lives. Everyone wants a break from time to time so provide that for your audience by entertaining them. Enlighten your audience by giving them information of which they were not aware. Content that educates, entertains of enlightens will get attention and gain you public awareness.

The main outlets of publicity include physical print, broadcast, internet, face-to-face and word of mouth. Each form of publicity has its benefits and draw backs. As you pursue publicity, take into consideration what you are comfortable with and have the required skills to pursue.

Physical print includes newspapers, magazines, postcards and printed newsletters. Newspapers have editorial line-ups that vary from a lead time of one week up to one month. They typically keep a few spaces open for breaking news. Before contacting a print publication, have a high resolution headshot and cover shot available. I find the best way to gain coverage is to offer an article free of charge. Make sure the content is valuable and matches a topic the publication’s audience would be interested in.

Broadcast media includes radio and television. It is a signal sent out to everyone in the reception range. The audiences can range from a few thousands to millions of people. For these two media, you need to have a reasonable gift of gab. If you have speech impediments, radio coverage certainly should not be seriously pursued. Television has the ability to write subtitles but they still need a really compelling hook to consider you if you have a speech impediment.

Radio wants information that people can hear and understand. If you have a visual message like how to ice a cake fancily, it is difficult to explain on the radio. Choose information that is easy to convey through words alone. To help radio be interested in you, have a sample radio interview posted somewhere online that you can refer radio hosts to hear some of your message and how you deliver your message.

Television loves information that is visual. They prefer information that can be conveyed in pictures and graphs. They like a pleasant appearance as well. If you want television coverage, you want to have a tape of you doing an interview as well as a high resolution headshot ready.

Internet publicity has many varied facets. You can post articles, build a website, join a social networking site, post videos and link audio files. All of these options are good for everyone seeking publicity. For the very beginner, build a website first. It is a vital part of online publicity. You need somewhere to direct all of your fans and this should be the place. Once you have that, look into social networking sites like,,, and After that, consider a book trailer or a video of yourself posted to When you are working on the more advanced social media, remember to direct people back to your website. If you are not technologically talented, you can hire people to help you handle this side of publicity.

Face-to-face publicity includes book signings, book festivals and any other event that you attend. In fact, you can garner face-to-face publicity standing in line at the grocery store. Anytime you are interacting with people in person, you are gaining publicity. Join clubs, attend sports events and whatever you can think of that gets you out and talking to people. If you are shy or afraid of groups this might be difficult for you.

Word of mouth publicity is the much sought after grand prize in publicity. When you offer value to people above and beyond what others are doing, they will talk about you. I call word of mouth publicity developing personal ambassadors. You want to please people enough that they send other people to you. My mother is a Stephenie Meyers personal ambassador. Everyone she interacts with will end up hearing how they MUST read the Twilight series.

You have many options for publicity so decide what you are comfortable doing and start there. If you need help or guidance, le me know. I love helping authors!

Sabrina Sumsion is a seasoned literary publicist who has worked with a broad range of authors and genres. Her goal is to educate all authors about how to give their books the best chance possible by creating a marketing plan and gaining publicity. For more information and to contact Sabrina Sumsion, please visit her website at

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