or, how to get noticed by reporters
Writing a press release still has its place in the world of book promotion, but blasting a list of reporters with a copy-and-paste job is not one of them. Think delete. You'll still want to write a press release, and when you do use these distribution channels.
Website PR services
PR Web www.prweb.com/
PR Leap www.prleap.com/
For emailing reporters, you'll want to send each one an individual email, custom tailored to them, even if you've never talked to them before. First, start out writing a "Dear Reporter" letter. That is a personal letter about the book from you, a recommendation from my publicist. As you copy and paste it into the body of an email message, you'll want to adjust, chop and refine, depending on who you're emailing.
For example, I often lop off the lead and try to further personalize the letter. I sent this to a guide on About.com who covers autism and led off with mention that I receive her online newsletter, which I do, and understood she reviewed books on occasion. Remember, sincerety counts.
Here's the "Dear Reporter" letter that I used as a model for all of the emails I sent, and yes, I say "Dear So and So" to reporters I don't know.
Dear [insert name],
Now is my time to share with you the advanced bound galleys of my book, Act Early Against Autism, which is set to debut March 4, 2008. The release of the book is timed to coincide with National Autism Awareness Month in April, an increasingly important educational movement at a time when one child in every 150 is diagnosed with this vexing brain disorder.
Act Early Against Autism is two books in one. It blends personal memoir with prescriptive advice based on my battle to "recover" my son, Leo, who is now eight. On one level its message is to intervene as early as possible in order to redirect the course of a child's development, something many professionals told me was impossible. On another, it's about relationships as the core of human essence—how we form them and how we cannot live without them, especially those bonds we have with our children.
Chapter 1 traces the arc of Leo's story from his heartbreaking diagnosis to his almost miraculous recovery. During these four years I experienced grief, dashed hopes, and the cruelty of others toward my child because he was "different." I fought with the "system" over educating Leo, and I gave over my life while trying almost every therapy available until I found those that worked for him.
The following chapters each open with a personal vignette that relates to the practical advice on the various topics that follow. I share my experience with various treatments and explain why it is important to stick with those that have the most scientifically proven strengths. I also disclose the bankruptcy our family suffered due to the expense of getting Leo the help that he needed and how we were able to reclaim our lives as Leo triumphed over his autism.
I know you will have many choices of books about autism to review in the next few weeks as National Autism Awareness Month approaches. Please consider sharing Act Early Against Autism with your audience. It is both a success story and a practical guide for parents with children like Leo.
[phone number] | www.jaynelytel.com
Monday: Set up a profile on ProfNet
or, promoting your book: a different grind
One of the most common questions I'm asked from others is, "Are you going on a book tour?" Sometimes I think they're of the Dick Cavett era, and frankly, some of them are. "No, no no," I tell them. "That's not how you sell books." It's getting on TV (the long-shot is Oprah) and having something go viral on the Web or getting to the right bloggers.
Above all, however, is that your product is well-written and compelling. That said, the publishing houses won't always assign you a publicist. They just don't have the resources — both human and capital — to spend on every author. So, don't depend on getting one. I think I got one because Penguin paid so much darn money for my book that they're hoping for a good return. And, hey, so am I because I get more money if I reach certain sales benchmarks.
In any event, if you get a publicist you don't necessarily want to rely on him or her to pitch your book. If you know someone in the media, I'd reach out instead of passing the name on to someone who doesn't know your contact. In today's age of contact and email overload, the personal touch goes a long way in scoring at least consideration for coverage.
For me, here's how the process worked. Copy-editing completed in October and book totally done (Yahoo!) after I finish answering copy-editor queries. I got small breather, sort of. I had to begin compiling a media list. As a former journalist, I had come to know quite a few reporters and used them as leads. Another fortuitous event: the 30th reunion of The Independent Alligator, my college newspaper at the University of Florida in Gainesville. I reconnected with reporters from all of the country, many of whom worked on the newspaper with me. I gathered more business cards.
I then compiled a list of bloggers (not as many as you might thing, about 5), and asked another college roommate, who runs a boutique PR firm in Santa Monica, Calif., to help out with a media list. She came through with more names than I'll have time to pitch. Then there are enewsletters on autism, radio and TV shows, and a lot of crossed fingers in the hope that I'll get some publicity.
I'm eager to meet my publicist and score a meeting in late November. My editor and literary agent join in. We discuss strategy and I turn over my media list. I sit tight. The book debuts March 4. Bound galleys are delivered in December. We sit on them so they don't get lost in holiday mail.
It's now January 22, and I'm taking that list and sending out email to reporters. I'm spent.
Friday: What did I say to get media attention?
or, why the rules have changed
Today, I refer you to one of my favorite services—Visual Thesaurus—to read my homepage article on the secrets of writing a tantalizing title for your book. This article is an expanded version of a blog I wrote last month. Enjoy!
PS: You need to be a subscriber to read the entire article, but the service is about $14.00 for the year, which provides access throughout the site and the "visual thesaurus" tool. It's well worth it, and I get nothing for saying that!
the importance of choosing a unique title
One of the coolest things about being an author is seeing your book sold in major retailers and bookstores. You can imagine my surprise this morning when I googled my book's titled, Act Early Against Autism," and found that you can pre-order it on Walmart. What a thrill!
And, you can pre-order on Amazon.com for the already reduced price of $10.17—a $4.78 savings off the cover price of $19.95. Thank goodness, it qualified for FREE Super Saver Shipping! (Pssst. Get it on Walmart; it's only $9.76 but you pay 97 cents in shipping!!)
What prompted me to google my book's title is remembering the advice of David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR, when he said that it is crucial to come up with a book title that is unique so that it lands at the top of the heap in search results.
When my editor and I agreed on my book's new title, I googled it, and nothing came up.
I immediately grabbed the domain name, as well as a few related ones, to secure my space in cyberspace. Don't forget your name, and its misspellings. Luckily, my husband had registered our last name years ago, so I not only had lytel.com but now jaynelytel.com.
A month later, I googled again and found my book title in a Penguin catalogue for new releases, and my editor had mentioned me in a MediaBistro.com interview as being a well-positioned author.
Today, I now have 193 hits on Google. Yahoo!
All this validates Scott's advice: It's worth the effort to come up with a unique name that you, and only you, own on the Internet.
how to do it right
When your book comes out, you'll want to promote it. But, don't send out a press release without clearing it with your publisher first. First, you should have had a meeting with your publisher and/or editor about five months before your book hits the bookstores. If you haven't, then find out why. Five months is about the average lead time for planning a promotional campaign.
There are, however, steps you can take to get on the promotion bandwagon. You can promote your author's website, which is something you do have control over. Write a short release—really just a paragraph—and include (very important) a link back to your website.
how hard should you push back
First, I've just committed one of the mortal sins of blogging—not posting every day, or at least three times a week. Frankly, I don't know how others do it without a staff. I'm slaving to finish my book edits, designing my author's website, laying the foundation for my foundation—and taking care of three boys, my husband, an 8-year-old and a soon-to-be-10-year-old.
But, I'm back, and before I offer today's tip, let me share some good news. My manuscript was accepted last week, so the presses will be rolling soon. I'm relieved, and though I expect more questions from my editor, the last set were rather painless, compared to the monumental self-editing job I had to do the last time, which brings me to today's topic: How much should you resist your editor's edits?
You absolutely cannot fall in love with your writing, or you won't be able to get past deleting copy that you think is just the greatest prose. Your editor's job is to frame your book. For readers to keep turning pages, he or she needs words of engagement, and that is accomplished by how your frame each chapter. For me, I had to eliminate the running memoir and instead open up with a strong vignette that tied back to the advice at the end of each chapter.
At first, I grumbled, but I defered. She's done this like a gazillion times before. Nonetheless, I got my agent involved. That's what your agent is for, to mediate difference. On the one hand, I wanted to be done. I've been working on this book for two years. Another part of me, the practical part, realized that editors are under pressure from not only their bosses but from the marketing and sales departments. So, sometimes what you had outlined in your book proposal will change.
That's what happened to me. In the end, my editor made my book stronger, and I'm thankful for that. Hey, we all want to sell as many books as possible, right?
how to create an author's website
The work of an author seems never-ending. This weekend, I got sidetracked finishing my book edits with constructing my author's website. At first, I proclaimed, "I just want a simple 3-page website." By Sunday evening, it grew into a 20-page site. I've been working like a madwoman to get this done even though my book isn't coming out until March 28.
It all has to do with planning. In Keith Ferazzi's book, Never Eat Alone, he quotes Robert H. Schuller: "Spectacular achievement is always preceded by spectacular preparation." I couldn't agree more.
I think author's overlook the planning stage when it comes to the marketing, promotion and even writing of their book. But this is as vital as a structural edit.
Building an author's website is a given. You absolutely must have one, even if it is only three pages. When people hear about your book, you can bet that they're going to Google you to learn more. If you're not on the Web in a meaningful way, you've missed an opportunity to sell more books or educate readers more about your passion.
Most author's websites are pretty boring and replicate the front and back flap of their book. These standard elements are good. The rest include:
For a really spiffy website, you should include features that "complement" the book. For example, on my author's site, I've borrowed a technique from movie producers. I've added "Act Early Outtakes," a chapter that was jettisoned from the original manuscript but is illluminating nonetheless. It includes a slideshow of my early years.
Another feature on my under-construction site is "Act Early Extras." This feature supplements my story about Leo, my son. You can listen to secret conversations I record of him or view a slideshow of his artwork. [To add this interactivity to my site, I just love WidgetBox. I'll give you the nitty-gritty on the tools in another post.]
Remember, your author's site is about your personality. Let it shine through.
odd writing habits
Writing a book is not like cramming for an exam. It's not an all-nighter. You need to pace yourself.
For me, that's literal. I run and write.
It looks odd, and I always curl my fingers around my Olympus V-10 digital voice recorder so no one sees. I hope they think I'm holding my iPod. As I run (and this gets trickier the later in the day because there are more people around, and I get self-conscious), I put the recorder to my mouth and begin emoting words. If the sidewalk gets too crowded, I run in the alleys.
If you know anything about speech-language pathology, you know that movement jars a body's vestibular system, which is in the inner ear and includes the snail-shaped cochlea, contributes to a person's awareness about his body and language development. That's why they put kids in therapy swings and try to get them to talk. It works with adults, too.
I also run and write because I have so little time during the regular day to focus on this art—work, kids, general self-care take up the rest of my day, which begins at 4:30 a.m. I'm so used to getting up that early that I can't sleep in, and I don't know what that means anymore.
Whatever you do to stay the course to finishing your writing project, the best advice I can give is to stick with it. If you write 250 words a day at the end of a month you'll have written 7,500 words. Aim for a book length of 60,000 words, and you'll be done in a year (not counting all the rewrites).
NEXT MONDAY: What should an author's website include
Jayne Lytel was a nationally syndicated columnist when, soon after his first birthday, her second son, Leo, wasn’t responding in ways his brother had at the same age. Leo was subsequently diagnosed with autism.
Act Early Against Autism is the result of Lytel’s work with her son—a practical and empowering guide for parents, revealing the importance of early intervention.