For Fiction Writers, a Novel Approach to Publicity

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Article at a glance:

  • For maximum exposure, establish yourself as an expert.
  • Look to your research, experience, book themes for ideas.
  • Follow the news so you can craft timely pitches.

I hear from so many fiction writers who believe their only shot at publicity is through the journalists and talk show hosts who focus on books: reviewers, book-related shows, book sections in newspapers and magazines. Sure, they’re worth pitching to, but book critics are a shrinking specialty in traditional media and you’re making a mistake if you limit yourself to that target audience.

With the rise of social media and the decline in the economy over the past decade, newspapers, TV and radio have lost readers, viewers, listeners – and their main source of income, advertising. They’re cutting costs wherever they can and, too often, that has been book critics, sections and shows – they just don’t rank up there with crime, weather and sports for audience appeal.

Here at EMSI, we do reach out to reviewers for clients who are authors, but we can generate far more publicity by establishing both authors and entrepreneurs as experts in their fields. We follow the news closely and watch for opportunities to offer up their timely input to journalists, and TV and radio talk show hosts.

In many cases, the expertise is obvious: A knowledgeable financial planner with a book about saving for retirement is a great source of information for almost any article or talk show related to the economy. The person who’s created a calorie-counting app can offer insights about the newest diabetes statistics or tell listeners what that stick of fried butter at the state fair will really cost them.

But what about the fiction writers?

Some read my book, “Celebritize Yourself,” in which I share how anyone can position himself as an expert and they say, “Marsha, that makes sense for people who’ve written how-to books, but I wrote a novel. How can I be an expert?”

To which I reply, “How can you not?”

Maybe you did extensive research on a topic, place or character to make your novel more plausible. That is now an area of expertise for you.

Perhaps your story is loosely based on your own life’s experiences. Whether it’s memories of being bullied as a child or knowledge gleaned from your years as a caregiver, you are certainly qualified to offer opinions on the topics you’ve lived!

Or, you feel passionate about the themes in your novel – they are, after all, your message. It may be that loyalty trumps virtuosity; that a single decision can influence lives for generations to come; that each of us must sacrifice some individuality for the good of society. These are the same themes we find in the daily news stories, and you can add depth and context to events and issues by identifying and expanding on them.

Here are some real-life examples of novelists, our clients, who have become (or are becoming) established experts because of the research, life experiences or themes related to their novels:

  • A lawyer and novelist researched the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – the Mormons – for his contemporary murder-mystery. He learned the basis for the church, the Book of Mormon, came from ancient text that founder Joseph Smith said was written on golden plates given to him by the angel Moroni in 1827. Our client’s novel focuses on those missing golden plates and weaves in rich detail about the church uncovered in his research. As the campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination geared up last year with two Mormon candidates, our client became a popular source of information for journalists and talk show hosts eager to learn more about this sometimes mysterious religion.
  • A woman who’d worked as a senior executive in a high-end department store during the 1980s drew on her experiences for a series of novels about intrigue and deceit among fictional fashion mavens. She’s now a go-to for the media on topics ranging from fashion to the retail industry to launching a new career (as an author) late in life.
  • A former police officer with a love of dogs wrote a collection of short stories written from a distinctly canine perspective. He has become a popular guest on talk radio, where he discusses current events related to animal welfare.

As you can see, all of these authors have plenty of expertise to offer. In exchange for the content they provide, grateful journalists and show hosts give their books a plug. When the authors post links to these media placements on their websites, they build credibility that makes them rise above the thousands of other authors publishing fiction.

So, yes, do what you can to catch the attention of the book reviewers and bloggers, but don’t stop there! Trust me; you have plenty to offer. I know; I’m an expert!

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