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DIY MFA: Be Your Own Publicist (Part Ten)

Welcome back to your Do-it-Yourself MFA program.

Now it’s time to get out there and sell the book.  Actually, this part should be happening while you’re still writing the book (if it’s non-fiction) or editing the book (if it’s fiction).  In other words, it is never too early to create buzz.

Here’s an analogy: sometimes PR people contact me, wanting me to write about their product.  The reality is that it’s almost never a product I already know–iPods sort of sell themselves–but instead, a small niche product.  Here’s the reality–if they had purchased some ad space on a few blogs and I had subconsciously heard of the product several times before they approached me, I’d probably be more interested in getting a sample and writing about their product.  But when they’re cold-calling me without any prior poke into my subconscious, it would have to be a pretty incredible product to get my attention.  And frankly, if it was that incredible, they probably wouldn’t be approaching me to write about it because it would already be selling like hotcakes.

Books work with the same thought.  If you cold-call the reader, for example, just setting it on the table in the bookstore and hope they pick it up, 99 times out of 100, they will walk on by without glancing at it unless it has a remarkable cover or title.  But if you saw reviews and ads and met the writer in passing at a conference, chances are, when you bump into that book down the road, you’ll be more likely to give it a try.  Therefore, the marketing wheels need to be turning early-on in order to catch the crowds right at the book’s release.

Some of these avenues will be closed off to you if you self-published your book, but regardless of the size of your press, the rest of these are places to try to get a bit of publicity for your book.

  • Your Blog
  • Your Book Site
  • Other People’s Blogs
  • Reviews on Book Sites
  • Reviews in Print Mediums
  • Readings at Bookstores
  • Readings at Conferences
  • Speaking Gigs
  • Advertisements
  • Email List

Let’s explore these ideas:

Your Blog

Hopefully, you’re still writing on your blog and keeping up your platform.  You already have people who like your writing style so tell them about your book.  Not by continuously clocking them over the head with it, but you should use your blog to shout to the world that you do, indeed, have a book.

Your Book Site

And for the love, set up a book site.  A place to point people toward for information about your book’s release, upcoming appearances, and an excerpt.  Make sure that’s it’s both eye-catching and easy to navigate.

Other People’s Blogs

Otherwise known as a virtual blog tour.  You can ask others to write about your book or have them conduct an interview with you.   You may do a guest post on their blog if they’re open to the idea, therefore reaching new readers who may not know about your blog or book.  Sometimes, another person will organize the virtual book tour for you.

Reviews on Book Sites

The best place to have a review beyond a site that contains your niche audience for your book is on a book site.  After all, people who read book sites usually read books.  Try to make connections with book bloggers (and by make connections, I mean take the time to build a relationship.  Please don’t write a general email to every book blogger or reviewer begging them to look at your book) and you can usually arrange to have the publicist send them a review copy.

Reviews in Print Mediums

These are getting harder and harder to get.  If you have any connections, use them.  Your publicist at the publishing house will also be using their connections.  Instead of trying to get a review in People magazine or the New York Times, focus on your niche audience.  If it’s a non-fiction book, is there a magazine that covers the topic?  If it’s a fiction book, is there a smaller magazine that might do a review?

Readings at Bookstores

It’s not that publishers don’t send authors on book tours — there are people reading at bookstores every night of the week.  But do the math — there are many more authors and books than there are bookstores and not everyone will get a book tour.  In fact, most publishers no longer put their money toward book tours because they often aren’t worth the cost.  The exception is with big name authors who can pull in the audience.   Speak directly with local bookstores or the scheduler at your local big chain store.

Readings at Conferences

Are there conferences going on that are connected in some way to your book.  A piece of general women’s fiction might work well with BlogHer.  A book about a specific medical condition may fit with a conference being held on that medical condition.  Search to see if there are conferences you should be attending and networking at as well as places where you could speak about your book.

Speaking Gigs

On that end, if you have a non-fiction book, you may be considered an expert in a topic and get a speaking event at a conference or meeting where you can also mention your book.  If you have a piece of fiction, you may be able to get a speaking gig about publishing in general and mention your book there.


Purchase advertisements in smart places.  It might be worth your money to purchase ad space on a popular blog that is read by people who might like your book.  It is worth getting print advertising in a magazine that caters to people who would read your book, or buy advertising in a newsletter.

Email List

This is not a time to get shy.  Email out one or two announcements about your book or readings to your friends.  Ask them to forward it to their friends.  You do not want to be annoying and send out dozens of emails, but this is also a time to get by with a little help from your friends.

Other suggestions for ways people have publicized their book?

Okay class, any questions on what was discussed here? Please leave them in the comment section below and I will answer them in the comment section below. Keep in mind that I have a lot of topics to cover so your question may be answered in a future installment (see below). So keep your questions about book publicity.

Heads Up and Looking Back: topics that will be covered in future installments or that were covered in past installments

1. Before You Even Get Started

2. Are You Ready to Be an Author?

3. How to Write a Non-Fiction Book Proposal

4. Why You Need an Agent

5. How to Get an Agent

6. Querying Agents

7. What Happens Next–Waiting for a Book Sale

8. Self-publishing and Self-representation

9. Working with an Editor


11. A Mishmash of Leftover Questions and Answers


1 Lisa Dixit { 05.24.11 at 4:29 pm }

In 2008 I was in the process of IVF when i found out i had uterine cancer, what a shock. I was told i had to have a hysterectomy. I was 40 yrs. old and TTC for a long time. I saw a show on Oprah about a clinic in India that was doing IVF & Surrogacy. I had 3 fertilized eggs transferred to my surrogate, but unfortunately she did not get pregnant. After returning to the states i asked my Oncologist if i could go thru IVF to freeze my eggs before having my hysterecomy. I tried IVF again and had 6 eggs removed. This time none fertilized. In 2009 I had to have my hysterecomy, it totally devasted me and almost cost me my life. i was so depressed, and in Menapause. I decided to write a book about what i had gone through, for myself mentally and maybe to help someone else going through what i did.

2 Mona Darling { 02.17.13 at 2:11 am }

Thank you so much for this series. As I’m getting ready to self publish, it’s been a great help!

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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