Monday, February 25, 2013

MONDAY MARKETING Dating UR Publicity #marketing #promotion #publicity #pubtip #indie #selfpub #promo

One of my favorite "advice columns" on how to query an Editor is Kit Whitfield's Dating Your Publisher, wherein she discusses the inappropriate things some newbie authors say or the way a newbie might say the right thing in such a very wrong way. Writing your press releases is another opportunity for catching foot-in-mouth disease. There's a right way and a wrong way to say things--and it's not just about promoting your brand, rather than your product. It's about drawing attention, standing out from the crowd and most-importantly, doing it with class.

The secret to doing publicity well is not limited to avoiding being too bland. Understanding how to write good press is also about not offending the consumer by being too personal, too lewd, too shocking, too...anything. You need to channel your inner Goldilocks and make your publicity "just right" the first time because you never get a second first impression. Click through the jump break to read more.

Picking the Right Pecker
Yeah, I'm actually referring to what you think I'm referring to here. There is a pecking order in the media industry and you must pick the right pecker at the right time and in the right place--or you are not getting lucky tonight, m'dear. That's okay, the pecking order is fairly well-known or at least, it's something you can learn how to do right with just a little advance research. You'll find it a heck of a lot easier than dating ^)^

For example, The Wall Street Journal won't do a story that has already run in USA Today; however, USA Today might be willing to do its own version of a story that ran last week in The New York Times. And none of the three of them will touch anything that appeared in Time, Newsweek or any of the major "consumer magazines." Not even the Time Magazine editors will touch a story that appeared in a supermarket tabloid.

So if you want publicity, you have to send your request to the right editors at the right time and in the right order. No one reads the media more than the media workers, themselves. They want to know why they didn't have the current "big story" first. They might decide to "find a new angle" and do their own story a week or two later. Not more than two weeks--it'll be "old news"--but not less than one week or it's "concurrent" and  makes them look like they can't get their own sources.

If you send out press releases yourself, bear all of this in mind when you address the editors and make sure to tell them about who else has run any stories on your brand, what's been said and maybe suggest a slant on a new story they can run that no one else has done yet. You never know unless you ask, so you might get turned down until you suggest a new slant they can use. The point is to make sure you remember it has to be of use to the editor, not merely to you--even if you're paying for the story to run (see "editorial islands" in advertisements).

The internal relationships between media outlets influence your publicity strategy. Some only want new ideas, some only those that have already gained credibility. Understand the difference and use the state of your brand to your advantage at all times. Just knowing "how to play the game" will make courting the press more of a "sure thing" and less of a dating challenge. So what do you do if you cannot tell who will run your story first? Just like playing the dating game, you simply have to pick one and see what happens. Make an educated choice, though.

Keystone Placement
This is exactly what it sounds like. You place an announcement or story in a media outlet where it will get some attention. It should be a media outlet you can later use as a foundation on which to build the rest of your publicity campaign. That is, you want to be able to reference the press you get in this keystone location when you pitch coverage to other editors later. You are using the pecking order to your advantage rather than having it defeat you.

If you contact a small blog or new eZine that just launched last year and only has 500 or fewer subscribers, it really won't help you. Writing to USA Today might. Obviously, it's harder to get into USA Today but again, if you don't ask, you won't find out if it's possible.

Sending a press release to The New York Times would help if they picked you up but like USA Today and other major news outlets they tend to get thousands of requests for PR (daily, not just weekly) so you'll need to either have extremely good luck, good timing or "know someone" who can get your press release read.

Instead of "knowing someone," there's always the option to use a service--PR Web comes to mind and they specialize in small business customers (yes, such as, Indie Authors). A public relations or press release service will cost you money whereas creating andsending out your own press release is free but you don't have connections--yet. If you did, you wouldn't need to get your foot in any doors. You would call your connection at The New York Times and get a review. Since you don't have the ability to just go the NYT directly, consider paying money for a service that does business with them regularly.  

Publicity Placement in the Publishing Industry 
Say that heading 3 times quickly! ^)^

One of the most-influential trade publications in our industry is called Publishers Weekly. Last year they started offering a small publicity opportunity called PW Select to Indie Authors for a small fee of $149. The name makes me cringe, deliberately linking PW Select to Amazon's KDP Select program. Given the class action lawsuit filed with the U.S. Department of Justice this past week by Indie Bookstores against Amazon and Big Six traditional publishers for violation of anti-trust laws (like the monopoly Microsoft tried with web browsers a decade ago) I'm not sure Publishers Weekly really should be getting into bed with Amazon by using a related name. It's like getting into bed with your cousin and that never ends well.

There are other, similar opportunities that don't tie you to Amazon or a law suit. You do have to look for them; they won't come looking for you. Again, it's a lot like dating. You wouldn't go out on a blind date in this day and age without running a background check, would you? Don't go sending out press releases without doing your research first. It's all part of being a Digital Publishing professional and it's not hard to do, but you do have to do it. Publicity doesn't "just happen" or happen "to you." It's something you start and the public finishes. Get started today.

What's Next....
I like to tie my Tuesday Tips to my Monday Marketing blogs so tomorrow's post will run through some tips on how to use social media to get people talking about your brand. These were all recently shared by my favorite online social medial gurus at Mashable but if you didn't see how to adapt them to being an Indie Author, be sure to stop back tomorrow and I'll try to connect the dots for you. I hope to see you then.

Thanks for stopping by!



Anonymous said...

I understand the need to do PR and the costs involved. Not in my budget, certainly, to pay for it though. I also agree that PR is about branding and notice, not about sales or marketing.

WARNING: I'm going to do a bit of a rant here.

I question the viability of something like PW Select or other magazines with similar offers as part of PR. I consider it purely marketing. Am I missing a major point here?

Looking at the PW Select option appears to me that you are simply paying for an Ad in the form of a two to three line book description with title, availability and isbn. For February, this is among 142 listed. Oh, and the bait? You get a chance at getting a review of you as an author, or a profile of your book.

From PW's own description, note this section. The bolding is mine for emphasis.

"Additionally, every book listed in PW Select is automatically eligible for a review from Publishers Weekly. From the hundreds of books listed in each PW Select, approximately 25 percent are selected by our editors for a review. And, all authors registering with PW Select receive a six-month digital subscription to Publishers Weekly."

So, my take is I'm paying $149 to get into their database along with My take on this is: So what if the database entry is available digitally to all their subscribers? How often does a subscriber troll the database looking for the next indie book? Particularly when PW is a weekly which quickly overwhelms the reader for researching books among hundreds. (My guess is never) Why would you when you can more easily troll Amazon, Google, Kobo, etc. with their search engines?

Let's face it, if I'm not featured I have the same problem with discoverability in PW's database as I have everywhere else. Probably even more because I doubt their search is as good as the other's mentioned above. If I'm in the lucky 25% then maybe I get some exposure and an extra set of eyes.

So, in the end, I'm buying a lottery ticket for $149 to get exposure. Also, it is likely this lottery is stacked against me (the regular lottery is random). I don't know the rules for editor selection because they carefully do not disclose that (lest I don't pay my $149). My bet is the rules are: 1) Your book is already doing well; or 2) Editors or reviewers know you, your work, your past pubs. In other words your brand is already established.

The consolation prize if you don't get selected? Your $149 gets you a six month digitalsubscription to PW. Considering that a six month subscription for both print and digital is only $123 at regular pricing (digital six months is $105), that's not much of a consolation. Why would I want to have a subscription to PW (I used to have one in my richer days) when I can go to my local library and read it?

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but this looks to me like one more opportunity for someone to make money off desperate indie authors. Authors who believe that paying for a 25% chance (which really isn't the odds at all if you have to factor in editor selection)to get reviewed by PW. At least in genre magazines, like Romantic Times, you are guaranteed a review if you pay for an Ad.

My experience is that the best PR, and the only thing I can afford right now, is word of mouth. Word of mouth consists of lots and lots of reviews.

If I had $149 to throw around, I would spend it on sending out my books to people I know will review it and talk about it. For example, I could offer 14 bloggers a $10 Gift Card and a free e-copy to do a review and instantly have 14 reviews posted in Amazon, B&N, and Goodreads. Why those three? Because iBooks imports Amazon reviews, Kobo imports Goodreads reviews as do many other ebook stores.

IMO, 14 reviews is far superior to one in PW that may or may not happen, and may or maynot ever be seen by my readers.

Webbiegrrl Writer said...

Hi Maggie,

First of all, thank you for your rant--I love it! Now to reply specifically. You quoted the PW Select "landing page" (first page) but you left off the best part--or rather the most-convincing argument against signing up with them for $149/6mos! If you click through to the instructions/registration page, they clarified that as follows:

"As part of your registration with PW Select, you’ll also receive a free six-month digital subscription to Publishers Weekly. If you’re already a paid subscriber, you are eligible to receive one free listing in PW Select--just enter your subscription number instead of your credit card information on the registration page."

So why on Earth would someone pay $149 for a 6-month digital(-only) subscription when you can get one at the regular pricing for $105 and then "be eligible for one free listing"??

Look, I wasn't advising anyone rush out to sign up with PW Select. In fact, I did two things to discourage it: (1) I deliberately did not link to the "DIY" pages and (2) I made some deliberately negative connections to Amazon's KDP Select which I, personally, loathe. Openly.

I've posted on this blog repeatedly how awful I think Amazon's restrictive, limiting, program for monopolization is and now this past week, the Indie Bookstore Class Action was filed with the Justice Dept. against Amazon and the Big 6 for their anti-trust law violations (read the PW article here).

Amazon and Random House, Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, and Macmillan signed contracts with Amazon for the sale of e-books with DRM that was “specifically designed to limit the use of digital content” to various Kindle devices...

Amazon is trying to monopolize the eBook market with the Kindle-format eBooks just the way Microsoft tried to monopolize the PC market when they built MSIE into WinOS and later, as Sony did with their DVD players and disks which contained a bit of malware to rewrite the OS of the player (a consumer's laptop, forex).

As of right now, Kindle-format eBooks do not rewrite the OS of a non-Kindle reader or computer (yet) but if they continue down the same path Microsoft did, now that they've "locked" Kindle-format eBooks and added detection methods to the eBooks to prevent sharing of them between devices, it's just another one or two steps to use the books as a delivery system for a malicious code snippet to prevent the device from playing anything else correctly. I think Jeff Bezos should have another sit-down with Bill Gates to discuss how that anti-trust plan worked out for him. Gates has never been the same since. Sony had to recall their malware-writing DVD players but their older DVDs are still out there and still attempt to overwrite a "foreign" player (Windows Media Player, forex)

Webbiegrrl Writer said...

Boy, have I gotten far afield from this week's blog! I was trying to say that despite my not being enamored of PW's attitude towards Indies, the reality is, they are the #1 trade publication for the publishing industry--digitally or in print. I was never suggesting that a listing in PW would get one great exposure to potential readers. Not at all. The point of this week's blog was to note that you acquire "keystone coverage" in a trade magazine like PW and then you can quote them in your other press--for instance on your book page you can quote a Publishers Weekly review. Note I said you and quote not that "...Amazon will display for you..."

What you want is to get a full review--good, bad or otherwise--so you can selectively extract remarks to use for publicity purposes. Once you have the review, you can "prove" they said it. That's all you need. That, and the ability to be a little bit of a "spin doctor" in the case of a mediocre or bad review. Actually, if PW give you a bad review, reconsider promoting the book and consider editing it more instead. That's not directed at you, specficially, Maggie :) Just a general "you."


Kerry Kerr McAvoy said...

I wondered if you have ever hired someone for publicity. And if so, what was your experience like. What is worthwhile?

Very interesting article. I had no idea there was a pecking order to whom you approach for a Press Release.

Thanks once again for this wonderful information!

Webbiegrrl Writer said...

Hi Kerry,

I have, in fact, hired PR Wire but it was back in the 1990s when I had a web development and graphics design company and wanted to generate some general internet consulting gigs, like speaking engagements or teaching "in house" IT depts how to setup GUIs for an intranet (this is when the concept of an internal "web" was still being defined as an "intranet")

I loved working with my contact at PR Wire but it was expensive - equivalent now would be in the $300-$500 range I'd wager a guess.

They sent out press releases for me , sent me "tear sheets" when it appeared in a print newspaper and sent me copies of the press releases to proof/approve before they went out. Otherwise, I was totally out of the loop. It felt great. I hate doing this stuff. I'm not bad at it, I just hate doing it. Don't we all?

PR Web is not the same as PR Wire. The PR Web company I linked is specifically geared towards working with small businesses and they are interested in getting involved with Indie Publishers. They just don't know how to reach us (LOL)


Webbiegrrl Writer said...

oops, forgot to respond to the was it worthwhile? part of your question, Kerry. Sorry, that was an oversight.

Short answer: Yes. I got what I set out to get--that is, I got my name out there and was invited to speak to IT Depts on how to do the conversion from DOS-based systems to GUIs with point-and-click functionality, how to design for usability, and how to set up an architecture that has a navigational system built into it on three dimensions instead of slapping on some links lastly, as an afterthought. Shortly after the spew of press, I did actually get quite a few calls from NY based companies wanting to hire me to be their GUI designer, system architect for a new web site they wanted to setup or just wanting to hire me to design their workflow interface.

Since I was in Florida, and had no money to saved up to move (my company ultimately went bankrupt in late 1998 just before I left the country in 1999 and the dot-com boom killed what was left of indie web designers) I never took any of those jobs in NY seriously. It was quite an ego boost to get so many calls from so far away (and from what was, at the time, the heart and soul of web development--Silicon Alley = Madison Avenue in NYC -- was the new up and coming place to be, second only to Silicon Valley and Redmond WA :-) Recall this was the 90s. Times were different. I ended up taking a job at in Florida as the Director of IT for a motorcycle company that wanted to automate its entire workflow and wanted me to set it all up from the ground floor, including hiring my own staff. I loved it. Sadly, the CEO and COO were indicted for taking kickbacks and as you might guess, the company went under :-( Then I went bankrupt and left the country arriving in the Middle East *just* in time for 9/11. What timing I have, eh?

I'm happy with the turns my life has taken. I love being an Indie Author and am glad I can still make use of all the knowledge and hard lessons I had to learn over the years by educating others from making the same mistakes. Or that's the hope, anyway :)

Anonymous said...

I checked out your PR Web link. My thought/question was around performance. I know that newspapers and such get lots and lots of press releases, as well as potential feature article information. Also, there is a lot that they never use or do anything with.

So my question with PR Web is what is the promise of actually seeing print? So, they send out your press release to 500 outlets. But what is their track record for actually getting any of those outlets to do anything with it?

Webbiegrrl Writer said...

Hi Maggie,

As I said to Kerry, when I used a service, it was PR Wire not PR Web but I do know that PR Web would really like to get involved with Indie Authors and Indie Publishers. I told the rep with whom I spoke several months ago about the industry and suggested he reach out to Goodreads, since they are still trying to assemble a good plan to offer to authors on their site (one that does not cost $2000 and up). I have no clue what, if anything, PR Web can do other than what the content on their web site suggests. They seem to offer a lot of good, free content. Like Kerry and yourself, I don't have money to spare for PR Web services at this time. I did, however, want to offer a suggestion to those people who DO have the money.

Anything a service can do for you, you can do for yourself. Never forget that. You simply have to have the focus, determination and flexibility of writing "voice" to learn how to master the style of copywriting versus storytelling in fiction. It's a very different style.

If you've never tried it before, I'd suggest checking out my Twitter Series where I have some articles on writing the headline. I have a lot of links through to a for-pay service called Copyblogger, who (like PR Web) have a lot of good, free content on their blog as well. Copyblogger is kind of the leader in the Copywriting for Blogs industry. Brian is one of the most followed guys on Twitter anyway :)