Creating Your Own Publicity

by Erin Brown

As I’ve discussed before, authors must play a very large role in publicizing their own book.  Well, unless you’ve sold a gazillion copies already (I’m sure Janet Evanovich can afford to buy homes in every state). And no, the books that publishers choose to sink tons of money into aren’t necessarily the best books out there; however, those authors do bring in cold, hard cash. And publishing is a business, after all. These bestsellers are the authors whose sales allow the publisher to buy smaller, sometimes better books. But realistically those smaller books, no matter how well-written, will probably sell fewer than 5,000 copies, often closer to 500 copies. As a result, traditional publishers simply can’t afford to spend the time or money on publicity for every single book. Usually, a publicist will send out galleys (non-corrected proofs of the book) for reviews and devise very small-scale (read: cheap) marketing and publicity plans. So it’s up to you to get out there and sell your book, because you can’t depend on anyone else to do much for it. Curses! Of course, this fact is even more important for self-published titles. Based on all of this realistic information, what are some publicity ideas for those who go the traditional route and those who decide to self-publish? Excellent question, Erin, I’m so glad you asked. Here goes:

First and foremost, you should know your audience in order to tailor your campaign. According to Bowker (Since 1872, Bowker has been providing the most authoritative bibliographic data to libraries, booksellers, and publishers around the world) the following facts are incredibly helpful in targeting your audience:  

More than 40% of Americans over the age of 13 purchased a book in 2009, and the average age of the American book buyer is 42. (Don’t give a reading at the local daycare and expect huge sales.)

Women lead men in overall purchases, contributing 64% of sales. Even among detective and thriller genres, women top 60% of the sales. Where do men catch up? Fantasy titles are purchased evenly by men and women. (Most men are obviously too busy looking up Kim Kardashian online to purchase books. That counts as fantasy, right? Just kidding. Am I?)

Baby Boomers spend. The boomer generation is the largest purchasing generation, making up 30% of sales. Their elders – Matures – contribute 16%. (Those patchouli-scented ex-hippies sure do like to read!) 

Now, use this sort of information to create your publicity campaign. Let’s dive into this using a romance novel as an example. If you write in this genre (hubba hubba), don’t waste time and money reaching out to men. They are so not interested in The Duke of Scottish Hot Guys’ strong jawline and rippling pecs. Instead, target your female audience through female-focused websites, newspapers, and magazines. This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many authors just want to reach out to buyers, without regard to whom they’re actually reaching. To find the audience for your Scottish Highland romance, start with a publication such as Romantic Times, which offers discount ad space for debut authors at about half the cost of regular ads. Check out websites, magazines, etc., that target women who are interested in Scotland. There are even singles sites for women who are longing for their own Scottish hunk (hey, now that I think of it, forget publicity, let’s just join the site. Sean Connery, you better run, ’cause here we come!). You can also give local book signings at chick hangouts. Don’t waste time sitting behind a table at Shooters Sports Bar because no one there cares about The Duke of Scottish Hot Guys.

Constructing an author website is also key to your homegrown publicity campaign. Design the site around your book and/or series. Have the half-dressed hunky hero front and center, and include your bio, sales pitch, and a link to buy the book. Reach out to women’s groups online and promote your site by posting the link (often, you can contact the site manager and inquire about writing an article or buying ad space). In addition, start a blog on your page, which will hopefully get women talking about you and the book.

Also reach out to magazines, journals, and newspapers (local ones are the way to go) and ask to write a column and/or see if you can afford advertising. Set up shop at romance conventions and sell the book by hand. This especially holds true for self-published authors. Book a talk at a local coffee shop, cute boutique, tea house, or a local bookstore frequented by women who like their men with a side of haggis. Consider a nearby city or town as well, or even get some gigs in other states. All of these publicity options add up to a strong campaign. So don’t shoot for the national publicity—it’s hard enough for publishers, virtually impossible for debut and self-published authors. You can more specifically target your local audience and have much more success.

The most essential issue to remember in a publicity campaign is to target your audience. Don’t waste time and energy reaching out to those who have no interest in your book. This goes for finding agents and publishing houses as well. Target, target, target. And of course, be positive about self-publicity instead of lamenting the fact that publishers aren’t doing squat for you. Instead embrace the truth that you are the one who knows the book best. You have the most enthusiasm about your book, so who better to sell it? Now get out there and make it happen! Or your mother might be the only one reading about your Scottish hunk, and that’s really kind of creepy when you think about it. Now get out there and start peddling your wares—in the end, all that trouble will be worth it.

Erin Brown worked as an editor in New York City for over eight years. She recently left Manhattan to start her own freelance editorial business. To learn more about Erin, visit her website at

Erin BrownComment