Since quitting my full time job, I’ve gone back to my freelance roots. It’s where it all started—my passion for PR. Back in my Ohio days, I started my own PR company—Tree Town Promotions—and I repped only authors and artists from the Midwest. When I moved to South Carolina, I had to leave most of them behind. However, Michigan author Alan St. Jean has always stuck with me. I’ve launched five of his children’s books, and I hope to be a constant help and support for this talented and prolific Steelers fan. (Had to give a shout out.)
Anyway, I’m in the midst of sending review copies for Alan’s newest release, Alyssa and the Spider. Alyssa is a beautiful book with a beautiful story. I want it to win awards, and I want it to be SEEN. I’m doing my best to spread the word, so in the process, I thought I should share some of what I do to launch a new title. With this entry, I mean to help all the independent authors out there by demystifying public relations and giving you some learned tricks of the trade. To do so, I’m going to run through my review copy process. In other words, what do you send and HOW do you send it?
1) Preliminary email. First, I do my homework. I find the online reviewers who write the best reviews and have the most popular sites. I find the publishing industry magazines that need to see this book. Then, I email them. I introduce myself. I introduce the book. I see if they would like a review copy, and in certain cases, I see if they would like to interview the author. This gives them a heads-up. They will then be looking for the book in the mail. This starts the “hype”—gets the ball of interest rolling. Plus, it’s just nice to introduce yourself. It’s nice (and important) to build a relationship with the people in your industry.
2) The cover letter. You have to have this. It’s another step in the introductory process. It reminds the reviewer who you are and what you represent. It should have a reiteration of your email introduction, a synopsis of your book, and a request: Why are you sending this book? What do you want from the reviewer? A simple line works: “I am honored to have my title considered, and I look forward to reading your review.” Be sure to have all your contact info on your cover letter, too, so that it is easy for the reviewer to get in touch with you if he/she has questions or concerns.
3) A promotional document. The promo doc can be only a page long. It needs to include title, author, publisher, and ISBN details. It should have a synopsis, an author bio, and imagery. This is your opportunity to do “pretty” stuff. Be sure to use cover art. Use interior art, as well, if you’re dealing with a picture book. WOW the reviewer with all you and your book have to offer. A promotional document is like an image-based representation of your marketing copy. It should sell your title with little more than a glance, so make it attractive and concise.
4) The BOOK. (Duh.)
5) Something fun. Call me a dork, but I like including something fun with review copies. For example, for Alan’s Alyssa and the Spider, I found these funny, stretchable spider toys. I put a little toy with each review copy. Twenty spiders cost me four bucks. Stay on the cheap side, but have FUN. The spider toys make Alan’s book stand out. Sure, the things will probably get tossed by some reviewers. The hope is that other reviewers will get a kick out of the stretchy spiders and keep ‘em on their desks. That way, the spider will be a reminder of Alan and Alyssa. That way, the reviewer will be more likely to remember Alyssa and write a review. It’s the fun, creative touches that set you apart—as a person and as an author. Never forget to have fun, really, because isn’t that why we’re here anyway?
6) The envelope. Anyone can stuff a book into a big manila envelope and send it off. Going back to the “Something fun” idea, I like to make individualized labels. I don’t mean individualized to each reviewer, but I do mean individualized to your book. What I suggest is buying sheets of big mailing labels to print yourself. Then, throw cover art onto ‘em. Include the book title, author name, and if there’s space, your website address. Not only will your package jump off a reviewer’s desk, but hey, maybe the post man will end up buying a copy of your book because he saw your envelope in the mail!
QUICK TIP: Be sure to set up a Google Alert for the title of your book and for you. Reviewers don’t always have time to let you know they reviewed your book. With Google Alerts, you get automatic notifications when your name or your book title pops up on the web. This will keep you in the loop and let you know when your amazing book is getting some press. Check out http://www.google.com/alerts for sign up details.
Hope these tidbits were helpful! As for me, I’m freelancing, and I’ve fallen back in love with public relations. It’s good to be back. Happy book promotion, everyone!