Free is a very good price. That is one of the key advantages of publicity, as everyone in publishing knows.
Why does this work? Because, as our friend Tom Woll says in Publishing for Profit, book publishers “are information and content providers . . . [who] have the very material that these media outlets need for their own survival” (p. 207).
One recent development in getting free space in newspapers and magazines is (ironically) that they are struggling. Because they are cutting staff (reporters, writers and editors), shortcuts are always welcome. So book publishers who provide, for example, “feature articles” ready to go and at no cost are often quite appealing.
Of course generating publicity is not entirely free to a publisher. An in-house or out-of-house publicist will need to be paid. Even sending out “free” books is not free; the print cost of the book and mailing costs can add up. But generally the reviews and other publicity such mailings generate will be much less expensive than an equivalent amount of paid advertising.
While not everything will be appropriate for every publisher, here are some other ideas from Woll worth considering:
* “The key is to . . . build relationships so you become known as the source of experts who can consistently provide these media outlets with what they need when they need it” (p. 207).
* “Use freelance, or contract, publicists, on a per job basis, and not on a monthly retainer. . . . If things go well you can always extend the project and engagement” (p. 209).
* “If, after a while, you . . . don’t begin to see reviews [published in a particular periodical], don’t be afraid to call the reviewer and ask what’s wrong. It may be as simple as her not getting the books; it may be that she doesn’t like what you’re sending. . . . Don’t become antagonistic toward the reviewer. Establish a dialogue” (p. 214).
* “Without the [author] questionnaire, the publicity effort can be crippled. This is why I recommend the questionnaire be filled out at contract signing, when everyone is enthusiastic . . . and . . . thinking about how best to promote it” (p. 217).
* “If you spend $5,000 to book one large city [for an author tour], you’ll probably have to sell at least that number of books to break even” (p. 221). That’s probably why author tours have largely fallen out of favor in the industry. They are worthwhile for only the very highest-profile authors. But if you do one, you can trim expenses if
–a TV show will pay some or all of the travel expenses
–the author travels a lot on business or for speaking engagements and can cover expenses for media opportunities you arrange
–the author lives in a larger city where local stations provide national feeds
You need the media. The media need you. That’s the beautiful world of publicity.