Thank heavens for PR tools.
As an author, whether self-published or not, you really can’t escape doing book publicity and PR. Authors have been doing it since time immemorial (just look at how Charles Dickens did it below).
But thankfully we live in a technological age and there are tools out there that make the task more manageable and less daunting. This blog post lists down our favorites.
You can skip ahead to the tools by clicking HERE. But you can also read the section below to learn how the talented Mr. Dickens did book marketing and PR when computers were still, well, the stuff of science fiction.
The tale of Charles Dickens – famed writer and… book publicist?
Charles Dickens mastered the art of self-promotion before author PR (public relations) was even a thing.
He was Britain’s first literary superstar. In the late 19th century, he would travel around the world, giving public readings of his works to theaters packed to the brim with his adoring fans. He was, in many ways, a certified Victorian-era pop culture phenomenon.
Among his writing peers at the time, which included the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island), Wilkie Collins (The Moonstone), and William Thackeray (The Luck of Barry Lyndon), Dickens was the only one who managed to achieve overwhelming financial success.
His unfinished novel “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” was selling fifty thousand copies a month at the time of his death. The amount of book sales was unprecedented. Contrast that to his contemporary William Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair,” which sold a relatively paltry five thousand copies per month.
This kind of success was impressive, but not unexpected.
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How did authors promote their books during the Victorian era
Because not only was Dickens a master storyteller, he was also very, very good at book publicity.
His skill at marketing was evident from the very start of his writing career.
It has long been known that the first novel that Dickens’s published, “The Pickwick Papers”, was a product of his marketing craftiness.
Partnered with illustrator Robert Seymour, Dickens decided that he wanted to sell his book in installments. Three chapters a time, per month, priced at one shilling per copy.
The next problem to tackle was how to encourage readers to buy the next chapters in the series. To remedy this, Dickens placed cliffhangers at the end of the last chapter for that month’s installment.
And to further push costs of book production down, the front cover was made out of cheap paper pulp— the same material that the chapters’ pages are made out of.
The combination of these three strategies: a) monthly serial format, b) cliffhangers, and c) cheap price made The Pickwick Papers an instant hit on launch.
Later on in his career, Dickens also went on “reading” tours, which were the equivalent of modern-day book tours for today’s authors.
These tours were very popular affairs. Dickens had a flair for performing and often made a show out of his readings. This actually led some people to believe that he was also pursuing an acting career alongside his writing. (Side note: Dickens originally wanted to be an actor when he was younger, and he took this love for theater with him until old age.)
Book PR is not a new thing
And yes, we know— we’re going on and on about this writer who lived more than a century ago in a blog post that’s supposed to be about PR tools.
But our point is that book/author PR has been around for a long time. It’s not a modern invention.
Many newbie authors believe that this is a new thing, something born out of the need to stand out in an era of information overload.
But nope. Your favorite Victorian-era authors have been doing PR a hundred years ago (and most probably, even before that).
Because if you want to sell your book, you have to do PR.
PR tools for authors in book promotion
When you’re a non-fiction author (doesn’t matter if you’re traditionally published, or have gone through hybrid publishing or self-publishing), you’re selling more than just your book.
You’re also selling your knowledge and expertise. Positioning yourself as someone who has valuable insight to share.
You’re not just some random person who decided to write a book one day. You’re an expert who has spent time researching, studying, and developing a deep understanding of your field.
This is why author branding and PR is important in book promotion. How are people going to recognize your book as a go-to resource in your field if they don’t recognize you as a go-to expert?
Content marketing, social media, press releases, media appearances, interviews, podcast guestings— all of these are necessary for PR.
Here are tools you can use to simplify the process:
HARO (Help A Reporter Out)
There are not a lot who know about HARO outside of people in the PR industry. So, what is it?
HARO is a platform where journalists, writers, bloggers, and media professionals can find sources for their stories.
As an author, you can use the service from both ends of the spectrum— either as a journalist looking for expert sources or as an expert looking to be featured as a source in the media.
But since you’re focusing on doing PR, you can use HARO to establish yourself as an authority in your niche.
HARO subscribers receive emails twice a day with lists of requests from reporters and media people who are looking for sources to quote in their stories.
If you fit their requirements, you can contact them and provide your insights, which may lead to your inclusion in their article or feature.
Getting quoted by these journalists is a great way to make yourself visible to the media and the greater public at large.
Goodreads Author Program
If you don’t know what Goodreads is, think of it like Facebook, but for bookworms. It’s a social media site where people can rate and review books, give recommendations, and form reading groups and communities with other like-minded users.
The Goodreads Author Program is specifically designed for published authors who want to build a community around their work.
All you need to join the Program is an Internet connection and a published-book. (Note: Soon-to-be-published books are also accepted, according to the official instructions released by Goodreads).
Once you have verified your identity on the site, you’ll get access to a suite of features that allows you to better engage with your readers.
This includes a Reddit-style AMA feature called Ask the Author, opportunities for paid promotions, access to discussion groups and more.
Podcasts are everywhere. It seems that everyone and their mother is starting their own show or is looking into becoming a podcast guest somewhere. They’re basically a PR goldmine.
This is where Matchmaker.fm comes into play. True to its name, it’s a website that matches podcasters with people who want to be guests on podcasts.
If you’re an author, you can use Matchmaker to find podcasts that are relevant to your niche. Once you find them, you can then start pitching yourself as a guest in just a few clicks.
It has been described as “Tinder for podcasters,” and we can’t agree more.
SourceBottle is similar to HARO in some respects— it’s a service that connects journalists and media people to sources and experts.
But it goes one step further because it offers a platform for reviewing samples, giveaways, goodie bags, and other items for potential media coverage. This is a great way for you to get your book directly into the hands of influencers or people who would be very interested to review it.
PR tools for authors in press kit creation
When it comes to PR, you need to have a press kit.
Basically, it’s a collection of materials that makes it easy for influencers, journalists, and people from the media to learn more about who you are and what your book is all about.
It’s an essential promotional tool that is always included in a book marketing campaign.
An author’s press kit usually includes:
- A brief biography of the author
- An elevator pitch
- Book excerpt
- Pictures (author’s photo, book cover)
- Author’s contact information
- Schedule of media appearances
So, what are the tools that can help you make these things? Here are a few:
Before you can persuade the media and the public to buy your book, you first need to give them a taste of your writing.
A way to do this is by providing excerpts from your book, maybe through a sample chapter or two. Previous samples of your writing like articles or blog posts are also acceptable.
Now, you could always upload these files onto a Google Drive folder and call it a day.
Or you can use a service like Clippings.me, which is a website that is specifically tailored for this kind of thing.
With Clippings.me, your writing is placed front and center. Journalists and writers use the site to create portfolios of their published work. But you can also use it to showcase chapters from your book.
Website builders: Wix / Squarespace / WordPress
Now that you have a press kit, the next question is: where should you put it?
Again, you can chuck it into a Google Drive folder and have people dig around for it.
Or—what we recommend— you can have a professional author’s website of your own, and place it there so that it’s easily accessible 24/7.
If you don’t have web coding experience, you can always go and hire a developer to make a custom website for you, but this is expensive.
You can also go the DIY route. The three tools that are usually recommended for this purpose are Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress.
All three are great at whipping up professional-looking author’s websites in mere minutes.
For the best designs, use Squarespace. The tool is well-known for its stunning website templates.
If you want more customization options, then use Wix. It has a drag-and-drop editor that allows you to move design elements around as you see fit.
If you want full control over technical aspects of your site like its SEO and loading speed, then go for WordPress. It has a steeper learning curve than the other two, but you get full customization and flexibility.
Graphic design tool: Canva / Adobe Express
PR materials need not be bare. But since not all of us have been blessed with an eye for design and the skills for Photoshop, we have to rely on these helpful tools for basic creative design work.
You can choose to use any of the two; they both have the same features and the same kind of functionalities. Canva is, of course, much more popular, and it also has more design templates than Adobe Express.
But if you’re too overwhelmed with all of the options that Canva throws at you, then go to Adobe Express. It has a more streamlined interface. Its premium version also comes free if you are subscribed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud plan.
PR tools for authors in content marketing
In 2013, novelist Anakana Schofield (author of “Malarky”) took a jab at all of the stunts that authors do to get readers to read their book:
“...an author, especially an unknown author, must – in order to entice any readers to her work who aren't blood relatives – write endless unpaid blogs, articles and responses for newspapers and magazines and random people creating things in basements.”
While we won’t be writing for just any random person creating things in their basements, Schofield’s point kind of enforces why content marketing is crucial for writers.
All of this content—the blog posts, the social media updates, videos, articles, etcetera—they’re not just some random words and visuals that you’re putting out for the sake of getting your name out there.
They’re something that you can use to form a connection to potential readers of your book.
And here are some of the PR tools that you can use to help you accomplish your content marketing goals:
GrowthBar’s Blog Idea Generator
Does exactly what it says on the tin. If you’ve ever hit a blank wall in thinking up ideas and titles for your next post on your blog, then GrowthBar’s blog idea generator can jog your mind a bit.
All you need to do is enter the topic that you want to write about, and click on Submit. The only downside is that you only get five topics at a time. You can either sign up for the five-day trial, or just refresh the page manually and input your topic again.
If you don’t have a blog of your own, then why not try to put your content up on Medium?
Medium is a social networking-slash-blogging platform site. Think of it like Twitter. You get content that is specifically tailored to your interests. Except, instead of 280-character tweets, you have mostly longform articles.
AlsoAsked is Google’s “related searches” feature on steroids.
Those who have done content marketing in the past know that this is one of the best ways to figure out search intent, i.e., what people are searching for. It’s also very effective for keyword research.
AlsoAsked.com takes this information from Google and kicks it up notch.
Instead of just seeing the data listed down like it is on Google, the tool visualizes the searches in a tree-graph format so that it’s easier to explore and understand what the relationships between the queries are. It can give you data that is not immediately apparent in Google’s related searches (e.g. how competitive different keywords are, frequency in which certain keywords are searched, etcetera).
AnswerThePublic is another service you should have in your PR tools arsenal.
Like AlsoAsked, it takes information from Google (in this case, the autocomplete suggestions) and presents them in a visual way so that you can make better sense of the data.
Wondering what your audience is curious about and what they’re asking Google? AnswerThePublic will answer that for you!
PR tools for general productivity and organization
Doing PR can be overwhelming. So many tasks to do, so little energy to do them all. How and where do you start?
But fear not. There’s a plethora of tools out there that can help you stay on top of your game in the middle of your hectic PR campaigns.
Listing Workflowy as a mere to-do list does it a great disservice.
It’s a to-do list, outliner, organizer, and note-taking tool all rolled into one.
The core of Workflowy is its infinitely-nestable lists. You can put lists inside of lists inside of lists so that you can organize stuff the way you want it to.
If you need a more traditional structure to your note-taking (i.e. having your notes organized in notebooks and folders), then try Joplin.
Imagine Evernote… but free. That’s what Joplin is.
It’s an open-source note-taking tool that allows you to write notes and have them synced automatically in the cloud.
What’s so great about it being open-sourced, you might ask? Well, aside from the fact that this makes the tool free, this also means that your notes are all yours. They’re not tied down to the tool itself.
All notes are saved in Markdown format. Should you want to, you can easily export them to other note-taking apps or even a plain text editor.
You’d probably be doing media appearances, guest appearances, interviews, and going to events when you’re doing PR as an author.
With Calendly, you don’t have to go back and forth over email to schedule meetings like these. Just send your availability with a Calendly link, and invitees will be able to see when you’re available via Calendly’s user-friendly interface.
And there you have it! At least we don’t have to put on a literal show for readers in theaters just like the great author and book publicist Charles Dickens once did when he was promoting and selling his books.
Hopefully some, or maybe all, of these PR tools that we have listed above have greatly helped you in your book promotion journey.