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How to build a killer book publicity media list

Book publicity is one of the most cost-effective ways to get widespread exposure for your book.

I’ve seen the impact it’s had on sales first hand.

My first two books were published before social media existed, so promotion options were limited to paid advertising, public speaking, and publicity — news media exposure.

My first book sold out its press run thanks to book publicity that included national TV, radio, magazine, and newspapers interviews. That publicity generated a steady stream of paid speaking engagements that not only helped me earn more from the book, they also sold more books.

My second book went through three press runs on the strength of publicity alone. No tweets. No posts. No shares. Just news media attention in the form of interviews and articles I wrote about topics covered in the book.

Publicity helps your book get discovered

This is why you see successful authors interviewed on network TV morning news programs and in newspapers and magazines. Publicity helps your book get discovered by potential readers.

With book marketing, discoverability is everything. People can’t buy your book if they don’t know about it.

One of the biggest challenges for authors smart enough to see the value in this marketing tactic is building a a list of media people to contact with segment and article ideas.

Creating that all-important book publicity media list you’ll use to promote your book on an ongoing basis takes time and effort, but it’s not hard to do. With guidance, in fact, an intern can do a lot of it for you.

Here are seven tips that will help you craft a media list you can use to get news about your book in front of your target audience.

1. Start with an empty Excel file or Word table.

Add columns for each media outlet, the journalist you should contact, e-mail address, Twitter address, outlet category (radio, TV, blog, magazine, etc.), and background notes. Fill it in as you gather names and addresses.

2. Gather both e-mail addresses and Twitter addresses.

You’ll use them differently, but you’ll want to have both. E-mail is the best option for delivering full-blown pitches or press releases, while Twitter will help you build relationships.

When you have the names of the journalists you want to reach, use Twitter’s search function to find and follow them.

3. Start local.

Write down the local media outlets you believe are most likely to give you publicity, then visit the website of each. Most provide contact information for reporters (print), producers (radio and TV talk shows), assignment editors (TV news), news directors (radio news), and news personalities (TV news).

If you can’t find what you need online, call the media outlet.

4. Use The Google.

Turn Google into your assistant publicist.

Set up Google and Talkwalker Alerts for your book’s topic to help you identify journalists and bloggers who report on it. Research and add their contact information to your database as the alerts come in.

5. Hit the library.

Media directories are helpful, but expensive. Instead of buying them, visit the research desk at your local public library. You can find the right contacts for people at national networks, national and local talk shows, radio stations and talk shows, trade and consumer magazines, and daily newspapers.

Resources include Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media and Gebbie Press All-In-One Media Directory.

6. Go online.

Use the Radio-Locator database to get contact information for radio drive time or talk shows. After deciding who is the best contact at a daily newspaper (fashion? food? religion? business?), use USNPL to build your list.

You can also often find contact information for key journalists on each media outlet’s website. Newspapers are particularly good at this; consumer magazines can be hit or miss.

7. Pick favorites.

Identify the 10 to 12 media outlets that have the greatest potential to influence your book’s success, and study each one to make sure you know exactly where your information will fit. That will help you determine your best contact at that media outlet.

Use and reuse

Build your own media list so you can use it repeatedly. Use it to stay in touch with the media so you are top of mind when reporters are looking for qualified sources.

Be sure to leverage the list by creating a plan for staying in touch with the journalists regularly.

Send a press release when you have news to announce, create tip sheets offering helpful and relevant tips and advice, and pitch timely story or segment ideas to individual journalists. (Get all the templates for pitch letters, press releases, and other documents you’ll send to the media and use in your press kit in Build Book Buzz Publicity Forms & Templates, created just for authors.)

Want to simply send a press release to as many appropriate media outlets as possible? When you value your time, it’s more cost-effective to pay a press release distribution service like eReleases (that’s an affiliate link).

Be sure to update your list every six months so you’re always sending your pitch or news to the right person. Continually watch the talk shows you’re targeting or read the print outlets on your list so that you know what types of content they use. Your goal is to always offer content that’s relevant to their viewers and readers.

Provide appropriate content and ideas to the right people consistently and persistently, and your efforts with your new media list will pay off.

What’s your best tip for building a media list for book publicity?

(Editor’s note: This article was first published in August 2013. It has been updated and expanded.)

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  1. Thank you profusely for another excellent list of marketing tips, Sandra. I greatly value your daily tips, 90% of which I print out, save in a binder, read and reread, and try to implement. I’m not exaggerating when I say that you’re the most valuable source of practical marketing advice that I’ve encountered anywhere – and I get a flash flood of email marketing advice every day.

    Sandra, this isn’t a media list tip, but it’s a marketing angle that maybe hasn’t been explored much. It involves that faithful old standby snail mail, but in this instance snail mail trumps email. There are, I’ve discovered, a goodly number of retirement communities around our country that have various types of social clubs. One of the biggest, if not THE biggest, is The Villages in Florida. They have a 2017 list of social clubs that runs into the HUNDREDS. Every kind of club you can think of: knitting, basketball, tennis, golfing, dancing, political, cooking – you name it. And among these are book clubs. And, for my particular niche, language study clubs. The lists provide not only the name of the club, but also the name and address of the organizer (and some other data). Sorry, no email addresses. Besides opportunities for promoting fiction to the book clubs, it seems to me there’s much fertile ground with they myriad other subjects for nonfiction writers. Anyway, just thought I might bring this to your attention in case it hasn’t already been brought.

    Keep up the great work! Your services are hugely appreciated.

    1. Thank you so much, Bob, for both the kind words and the tip. I SO appreciate both!

      I wrote about book clubs at this link: https://buildbookbuzz.com/authors-and-book-clubs/ because I’m with you — they present so many opportunities for connecting with readers. And you don’t have to do it in person — you can participate remotely with Skype, too. Thank you for that suggestion.

      I’d also like to ramble on a bit about The Villages. Those social clubs include writer’s groups for just about every genre out there so anyone in that area should explore them, too. There was a good-sized contingent from The Villages at a Florida writer’s conference I spoke at a few years ago and they were the NICEST people I’ve ever met. I was able to sit with The Villages crew at every meal and enjoyed every second of my time with them.

      Thanks again, Bob. You’re the best!


  2. Sandra–Very much enjoyed the publicity tips. Maybe I should use them to relaunch a novel of futures trading that I wrote a few years ago. Your program is certainly more comprehensive than anything I tried.

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