Publicity & Promotion for Writers - Part 1

by Marg McAlister


Publicity and promotion for authors. Hmmmm.

You don't have to worry about all that until you're actually holding a book in your hands, do you? And even then, isn't it mostly the publisher's responsibility?

If only it were that easy!

The truth is that unless you are a well-known author with a lot of book sales behind you (and possibly not even then!) you are unlikely to get much in the way of publicity from publishers. The more you can do yourself, the better - and the earlier you start, the better. Don't wait until you have a book in hand. Don't even wait until you sign a contract. The best time to start promoting yourself and your work is NOW.

You might be wondering how that's possible. If you don't have a book to promote, how can you prepare for it? And what's the point of thinking about publicity if you have no publishing credits?

For a start, writing is not only about books. Writers wear many different hats. They can work on or create any or all of the following:

  • short stories

  • novels

  • self-help books

  • articles

  • newspaper columns

  • ghostwritten books/articles/stories

  • copy for brochures, websites, and ads

  • critiques for other writers

  • home-study courses and modules

  • newsletters (private and corporate)

  • proposals and grant applications

  • annual reports

  • speeches

This is not a comprehensive list - writers can and do work on anything that involves working with words.

That being so, let's take a look at your possible needs for publicity and promotion.

All writers need to think about the following:

  • their writer's CV or bio

  • a clear photo (at least one that's just a head-and-shoulders shot)

This is pretty much the minimum. No matter what you're writing, you'll need to be able to tell people (a) what you've written, (b) your experience and qualifications to write what you write, and (c) what you look like. (Well, okay, some writers do remain anonymous - but it really is a good idea to have a reasonably flattering photo available.)

What goes in your writer's CV or bio? That depends upon your target market. If you're writing non-fiction, for example - say, self-help - you should be able to show how your experience and/or qualifications relate to the book you're writing, and why you're qualified to help others. If you're writing fiction, then any previous published work related to fiction is useful, or any awards you might have won for your writing.

What else might you want to consider? This will vary according to your experience, publication record, and whether you're selling your services/advice or selling a novel. What we'll do here is give a general overview.

1. A Writer's Media Kit

Some inclusions could be:

  • a bio

  • a CV

  • at least one photo (head and shoulders) plus perhaps others (with your book, or full-length, or at a conference - whatever seems relevant)

  • press releases

  • reviews of your book/services/writing

  • samples of your work: excerpts, sample columns or articles, quotes.


2. A Blog

A blog is simple to set up and not much work to update with short comments a few times a week. Why?

  • to provide a platform for others to find you

  • to show examples of your work

  • to interact with fans

  • to provide a quick way for people to find you when they use Internet search engines (blogs are indexed regularly)

  • to upload photos of your travels/book signings/author tours/book covers

A blog can be started at any stage of your career.

3. A Website

More and more writers are finding that it pays to have a presence on the Internet. Some writers really enjoy creating and working on their websites. To others, it's akin to driving a car: they want it to get them where they want to go, but they don't want to know what goes on underneath. So... do you have to know how to create your own website? No. It's becoming easier and easier, without having to know HTML or other scary stuff. There are plenty of people around who will create a website for you for a reasonable fee.

The advantages of a website:

  • people can read about you and your work after doing a simple search on the Internet for your name

  • you can put details of your books, services, fees, etc online and give people a way to contact you easily

  • you can make it easy for reviewers/publishers/reporters to download your media kit for promotional purposes

  • you can include downloadable activities and PowerPoint demonstrations for schools or clubs that book you as a speaker

  • you can tell people where to find you on an author tour

  • you can include a calendar of events or a countdown to publication

  • you can add photos of book covers, excerpts, sample chapters

  • you can advertise your services and courses and automate payment and delivery

A media kit, a blog and a website are just places to start. Right now, spend a little time on Google and see if you can find the websites of your favourite authors. Browse around and see what sorts of things they include on their websites. If you can download a media kit, do so... it will help you work out what to put in your own.

© Marg McAlister

In Part 2 of this article on Publicity and Promotion, we'll look at other aspects that you might need to consider.


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