Don's and Don'ts - 2I published three novels at big houses to good reviews.  Now I’m my own publisher, and the media wants no part of me.”

So begins an article that ran last month in  Called, The Future is No Fun: Self-Publishing is the Worst, the piece is actually about the PR side of self-publishing rather than the overall experience.

While promoting any book is hard, it’s true that for self-published authors, it’s infinitely more challenging.   But does that really translate into the media wanting no part of you if you’ve self-published?  To the point where you might feel like “self publishing is the worst?”

Short answer: Absolutely not.  That is, not if you’ve produced a book of professional quality,  know what to expect and plan accordingly.  So here are a few dos and don’ts to help self-published authors starting out on a promotion journey set expectations and have a positive, satisfying experience:

DO: Accept that you will in all likelihood not land any traditional book reviews.

By traditional, I mean reviews in places like The New York Times, Harpers and other conventional newspapers or magazines, both big and small.

DO: Take advantage, on the other hand, of the indie review programs now offered by Publisher’s Weekly Select, Kirkus Indie Reviews and Clarion.

Over the past few years, these programs have emerged in response to the exploding demand for self-published reviews.  Through them, indie authors now have access to professional, publishing industry-vetted reviews for a couple of hundred dollars a pop.  Whether the cost is fair or not is another topic altogether, but in the past, only the excruciatingly rare self-published book had even a dim chance of a  PW or Kirkus review.  Now, a close alternative is available to all.

DO: Plan ahead. Ideally, promotion efforts will begin about 4 months in advance of your publication date, at which point you should have a final, professionally copy-edited Word file of your book in hand.  Cover and interior design, as well as the construction of your personal web site, should be underway.

DO: Be prepared to write, write and write.  Guest blog posts and bylined articles on news websites are probably the most widespread forms of media exposure for self-published authors.  They’re also extremely powerful at generating visibility.

DO: Accept that while you may get interviewed or profiled by some news outlets, you won’t have any luck with the more prestigious ones.

This means that rather than a story or even a mention in The Boston Globe, for example, you’ll be covered by your local Patch, your town’s magazine or possibly a few community newspapers.  And rather than your local NPR station, you may land an interview on some of the many Blog Talk Radio shows.  But don’t scoff: these can bring fantastic exposure.  And depending on your book, you may also get covered by niche magazines (for example, focusing on parenting or travel).  The trick is knowing what to offer them.

DON’T: Waste your time or energy trying to get the attention of any of the media outlets that you know you won’t have any luck with.  You’ll wind up drained and disappointed.  It’s just not worth it.

DON’T: Assume that if you already have a media platform or have already been traditionally published, your self-published book will be an exception in the media’s eyes.  It might — but chances are, it won’t.  News stories about traditionally-published authors going the indie route (think, Seth Godin) just aren’t…newsy…anymore.

DON’T: Try to do everything yourself.  You just can’t. Nobody can.

DON’T: Fall into the anger and disappointment trap that so many authors — self-published or not — get stuck in when they begin to reconcile publicity expectations with reality too late in the game.

This last point is, I suspect, is what happened to the author of The Future is No Fun: Self-Publishing is the Worst.  Perhaps he thought that, already traditionally published, he’d get reviewed and covered by the biggies who’d covered him before.  Or perhaps he simply wasn’t prepared. He spent a lot of time and energy reaching out  — on his own — to The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald, The New York Times Review of Books, The L.A. Times and various other A-list publications.  He also pitched himself to NPR’s Weekend Edition and Fresh Air.  No wonder he’s frustrated.

On the flip side is the example of one self-published author I recently worked with whose PR campaign was smashingly successful.  Alexis Rankin Popik, who wrote and published Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, was featured in The Hartford Courant, The Hartford Advocate, Sippican Week, South Coast Today and on BookViews by Alan Caruba, who’s a charter member of the National Book Critics Circle.  She was interviewed by the online radio show Literary New England.  And much, much more.

Most importantly, though, Alexis was genuinely excited, positive and grateful for each new PR development.  She knew what to expect, how to roll with the punches when things didn’t work out and how to have fun and spread the word when they did.  She planned a glorious launch party.  She had a beautiful, professional headshot taken that exudes warmth and delight — contributing, I’m sure, to the loop of positive feedback that made her campaign work out so well.

Which leads me to one last, resounding Do:

DO: Remember that only one thing is certain about any author publicity campaign: It’s a celebration of you and your accomplishment, a way to share it joyfully with whomever you can.

And joy is contagious.

What expectations come to mind when you think of publicizing a self-published book?  How about a traditionally published book?

Do you have any experiences to share about promoting your self-published book or reconciling publicity expectations in general with reality?


About Sharon Bially

Sharon Bially (@SharonBially) is the founder and president of BookSavvy PR, a public relations firm devoted to authors and books. Author of the novel Veronica’s Nap, she’s an active member of Grub Street, Inc., the nation’s 2nd largest independent writing center, and writes for the Grub Street Daily.