Many of us writers and artists are in the position of needing to stir up some buzz around our books and creations.
- We’ve published with a small press that gave us $75 for wine at the book launch and said “You’re on your own.”
- We’ve opened an online store that needs more customers.
- We’ve launched a literary magazine and are trying to get the word out.
With all the fuss about online marketing and social media these days, it can be easy to overlook a tried-and-true source of exposure: public relations (PR).
Brigitte Lyons is running a course called Your Media Map: The inside guide to getting the coverage you deserve starting in February 2013, which is just the thing for writers and artists who want more people to know about them.
Brigitte is offering training bonuses, including a free call, for those who sign up on her Media Map interest list, so do that if you’re at all, ah, interested!
I was privileged to take an earlier version of Brigitte’s course last May. I knew that doing PR would be an important skill for releasing Pilgrimage of Desire, my travel memoir. And the way Brigitte writes and teaches is right up my alley: high-quality information pared down to the essentials, lots of personality and stories to keep things interesting, clear and useful assignments, and a great group of enthusiastic classmates.
And here’s Brigitte in her own words to tell you why PR is a great opportunity for creators like us.
Alison: I find that the issue of marketing and publicity for artists ~ and particularly writers ~ is a touchy one, because there’s this sense that “I wrote the book, why should I have to sell it? I’ve done my job, now the publisher/publicist should do his/hers.”
In some ways it’s a holdover from days gone by when authors didn’t need to do more than show up and do the interviews and readings that were arranged for them, but that world is disappearing. I think it’s especially difficult for mid-career writers who didn’t start off with blogs and social media, and who are now getting thrown into the deep end.
So I wonder, what do you say to artists and writers who are feeling resistant or a little cranky about having to do their own publicity?
Brigitte: I can relate to the frustration ~ it seems as though everyone’s primary job is to be a marketer. In the book To Sell is Human, Dan Pink even goes so far as to say, “We’re all in sales now.”
While this can feel like a burden, I always encourage my clients to look at the opportunity in the new marketplace. Not too long ago, you weren’t expected to promote your own books, but you also lacked the opportunity to ensure your stories reached the right readers. If your publisher didn’t throw their weight behind you (which only benefitted the flagship writers for the publishing house), that was it. You couldn’t make your own fame or fortune.
That’s all changed. You can create a direct line to readers and thought-leaders. You aren’t subject to the whims and budget considerations of a publishing house any longer.
Alison: Another issue I see is that artists and writers are uncomfortable thinking of themselves as a brand, and they want to keep all of the focus on their work. Or they don’t like having to apply labels or genres to their work; they don’t want to put it into a box. And yet the audience needs to be able to quickly and easily see whether a book or creation is something they’d like or not.
How can artists and writers make peace with the need to communicate clearly about their work without undermining its nuance or uniqueness?
Brigitte: This is a challenge for every creator ~ how do you distill an idea that looms so large into two or three talking points? A lot of artists and writers get stuck on the notion they need to project this perfectly packaged brand, and it prevents them from moving forward. I’d rather people get out of their own way, and if that means that you go to the public without the illusive and fictitious unicorn that is perfect branding, that’s okay.
Ultimately, your brand is your core message. Whether you paint or write or sculpt, there’s an emotion you want to explore or a conflict waiting to unfold. That’s what you need to communicate. The rest is just details.
Alison: Self-publishing is also creating waves in that a lot of authors come out of the gate very aggressively with publicity. Sometimes there seems to be more effort put into promotion than into the creation of the book itself. So it comes across as all hype and no substance. And I think literary writers are worried that that impression is going to rub off on them ~ that if they’re too loud, people will assume their books aren’t any good. (We just secretly long for great books to sell themselves, and it seems very unjust when they don’t.)
Is there a classy way to do PR that won’t look like we’re trying too hard or overcompensating for less-than-great work?
Brigitte: PR is the way out of this conundrum, because it’s all about helping other people tell your story. Rather than writing a dozen blog posts about yourself, you send review copies to people your readers or buyers respect, and let these influencers tell your story. Or, you contact a popular podcast about doing an interview, and they draw out the highlights of your release.
You may have to pitch yourself behind the scenes (and there are ways to do it without feeling gross), but in the public’s eye, you don’t look like you’re grasping for attention. You retain the opportunity to be humble, or even private, about your work.
Alison: Many of us in the art and literary world are coming to PR with no background, just a need to figure it out. And the old, obvious places to start, like book review sections of newspapers, are going the way of the dodo.
What approach do you teach for finding traditional and new media outlets that can create publicity for writers and artists in the current climate? How do we look for opportunities to pitch?
Brigitte: I’ll give you one tip that you can implement in 2 minutes. Set up a Google alert for another writer or artist who’s already out there. The news outlets and blogs that feature your peers are going to be very interested in hearing from you.
Also, as an artist, I imagine you are also an art consumer. Where do you look for fresh perspectives? This is a great place to start, because you can approach the editors or reporters with genuine enthusiasm for their product.
Alison: We already have so much to learn ~ we’re trying to read widely and look at a lot of art, find the time to improve our craft and get finished work out there, find representation.
Is it really worth taking the time and money to figure out media marketing too? Will developing this skill serve us even when we do make it and have a professional publisher or distributor behind us?
Brigitte: It’s worth taking the time to find your right approach, which is the magic place where your personality matches up with the preferences of your audience. Not everyone has to blog or Tweet or even do media interviews. If you put in a little effort up front to understand what your audience wants and which strategies work for you, then you’ll save yourself a lot of pain down the road.
PR is a good approach for you if you don’t want to constantly struggle with your outreach, because it’s all about targeted outreach to the right people. Why haul the boulder uphill, when you can use PR as the lever to give your message momentum?
Brigitte Lyons is a media strategist for independent businesses and artists, who has helped clients get coverage in media outlets as diverse as CNN, Daily Candy, Entrepreneur magazine, The Wall Street Journal and Design*Sponge. She dishes free PR tips and is the creator of Your Media Map — an 8-week course that systematically eliminates the barriers to getting the PR coverage you deserve.
Full disclosure: Brigitte has given me lifetime access to the program as an early beta-tester for her material. What with all the personal goings-on, I haven’t had a chance to implement what I learned the first time around, so I’m excited to do this expanded version of the course and create a media strategy for the release of Pilgrimage of Desire.
P.S. Get on the Media Map interest list to access free training bonuses from Tara Gentile, Tara Sophia Mohr, and Megan Auman. Good stuff!