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Writing and publishing a book make you an instant expert on the subject of the book. You should have a book in your repertoire to show that you are a force to be dealt with, a serious writer who is willing to put in the effort to create a book and get it published, even if you are yourself the publisher.

You should begin thinking about publicity the minute you finish the manuscript, if not before. Even if you have an established publisher, there's no guarantee that outfit will publicize your book adequately. In fact, you can be pretty sure they won't do a good job of it. They save their best publicity efforts for the famous authors, the ones they know will sell books the minute the new product is put on the "New Releases" table in the bookstore. So you will have to do most of the publicity for your book. This, of course, applies a hundredfold if you are self-publishing.

13 Self-Promotion Points

The well known publicist, Lyla Foggia, has on her website a short article called "PR 101 for Book Authors," from which I have extracted a baker's dozen of points that she raises. I recommend you check out the full story at her website, which is www.foggiapr.com.

  1. Learn how to think like a publicist, which means taking a crash course on PR.
  2. Hire your own publicist, because most media "will not accept pitches directly from authors."
  3. Make sure your publicist has national experience.
  4. Save money by getting a flat rate from your publicist and plan six months prior to publication.
  5. You need a media kit, not a one-page press release, to pitch your book.
  6. The kit should include at least a release, author bio, background story and fact sheets.
  7. Try to have good photos, of yourself, the subject, etc.
  8. Create an online pressroom.
  9. Create a website for your book.
  10. Don't waste your time on book signings, except maybe one that features your thousand best friends and family members.
  11. Book yourself into as many speaking engagements as possible.
  12. Think outside the box when it comes to promoting your book (e.g. prepaid phone cards to bookstore managers).
  13. Email an announcement of the book's debut to related clubs and organizations on the web.

Be Your Own Citizen Kane

I mentioned earlier that you could also consider being the publisher of your own magazine or newspaper. For a print magazine, you'll need a ton of money and good contacts. If it's a national magazine you have in mind, get ready to raise at least $3,000,000 and probably more. You'll need that just to hire the talent necessary to get such a publication started.

A newspaper, however, can be started for much less money. Just a few years ago, the editor of the New Hampshire Gazette, Steven Fowle, indicated that you could print several thousand copies of a small tabloid on a budget of $420 per issue. He suggested you could ask 30 friends to kick in a dollar a day to reach that goal, giving you a printing budget of $420 per fortnight. Though you alone could also afford this, he suggests that you sell ads and let small businesses help foot that bill. He also thought that publishing fortnightly or twice a month was about the right frequency for a new paper. Weekly means too much work, he says, and monthly isn't often enough to remain in the public's mind.

If I wanted to be a Citizen Kane and have all sorts of influence over the community where I would start a newspaper, I would appoint myself publisher and editor-in-chief, and ask any friends who contributed to the cost if they would like to be, say, food editor, or maybe sports editor, or whatever-may-be-editor. (I would probably also keep the title of travel editor for myself.) You would, of course, give the newspaper away, and shape it to fill a niche not already covered by some other publication, print or electronic. As the big newspapers lose readers all over the country, some smaller niche newspapers are making good profits, in suburbs, rural areas and even heavily-populated neighborhoods.

This would be publishing for fun, not profit, but you might make a living out of it if you decide to burn the midnight oil and really try hard to turn it into a money-maker.

In the next lesson, we'll try to answer the question of who is your market for travel writing?

This is the tenth in a series of "How to be a Travel Writer." The author, a contributing editor here and former editor-in-chief at the Fodor guidebook series, teaches at the Key West Travel Writing Workshop, which he founded in 1991, every January and February. Details at www.heritagehousemuseum.org.