How to do Book PR?

How to do Book PR? This week, we helped the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) announce its annual Diamond Dagger Award winner, which got us thinking – what are the secrets…

Book PR

How to do Book PR?

This week, we helped the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) announce its annual Diamond Dagger Award winner, which got us thinking – what are the secrets to good book PR?

Of course, you need a genuine news story, a strong press release (written with the client, consulting any other relevant stakeholders and publicists, and ensuring it’s all signed off and had everyone’s final approval), strong, relevant, high-quality images with approval for use in the media (and relevant credits), and ideally, social media assets too. Use a file sharing tool for big files.

Book Awards in the Media

Awards are always tricky. Not least because there are so many – it’s increasingly hard to get in front of wider, national media. If you’re not well known, like the Booker Prize, it can take time to build a reputation, or a good, strong news angle to get picked up.

Timing your Press Release

Your client has to agree on a date to announce the winner. Often if it’s an awards ceremony, that usually means the winners are announced live circa 10pm on a Friday night! The worst time to try and contact a journalist.

In this case, the Diamond Dagger however is announced before the ceremony, so that makes things a bit more straightforward. Whatever, the timings, you need the power of an embargo.

An embargo will allow you to talk to your trusted media contacts, line the story up, have all your assets and ducks in a row, and be ready to release at the agreed time.

Who You Know in the Media

Then you need to make sure it gets into the right hands. A blanket, machine-gun fire approach to sending a story (say via a press release distribution tool) isn’t the best. You need to identify and target the right person and publication.

It helps of course if the relevant journalist or editor (in this case, our targets were the Press Association, Guardian, Daily Express, and Bookseller magazine) know you. That relationship – the fact they trust you have real news to announce, and that you do it professionally – can take time to build. Editors and journalists receive thousands of emails. If they know, like and trust the sender, that’s a big part of the battle won.

But even if you have a trusted relationship, the journalist might miss your email, be on another story, swamped, on deadline, on maternity leave, or any of the other dozens of reasons to skip or miss your email. So, the second quality you need is persistence. But not in an annoying way; you have to be helpful, timely and brief. If you badger, you’ll just annoy them. If they don’t respond, the chances are the story isn’t strong enough, or the right fit for them.

PR Hooks

The CWA is a prestigious organisation – it’s been around for over 70 years. You need to identify the hooks that make your client unique, trusted and worthy of public note. So, if the client has expertise, experience, history, reputation – reiterate it in all your communications.

The story itself – in this case – is clear – lifetime awards (CWA Diamond Daggers) are given to two iconic crime authors. If the subject is well-known and famous, (as Lynda La Plante and James Lee Burke are) that helps of course.

If not, you need to find the hook. PR’s use what’s commonly known as the ‘pub test;’ if you went to the pub after work (who does that anymore?) and said, ‘hey, you never guess what happened today…’ than whatever it was is probably news worthy (if it’s printable of course!) – so there’s your hook. If it’s interesting enough to tell your mates about, it could be a news story.

PR Results

The announcement of the Dagger was for release on Tuesday 23 Jan. Thanks to the leg work, our PR evaluation and monitoring tools reported it achieved over 200 stories that morning.

The media evaluation tool shows the top audience reach was for article on MSN South Africa that linked to the Independent’s story, followed by the Guardian Online, Daily Mail Online, Evening Standard, Yahoo, AOL. Getting on online platforms (like Yahoo, MSN) takes it global to other countries (New Zealand, South Africa), and having the Press Association on board takes it the length and breadth of the British Isles, from the Belfast Telegraph, Doret Echo, Jersey Evening Post…

The evaluation tool (Cision) showed it had a total reach of 180.6M (see graphic below), which is hard to fathom, but we live in the digital news age!

There’s no shortage of book awards, literary festivals, author talks, and book launches. It’s a busy market; good PR can make a big splash.

If you would like a free consultation on how we can help promote your book or book festival, please contact