Let’s face it: If you’re an author self-publishing your first nonfiction book, the chances you’ll get mainstream media coverage by just having your book out on Amazon are next to nil. If you don’t have deep pockets to brute-force your way in, that is.
And even then, unless you have an exceptionally well-written and compelling book on a hot subject du jour, most large PR firms won’t even take your money.
There, I said it. It’s out of the way now…
Is there any way to get media coverage for your book, then?
Well, what I’ve described above are the big doors of book publishing promotion, which are shut close with five deadbolts for most of us. However (hush hush) there’s an open back window in the basement that’s relatively unguarded for those who know where to find it.
See, there’s actually a loophole in the system that’ll shine the proverbial media spotlight on your newly minted self-published nonfiction book, and today you’re in luck because I’ll not only reveal it to you but also teach you how to take advantage of it!
The unbearable light of being an Amazon bestseller
Imagine if there was a way for your new nonfiction book to land on a coveted Amazon bestseller list without having to sell a lot of books.
Or, the attention you would get from the media and the doors that exposure would open for your business and your career.
Well, the media loves bestselling books. Specifically, local media loves to shine a spotlight on new local authors who landed on a reputable bestseller list.
And I’m here to tell you that it’s not that difficult for a new self-published nonfiction book to land on an Amazon bestseller list (don’t get me wrong, there’s quite a bit of work for you to do, but none of it is difficult or dependent on a “lucky” break).
And once you land there, even if it’s only for a week, you’ll gain lifelong bragging rights that you’ll be able to leverage to get not only media coverage but also open doors for new business to come to you.
Got your attention? Read on!
The 9 step journey to mainstream media attention for your book
In order to exploit our loophole and, eventually, get media coverage for your book, you’ll need to embark on a nine-step process—a critical path of building blocks that you’ll need to put in place one at a time without skipping any steps.
To set your expectations straight, this process will take several months of pre-planning and execution. However, at the end of this effort, it’ll all come to fruition with new opportunities and book publicity that would have been out of reach otherwise.
Let’s get started.
Step 1: Create a simple author website
Your first step is to begin the process of creating your author website – simply because when you engage with the media, they’ll use it to get your bio, photos, and other media assets about you and your book.
At this stage, you might also consider creating an online media kit for all your press materials.
Now, this doesn’t really have to be complicated. Just enlist the help of one of the many website builder tools out there (a simple Google search for “website builders” will show you the most popular ones).
The cost is low and the entire process is quite streamlined—you won’t have to hire anyone to do this for you. In fact, within several hours of work, you can set up a basic website without having to learn how to code.
Here’s what to include on your author site:
- An “About the Author” section with your bio
- A contact page with a form
- Social media links
- A blog, if you want to keep one
- An events page
- A “Coming Soon” page with a teaser about your upcoming book. Eventually, this will become your book sales page and it’ll contain links to your Amazon listing.
Well done. Now, let’s turn our attention to your book.
Step 2: Have your book professionally edited and designed
As a nonfiction author, your book and your professional reputation will be one and the same, so putting out a product other than your very best (say, to save a buck or two) will come back to haunt you later on.
The minute you publish your book you’ll become an overnight expert in the eyes of the world, but if your book is poorly written, or well written but amateurishly designed, your reputation and credibility will suffer. There’s still such a thing as “bad publicity” for your book, you know.
Nowadays, there is no distinction between a traditionally published nonfiction book and a self-published one. Readers don’t care what the name of the imprint is because they’re all tuned into the WIIFM station: “What’s in it For Me.”
As a result, the production quality of your book is expected to be as good as those put out by mainstream publishers, and since they employ professional editors and designers you’ll have to pay for pros as well if you want to compete.
Don’t view this as an expense, though, view it as an investment in your business and your career. A professionally edited and designed book will generate plenty of opportunities later on, allowing you to make your money back many times over.
Also, since you’ll need to send copies when pitching your book to the media and other gatekeepers later on (such as public speaking event managers, bookstore managers, etc.), it goes without saying that you have to create a premium product.
Now, remove the temptation to use gig websites to edit and produce your book on the cheap, only hire pros that are known in the nonfiction book community, and never hire anyone without a referral from a legit source.
It really doesn’t pay to cut corners here.
Step 3: Print 200 hard copies of your book “off the grid”
Once the professional work is completed, your book designer will produce a set of print-ready files, one for your book cover and one for the body.
Your next step is to print an initial run of 200 hard copies. 100 of these will go to your advance review team (see next step) and the other 100 will become your stash for sending to journalists and others who can help you promote your book.
The question is, where to print? Now, Amazon has a network of relatively inexpensive print-on-demand facilities around the world, which makes it very tempting to use them for your advanced copies.
Here’s my advice: DON’T USE THEM!
Why? Because you need your advance copies to be printed 100% off the grid. What do I mean by that? Well, I’ll need to jump a few steps ahead in order to explain.
See, our technique for landing on an Amazon bestseller list, which is the key driver for media attention, depends on an idiosyncrasy in the Amazon book ranking algorithm.
The minute your book goes live on Amazon, their algorithm will begin tracking your book reviews for 30 days.
If during that time you receive a large number of reviews in relation to other books in your category, the algorithm will give your book a boost on search results, allowing the public to easily find your listing.
This will in turn create a virtuous cycle where people will find a lot of positive book reviews leading to more sales, which leads to even more reviews, and so on and so forth.
So far so good. The thing is, in order to print your book on Amazon you need to publish it first, which will set the 30-day clock ticking.
If this clock runs out without a significant number of reviews, your book will be banished to obscurity in the Amazon rankings.
Why? Because there are thousands of books published on Amazon every single day that’ll bury you in their algorithm unless you get a large number of reviews in the initial 30 days — a one-time grace period.
Step 4: Assemble a 100-person strong advance review team
So far, everything you’ve done has been within your control. Now it’s time to reach out to others and enlist their help.
In short, you’ll need to assemble a 100-strong advance review team for your new book. Why so many? Because, on average, you should expect only 50% to deliver results.
OK then, why do I need to generate 50 book reviews? Because you’ll need this many to “prime” the Amazon algorithm to rank you high on search results.
But isn’t this cheating? Not if you follow the rules, so let’s look at them.
According to Amazon’s terms and conditions, for a book review to be valid, it has to be given by an arm’s length reader. So, friends, family, and co-workers are out.
How does Amazon know that you’re related to these people? Well, with over 300 million customer accounts in the U.S. alone plus a large investment in artificial intelligence and machine learning, they have all the tools they need to figure this out.
First, they’ll start with your last name, home address, credit card number, etc. That’ll take off most close family and even roommates. Then they’ll look at purchases you’ve done for other people (e.g. gift cards or just gifts).
Then they’ll look to see if you’re linked to others through your place of work, then… Yes, I know, it’s very Big Brotherish, but I’m sure that by now you’ve learned to accept there are vast troves of user data being bought and sold by large corporations all the time.
All this to say that Amazon’s product review algorithms are very powerful — they simply hate being gamed and are known for coming down hard on offenders.
The only way for this plan to succeed is to assemble a group of advance reviewers that are at arm’s length with you.
How do you do that without breaking the rules? Well, while your friends and family are out, the friends and family of your friends, coworkers, acquaintances, etc. are fair game.
Your job now is to assemble a team of 100 advance reviewers from this group with the goal of getting at least 50 arm’s length book reviews.
To minimize the attrition rate, take the time early on to identify people in this network who match the target audience for your book because these are the most likely people to read it and review it.
The better your book solves a problem for them, the higher the impact it’ll make on their lives and the lower your attrition rate will be.
Now, once you identify your full team of advance reviewers, you’ll need to manage them to ensure that they deliver the goods. But there are a number of rules you’ll need to follow:
- You cannot influence their review in any way — it has to truly be an honest one. Should Amazon’s AI detect something fishy, perhaps phrases that indicate a fabricated bias in your favor, the review will be automatically deleted.
- Reviewers cannot acknowledge they know the author — that’s an automatic disqualification.
- The review cannot be “unnaturally” positive, i.e. full of over-the-top complimentary language to the point of looking fake. These will get automatically deleted as well.
- You can’t show twelve reviews posted one day and then nothing over the next two. That’ll trip the ranking algorithm as suspicious activity.
- All reviewers must have active Amazon accounts.
- Only one review is allowed to be posted per household.
Now, for our plan to succeed, you can’t just send the reviewers a copy of your book and then forget about them, because they’ll forget about you, too. If you’re lucky you’ll get just a trickle of reviews coming in at all the wrong times.
So, while you aren’t allowed to influence reviewers, you can and should develop an ongoing relationship with them to make sure they deliver for you. Since you can’t be the point person, enlist the work of an assistant as a “reviewer project manager” to become the middle person.
You’ll need to touch base with your advance review team on a regular basis to answer questions and keep them engaged. Make sure you always stay top of mind with your team throughout this entire journey.
Step 5: Mine Amazon’s nonfiction categories for bestseller success
Now we’ve come to the most critical point of the entire book launch PR strategy!
There’s nothing more valuable in the world of book publishing than making it into a reputable bestseller list, and Amazon’s bestseller lists are among the most reputable when it comes to getting attention from mainstream media.
Now, to make it into an Amazon bestseller list you’ll be competing against the sales figures of all other nonfiction books in that category. So, if your category is crowded, it’ll be next to impossible for you to breakthrough as a new author.
But, what if you were to compete in a category where very few books are listed?
What if your category was so obscure that with just a few weekly sales you could actually make it onto the bestseller list?
And herein lies the secret sauce of this article. Amazon has over 3,000 nonfiction categories (including all sub-categories) and, drum roll please… each has its own bestseller list!
So, if you’re strategic in how you list your book AND you flood Amazon with arm’s length positive reviews over the first 30 days after publication, there is a good chance you’ll end up on a bestseller list!
Why? Because the first 30 days are the time when the ranking algorithm is operating in “learning” mode. During this time, all it’s doing is monitoring the number of positive reviews coming in for your book and giving you an artificial boost in the rankings if this number looks promising.
Now, this is a fluid situation and you may or may not land on the top spot, but if your sub-category is not popular with other authors you’ll very likely land on the top 10, and that’ll make you a bestseller! (a bragging right that’ll stick even after you’re long gone from the list.)
Bestseller lists are once and done. You don’t need to stay on it to claim bestsellerdom. Plus no one will ever question what specific subcategory you were listed on. For all practical purposes, as far as the media is concerned, your book will be an Amazon bestseller forever!
Now, how do you find such brilliant categories? Well, this is not something that’s super intuitive and Amazon is definitely secretive about them, but with a bit of elbow grease and the help of an experienced book marketing specialist, you’ll be able to figure this out.
While this is outside the scope of this article due to the length of the analysis that’s required, you can find out how to unearth these special categories in this in-depth article.
Step 6: Publish your book on Amazon
Alright, we’re getting closer!
Once the bulk of your reviews is completed and ready to go, it’s time to load your title and your files on Amazon by:
- Choosing your well-researched categories to maximize your chances of landing on a bestseller list
- Choosing your keywords for Amazon searches
- Entering your book description and your ISBN, and
- Uploading your print-ready book files
As a matter of practice, you should let your book designer deal with the file uploads and let your book marketing specialist deal with the keyword, category research, and book description in consultation with you.
And before you push the “Publish” button, make sure your assistant has followed up with your advance review team and has all the reviews queued up.
Then and ONLY then should you click the Publish button on Amazon, at which point the 30-day clock will start ticking. Now the publishing process is not instantaneous, it may take a few hours before your book goes live in the system.
So, every 30 minutes to an hour make sure you refresh the screen until you see the publishing status change to live. When this happens, you’ll be entering the final and most critical stage: the drip of reviews!
Step 7: Drip book reviews over the first 30 days after launch
By now, your assistant will have a handy spreadsheet with all your reviewers who have completed their reviews and are anxious to help you out.
On this spreadsheet, you’ll have their names, addresses, and contact information, because you need to make sure that your drip of reviews originates from diverse geographic locations to emulate a random pattern.
Your reviews not only need to be spaced out in time over the first 30 days after going live but they also need to be geographically spaced out in order to appear organic and not orchestrated.
But don’t worry, as long as the direct relationship between you and your reviewers is kept at arm’s length and the vast majority of reviewers are unrelated to one another, you’ll be safe.
So, if you have, say 60 reviews at the ready, you’ll want to have 4 uploaded on the first two or three days and then peter out over the remaining days. About 3 each day for the next 5-7 days, then 2 a day for another 10 days, and finally one a day until you run out.
To prime the Amazon ranking algorithm for a successful outcome, your assistant will need to closely manage your advance review team, but beware: you’re not allowed to incentivize your team financially or otherwise other than by giving them a free review copy of your book.
You cannot offer them a free consulting session and you cannot send them any swag or any other kind of merchandise or any gifts in exchange for their review. All of that is against Amazon’s terms and conditions.
In fact, the book business is one of the rare exceptions in the Amazon universe that was granted a carveout in the review mechanism. For most other products, handing out a free sample to obtain an Amazon review is strictly prohibited.
Step 8: Team up with PR person with connections to local media
Phew, that was a lot of moving pieces, but if everything goes according to plan you’ll have made it into a highly coveted Amazon Bestseller list!Now, it’s finally time to attract the media attention for your book. Technically, you can start by finding local media contacts on your own (with Prowly’s Media Database, for example). Keep in mind that having relevant contact details is only half the battle – what matters is having a relationship with these journalists, which is a specialty of PR professionals.
If you have no PR knowledge and tools under your sleeve, it might be better to enlist the help of a PR specialist in your area with connections to the local media instead and maximize the chances of getting media attention for your book.
Local PR specialists are not hard to find and won’t charge you an arm and a leg. In most cases, they’ll be people who used to work for a local news channel in some production capacity and decided to branch out, or perhaps were laid off at some point and are now freelancing.
As a newly minted bestselling author, your PR specialist will leverage all of their connections to help you attract the attention of the mainstream media.
Step 9: Reach out to mainstream media the minute you make it into your Amazon bestseller list
So, you’re ready to begin your mainstream media outreach since your Amazon bestsellerdom will now open all kinds of doors.
How to pitch a book to the media?
Always begin your PR outreach at the local level because there’s next to no chance for a new nonfiction author to land on a regional or national spot (there are exceptions, but they tend to be rare).
Local media loves to cover local success stories and to have a new author jump to Amazon bestsellerdom on their first book is certainly cause to celebrate.
Once you log a number of interviews in your local market, you can begin to pitch a book to neighboring media markets, armed with the online links to those initial media appearances. Before you know it, you’ll be able to break into adjacent markets.
The great thing about earned media is that if the subject matter of your book is evergreen and if you do a good interview (i.e. you’re engaging and you can speak in “sound bites”) you’ll get invited back to offer your opinion if they have a future need in your area of expertise.
Over time, you’ll develop relationships with local media producers and they’ll begin to call you without the need for a PR person. Especially if you use media relations management tools like Prowly.
And it gets even better: as you write more books over the years, many of these people move around and often get promoted to larger and larger media markets, and they’ll remember you fondly if you made them look good in the past.
And if they ever find themselves in a pickle and happen to find you in their Rolodex, you might end up getting called for a large-media market spot.
Book publicity secrets revealed
Congrats on making it all the way to the end! Now you know the secret sauce to land on the radar of mainstream media with a self-published nonfiction book.
While this can be a bit of work to pull off you won’t just get media attention, you’ll also get financial benefits as this exposure will likely open doors to new revenue opportunities for your business and your career.
Your newly published nonfiction bestseller will be one of the most effective calling cards to drum up new business, and by showcasing your expertise on mainstream media you’ll earn a level of exposure that’ll make your original investment pay off multiple times.
About the Author: Marcelo Beilin is a Digital Marketing Consultant and blogger who helps business clients take their traffic and online revenue to the next level. He also helps readers find the perfect tools to earn online income at BestTech2EarnOnline.com.
Cover photo by Sincerely Media