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24 Dos & Don’ts of Book Publicity | Tips on Research, Pitching & More

24 DOS AND DON'TS OF BOOK PUBLICITY by Joe Walters is a publishing resource as part of the IBR Book Marketing series. Check out 23 tips on getting more publicity for your book.

24 Dos & Don’ts of Book Publicity

by Joe Walters

Getting publicity for your book is difficult.

And it’s even harder when you’re doing it alone.

There’s a reason why authors chase traditional publishing and still choose to hire publicists with existing contact lists & relationships. Book publicity is an important aspect of book marketing.

Not only is it helpful to show your existing fan base that your book is being talked about in the media, but it’s even more helpful to show your book in front of pre-existing fan bases so that your personal following can grow. 

As long as you’ve created a great, salable product—with great blurbs, description, cover, premise, and book—you’re going to get book sales when you show up in front of the right book-buying audience.

But before I get into all of the things I’ve learned in my time as a marketing & publicity specialist at three indie presses, let’s get the answer to this question out of the way.

What is book publicity?

Book publicity is when an author or an author’s book appears on a platform—a magazine, tv show, a podcast, etc.—in hopes of increasing sales, followers, or subscribers. The platform is usually focused in the author’s niche or location.

So how do you get it?

In short: Try really hard, write more books, and follow these tips. 

Here are 24 dos & don’ts of book publicity

  1. Do start with keywords

When you upload your book on Amazon, you’ll be asked to choose seven keywords.

A keyword is a word or phrase that browsers use to find what they’re looking for in the Amazon search engine. If I’m looking for bird books, a keyword I might use is “birdwatching.”

Take your time to choose the right keywords. The best keywords can get you book sales all on their own while the wrong keywords can do absolutely nothing for you. So why does that have anything to do with publicity?

Well…you’ll be using these keywords to research publicity platforms! If you type in “paranormal romance” into Google for example, you’ll get outlets who have been talking about (and maybe featuring) paranormal romance stories. 

But unlike Amazon where you can only upload seven, there’s no cap on the amount of keywords you can use to find outlets that talk about your books. So start brainstorming! These publicity-specific keywords can be different or more direct too. You’ll want to try “paranormal book review” or “paranormal author interview” because that’s what you’re looking for, in addition to the original keyword.

  1. Do so much research your eyes get tired

Now that you have your keywords, break out your handy-dandy spreadsheet app. (I like Google Sheets). Create a column for each of the following:

You can create tabs (with the same columns as mentioned above) for different types of outlets like podcasts, bloggers, social media influencers, contests, and more.

Then…you get started researching!

Hit the old Google machine and type in keywords related to your book to find out who has been talking about books or topics like yours. When you find outlets who are, input them into your spreadsheet. Do NOT pitch them yet. 

This is going to take some time. To give you a head start, here are 30+ top-notch book review sites to add to your spreadsheet. 

  1. Do prioritize personal & professional connections

The best “angle” you can have with an outlet is a personal connection. That’s why publicists and publishers can be so valuable. They’ve been pitching these outlets for years and may have a connection already set up with them; i.e. that outlet loved a book they pitched in the past, so they are more willing to accept a pitch from them in the future.

If you have a personal connection with an outlet, they should be near the top of your priority list when it comes to pitching time. You’ll want to mention the connection in the pitch letter (we’ll get to that!).

  1. Do include both local & national outlets

The local angle is one of my favorites! The [Small Town] Gazette may have a smaller reach than The New York Times, but they love stories of their residents doing cool things. Your chances of getting picked up for a feature increase when you pitch the book as a local author. 

But, obviously, there’s more than just your small town out there who is willing to read your book! Go big AND go small. Speaking of…

  1. Don’t ONLY include the heavy hitters

I’ve already said it a couple times, but it really is worth mentioning again…

Getting publicity for your book is hard!

For the heavy hitters (NYT, People, O Magazine, etc.), you are battling actual celebrities for page & website space. You can totally include the big ones on your spreadsheet, but if you’re an indie author publishing fiction, you NEED to include the smaller outlets. Your conversion rate is going to be very low with the major outlets, and I don’t want you to exit the publicity phase with 0 features.

  1. Do research for podcasts and other media in the right places

You’re definitely going to find podcasts in your niche just by Googling them, but don’t only search there. Type your keywords into places like Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, Blog Talk Radio, etc. 

  1. Do (or don’t!) pursue author events

I’ve talked to a lot of authors about book publicity, and (if they’re into that kind of thing), they bring up book tours and author events. They dream of that red carpet event, but it might be more common now to see an indie author event that is poorly attended. I’ve seen multiple stories over the years of indie authors doing events where no one shows. (This one actually went viral, which helps!).

But I still like author events! Readings first, conferences/festivals second, and signings third.

As long as the author knows it’s up to them to get people to show up, I think they should give a couple of them a shot. Sometimes you can use a scheduled event to get featured in local media, so that’s a plus too. Think of bookstores, sure, but also consider coffee shops, museums, schools, and out of the box venues.

I don’t really think of author events as book publicity–more as a fun thing to do that could sell you some books–but I’ve gotten so many comments about it over the years that I wanted to make sure I included it here.

  1. Don’t include ALL bloggers & influencers

When you start researching bloggers & influencers, you’re going to find some that you don’t love. Maybe the blog looks outdated, or their reviews feel cookie cutter. Maybe the influencer seems like they’re focused more on follow-backs than real genuine engagement. Don’t pitch them!

Only send a pitch to those you’d be proud to appear on. I love bloggers & influencers because a lot of the time, they care deeply about their audience and can write some really great reviews. But there are some who don’t too! 

  1. Do (or don’t!) include book awards & contests

Book awards are definitely worth looking into, but not all of them are worth entering! You have to pay to enter book awards, and while I like submitting your book to a couple of them (if you have the funds!), I don’t think your marketing budget should go too heavy here. 

Make sure you like the book award you’re choosing to pursue. Some of them are cheap but only offer the opportunity to call yourself an award-winning author. I wouldn’t recommend those. If you’re looking for publicity, I want you to find a contest that has a real genuine following.

Keep in mind book lists too! We don’t have a book award, but by submitting to IBR, you are entering for a chance to appear on our Impressive Indies or Best Books list.

  1. Don’t miss the deadline!

Some review platforms require you to submit your book for review consideration 3-6 months in advance. Definitely take note of that! If you’re in the research phase and you haven’t sent any pitches yet, but this deadline is coming up, stop what you’re doing and focus on that submission. Then get back to research afterwards.

It’s okay if you miss the deadline. You won’t get coverage from every single place, and it’s more difficult for indie authors to work months in advance. That’s not your fault.

  1. Do follow submission guidelines

Some outlets share very specific guidelines that you must adhere to upon submission. For example, we ask that you send us your book cover, a .pdf of the book, the book description, genre, and publication month. All of these play a role in whether or not we accept the book for a feature. If you’re missing one of them, sometimes, we mark the request as read and move on.

What gifts are you asking for this year? Check out our gifts for writers!

  1. Do write, revise, & edit a compelling pitch letter
little kid throwing a baseball to represent writing a pitch letter for book publicity

A pitch letter is the email you send to an outlet in the hopes that you or your book get featured. It used to be on fancy letterhead, tucked inside a paperback, and sent via snail mail, but email makes it much easier on us and the trees. Just because it’s email doesn’t mean it’s not serious or professional though.

You should take a lot of time perfecting your pitch letter. Read samples, and write different versions that highlight different angles. If you received a blurb from Stephen King, make sure that thing is in the first paragraph. If you won a major book award with your last book, that’s something to mention. If your best angle is your hook—modern Romeo & Juliet…in space!—then make sure that’s the focus.

If the outlet doesn’t mention the specifics of what you need to submit, I’d say a good set-up would be one that mentions the angle, your publisher (if applicable), the book’s publication date/month, a shorter book description, the book cover, and a direct ask to feature your book.

  1. Don’t forget about the subject line

After you’ve written/polished a couple different pitch letters with slightly different angles, it’s time to write as many attention-grabbing email subject lines as you can. It’s important to stand out and get relevant info in there so that the person perusing the email inbox can tell this email is worth opening. 

I like using a mix like, “Review Request – Romeo & Juliet in space by Hugo Award-winning author” or “Interview Request – Author and public speaker releases self-help book on public speaking.”

But honestly—these could be better! Take your time, draft a few of them, and pick two winners.

  1. Do personalize the direct address

This is the smallest piece of advice that could go the longest way. Recipients at outlets are primarily interested in covering books and authors that can bring in the biggest audience, so it might not always make a huge difference, but it does help you stand out if you write the pitch directly to the appropriate person.

Making them feel seen and like you took the time to acknowledge them correctly can help increase the professionalism side we were talking about earlier. It’s the nature of the business that we get copy and pasted pitches, but we can be a bit more tempted to do coverage if it feels like the pitcher took the time to get to know me and my company.

If there’s no specific name, just address it to the appropriate outlet you’re pitching: Dear Independent Book Review. Do NOT use “Dear Sir/Ma’am” or send a batch email with multiple recipients.

  1. Do showcase your best blurb(s)

It’s already hard enough to tell a humble writer to talk to other people let alone get them to ask for help. Some authors don’t like to self-promote, and pitching a book for publicity definitely requires a little bit of that (Another reason why people like publicists so much!). 

One thing that helps that immensely is using book blurbs in your pitch. Let somebody else tell the person you’re pitching that the book is good. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve chosen to cover a book based on what someone I knew/admired said about it. Here’s how to get book blurbs!

  1. Don’t use an Amazon review as a blurb

But but but but but!

Not all blurbs carry the same weight. There are some really great Amazon reviewers out there, but I wouldn’t consider them blurbers. A blurb should come from an author or expert in your book’s field.

  1. Don’t use big block paragraphs for your pitch

Big block paragraphs turn me away from a pitch 49 times out of 50. I scan email pitches for the content I need—the genre, description, blurbs, cover, publication month—but it makes it difficult to do that when there’s only one or two big block paragraphs. Make it less work on me, will ya?

Break that pitch up into multiple paragraphs and use formatting tools like bolded font and lists. Do NOT use colored font.

How do you get more book reviews? We’ve got answers!

  1. Don’t send the pitch until the book is ready

A very important reminder before we get into the nitty gritty of drafting your pitch letter! When you pitch, make sure the book is presented as well as it could possibly be. Three vitals:

  • Your book description should be the absolute best it can be.
  • The book cover should be finalized, catchy, and attractive.
  • Have your blurb(s) ready.

And of course, don’t pitch anybody until the book is ready to be sent to them. If you pitch someone, they say yes, and you say, “Wait, it’s still in copy editing!” you’re going to miss out on that publicity.

  1. Do (or Don’t!) attach a press release

I like press releases! They’re an efficient, attractive way to display all of the necessary details of your book. When I see a well-designed press release, I think that the author/publishing team put time and effort into this interaction—and probably did the same with the book. Although, a poorly designed press release can do the opposite.

Some outlets and even some email carriers don’t want you to attach ANYTHING to your pitch. Since you don’t want to end up in SPAM or in the digital trash, make sure you follow their guidelines. If they don’t specify, then feel free to include one! But make it snappy and sleek. 

  1. Do send the pitch & save your send date

We’ve already done a lot of work. So don’t forget the most important thing: sending the actual pitch!

Set aside time early in the week to send your personalized (but mostly copy & pasted) pitch to every single recipient on your list, separately. I like to get them all done within a few days so that we can finalize this task, determine why things worked or didn’t, and then move onto the next task. I like beginning of the week for sending pitches because I don’t want to get or request a response on the weekend. 

Add a column at the end of your spreadsheet that says “Date Sent.” You’ll want to keep this info so that you know when to follow up. Speaking of… 

  1. Do send a follow-up

A follow-up pitch can help you move up in your recipient’s inbox. If a reviewer is considering covering your book and then you follow up with them kindly (maybe around 7 days later?), it could help them make the final decision.

At IBR, the follow-ups don’t do tooooo much, but as a publicist, it has worked for me multiple times in the past. Sometimes the follow-up period is more successful than the initial pitching period.

  1. Don’t be pushy

Tattoo this one on your forehead!

If you are asking for a free review or feature, you are asking for help. You believe the recipient could help you improve your chances of making book sales, and the recipient thinks that maybe your book or you could help generate income for them. Bookselling is a teamwork activity.

So even in your follow-up—and even if they agreed to review it months ago and have stopped answering you—be kind and patient and understanding. You want to keep good vibes going through your little community of supportive readers. Don’t ruin it. 

  1. Do celebrate every little victory

And I guess we’ve arrived at my favorite of all favorites. Sometimes your pitch converts! Sometimes your book is reviewed. Sometimes you wake up and your book is being talked about online. I don’t care if it’s a single social media post, a single blog review, or the best podcast interview acceptance you could have possibly asked for. The most important thing for you to do is feel happy. Your work is being recognized, and while each publicity feature won’t sell a book for you, it can be rewarding to know that your hard work is being recognized. Congrats, friend. 

  1. Don’t give up

It can feel like a substantial bummer to hear crickets in response to your book pitches. And some outlets won’t even want to feature you if your book is getting too old. You should definitely move on to different book marketing tasks eventually. 


Keep an eye out. When you see a new outlet pop up or just one you haven’t seen before, learn about it and dust off that pitch letter. Some people will be willing to talk about your book as long as it’s available. Keep on trying. You got this.

And now you know what you need to know about book publicity. Good luck out there!

About the Author

Joe Walters IBR founder

Joe Walters is the founder and editor-in-chief of Independent Book Review, and he has been a book marketer for Sunbury Press, Inkwater Press, and Paper Raven Books. When he’s not doing editorial, promoting, or reviewing work, he’s working on his novel and trusting the process. Find him @joewalters13 on Twitter.

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