Getting publicity for your book in the crowdfunding process

Jimmy Leach and Georgia Odd, crowdfunding compadres at Unbound, on how PR can help with crowdfunding projects.

Photo by Flipboard on Unsplash

PR at the crowdfunding stage can be a tricky beast. A piece in a mainstream media outlet linked back to your campaign by no means guarantees a huge amount of pledges, sadly.

For one thing, the news hook is tricky, the idea of ‘author crowdfunds book’ as a story is pretty passé these days and most mainstream press will wait for the book itself to emerge, and review that, rather than talk about the money-raising.

We’ve found that it’s much more effective for the Unbound PR team to concentrate their energies on the finished book on publication.

But, nevertheless, good, targeted PR can help at this stage — the tricky bit is how to deliver it, and how to deliver it yourself.

Whilst a front-page feature in a national newspaper is unlikely, there will be a number of outlets — smaller, local and specialist — which would be delighted to hear from you and carry your news for you. The key is to make each blog, newspaper or magazine understand why you and your project is interesting, to make a connection. These outlets are also much more likely to have a specialised audience who would be interested in finding out more about your campaign.

Remember that every project has two audiences — your own network and the networks interested in the topic or theme you’re writing about. So think about the connection that a blog, newspaper or magazine might give you — it might be that you are a ‘local author’, that one of the pledge levels includes a local attraction or that you are writing about a topic of interest to a specialist blog or magazine.

So how do you introduce yourself to these publications? The ‘usual’ way is a press release.

Timing is important for a release — these outlets are looking for ‘news’ — the more people have pledged for your book by the time you hit the press and blogs, the more it looks like a successful project worth featuring.

So get your release ready for the project launch, because you’ll be short of time during your campaign, but maybe send the release out after the first week of hard campaigning. A journalist is more likely to give generous profile to a campaign that is succeeding than to one that is failing, so it’s useful to have a decent percentage on the page by the time you send them to it. There’s a sweet spot between ‘just launched’ and ‘clearly working’ which is a judgement call.

It’s neither time-effective nor useful to use a blanket approach and send a press release to as many places as you can. Instead, decide which newspaper/blogs/magazines to target — this should emerge from the process of working out what the connection might be.

  • If it’s based on geography (‘local writer’) then contact the local newspapers and blogs.
  • If it’s based on a topic then look for the blogs and magazines which also cover the same topic — A book about model railways? Then target the blogs and magazines which do it best.
  • Fiction is harder, but there are lots of bloggers and writers about genre fiction especially. A press release may be less likely to generate interest, but a personal email offering to write something could be more fruitful.

The first task, though, is to write a press release that works — and for that, you need to answer key questions: Why, who and what, while doing so in a way the publication will like.

The headline
All publications are short of staff and resources. The more you do their job for them, the more they like you, and the more they are likely to take what you and and reproduce it verbatim. The first step in that is to write the sort of headline you think they might use. So study the publication a little and get used to its house style and do your best to reproduce it, while trying to answer those three key questions in one short sentence:

‘Author crowdfunds murder mystery set in Llandudno’

That kind of thing — but you’re the writer, you can do better. It just needs to answer those key questions: what’s your connection (or expertise), what are you hoping for (support for the book) and why (you or the book are local, or you offer specific expertise or skill).

In the body of the press release you need to answer a number of key questions

Why should anyone care about your project?

You need to step back from the project and work out why anyone should care (this is true for much of what you do around this part of the project, from the pitch text and video onwards). If you’ve paid enough attention to that part of the ‘sale’ throughout, then this should be easy — what is it that you are trying to say or trying to document? What is it that will make people want to buy?

Who are you? Why are you the one to tell the story?

Your story is important, so why are you the one to tell it? Tell us what qualifies you to tell the tale. Who you are, what makes you the person to tell this story. Why readers should trust that if you give them money, you will give them something memorable.

Where: Where the project is, and what you need

Don’t forget the details -

  • The name of the book, the url of the project page, the name of the publisher.
  • Explain the nature of the crowdfunding process and what makes Unbound special
  • Put in a biography of yourself, which will fulfil, in part, some of the questions about ‘why you’.
  • Don’t forget contact details for both yourself and Unbound, often done in the form of ‘Notes to editors.

The chances are that this will get you access to audiences which were hitherto hidden from you. The success rate for these endeavours is patchy — sometimes it strikes a chord and sometimes it doesn’t… but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. While there may not be a massive flood of pledges directly from your appearance in the Llandudno Gazette, its very presence there gives validation to the project, gives you something else to post on your social media channels and can act as an indirect prompt to those who knew all about it but were yet to commit.

So give it a go…