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Targeted Publicity Program for a History Book

Targeted Publicity Program for a History Book

A Publish-L list member, wrote:


In November, I published a 400-page (20 in color) hardbound reference book with dust jacket about a particular regiment during the Civil War. It is the first of four books planned about the regiment. It is in pdf format without an ISBN. Although I’ve sold 300 copies locally (at $30 each), I’ve probably exhausted my available client list and would like to be able to offer it online in some format.

What should be my next step?

I’ve worked with a few authors and publishers of history, military, and civil war books so I’ll offer up some strategy and ideas from a book publicity standpoint. At the end I’ll point you in the direction of taking the same outreach communications and aiming at the “interest groups” you can reach directly using a similar but adapted approach. Here goes:

You can seek book reviews in certain media categories, but I believe this is one of those cases where feature stories filled with anecdotes, factual data, interesting information, and photos (hopefully some are available), will enable you to convey some portion of what the books offer so that you can make a truly favorable impression with the best galvanizing content.

There are several ways to target the different pools of media who we have seen respond with interest to books like this. I’m using the online Cision database which covers the US and Canada to provide the following information:

First there is the history media, with two key subcategories, national history and local history. I just created a custom media list and while it is not a big pool of media (770 media in the raw data Cision search but when I take out the empty & duplicate emails there are 646 media left) the people who cover this topic do have avid readers. I saved this list and will send it to you so you can see who is on this list. In the local history category, you will have to hand select media that align with the geography of the book and the people in the regiment.

Second there is the military media. The Cision count shows over 700 media (before cleaning) that cover this topic. There are military history buffs and depending on the stories you tell, you can get different types of military editors interested. There are several military subcategories including military lifestyle, Armed Forces, and other specialized categories. I’d recommend you study how a few of these media do military history feature stories first, and then use my 3 I technique to create a story pitch that looks like it belongs inside your target media.

Third, you can target media geographically and seek local feature stories based on the locations covered in the books, where the events covered by the book took place, and where the families of the people resided at the time.

Fourth, you could offer this out to all the non-fiction and general book reviewers. My latest database count from Cision for the categories of books, book reviews, authors, fiction, non-fiction, literature, and writing identifies over 3,300 media listings (before cleaning)..

Fifth, you could send an interview pitch to the NPR and PBS stations and shows. I’d recommend this go nationwide, but again, I would expect the media in the geographic areas covered to express the most interest, depending on how you spun the stories. To get to the national level, you would need to offer information and insights that have national implications, especially as regards what we see in our lives today, which is a consequence of what you write about. There are about 1,100 NPR radio station media and 800 PBS outlets.

Sixth, if there is ethnic or multicultural element, say the book is about an African American regiment, then you have an additional media pool who will have interest in the topics you write about.

I worked recently on a book by James Cameron, titled Color of War, a book which is based on extensive research and first-hand interviews with veteran white Marines and black Marines and African-American sailors who survived Port Chicago, a historic disaster in WWII. Campbell crafted The Color of War to paint a gripping picture of July 1944, the explosive month that changed the course of history. The Color of War juxtaposes the spirit of the Greatest Generation with the scars of segregation. In June 2012, in a fitting tribute, the black Marines who fought in Saipan will be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their WWII service. President Obama signed legislation to create the nation’s 392nd national park, the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial in Concord, California, to commemorate the explosion and the men who lost their lives at Port Chicago. The PR effort was pretty successful and got coverage in newspapers, magazines, radio and tv both locally in Chicago and nationwide. (I’ll send this news release to you and a few others so you can see what history news releases look like.)

I think the most critical element of your approach to media would be to not simply describe what the book contains. You have to tell entertaining stories that are so good as to intellectually and emotionally engage the audience and capture their imagination and make them relive a piece of the history. If they like the hefty taste you give them enough, then they will want the whole set of books. The news release offers stories and photographs so as to communicate to media both the printable, audio and visual elements of the stories that can be shared so the media can easily imagine what the finished media coverage looks like and sounds like. You’ll have to be willing to let the media publish or use on TV the photos you have available for their feature stories. You might want to be the interviewee but you may also want to see if you can find family member descendants so as to enlarge the pool of people so you can add depth and greater human interest.

The next area to follow along and create a parallel outreach strategy by using Google to identify the clubs, associations, institutions, museums, events, historical societies, and other groups of people who devote considerable time and interest to all the above subject matter areas: history, the civil war, books, military, veterans, and so on. Start locally (e.g., with a search on “civil war history club + your location”) and branch out with sequential searches systematically, city by city, county by county, state by state, and so on, depending on how far you can reasonably travel offering to speak and give talks and lectures.

This will keep you busy for a while!