Last month, my book, The Way Out: The Gay Man’s Guide to Freedom, turned one year old. But it’s hardly off the radar. In the last three months, eight articles have come out on the book, for a total of 35 pieces since May ’06. I’m still on book tour, and get three to five articles written about each book signing. And I have at least a dozen major media opportunities in the works. But this isn’t a case of good luck. This is a case of hard work.
Before my book was published, my published author friends advised me that my publicist wouldn’t do enough, and that I shouldn’t expect my book to get much press. And I’d always think to myself, “That’s your story.” I didn’t mean that I was expecting a publicist to manifest the media attention The Way Out needed. It’s just that I never expected a publicist to be able to do that. After all, book publicists have dozens of books to promote at any given time. I have one.
It is true that my 13 years working as a writer and editor at magazines and newspapers has made me savvy. I’ve been on the other end of the pitch, so I know how to craft one. I also know that most book PR departments simply hurl galleys blindly at the media, using generic lists of publications and dated lists of editors, letting the galleys fall where they may—which is usually on the giveaway table. Countless times I surveyed the cemetery of galleys headed to their early graves, and determined to avoid this destiny at all costs. So way before I ever even met my publicist, I decided to take responsibility for my book’s publicity.
I spent the months leading up to The Way Out’s launch crafting the perfect media mailing list. I hunted down my dream endorsers, who could expand the book’s reach. And when a graphic designer friend had the idea to brand my book with a logo and put it on posters, t-shirts and flyers, I presented the images—and the rest of my media strategy—to my publicist. Impressed with my initiative and excited by my enthusiasm, she backed the venture financially, while taking care to get the book into the hands of publications that weren’t on my radar.
The week of my book’s publication, I felt like the proud parent of a healthy, robust PR campaign: The Way Out was featured in the majority of the country’s major gay media outlets. I received four important endorsements—even from “Oprah’s guru” Gary Zukav. Posters announcing the book were up all over downtown, hundreds of gorgeous announcements were in the mail and dozens of walking billboards sported my t-shirts on the street... all bankrolled by my publicist. And I sold 100 books at my first signing, during a rainstorm.
A year later, I’m still promoting. I make my own press kits; locate potentially interested writers, editors and producers; and plant stories. I always have a book-related event in the works, and I spend two months planning my signings so I have plenty of press when I show up.
It’s a lot of work and uncertainty, no doubt about it. But it’s worth it. I love my book, and I didn’t write it for no one to hear about. While it’s true that I can’t make people buy the book, I can make sure they’ve heard of it.
The thing is, that responsibility for that stems from me. My drive has garnered me the kind of support I was advised would never come from a publicist. Winning her over has been one of my greatest publicity triumphs.
Gandhi said to be the change you want to see. I suggest you be the publicist you wish you had. That’s what I did. And that’s my story.
|Christopher Lee Nutter has just completed a book proposal on creativity and can be reached through www.christopherleenutter.com. HCI published his book, The Way Out, last year.|