How to: Effective Book PR


By Jon Kirk

So you’ve penned the title, secured a publishing deal (or self-publishing strategy), and it’s time to market the book to a global audience. Unfortunately, though, promoting the book is often the most problematic and frustrating part of the literary journey. Even the largest publishing houses boasting the biggest-selling authors can struggle to generate worthwhile column inches. Independent and self-publishers often fail to do so altogether, regardless of the title’s quality or its objective appeal. It’s a problem which continues to plague the industry and drain its ever dwindling coffers.

Contrary to what some “book PR experts” recommend (and charge for), but not surprisingly, effective book PR involves more than skilful post and packaging; sending copies for review will always remain a hit and miss affair. Nor should it hinge upon the creation of a Facebook page, or upon the ‘publication’ of a press release on a free distribution website.

No, good book PR – that is, PR which spreads a positive message about the title to any given audience – requires a more cunning, tenacious approach. In my experience of promoting well over 200 titles, the most effective book PR campaigns have involved the creation (and subsequent publication) of newsworthy, attention-grabbing copy.

Here’s a few examples of book PR stories which secured regional, national and international media coverage for our clients.

A Legend in his Own Crime

The American gangster who inspired 1970s cult flick The Godfather was a ”fake”, a British historian claimed yesterday.

For decades, experts believed Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano was the ‘father of organised crime’ and heralded him as the model for legendary mafia boss Don Corleone.

He was widely credited for running New York’s notorious underworld, and linked to multi-million dollar extortion rackets, revenge beatings and gangland murders.

But according to new research, his ‘legend’ was largely false and was fabricated by the US Government to justify the expense and manpower of tracking him down.

The revelations come to light this week in new book Lucky Luciano: The Real and the Fake Gangster – 74 years after his imprisonment, and 48 years after his death.

Author and historian Tim Newark said the claims will shock American biographers who, until now, have always painted Lucky as the seminal gangster.

”The myth of Lucky Luciano is incredible. For decades, he has been portrayed as the consummate professional – as the father of modern organised crime, no less,” he said.

”American biographers have fuelled this myth, and have written numerous books about his legend.

”But after delving into the archives, I realised the ‘real’ Lucky was very different and, in some respects, a fake. I’ve hopefully drawn a true picture of the man, without the usual spin, hearsay and half-truths we’ve seen thus far.”

Luciano was born in Sicily, Italy, in 1897 but moved to New York at the age of 10 where he would soon launch a life of crime.

By the age of 20, he had already dabbled, successfully, in theft, extortion and drug trafficking.

Within a few years, however, his infamy was secured after splitting New York into five Mafia families, and for creating the first overseeing ‘body’, known as the National Crime Syndicate.

As the boss of this new syndicate, Lucky took a commission of all families’ ill-gotten gains, and grew all-powerful as a result.

But his notoriety prompted interest by the FBI and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), both of which launched investigations into his activities.

He was eventually caught, tried and imprisoned and was exiled to Sicily after spending 10 years behind bars.

Until now, historians believed his power and control over the American underworld continued during his imprisonment and long after his exile.

Observers later credited him as the inspiration for Don Vito Corleone, the mafia kingpin played by Hollywood legend Marlon Brando in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 blockbuster.

He was even associated with international multi-million dollar drug smuggling operations between France and America whilst behind bars.

But Newark’s research suggests that Lucky had little influence on the criminal world after leaving America.

He claims Lucky’s legend was ”significantly” inflated by the FBI and the FBN after his arrest in a bid to justify the time and public money dedicated to his investigation and capture.

Newark delved into previously unseen archives in both Europe and America, and penned his biography based on what he found.

Speaking from his home in Bath, Somerset, he said: ”For the first 25 years of his criminal career Luciano was the real deal.

“He was notorious as a vicious mobster who started off as a hit man and rose to become the multi-millionaire king of the New York underworld, running sex and narcotics empires.

“But for the remainder of his life he was nothing but a legend, made out to be the mastermind behind international drug smuggling rackets when in fact he was shunned by his former associates.

“The sad truth is that Lucky was a has-been without the money or power to pull off what he was said to. Even if he had, the Mafia wouldn’t have worked with him because of his very public reputation.”

Interest in Luciano, who died of a heart attack in 1962, aged 64, has undergone a revival in recent times thanks in part to several other – ”lazy and incorrect” – biographies.

He is also the central figure in Martin Scorseses’ mobster series Boardwalk Empire, set to be screened on Sky later this year.

Newark, 49, who enjoyed critical acclaim for his 2007 non-fiction title The Mafia at War, said Lucky will always remain the “king of the New York underworld” – regardless of his research.

He added: “Despite his later, manufactured, image, there’s no disputing Luciano’s importance. He modernised organised crime by bringing together criminals from many ethnic backgrounds to found a national crime syndicate that still exists today.”

Water Relief

The world’s first waterproof paperback will hit the shelves next summer, publishers revealed yesterday.

A clear wax sealant will prevent running ink, and will stop pages from becoming soggy or ripping when wet.

The tough polymer coating is also tear-resistant, and promises to increase a title’s shelf-life by up to 200 per cent.

Banks in Australia already use the technology to prolong the life banknotes and to reduce the risk of forgery.

But it is the first time that a standard paperback will receive the same treatment. Only children’s books or specialist scuba diving titles currently boast to be fully water-resistant.

The first book to receive the coating is an ebook by Allan Cork, hard copies of which will go on sale in May next year.

According to publication, waterproof books will be ideal for the beach, pool, – or bath. A spokesman added: “It promises to revolutionise beach or pool-side holidays.”

Author Allan Cork said: “I’m over-the-moon that my book has been chosen to pave the way in a new era of publishing.”


Out Like a Light-Read

Forget counting sheep…

The average Briton reads 2,134 words at bedtime before falling asleep, new research revealed yesterday.

A nationwide survey found two-thirds of adults drift off after reading the equivalent of 6.5 pages of a standard-sized paperback.

And it revealed that almost 90 per cent of folk pick up their books at 10pm and read for just 20 minutes before nodding off.

Autobiographies and ‘intellectual’ tomes were said to encourage sleep ”far more easily” than action-adventure stories, picture books or sporting titles.

The poll of 3,000 Brits was conducted by the publisher Routledge to mark the 10th anniversary of its Routledge Classics Series.

A spokesman said the results reflected the importance of classic and contemporary literature in today’s technology-driven society.

”Modern society is saturated with gadgets and gizmos, but we’ve found that reading is still an important form of entertainment,” she added.

”A good book is the ideal form of escapism, and is the perfect antidote to a long, hard and stressful day at the office.

”Reading also exercises the grey matter, which may explain its soporific effects – especially at bedtime.”

The study was compiled by Routledge over a three-month period. The results were released for the first time yesterday.

Respondents, aged between 18 and 85, were asked about their general reading habits and the genre of literature they most enjoyed.

Of those polled, 87 per cent said they read most nights from 10pm onwards, and usually for 20 minutes or less.

In that time, the majority (53 per cent) get through 6.5 pages of a standard-sized paperback – or the equivalent of about 2,134 words – before going to sleep.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, classic literature, academic and scholarly texts, and other highbrow titles were found to promote sleep better than horror, sporting, adventure and raunchy books.

The spokesman for Routledge said: ‘It doesn’t surprise us that intellectual books encourage the best sleep.

”Timeless titles such as Jung’s ‘Answer to Job’ and ‘Being and Nothingness’ by Sartre require and provoke thought.

”That’s why sales of these titles continue to grow and their popularity continues unabated.”

The Routledge Classic Series celebrates its 10th anniversary next month. To mark the occaision, it will release the 200th, and latest, title in the Series – ‘Open Society and its Enemies’ by Karl Popper.

The spokesman added: “It’s very exciting to know that there will be an addition in the series. The research shows that they are still very much in demand.”


Take a Leaf Out of Their Book…

Some of Britain’s best-loved celebrities including Jo Brand, John Challis and Edwina Currie have put pen to paper in a bid to help sick and injured animals.

Almost 100 personalities from TV, film and stage stepped forward to write ‘Celebrities’ Favourite Pets’ in aid of the charity PDSA.

Each volunteered their services for free and penned a few lines about their pets and the ”unique” relationships they share.

Critics say the 124-page book provides a ”fascinating insight” into the private lives of our favourite stars.

The ex-Conservative MP Edwina Currie revealed she has a ”big and hairy” German Shepherd called ‘Sheba’, while darts player Bobby George owns five Jack Russells named, appropriately, after money – ‘Visa’, ‘Twopee’, ‘Fiver’, ‘Gilda’ and ‘Cash’.

But there are also a few surprises.

Only Fools and Horses star John Challis, who played dodgy car dealer ‘Boycie’, has a cat called ‘Fluffy’.

Man-mountain Geoff Capes – the former World’s Strongest Man who stands 6ft 5ins tall – has a soft spot for budgies.

And TV sports presenter John Inverdale admitted he has a ”soothing and reliable presence” in the form of goldfish ‘Motivator’.

Author Sheila Collins, 65, spent six months compiling the anecdotes ahead of the book’s official publication tomorrow.

Sheila, who published her first novel ‘Truffles’ Diaries’ in 2005, will donate her royalties from its sale to the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA).

Speaking from her home in Roche, near St Austell, Cornwall, she said: ”Seeing Celebrities’ Favourite Pets in print is a wonderful feeling.

”It’s taken a lot of hard work and I cannot thank the celebrities involved enough. Without them, there wouldn’t be a book at all.

”I loved reading their stories. Some were hilarious and others very moving – it was, you might say, a rollercoaster of emotions.”

Sheila, a retired secretary, convinced the stars to get involved with the help of Essex-based firm Apex Publishing.

They contacted hundreds of celebrities and received 97 responses from some of the UK’s and America’s biggest names.

The comedienne Jo Brand, who has four cats, writes: ”Their individual personalities are an absorbing distraction from household chores, answering emails and contemplating my navel.

”I admire their self-possession and self-assurance – from total indifference to suddenly seeking my undivided attention – a bit like my husband!”

Julia Bradbury – the presenter of BBC’s Countryfile, Watchdog and Wainwright Walks – said she dotes on her nephew’s black miniature Schnauzer bitch, Lotte.

She adds: ”She doesn’t have the standard Schnauzer ‘haircut’ – a little man-beard. Instead, she sports a shaggy do.

”The women in the family are of Greek descent and we’ve all got thick, wildish hair – just like Lotte.”

Meanwhile, the actress and former model Linda Lusardi revealed she bought a miniature Dachshund following the birth of her last child.

The mum-of-two, who shot to fame as a pin-up in the 1970s, says: ”I was never allowed a dog as a child and now our house would feel so empty without her.

”I never realised that you could love an animal so much. She really is my third baby.”


Until next time,