Tips for Helping Your Book Fly Off the Shelves

by Sandra Goroff
Literary & Art Publicist

When I was a young publicist back in the early 80’s at the venerable publisher, Houghton Mifflin Company, we were still using carbon paper to make copies. We stood in line to use the company’s sole fax machine that sat on a desk near the cage elevator. There we faxed news releases to the country’s major market newspapers’ book reviewers and all major market morning television shows, which we referred to collectively as “GOOD MORNING, POUGHKEPSIE!”

I regularly sat in on pre-sales conference meetings as editors presented their new books to the marketing, sales, and publicity departments. As they shared their plans for each book’s publication and launch, the bow-tied head of the trade division, Austin Olney (a gentleman straight out of central casting), would laugh and say, “If we knew what made a best-seller, we would do it all the time.”

His message was obvious – there was no guarantee, there was no winning formula. Still we plodded on each season, employing old and new techniques and hoping for the best. Sometimes, magic happened and our efforts resulted in an author’s appearance on Oprah, an interview on Fresh Air, or a rave review on the front page of The New York Times Book Review.

All too often, new books and their authors fell to the bottom of the list and faded from view. This is still the case today, even though the fax machine is obsolete and newspaper book editors are almost as hard to find.

That’s the bad news, but the good news is magic still happens.

But because magic is unreliable, let’s focus on some things you can do to promote your book and enhance your visibility.

Everything you do on the promotional front is and should be aimed at generating word of mouth. Whether you are self-published, a first-time author, or an old pro, you need to be an active and energetic participant in the marketing of your book.

Consider this: You are not selling a book. You are building your platform, building a brand, or as management guru Tom Peters calls it “Brand You.”

As you build that brand, I recommend a marketing and publicity campaign composed of traditional, non-traditional, and online components: print, broadcast, social media, bookstores, online book sales and other promotional events and co-promotions. And yes, you definitely need a book-and-author website, and you want to be on Facebook, Twitter, etc. All of these elements are essential building blocks. You want to be heard, seen, and read.

Then: Repeat, repeat, repeat! Link, link, link!

Make sure everything you do and everything you secure (media-wise) becomes a tool with which you can “get” something else.

Connect the dots, share what you know, talk to people, tell your story. Be fearless! Trust me, you are not going to offend anyone by mentioning the name of your book or its availability. Now is not the time to be modest – though good judgment, good manners, and good timing are all worth noting.


Sandra Goroff, an award-winning literary and art publicist, has worked with a wide variety of books, authors, experts, celebrities, and publishers. She began her career in 1982 at Houghton Mifflin’s Boston headquarters, where she promoted authors such as a former US President, a world-famous economist, a James Bond private eye, and a shipwrecked sailor.

She later formed her own company, Sandra Goroff & Associates, and continues to work with both major publishers and individual authors, offering full publicity services with a focus on media placement where her exceptional contacts provide unparalleled access to major print, broadcast, and social media. She also offers publicity consultations and helps aspiring authors organize and prepare an agent/publishing proposal.


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