Stephen Cox Media Masterclass

Last couple of months, I’ve been talking to authors and poets about book publicity. (Broadly, the stuff that promotes the book which you don’t pay for.)

I’ve spent 30 years working in publicity – small organisations, individuals, big household names. I’ve done difficult TV interviews, I’ve taught plenty of people how to do them.

The main things that came up from authors of all types were as follows.

How can I be interesting talking about my book?

I’m frightened people will ask me horrible questions and I will look like an idiot.

What does a publicist do?  How do I work with them, or could do it myself if I haven’t got one?

What value does publicity add? Should it be a priority?

women having a conversation
Photo by Edmond Dantès on Pexels.com

Many people are worried about talking about their book – whether at events, on video, or talking to a journalist. They don’t think they’re important enough or interesting enough. They are paralysed with fear of looking stupid or not being able to answer questions. Even people who are confident in other contexts can be stressed by promoting their work.

You wrote a book. You can be as interesting as you need to be! I build confidence in dealing with these events. Simple preparation tools will help answer questions.

Book marketing is in some measure, about you as well as the book. People are worried they’ll be dragged into talking about things they don’t want to. How do you keep good boundaries?

I assure you, and I will show you, that you have far more control than you think -Including freedom to decide what events you do!

Many people don’t know how book publicity works – and what it can and cannot do. The basic information is straightforward – although experience and contacts and some tricks of the trade make a big difference.

I explain how it works, how you can work with a publicist if you have one through your publisher, and whether and when it’s worth hiring one…

What works? What’s a good use of your time?

Most people buy books based on more than one mention of the book. A few paid for activities deliver measurable results.  I’m optimistic I can help you, particularly with how you feel about doing this. Publicity won’t sell 100,000 copies. On the other hand, it is more people who know about your book.

What are the stories in the book

What are the stories about the book

What are the stories about me and my writing

And how can I use the ones I want to promote it.

My Media Masterclass

Stephen Cox talking in open necked shirt using lots of hands. Distinguished grey beard

I run two different types of workshop.

A one-hour group introduction to book publicity which gives you the basics. It’s on Zoom. There’s some opportunity for questions. I welcome contacts from existing groups. This is currently free although I circulate a tip link!

I also run an in-depth 1-2-1 focusing on your personal needs and questions. Currently this is £50 an hour (by Paypal) and includes some handy factsheets.

Email me about either.

I’m open to doing these face-to-face. Additional cost to be discussed. I like doing this convenient for British time, and also, I know the UK market better than elsewhere. But I’m open to wider engagement.

The Owen Problem

I was signing the paperback of my second book.  A man came up to me, introduced himself as Owen, and said,

‘I love Our Child of the Stars! I didn’t know you had written a sequel.’

He bought another copy for a friend, and a copy of Our Child of Two Worlds for himself. So, lovely, but also, I felt like banging my head on the table.

I’ve named this the Owen Problem.   Everything I did to promote the book for six months hadn’t reached an enthusiastic reader. In fact, sales suggest a great many Owens are out there.

186,000 books are published in the UK each year. Traditional publishers rely on the retailers to sell to individuals. Some small presses and some online retailers retain contacts for the purchasers – so Amazon can tell you a sequel is out.

Marketing and publicity is expected to reach the millions of Owens. But I believe 95% of marketing goes on 5% of titles. Not everyone reads book bloggers, and no one reads all of them. Not everyone reads the reviews in papers.

Furthermore, the traditional model relies on publishing the paperback six months later than the main publicity drive. (Some publishers now do eBook and paperback first, and then do a hardback if demand justifies it!)

Every commercial social media platform becomes progressively less effective, demanding more payment to make your content widely visible, or at all. TikTok (which only works for some books) is starting to go down that route.

The traditional publisher arguing the author on social can sell the books has never been brilliant and now looks very out of date.

Self-publishers of course have a similar problem.

Mastodon is a federated, non-commercial social media platform.  I quite like it, it has potential, but it’s really not the main solution.

If I sold handbags on Etsy and the like, I would have emails from my buyers.  I could warm them up for new products, within reason, and they’d at least know when the new one was out.

It’s why I run a newsletter and why I want to expand it. But still, I cannot expect people to follow me and 99 different authors. Our email inboxes are already very full.

If you like my content, sign up to the newsletter anyway! Free, special offers, not too frequent.

It’s one reason why I am moving into training authors in media skills, useful across a range of publicity activity.

NEW Media skills for authors/creatives

I woke up this week and thought – you should run media skills workshops for creatives.

Stephen, you worked for twelve years at Great Ormond Street. You supported world class doctors and nurses and fundraisers with the media. You helped parents and patients get through tragedies, and to get their side of the story across. I helped with research and fundraising and public interest campaigns. You enjoy doing this. You were good at it.

Last century, you led a successful consumer campaign, much of which was empowering local branches. You did turnaround PR support for the Nursing and Midwifery Council six months after it was described as ‘failing at every level’. You helped pro bono all sorts of small organisations.

My publisher publicists knew what they were doing. The publicity for Our Child of the Stars was excellent. But they’re overworked. Social media is becoming steadily less helpful at reaching audiences. It’s fragmenting, punishing small creators, and increasingly asking for money.

I thought – why not use these skills for authors and other creatives? You’ve been a writer and talking about that journey for years. Hell, you sent over a friend exhibiting her art a free PR plan last month just cos you could.

Being confident and interesting, and knowing how to answer difficult questions, will help in many ways. Some obvious opportunities on your doorstep will take little time. Speaking in public, doing interviews, getting coverage…. a bit scary but doable.

I’m piloting these workshops free, then I’ll be running them for a modest fee in the autumn. Interested? Drop me a line through contact asap.

Subscribers to my newsletter will get a discount.

Person filiming yoiu, the camera lens aimed at you. The operator in white, largely unseen.