You are writing a book but you don’t have thousands of Twitter followers or an endless CV of articles published under your name? Well, you are in good company.
Building your online platform is a major key to successfully launching your book. You don’t necessarily need to collect a celebrity-sized fan base before your book drops (though that would help sales), but you will want to engage people who might be interested in buying your book.
Engaging with your audience will help you put your book in front of their eyeballs. Or ears, for you audio-book types. There are many ways that people consume content these days, but one of the classic, tried-and-true options will always be the news, whether online or in print.
Publishing an opinion piece online is a great way to drive a conversation and establish yourself as a thought leader in your space, and increase book sales.
Craft a killer pitch
Have you ever applied for a job without knowing anyone at that company? You attach your resume and cover letter to an email and address it to the mysterious man behind the curtain, “To Whom It May Concern.” You feel like any chance you had at standing out has now officially been thwarted. Pitching an opinion piece may feel similar, but you can stand out by crafting a killer pitch.
The most important rule about pitching is to keep it short, 150-words-max short.
The editor is sifting through a mound of submissions each day. If your email looks overwhelmingly long at first glance, then you’re asking for an act of mercy. Instead, concisely describe what your piece is about, why they should publish it (why it’s timely, unique, and interesting to their readership), and why you are an expert on this topic (mention your forthcoming book!).
If you don’t already know someone on staff at the publication, follow the directions on their website on how to submit an op-ed. If you haven’t heard back within a week, send a follow-up email.
It can be helpful to write and send your pitch before you finish your piece for two reasons. First, many people find that writing a concise pitch helps them focus the scope of their piece. Second, sometimes the editor will ask you to take the piece in a different direction or let you know why it’s not a good fit. Better to have that information upfront before you spend time putting together the full piece.
What to write
You’re already doing a lot of writing. The thought of writing an article each month on top of just barely meeting your weekly word count goal for your book probably sounds overwhelming. You may be thinking that there is not enough caffeine in the world for this!
Don’t let the stress of writing new content stop you from pitching to news outlets while you’re still working on your manuscript. While an original article would be great, you can always repackage an excerpt of your book.
Select a section of your book that conveys a complete thought or story within the 600-750 word range, and simply include a newsworthy “hook” and rework certain areas to fit the publication. Or maybe there’s a story or anecdote you originally wanted to include in your manuscript but it ended up on the chopping block. This is the perfect opportunity to recycle it. This will save you precious time and give your prospective readers a taste of what to expect from your book.
If you find yourself running out of excerpts and you have the time, go ahead and write an article from scratch that is current and complementary to the material in your manuscript. If your book is a whimsical, personal story about an unexpected religious conversion, write a more research-heavy article analyzing the current trends in religion among people your age group. Or, if you are writing a book about the untold secrets of a previous presidential campaign, you may want to write an op-ed about the upcoming election and the similarities. You want to give your readers a taste of your book, so aim to keep the style consistent and frame the article in context of the book.
Whichever option you chose, just don’t give all the good stuff away before your book is published! Think of this like a movie trailer, you want to pique the audience’s interest without spoiling it for them.
But wait, there's more!
If you want the full explanation of how to use op-ed publishing to promote your book, subscribe to our blog below and you'll receive my short e-book on the topic for free. It discusses when to start pitching and where, and it includes a checklist for you and a sample pitch. We hope you find it useful!