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When I delivered the luncheon keynote about platform-building for authors at the UW-Madison Writers’ Institute several years ago, I recommended that attendees secure book publicity with tip sheets.
I explained that a tip sheet is a type of press release that offers tips or advice in a bulleted or numbered format.
Like a press release, it’s written like a news story so that a media outlet or blogger can run it as is. No additional research or writing is necessary.
“We love tip sheets”
After lunch, an attendee thanked me for recommending tip sheets to the audience. He was a features editor for the largest daily newspaper in the Midwest, he explained, adding, “We love tip sheets. We’d like to receive more of them.”
He’s not alone.
Media outlets, especially newspapers and magazines, like tip sheets because they can pull just one or two tips to fill space. They also run them as submitted or use them as a starting point for longer feature articles.
Tip sheet success story
That’s what happened recently to Sandi Schwartz, author of Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer, when she took advantage of current events — a heat wave across the U.S. — to create and distribute a tip sheet titled, “How to Enjoy the Benefits of Nature Inside During a Heat Wave.”
It’s a great example of how publicity begets publicity.
Monthly book publicity tip sheets
“I am grateful that Sandy suggested this tactic for book publicity because it keeps my book marketing active. I had no idea that my tip sheet would be used in a local paper that would ultimately get syndicated to USA Today. That was a huge hit for me and something I can use in all future marketing,” Schwartz says.
She has been sending out monthly tip sheets since April to a handcrafted media list consisting of her local media, national outlets covering parenting and environmental issues her publisher provided, and a few parenting bloggers as well.
“I have been happy with the results given the minimal effort it takes to tweak existing content into the tip sheet format that Sandy provides. It is simple and can lead to great results as I experienced with the USA Today article. Other tip sheets have resulted in articles in Women.com, Mothermag.com, Kiddos Magazine, and Embracing Change blog,” Schwartz adds.
Radio, TV, podcasts, bloggers use tip sheet advice
Radio stations like to share the advice in snippets or, like podcasts and TV talk shows, build author interviews around the tip sheet topic. In fact, my tip sheet on how to get a good holiday gift from a man was the basis of my appearance on the national TV talk show, “Home & Family,” which ran then on the The Family Channel.
Bloggers run them as posts because tip sheets save them the time it takes to write something helpful themselves.
When done right, tip sheets showcase a nonfiction book’s content or a novel’s theme or message while getting the book title in front of the book’s target audience. That’s what book publicity is all about.
Book publicity tip sheet topics
For many, the hardest part of writing a tip sheet is coming up with a topic.
For nonfiction, start by making a list of the most commonly asked questions you get from readers or others. Each can be turned into a tip sheet.
Your chapter topics are a goldmine of ideas, too.
For fiction, begin with your book’s themes, messages, and lessons. A novel that deals with grief and loss, for example, could yield a tip sheet on how to recover from loss.
When Irish children’s author Avril O’Reilly sent a tip sheet to media outlets throughout Ireland, she had immediate success that included newspaper and television exposure for her fiction book, Kathleen and the Communion Copter.
In her tip sheet, O’Reilly offered parents advice for selecting just the right Communion gift for girls. While her book is fiction, she was able to find a nonfiction nugget she could use to create a tip sheet that offered the media useful information they could use immediately.
You can do that, too.
Tip sheet elements
Successful book publicity tip sheets include specific elements:
- An attention-getting headline that includes the number of tips.
- An opening paragraph that describes the problem.
- A quote about the problem from the book author.
- A sentence that introduces the tips.
- Short, helpful tips in a list format.
- A concluding paragraph about the author and book.
Breaking it down
Let’s look at each element.
The best tip sheet headlines mimic those you see on the cover of women’s magazines – “5 surprising ways to get a beach body fast” or “6 tips for keeping your email inbox at zero.”
Include the number of tips and the tip sheet topic.
When writing the opening paragraph to describe the problem you’re solving, use statistics whenever possible to give your content weight and credibility. Using statistics isn’t required, but it’s effective enough that it’s worth doing a little research for studies, surveys, and reports.
For example, the author of a book about family caregiving writing a tip sheet about how to avoid caregiver burnout might use this first paragraph: “The National Association of Family Caregivers reports that self care is one of the biggest problems among caregivers today. The association says that nearly three quarters (72 percent) of family caregivers report not going to the doctor as often as they should and 55 percent say they cancel their own doctor appointments.”
The author quote amplifying the problem should always add something new, rather than repeat what was stated in the opening paragraph. Use this opportunity to share an opinion.
Provide quote attribution with the author’s full name and book title.
Here’s how Schwartz did it with her heatwave tip sheet:
But nature is so critical to our health and well-being. “Nature calms us, reducing feelings of stress, anxiety, and anger. It has also been shown to improve focus and attention, as well as reduce blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It even makes us friendlier and more apt to reach out to others in our community,” explains Sandi Schwartz, author of Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer.
This part: [explains Sandi Schwartz, author of Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer.] is the attribution.
Sentence introducing your tips
The set-up sentence for the tips is simple. Use this formula: “Here are (author’s last name) (number) tips for helping (audience/group) (topic).”
For the caregiving tip sheet, this sentence could be: “Here are Smith’s six tips for helping family caregivers take better care of themselves, too.”
Use bullets or numbers for your tips. Start each tip with a verb to encourage action and keep each to no more than three sentences.
Remember that your goal here is to offer advice, not talk somebody into buying your book. Focus on providing helpful advice.
The final paragraph ties everything up with two or three factual sentences about the author, the book, and where readers can purchase it.
Again, don’t be overtly promotional. This is a news piece, not a sales tool.
Prefer to use a fill-in-the-blanks format to create your book publicity tip sheet? You’ll find a tip sheet template and sample tip sheet in Build Book Buzz Publicity Forms & Templates.
Here’s what a book publicity tip sheet looks like
I wrote “Nine tips for writing an op-ed that gets published” to publicize my book, Publicity for Nonprofits: Generating Media Exposure That Leads to Awareness, Growth, and Contributions. It was widely picked up and used in full, as is, by nonprofit trade journals.
Here’s the finished version:
(Click on the underlined text above to view or download the PDF file.)
5 common author tip sheet mistakes
When teaching authors how to create and use these media relations tools, I see these mistakes repeatedly:
- Confusing a tip sheet with an ad. A tip sheet is a subtle book promotion tool. It doesn’t shout “buy my book.” Instead, it communicates, “If you think this information related to the book is interesting, imagine how much value you’ll get from the actual book.”
- Forgetting to study newspaper and magazine articles before writing the tip sheet. News writing style is informal and factual. There’s no hyperbole.
- Not understanding that a tip sheet is designed to help people solve a problem. State a problem . . . offer your solutions.
- Offering a list of reasons to buy the book instead of a list of tips.
- Avoiding tip sheets because you write novels and don’t see the connection between advice-giving and fiction. It’s true that it’s harder to generate tip sheet topics for fiction, but it’s do-able for every book. I’ve taught many, many novelists how to do this — you can do it, too.
How to use book publicity tip sheets
Distribute tip sheets to media outlets that would be interested in the content. For mass distribution, I recommend eReleases. Do not rely on free press release distribution sites as they won’t send your tip sheet to the press. It will just sit on their site, hoping to be discovered.
Email your tip sheet to a handful of media outlets you’ve researched by copying and pasting your tip sheet into your email message form. Or, use the email list management service you use for your author newsletter.
Add them to your book’s online press room.
Use them as the starting point for future blog posts.
Include them with article pitch letters sent to journalists.
Add tip sheets to your book marketing plan and you’ll have many new friends among media editors, reporters, producers, podcasters, and bloggers. You’ll also get much more exposure than your competition.
And that’s exactly what you want.
Want help brainstorming a tip sheet topic? Share a brief description of your book here and let’s get people thinking!
(Editor’s note: This article was first published in December 2015. It has been updated and expanded.)
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