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Tip sheets: How to create the best book publicity document you’ll ever need

Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission (at no extra charge to you).

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.”

Her advice was included in an article in the Palm Beach Post that was then re-published by USA Today, Yahoo, and The News Sow.

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.

Headline

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.

Opening paragraph

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.”

Author quote

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.”

Short tips

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.

Concluding paragraph

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:

sample tip sheet from Build Book Buzz

(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:

  1. 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.”
  2. Forgetting to study newspaper and magazine articles before writing the tip sheet. News writing style is informal and factual. There’s no hyperbole.
  3. Not understanding that a tip sheet is designed to help people solve a problem. State a problem . . . offer your solutions.
  4. Offering a list of reasons to buy the book instead of a list of tips.
  5. 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.

Turn them into fiction and nonfiction lead magnets designed to entice people to sign up for your mailing list.

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.)

Subscribe to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter and get the free special report, “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources,” immediately!

28 Comments

  1. Wow! I love this Sandra. It’s so clear how beneficial the tip sheet could be when sending information to the media. Easy to read. Easy to understand. Easy to digest.

    Thanks for the useful tip.

  2. Sandra–thank you for this incredibly clear information regarding how to write a Tip Sheet Press Release. I have struggled with this so much. I’m a children’s fiction writer and am coming up with ideas of how I can be useful to media but then wondered how do I tell them. Now, I know. I can follow your steps and hopefully get some wonderful exposure.

  3. Thank you for the tip sheet tips. As usual, your experience and willingness to help other authors shines through.
    As a new Christmas children’ author, I’m looking for the ways and means to ‘get the message out’. Your articles will certainly help.
    Much appreciated.
    authorterrypalmer.com

  4. A challenging assignment! We all need to be thinking about creative ways to expand our audiences and “tips” is one of them. When you think about the amount of research writers do, how can that be repackaged?? thinking, thinking . . .

    1. Exactly, Vicki. When you think about it, novelists know a lot more about something specific than most people because of all of that research.

      Sandy

  5. Sandy, this is one of the best tips I ever received, considering I was a caddie, a car hop waiter and a newspaper kid. I’m adding it to my marketing program, thanks again.

  6. Sandra,
    This article is very helpful. I have self-published three children’s books and an artist is completing illustrations for a fourth book. I have not publicized outside of social media, so have basically only sold to family and friends. It is my goal this coming year to either get with it on the marketing end or find a publicist to help me. I have plenty of excuses, but they don’t sell books! Thank you for a clearly-defined tool that I will be using!
    Sincerely,
    Susan Rutledge

    1. I’m so glad it was helpful, Susan! Using social media is just a start. I think you’ll find this article I wrote helpful, too:
      https://buildbookbuzz.com/promote-a-book-without-using-social-media/

      You’ll want to write a book marketing plan — grab my free template for that here:
      https://buildbookbuzz.com/marketingplan

      Finally, book publicists are expensive — just so you know. More on that here:
      https://buildbookbuzz.com/should-you-hire-a-book-publicist/

      I’m excited you’re planning to branch out. Enjoy the process!

      Sandy

  7. As an update to my earlier comment, my tip sheets have received hundreds of hits and have been republished in other countries–including Nigeria!

    I have published my tipsheets for free on PRLog.com. Their statistics also help you identify what topics are popular and which are NOT, so you can focus future releases on those that give you the most bang for your efforts.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience with PRLog, Sonia. I started to write about the value of using these free sites that remains even though they don’t send the press releases out, but deleted it because the article is already so long. I’m glad you did it for me — HA! They’re also useful for SEO and for links back to your site.

      Sandy

  8. Sandra,
    Is there a possibility of you showing how fiction authors can create a tip sheet? I’d love to see an example or some possible ideas.

    I can see how beneficial it would be for non-fiction authors, but I’m trying to find a way in on this because I love the idea.

    Thank you for all you do for authors.

    1. Of course. There’s an example in the blog post at this link: https://www.thejournal.ie/readme/some-etiquette-for-the-modern-day-first-holy-communion-1369084-Mar2014/

      It’s word-for-word Avril O’Reilly’s tip sheet related to her fictional children’s book.

      A tip sheet inspired by fiction looks exactly the same as one inspired by nonfiction, and there’s an example in the blog post (click on the link indicated to see it).

      Also from the post regarding fiction topics: [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. ] Sounds like you need more examples, but it’s hard to offer them w/out knowing what you write.

      Romance writers can create tip sheets about how to be more romantic, use dating apps successfully, etc. Historical fiction writers might write about how to trace your family tree or using genealogy resources. Mystery writers can write about how to host a murder-mystery dinner party. One of my students who wrote a cozy mystery series set in a natural food store created a tip sheet on the best homeopathic therapies. To come up with ideas, think about the research you did to write your book, or what you learned while writing it, and how it might apply to a larger audience.

      Sandy

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