A couple of weeks ago I tweeted from the Sistah Girls Book Club account (be sure to follow us) reminding people that Spring media lists were going out and not to miss them.
I initially thought I was reminding people to look out for the emails because when they’re sent out I often wait until the last minute to look through them or I miss out completely. It wasn’t until people within the literary community began to respond asking what a media list was and how do they get on one, I realized nobody had written a post explaining it.
Black influencers often get the short end of the stick when it comes to partnering with brands and the book world is no different. I’ve seen the most creative content coming out of the Black literary community and when asked if they get even got a free book in exchange for the marketing production they rolled out, the answer is almost always no.
People love to read books and create content–they do it for the love. And while I’m not trying to change your goals in life, I do want you to know that you can (and should) be compensated for your creativity.
Note: This post is about getting on a publicist’s media list who works with a traditional publishing company. I didn’t dive deep into every aspect of book influencer marketing because that’s a whole other can of worms.
When you think of book releases think of them being released in seasons (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter) and always skip the season you’re currently in. So if it’s Winter, we are receiving emails from publicists for releases in the Spring/Summer.
There are special cases when books are given out way ahead of time because the author is new or the publisher wants to create a really big buzz early. Another special case is a themed month–think Black History Month. And I’m not reducing Black History Month to a “theme” but for the purposes of clarity let’s not tussle.
During Black History Month publishers will target Black book clubs, influencers, bloggers, etc., specifically because they want to highlight books by Black authors. This targeting can sometimes fall out of scope with the release schedule I just gave you because the book they may want you to promote will have already been published (think updated editions or rereleases).
But this is a great time to ask to be put on a media list or request a specific book…are they really gonna say no during Black History Month?
What Is A Media List?
A media list is literally a list of all promotional and marketing outlets that a publisher will use to help market a book. From television and radio to book clubs, bloggers, and creatives on BookTok. It’s a publicist’s job to make sure they have all the right people to help them market to their targeted audience.
How Do You Get On A Media List?
There is the easy way–a publicist reaches out to you via email or DM (direct message on Instagram) and asks if you would like to be part of the marketing for a specific book. The exchange will depend on what the deliverables will be, but to keep it simple let’s just say the “currency” is an ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of a book that won’t be released until Summer.
You agree, and from there what typically happens is you can either request to be placed on that publisher’s media list for future book releases or they will automatically put you on their list.
If a publicist doesn’t reach out to you, you can go to the publisher’s website and look at all the releases coming out and request (via email) to be added to the media list. I can hear the, “is it really that easy?” question and the answer is yes, it is.
Don’t think of this as some secret society, it’s not that deep. Instead, think of it as a person who wants to have as many people attend their birthday party as possible. Every publishing company has a website and at the bottom (scroll all the way down) you’ll find the Press and Publicity page, which is where you find all the emails–the golden tickets.
And if that still doesn’t garner a response (because people be busy) try LinkedIn. You may not be on the platform because you believe it’s not cool–but you know who is? All of the people who work in traditional publishing, including the marketing and publicity department. Reach out to them and shoot your shot.
I’m On the List, Now What?
You’re on the list, and you receive your first book packet–yes it’s a packet. Depending on the book, it may come with some promotional items. But to keep it simple let’s say you get the book, in most cases (99.99% of the time) the book will be mailed with instructions.
Those instructions will come with specific verbiage that the publisher will want you to follow so they can track the success of their marketing campaign. Let’s not get this twisted, even if book marketing is fun–it’s a business and when you agree to take a book in exchange for promotion, that’s what they expect.
After you get one book you will feel pumped–you’re no longer waiting on the outside of the club trying to get in. Once you come down from the high be sure that you evaluate what your form of “currency” will be moving forward. You base this on your following, engagement, reach, and the buying power your audience has. Hint: We are Black, we’ve got the power.
Once you do that, evaluate if the deliverables are equal to the agreed-upon currency. But again for the purposes of this article, the currency is a free book.
Your deliverables can come in different forms depending on what stage of the marketing process you’re in with the campaign. You could be at the beginning, so your job is to promote the book before the release date to generate a buzz. That could look like a book review or interview with the author.
Or you could be part of the release day portion of the campaign, so your job could be to make the book visible to your audience using social media and other outlets like your website. Wherever you land in the marketing campaign, be clear on what is expected from you and what you agree to deliver (especially when the payment is money and not a free book).
Time passes and you find that you’re getting a lot of books, remember, this is a party where people want you to be in attendance. And once you get the first invite you will get a second, third, fourth, fifth…you get the point.
It can become overwhelming to keep up, this is why you need to keep it fun by selecting the books you want to read and promote. Don’t just accept any and every book just because. You’ll quickly find that takes the fun out of it.
Be realistic about your bandwidth, reading a lot is one thing when it’s fun and for your personal enjoyment. Reading a specific book that has a deadline is very different. It’s the same with coming up with creative ways to promote the book.
You don’t need a huge following to be put on a media list. At this point in algorithm nation, engagement and you being the rock star that you are matters a great deal. The answer will always be no if you don’t ask–so ask!
And above all have fun reading and creating, yes they may send you an outline to include in your promotion but it’s your razzle-dazzle that keeps the community you’ve built going–so don’t change.
Sistah Girls, I hope this was helpful, if it was let me know in the comments section.