How to create a book publicity tip sheet

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 book, Kathleen and the Communion Copter.

In her tip sheet, O’Reilly offered parents advice for selecting just the right Communion gift for little 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.

What’s a tip sheet?

As Avril learned through our work together, 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.

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.

Radio stations like to share the advice in snippets or, like TV talk shows, build author interviews around the tip sheet topic. In fact, several years ago, my tip sheet on how to get a good holiday gift from a man was the basis of my appearance on the “Home & Family” TV talk show.

Bloggers run them as new 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.

Tip sheet topics and elements
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. Your chapter topics are also a goldmine of ideas.

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.

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 tips described in two to three sentences each, listed with bullets or numbers.
A concluding paragraph about the author and book.
Breaking it down
As for these individual elements, 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.)

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. Remember to provide attribution with the author’s full name and book title.

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.”

When listing the tips, use bullets or numbers. Remember that your goal here is to offer advice, not talk somebody into buying your book. Start each tip with a verb to encourage action and keep each tip to no more than three sentences.

The final paragraph ties everything up with two or three factual sentences about the author and the book.

Here’s what it 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 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:

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 tip sheets
Distribute tip sheets to media outlets that would be interested in the content. For mass distribution, I recommend eReleases (because I trust eReleases, that’s an affiliate link). To email your tip sheet to handful of media outlets you’ve researched, copy and paste your tip sheet into your email message form.

Add them to your book’s online press room.

Turn them into free downloadable reports 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, and bloggers. You’ll also get much more exposure than your competition.


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