When it’s time to promote your book, one strategy is obvious: write articles about it and post them online. But what should you write and where should you place it? Here’s a quick guide.
Where to place articles
The simplest location to post articles about your book is in places you control: your blog, your LinkedIn page, Medium, or Substack. If you’ve got a regular column in a site like Forbes, you could place your article there. While you certainly should tap those channels, they’re limited: you’ll mostly reach people who already know and follow you. You need to broaden your audience.
To reach new groups of people, find media that your potential audience would read that also take contributed articles. Newspapers accept op-eds. Many trade publications take contributed articles. Sites like HBR.org will accept articles, too.
One strategy that works both for placing those articles and for writing them is newsjacking — writing about topics in the current news. That works even better if there’s a section in your book that addresses what’s happening right now.
For my book Empowered, the PR staff at my employer Forrester Research actually generated 11 opportunities to place contributed articles, from the Harvard Business Review to trade magazines.
Of course, once you’ve found an opportunity like this, you have a different problem: what should you write?
How to write a bylined article
Here’s what not to do: write an article about how great your book is. That’s an ad. And places worth writing for that take contributed articles don’t take free ads.
You shouldn’t even write anything that overtly promotional in the places you control, because no one wants to read your self-promotional ad.
No, you should be writing fascinating content that relates to the book. That’s the hook. Once they’re most of the way into the article, you can sneak in a phrase like “as I describe in my book Book Title,” but 99% of the article should be actual content.
Fortunately, you have a rich source of content right at your fingertips: your own book.
I’m not suggesting that you just post a chunk of your book. While you can sometimes place excerpts, most places won’t accept them, and most excerpts don’t stand alone very well.
But you can still repurpose content from the book. Here’s a simple framework for an article based on your book.
- Ask a question or cite a problem that your book addresses.
- Cite a case study or statistics to reveal the dimensions of the problem.
- Show a framework for solving the problem (for example, five steps, or four principles).
- Tie it up with a theme that relates back to your book.
For example, in this article on HBR.org about my book Writing Without Bullshit, I:
- Tell people their writing isn’t as good as they think it is.
- Cite statistics from my survey of corporate writers.
- Describe four steps to improve your writing (write shorter, purge toxic prose like passive voice, get a writing partner, build feedback processes).
- Reinforce that since everyone in companies reads all day long, the problem is worth working on.
The great thing about this method is that it’s so versatile. Your book has lots of ideas in it. If you’ve done a good job researching it, it also includes lots of case studies. Pair up each idea with a case study and you’ve got a recipe for a bunch of ready-made articles. Each one can reach a different subset of the audience at a different publication.
That method is how I managed to write 11 bylined articles to promote Empowered without breaking a sweat. There were plenty of ideas and case studies in the book. All I needed to do was repackage them for each publication.
Bylined articles aren’t the only promotional strategy you’ve got. You should be promoting on social media, giving speeches, and cultivating people who will post public book reviews. But bylined articles work. They tell people, “Hey, this person has good ideas, and there’s a book about them.” And that’s a good way to get smart people to buy, read, and talk about your book.