PR Basics for the Debut Novelist

The completion of your first novel is a reason for celebration. Many people talk of writing a novel but few possess the drive to spend day after day—and perhaps year after year—perfecting hundreds of pages of prose.

After you reach the accomplishment of completed work, the challenge of promoting the book—and yourself—begins. The following are public relations tips you need to undertake to position yourself as a serious author.

Tip—Get a Professional Photo:  Ignore the quirky photos and caricatures some writers use on social media and have a sober, serious high-resolution photo. Yes, Stephen King writes horror but he doesn’t appear in public in a Halloween mask and although Nora Roberts writes romance, you’ll never glimpse a picture of her with shoddy pink hearts floating around her head. Do not include your children, dog, or great-grandmother in the photo. Editors, agents, book reviewers, readers, and other authors will only take you as seriously as you take yourself, and your photo will reflect that.

Author Bio: Many debut authors struggle with what to include in a bio. A good approach is to find a balance between professional achievements and information about your private life. You’re now a member of the entertainment industry and future fans will savor the private tidbits. Equally important are writing awards and your career prior to becoming a novelist. If you’re early in your career and don’t have many professional accomplishments to tout, mention your education and community involvement if it seems appropriate.

Your completed bio must appear in several versions. You’ll need a two- or three-sentence clip for use by book review sites and the media. A longer, three to five paragraph version can be used on your Amazon, BookBub, and GoodReads author pages. The longest version—if you have ample material to interest the reader—should appear on your author website.

Author Q & A: Why did you write this particular novel? Have you been writing since childhood, or did the bug strike later? Do you have any writing rituals? What is your favorite book? Your favorite food? What advice can you lend an aspiring novelist?

For sheer economy, many book reviewers use a standard Q & A when featuring authors. Save yourself time later, when you’re busy writing your next novel while still promoting your debut, and create a document of replies to these standards questions. No, you can’t use this boilerplate everywhere—some review sites will insist on receiving original material—but many others will happily reprint.

Jacket Copy / Synopsis: Like your author bio, the description of your novel must appear in many formats and must hook the reader in the first sentence. Remember everything you’ve learned about Goal-Motivation-Conflict when writing the longer book description for your Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or GoodReads page, as well as the shorter, two- or three-sentence version that will appear on Smashwords and other sites. As you work to perfect the copy, notice the jacket copy used on traditionally published novels. Many include a story question to pique the reader’s interest. Others highlight the author’s rich prose style or short, staccato sentences. Ensure that your copy reflects the type of book you’ve written.

Consistency and Professionalism: No doubt you’ve now created a social media presence everywhere from  Facebook to Instagram to Twitter. Now you must create a balance between promoting your book and providing valuable content for the writing or reading community at large. What expertise can you offer? You’ll notice that my blog features material in three areas: publicity; (drawn from my background in PR) writing tips; (I’ve been writing professionally for thirty years) and family (readers enjoy reading about the adoption of a large sibling group). Balancing your content ensures that followers will stay engaged with you through the long haul.

Make sure that your public relations content is as unique as you are. Did you write a novel on superheroes because you’ve been hooked on Marvel Comics since age two? Perhaps you have something to say about modern culture and the heroic archetypes we all adore. Did you write a contemporary romance in between shifts at Starbucks while caring for elderly parents? Men and women struggle every day to achieve work-family balance and surely want to hear from you. You can offer other writers tips on how to ensure accuracy during research, strategies for managing time or share character sketches from an interesting career.

Whatever you decide—remain consistent and professional at all times. Don’t tweet about your political preferences or fill Facebook with unrelenting plugs for your book. Most importantly, be judicious about your personal life and what you want to have public. Avoid complaining about your significant other airing the families dirty laundry online. You will generate good Author Karma by helping the authors who help you and providing readers with digital content worth reading.


Independent Publishing is a flourishing and vibrant industry. Gone are the days when amateur authors could get away with publishing subpar fiction or having a questionable online presence. You’ll succeed—and flourish—by publishing your best work and following up with PR Good Sense.


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