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5 Secrets to Successful Book Publicity: An Interview with Media Expert Ashley Bernardi on Publishing and Publicity During COVID-19

In an ever-changing world, where technology is constantly advancing and virtual marketing has quickly become the new model standard, how can you make certain your book will be given its best shot at getting into the hands of readers?

We sat down for a chat (virtually, of course!) with our long-time colleague, superstar publicist and media expert Ashley Bernardi, the founder of Nardi Media, to answer this question and discuss the new media landscape for books, and how authors can navigate this uncharted terrain.

1. What are some of the best ways you’ve seen authors build their brands and grow their followings in your years running Nardi Media?

First and foremost, it is important to build meaningful relationships with members of the press and influencers. Let them know about your work or your new or forthcoming book. Shout it from the rooftops, and have others in your circle help!

I have seen authors go from zero exposure to landing on New York Times Bestseller lists with the help of powerful media placements. The secret is to start early! Start thinking about promoting your book or brand at least a year in advance of your book launch.

Another tactic that works well in building your brand and following and resonating with your audience is to leverage your expertise, rather than simply trying to sell your book or product to your audience or following. Think about how you can help and serve your audience by offering actionable tips, insights, and advice.

2. Given world events and this new remote environment, how have you and your authors shifted your book launch strategies?

The key to getting successfully placed in the media is to operate with a sense of urgency and follow the news cycle. This means that much of our PR strategy for authors has focused on COVID-19 related stories. And no, you don’t need to be a COVID-19 expert to get placed in the media. Everyone’s lives have changed, from our relationships, to our children, to our work environments. There is a story you can own—you simply need to think creatively.

3. You used to work as a television producer. What can writers and authors do to increase their chances of getting on television, especially now?

Writers and authors have an incredible opportunity right now to get placed on TV. My team and I have never booked so many TV interviews in such a short period of time due to the pandemic, and here’s why: In the past, most local and national TV outlets would only consider a guest if they were willing to come in the studio. Now due to the coronavirus and safety precautions, TV studios are no longer taking in-studio guests. Rather, all interviews are conducted virtually via Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype. It is easier now more than ever to secure immediate placement and to do so from your own home.

Here are some tried-and-true tips for getting booked on television:

  • Be the expert! Remember, find the news hook — i.e. the “problem” — and be the solution
  • Offer actionable tips and talking points in bullet format. Think about what are the main points you want your audience to learn in a 3-5 minute TV segment.
  • TV producers love data and facts so try to support your pitch with data, such as “1 In 6 College Students Won’t Be Returning To Campus This Fall Due To COVID” and then offer your expertise.
  • Keep your pitches SHORT! They should be no more than three paragraphs, and list the who, what, when, where, and why.
  • Get visual, when possible. If you have any supporting b-roll (background video), photos, or graphics, detail that in your pitch!

4. Publishers and authors have traditionally focused on major media as a means of selling books. But now that isn’t always the case. What are some other publicity outlets you see working to sell books?

I love this question! Oftentimes authors think that a big national TV placement is going to be the visibility they need to create a bestseller. Not always true! A media placement that helps with book sales depends on the media outlet’s audience. One up-and-coming medium we see as offering authors fantastic visibility and selling books is podcasts.

Podcasts have grown exponentially in the past 2 to 3 years, and there is literally a podcast for everyone. I host one myself. Depending on the show audience, the size of the podcast, and its specific niche, it’s worth seeing if your expertise and book topic could be a fit. If you’re not sure where to start on your podcast journey, I recommend checking out the website Stitcher.

When auditing podcasts, I look to see that they have the following criteria…

  • The podcast is well established — it has been publishing episodes on a consistent basis for more than three months
  • The show has a reasonable or large number of reviews on iTunes or another podcast hosting platform (More than 10-20 is a good starting point)
  • The show has a 4- or 5-star rating on iTunes or another podcast hosting platform
  • The podcast host is active and engaged on social media and promotes his/her episodes across all channels

5. This is incredibly useful! We often tell authors that having an outside publicist is like having an insurance policy. You don’t want to head into a book launch without one, no matter how capable your publisher appears. What are a few things an outside firm like Nardi Media does that your typical publisher wouldn’t?

I work with so many amazing publishers and I will say that all are so grateful and excited when an author brings our team on board. Publishers are inundated with producing many, many books a year. That means that oftentimes they don’t have the bandwidth to give your book the time it needs and deserves for media outreach. That’s where we come in. Media outreach takes a LOT of time, a lot of persistence, and a lot of follow-ups. By having a personal publicist in your corner, you can ensure that your book is getting out to the right media and influencers with a powerful pitch and an expression of news urgency that media outlets look for. Consider us your personal, tireless, and creative cheerleaders who will do everything possible to ensure your story is told to the masses through powerful media placements.

Ashley Bernardi is the Founder and Director of Media Relations at Nardi Media LLC, a full-service media relations firm that specializes in working with book authors.

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