Nonfiction Publicity vs. Fiction Publicity

The tricky thing about book publicity is that there is no exact formula—no preset way to promote a book. That’s because no two books are the same, and so no two publicity campaigns are the same. However, depending on the type of book, we can use some general guidelines as a starting place. Nonfiction sales have been on the rise as of late. As book publicists, we must embrace current market trends and learn how to use them to our advantage.

Here at Ooligan, we publish all kinds of titles, both fiction and nonfiction. At any given time, chances are we are working on promoting at least one of each. We can’t treat fiction and nonfiction books the same when creating marketing and publicity campaigns for them, because they are different by nature. So what are the key differences when promoting a nonfiction title as compared to a fiction title?

One perk of promoting a nonfiction book is that they have clear, strong pitching platforms. While fiction books tend to be more vague, nonfiction titles have a more defined target audience. The easier it is to pinpoint your target audience, the easier it is to frame your promotional message.

Nonfiction titles are also good to pitch to news media, including TV, radio, and podcasts. This is because they provide information on their respective topics. If the book provides new information or a new perspective on its topic, it can easily be converted into a spotlight or feature story.

Speaking of podcasts, they have thrived as publicity tools in recent years. It turns out that over half of adults in the US have been listening to podcasts, and this type of platform is expected to continue growing in the future. Regular podcast listeners also tend to be more active on social media than non-listeners, so the odds are greater that they will act as grassroots intermediaries in helping to spread the word about your book.

The last important thing to remember when conducting a publicity campaign for a nonfiction title is to focus on timelines. This includes key dates, events, and other timely news topics. If the topic at hand can be connected to any holidays, important anniversaries, or other current events, use these to your advantage and pitch your book in relation to these dates. This can also sometimes apply to fiction titles, but nonfiction themes often have stronger ties to particular dates than fiction books.

Similarly, nonfiction authors make excellent interviewees. If you write a book on something, you are assumed to be an expert on that subject. Simply put, journalists love to interview experts. This expertise can also extend to additional feature stories, expert commentary, and other byline articles. This is especially useful if your author already has their own platform in their given field. For example, Jeff Alworth (author of Ooligan’s latest nonfiction title, The Widmer Way) has his own popular beer blog and corresponding Twitter presence that came in handy when promoting his new book.

So remember that while fiction and nonfiction books should be treated differently when creating a publicity campaign, each has its own advantages. When working on a nonfiction title, plan according to timeliness, utilize your author as an expert, and take advantage of news media, because in this era, the truth is more valuable than ever.

Do You Want Books with That?

From November 1–14, McDonald’s will give away 20 million children’s books with their Happy Meals instead of a toy in an effort to promote literacy. Last year, McDonald’s gave away 9 million books in the UK. While the books distributed in the UK, the Mudpuddle Farm series, were written by author Michael Morpurgo, the books being distributed in the US were written by the advertising agency McDonald’s uses, Leo Burnett. In both locations, the promotion has briefly made the company one of the largest distributors and publishers of children’s books.

Leo Burnett created four different books for McDonald’s: “The Goat Who Ate Everything,” “Deana’s Big Dreams,” “Ant, Can’t,” and “Doddi the Dodo Goes to Orlando.” Each book focuses on healthy eating and exercise. Here’s a brief description of each book:

  • “The Goat Who Ate Everything”—the eponymous goat in this story has a large appetite and struggles to eat nutritional foods; however, he finds that when he does eat well, he feels amazing.
  • “Deana’s Big Dreams”—this is a story about how Deana, the smallest dinosaur, grew to be big and tall by eating right.
  • “Ant, Can’t”—the hero of this story is Ant, a tiny bodybuilder who enjoys encouraging others to eat healthy foods and exercise.

    “Doddi the Dodo Goes to Orlando”—this story is about Doddi the Dodo, who travels the world and makes smart eating choices so she has the energy to explore.

While getting children excited about reading seems to be a positive goal, watchdog groups like Corporate Accountability International have said that McDonald’s is “trying to earn undeserved goodwill from the growing number of parents and health advocates who are calling on them to stop marketing to kids.” In other words, the theme of the books—living a healthy lifestyle—seems to be a publicity stunt created to help the company’s reputation and boost sales. However, after a successful pilot program in the UK, McDonald’s has stated that nine out of ten parents surveyed wanted to see more book promotions from the company. If this information is correct and parents really do want more book promotions from McDonald’s, their request will soon be granted: by going online, parents and children can view new interactive digital books each month through the end of 2014. These digital books are being created in partnership with DK publishing.

On the one hand, this book promotion from the most popular fast food chain in the world does seem like a way to get books directly in front of children. On the other hand, it also seems a bit ironic that McDonald’s, so often the target of health advocacy groups and parents, is promoting exercise and good nutrition. The creation of an interactive digital book that is connected to McDonald’s website also seems like just another way for children to develop a relationship with the brand, not mention spend more sedentary time in front of a digital device. However, it wouldn’t be a good thing to completely discount the company’s efforts. After all, literacy rates are declining. Studies show every day that fewer children, and adults for that matter, are reading. If McDonald’s can change that, then good for them—and good for us.