Pay to Play Book Media and Marketing

Steer Clear of Pay-to-Play Book Media

Indie author, you thought you were in the clear because you chose your own editors and designers and uploaded your books and didn’t get caught in hybrid or vanity publisher fees. Or maybe you did.

Either way, there are more sharks waiting for you: it’s called Pay-to-Play Media and Marketing. Pay-to-play means hiring a company or individual to ‘guarantee’ your brand a mention in a publication, for a fee.

There are all kinds: paid reviews, paid upfront (higher than $99) book awards, book fair stands, video trailers, ‘blog reviews’, pay-to-play magazine articles, book ad setup, and even high markups to place your book ad into Ingram’s magazines – which an author can tick a box to do themselves for US90 (not that non-US residents should). This last one was seen at a Balboa Press website.

It may come to you sneakily, an email offering a spot or a review, an offer of a podcast interview, with videos afterward, luring you with the thought of getting in front of the right audience in time. Luring with the thought of a known media article or a magazine cover, but for a fee.

My background is University journalism and working in internal marketing, but I never went to the dark side (PR).

The Pressure of Time

When launching a book, it’s a bit like milk left on the kitchen counter. We have to hustle to get all the marketing set up in the 3 months prior + 3 months afterward.

With other priorities, this may lead to a mistake of thinking paying for media is the only way to get limelight. It’s not. I do offer tailored marketing content and media lists for those who are not tech savvy or are disabled (otherly abled) – but this is not what I’m talking about.

That is having creation support for the type of marketing that is free to place.

But pay-to-play marketing is paying for the production and for the placement, in some cases much more than a freelancer would charge.

Where to Place Your Promotions in Media?

For Amazon ads, you can place those yourself (in the Marketing tab). Amazon themselves will offer some tuition on it. Set a click price a bit under the recommended and then raise it if needed. Don’t advertise cheap ebooks.

For Facebook, I don’t recommend ads until established. First of all, gain at least 1,000 fans/followers and try organic reels and posts. Even then, advertising is a high roller play.

For guesting on podcasts, there are hundreds of podcasts to choose from, so to save time, websites like MatchMaker.FM, ListenNotes, and Facebook Groups like Be a Guest, Need a Guest and Podcast Community will help you out. Don’t use PodMatch because their emails arrive too often and it’s not really value-based marketing. Read more about how to get booked at BuzzSprout.

For guesting on radio, just call the community radio stations nearer you, not super-commercial ones. They are more likely to want to hear your story during the day. I got on 4GB (5 minutes) by writing a letter and they came to do a ‘on site broadcast’ in our town.

For being a magazine guest writer, it will take some networking and pitching. Try local, try super-niche and highly relevant and try your own clubs and publisher acquaintances. E.g. Publication of a long blog post at BX when I was a member. I see that MammaMia is looking for authentic stories from women writers on a freelance basis.

For being media featured, try Source Bottle, the call-out portal. Be wary of places like Ticker (the free live interview is useless for authors and the upsell not useful) or others that smell like a business profiting from guests only. Help a Reporter Out (or HARO) is the US version.

For being featured on TV or in the Courier Mail, you’ll need a PR media expert or media event. There is ‘Media Stable’ that runs ‘Meet the Media’ (in Brisbane/Perth) where you can meet the press in one big networking night. Tickets are $550. See https://www.mediastable.com.au/about-us/meet-the-media/  This is a bit cheaper than a PR plan but still is not free…

Connections (six degrees of separation) and being the visible expert are the other ways to do it.

Free placement of book in “North Lakes Now” magazine. Pro photo was not yet done so this awful one was used. Aargh!

Tips on Writing a Press Release

For making a press release, you don’t need to write it about your book. Please don’t do that, actually. Make it about a related topic that is newsworthy today. For example, let’s take a real life book and compare the two ways.

“Doctor launches ‘Take a Simple Drive to a Healthier Life’” (about the book)


“Veteran GP breaks down complex health matters into a simple health maintenance plan”

The second version is the outcome from the book itself. The book is still mentioned about halfway down the release, and it would say where it was available at.

To release the press release, in Oz you need to pay Media.Net (share a $990 3-month plan between 3 friends) or you can alternatively send a press release to limited lists for a fee. I paid $60 to send to one particular media type (no real action seen) so it may help if you bring your own list or choose several targeted lists — and follow up. This is another cost. With media contacting, nothing is free if in bulk.

If one to one, that’s free, but it takes a lot of time. Not that old time thing again!

For Learning Social Media Content Creation

If you want to learn a massive amount at home, there is Social Media College. For one day training, there is Brisbane Business Hub, Scenic Rim Digital Council, etc, who put on free social media workshops. Social Ocean in Clontarf (QLD) put on Content Planning / Big Brains Trust days.

For learning to position your personal brand and create authentic messages, see my new Saturday workshop at Albany Creek Library on 20th April 2024. (With some demand, there will be other times coming).

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