Guest contributor: Karen McKenzie

Publicity for your book

As a professional book publicist, I love championing the work of the wonderful authors I work alongside. But as an author myself, I completely understand how challenging the promotional side of book publishing can be. So here are a few pointers for first-time self-published authors to consider:

  • Get a professional publicist on board early on. It’s too late when your book is already printed. Most publicists will be talking to media around two months before a book’s release, but good publicists will be booked out many more months in advance.
  • Yes, you do need a professional publicist if you want your book to get the recognition it deserves. You may be able to drum up some publicity with local media, but a publicist will champion you to appropriate media nationwide, and you will reap the benefit of their many years of building relationships with key editors, presenters, and producers. Also, as I discovered myself when I tried to do publicity on one of my books, it’s hard to champion your own I tried, and it was a total failure. Unless you are a national self-promoter, it just doesn’t sit well with most authors.
  • Be realistic about what can be achieved with publicity for your first book. The media landscape is a competitive place, and there are many authors and their books jostling for limited space. But a professional publicist will be able to talk about what you are likely to achieve for your specific book. It’s well worth a conversation!

Karen McKenzie, Publicist
Lighthouse PR

Understanding ISBNs

Understanding ISBNs

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number, and you’ll require one for your book.

For one thing, it generates the 13-digit barcode that goes on the back cover. Once your book has an ISBN, that assignment lasts forever. The ISBN enables booksellers all over the world to access the rest of the meta-data for the book – such as author bio, publisher details, subtitle, edition, dimensions, weight, etc. – and it spreads throughout all databases that hold book information.  

This international system of identifying books requires you to have a separate ISBN for each edition and format of your book. So if you print a paperback and also create an e-book, that’s two different editions.

You can obtain an ISBN in New Zealand through the National Library. You will, in any case, need to contact the National Library to register a Cataloguing-in-Print (CiP) record for your book, whether it’s electronic or print or both. This ensures that they know your book exists. (They will ask you for two ‘legal deposit’ copies of your book, too, so that it becomes part of the nation’s literary heritage.)



Nothing is more exciting than having cartons of your new book delivered to your door. But then what?  

You can contract a professional distribution company, and for a fee they will manage the warehousing and distribution. Their sales reps will include your book in their rounds as they visit bookstores and other outlets, so you can be assured of a nationwide reach.

Alternatively you could sell them from home, via online marketing. Distribution is then simply a case of taking orders, and dispatching your books personally by courier.

First, though, whichever path you choose, you’ll need to prepare book data for distributors, libraries and booksellers, as well as reviewers. It’s a great idea to log your book (at no cost) with Nielsen BookData (, New Zealand’s leading provider of book-related data services. They will make your searchable online meta-data available to all interested parties worldwide.

And before any of that happens, one thing your book will need is a number.

Sell Yourself!

Sell yourself! Tips on DIY marketing

Over the years authors have found many creative ways to bring attention to their books, and you can do the same. Some ways are costlier than others; some are essentially free – they simply demand your time. Identify which resources are best for putting your book in front of readers who may be interested.


Marketing ideas that require time

  • Create a blog (you can begin this while you’re still writing your book).
  • Create a Facebook page and connect with groups of people who are interested in the genre you are writing about. Again, this is something you can do while writing your book. (Bear in mind, though, that if you start a page specifically for your book, it’ll require upkeep.)
  • Send notes and thoughts through on Twitter and your social groups to begin discussions.
  • Contribute articles and participate in relevant groups.
  • Begin collecting an email database.
  • Connect with author groups for fresh ideas.
  • Contact your local bookshop and community news groups.
  • Contact your local library. Libraries love supporting local authors and hosting talks/tours.
  • Send out copies for review. (A publicist, if you’re hiring one, can do this for you.)
  • Front up for literary festivals; a public appearance could put you right in front of your target readership!


Marketing ideas that require a spend

  • Enter your book in competitions.
  • Pay for advertising on targeted social media.
  • Buy ad space on industry blogs.
  •  Engage a distributor (see below) with its own marketing team.