Note: for an in-depth discussion on public relations and indie authors, please check out Episode 100 of the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast.

Public Relations gets a bad rap in the indie publishing community and it’s definitely not unwarranted. Along with many other service providers, so-called “PR agents” (read: snake oil salesmen) lifted thousands of dollars from clueless authors who thought having a press release written for their book would land them on the Today Show. To a full-service PR agency, these poor authors were (and unfortunately in some cases still are) low-hanging dollar bills on the money tree. With little to show for all the money they shoveled into PR, the general consensus among indie authors is that public relations is an awful drain on  your already lean budget. There’s a difference, however, between the usefulness of hiring a public relations consultant and implementing a public relations strategy for  yourself.

While hiring a PR agency is most likely one of the worst decisions you can make as an everyday or mid-list author (heck, probably as an author at any level) taking the time to learn the basics of PR can open doors you never thought possible.

Much like publishing, the public relations industry is going through a dramatic shift. Our job used to be relatively straightforward: write a press release, hold a press conference and wait for the cameras and journalists to start rolling in. You could get your message out to everyone you wanted to talk to with an appearance on the five o’clock news and the morning paper. But those days are long gone.

Today, we operate in world where traditional media are all vying for a piece of the dwindling viewership pie. Everyone and their dog (read: hardly anyone) watches the evening news or read the paper — online or not — anymore. Traditional print, radio and television media operate in a pay-to-play world where content goes to whoever wants to write the check. Audiences are fragmented worse than survivors in a post-apocalyptic world, they congregate in small tribes and niche markets and ignore messaging from everywhere else. The good news? This fragmented tribal world is one we as indie authors are already old hands at living in.

To survive in the indie landscape, one must harness a wide array of skills, ranging from email marketing to copy writing and digital advertising, to name a few. Simple public relations, done right, can be an equally powerful arrow in this quiver.

Bear with me here. Don’t get scared off. For starters, it all boils down to one thing: learning to pitch.

What is a pitch, you ask? The shortest way to put it is what you tell people to convince them to give you the time of day. It’s the why-should-I-give-a-damn-about-this-shmoe factor. In email form, it’s the evolved, vertically-challenged relative of that archaic thing we used to call press releases.

As an author, you’re pitching people every day, even if you don’t realize it. Your author bio, your book synopsis, those are pitches. Those are the why-should-I-give-a-damn-about-this-shmoe-isms. However, you’re also pitching whenever you ask a reviewer to read your book, ask a podcaster if you can come on their show or email a fellow author to suggest guest posting on their blog.

Although authors may not technically be competing against one another for readers, we are competing against one another for the things I mentioned above. We’re competing to stand out in a massive crowd of fellow authors shouting BUY MY BOOK to the world. Don’t you want to be the author whose voice gets heard?

We’ll get into how to pitch with Part 2 in this series, but for right now, consider this: learning how to be your own PR agent could be the tool in your author toolbox that sets you apart from the crowd.

What has your experience been with public relations in the past? Was it good or bad?

wpid-imag0065_1-e1410915663557-960x913Derek Alan Siddoway ( D_Sidd) always thought he wanted to be a paperback writer. Instead, he broke into the self-publishing world in 2013 when he realized there had to be a better use of his time than writing queries to agents. Converted by the fellowship of indie authors, he never looked back. Now, he’s the Founding Father of Undaunted Publishing, a hybrid publishing house combining the best of traditional and self publishing, and the author of Teutevar Saga, an epic/historical fantasy series with a “medieval western” twist. Learn more at derekalansiddoway.com.