Nothing’s better than free publicity, but to get the media interested in writing about your book, you must have real news about you or your work. And that is not a simple task.
Some of the basic errors authors make when attempting to get news are:
- believing you have news when you don’t
- thinking that sending a media release is all you have to do
- forgetting to follow up
- pitching to any publication before you have read it
- pitching to reporters without understanding how they cover their beats.
So how can you get started?
Start out small
Remember, you aren’t alone in wanting pressevery other author out there wants it too. So rather than going after a big newspaper like The New York Times or a big TV show like Today, first think small.
Local papers, magazines and newsletters are a much better place to get started. Once you get written up in those papers, the bigger ones are easier to contact. The same is true for television. Don’t try to get booked on a national show before you get your feet wet at your local cable station.
Craft and deliver a pitch
Make a list of all the realistic outlets to which you have access, then listen, watch or read them all for a few weeks. (Don’t forget Internet news and entertainment Web sites.)
After spending quality time learning how these places report the newsand what they feature in their nonnews storiescome up with three or four pitches for each one. Follow these guidelines:
I know of one magazine that automatically deletes every single e-mail addressed to “news editor.” The staffers figure that if the sender didn’t have time to find the news editor’s name, they don’t have the time to open the e-mail.
Don’t leave messages every time you callthat will only annoy the reporter. If he doesn’t answer the phone when I call, I hang up and call back later. My goal isn’t to fill up the reporter’s voice mail or e-mail boxes. I just want to speak to him and get a real chance to talk about my story.
Look for opportunities
Don’t rely on yourself to secure media attention. If my dog suddenly started to walk on her front legs with back legs in the air, I’d try to get on Jay Leno, just so he could ask me what I doand I could mention my name and my book.
Or, take this example: I was once almost run over by a horse and buggy in Central Park in New York City. The news crews showed up almost immediatelythey’d been nearby filing something much more important.
They turned the camera on me and asked me my name. Instead of just giving it, I said, “M.J. Rose, author of Lip Service.” I couldn’t believe I did it. And I was shocked when I got an e-mail two days later from a book reviewer at a large newspaper who had seen me on the news, liked the name of the book and wanted to know if she could get a review copy.
Don’t forget the basics: Know your news source. Don’t leave long, rambling messages on a media person’s voice mail. Be prepared; if a script makes you more comfortable, write one (but don’t read right from it). Do-it-yourselfers with photocopied, generic letters need not bother wasting their postage. Make sure any and all materials are professionally written and produced.
This article appeared in the July 2003 issue of Writer’s Digest.