With the current trend of digitizing everything, I don’t receive nearly as many requests for media-only campaigns as I used to. This is actually a good thing—a really good thing. The best book marketing campaigns are a blend of a wide variety of efforts. Now, media can certainly be a significant piece of that, but it shouldn’t be the only component. So if you’re wondering how to expand your book’s reach and build momentum, this article will offer some guidelines and considerations for perfecting your media pitch— regardless of a National, Regional, or Local focus.
Know Your Media
Before you start reaching out to media, take some time to consider what media will be the best fit for your background and your book. Even during a slow news season (aka not mid-election cycle), if you have no prior media, unless your platform is incredibly strong or you have inside news on a hot topic (think Trump’s love child), it’s going to be incredibly hard to get mentions on major media outlets. With that said, there are plenty of other options for you!
Know Your Expertise
Although writing a book offers a certain panache, you really need to know where your strengths—and your limitations—lie. This is particularly true for nonfiction. If you’re writing a political book about Trump, you need more expertise than simply loving or hating the guy. If you write on relationships, you should have additional “juice” to back up your pitches. Maybe you’re a therapist, or have spoken extensively on relationships, or perhaps even written multiple books on the subject. So if it's your writing itself that lends you credibility, to get media attention, you’ll need more than a single book on your resume.
What is Your Hook?
As you prepare to reach out to media, keep in mind what’s going to get them really interested in your topic. Spend some time thinking about different angles that you can use to anchor your story. Think: HUH—Hip, Unique, Helpful. Is it current in terms of either pop culture or news? Or maybe it’s timely in that it’s an upcoming holiday—even a less than major one such as National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, or National Margarita Day. It could even tie into an upcoming movie release or some celebrity news. Years ago, I hooked a fiction book to a Presidential race and got an Amazon bestseller out of it. You can see that story here. You get the idea. But your story should tie into something bigger. Anchor or hook your book onto a bigger topic and you’ll see the difference it makes.
Writing Your Media Pitch
Strong pitches are as much about what you don’t say as they are what you DO say. Keep your pitch short and load all critical information toward the beginning. You’ll want to keep in mind the old news term “above the fold,” which meant that important news that was always above the fold in newspapers. Ideally, your pitches will be only one paragraph. Next, you want to consider your subject line. If your subject line isn’t compelling, your amazing pitch may not even get read. Saying something like Pitch for consideration or Local author publishes controversial book will almost certainly result in your email getting filed—in the trash folder.
So how can you get your emails read? Think short, and think punchy. Think about emails that YOU would want to open! Looking for ideas? Here are a few examples of subject lines that have been successful for me:
Holiday: Valentine's Day
Hook: Did You Know You Could Meet Mr. Right in a Soup Kitchen?
The story behind the hook: Our volunteerism author commented on how singles are meeting their significant others while volunteering. Though her book did not focus on singles and volunteerism, she knew enough about this topic to comment on it. Once we did our research we found that single volunteer organizations were springing up all across the country.
Calendar Hook: Christmas
Hook: Give Your Kids the Gift of Laughter This Holiday Season!
The story behind the hook: We were working with an author who specialized in the importance of humor and children. He offered ways to give kids the gift of a lifetime: laughter.
Hook: How to Get Organized Without Resorting to Arson
The Story Behind the Hook: Our author had a book about organization but the title pulled right into Fire Prevention Week so while promoting it around other dates that supported organization, we also pushed it during Fire Prevention Week!
Calendar hook: Holidays
Hook: When Airplanes and Relatives Don’t Leave on Time
The Story Behind the Hook: This was a humor-based book about family dynamics around the holidays. The media loved this, we got tons of radio, print, and TV for this hook! We also had the good luck (or bad, depending on your perspective) of a massive snowstorm that shut down the east coast and ground most transportation right after Thanksgiving so it was a great local tie-in.
Local media is a great place to start, particularly if you have a local tie-in. Plus, bigger media often have “scouts” who look for things creating a regional buzz, so successful local outreach can lead to national outlets. Plus, it’s a great way to start building your media resume. And here’s a tip: regional media loves a local spin on a story that’s making national news. So consider that as your first angle.
Remember to Tap Into Social Media
It’s always a great idea to follow media outlets and personalities via social media networks. In addition to getting a feel for the types of stories they like to cover, you may be able to pick up on journalists’ personal interests. This is invaluable when you’re developing your media pitch, and deciding which people to pursue. A personalized pitch shows you’ve done your homework, and social media gives you a quick and easy way to reference past articles.
Twitter Lists Are a Powerful Resource
I love to start Twitter lists for various media I want to reach. I like to see what they are tweeting, share their tweets, and respond to their content. You can create Twitter Lists very simply on the Twitter page itself. It’s a good way to track media and also other experts in your market, as well as to build relationships.
Form Relationships Instead of “One-Night Stands”
Journalists love to have go-to experts. So, once you’re “in” with media—whether it’s local or national—you’re in. It’s worth your while to foster these relationships by staying in touch. Comment on their blog posts, share other stories they’ve written or have done in a broadcast medium. Building those relationships will help you for many years to come.
Be a Connector
Sometimes journalists will come to you with stories you may not be able to comment on. When this happens, offer to introduce them to someone who might be able to help. The more you can connect the media to the right people (even if that’s not you) the more you’ll become their go-to expert.
Keep Your Website/About Page/Media Room Updated
Before you start pitching anyone – media, bloggers, bookstores, etc., make sure that your website is ready to go. You need to have a solid About the Author Page that highlights your areas of expertise, what you’ve done, associations you belong to, awards you’ve won, etc. Your media room is also important. Be sure to list all media you’ve done, and I mean all. I had a gal who was on the talk show circuit years ago when Oprah had her show—she was on Sally Jessy Rafael— and failed to mention it and other shows she’d done because they were no longer on the air. Mention them anyway. Media likes media and we all know shows come and go.
Blogging is an integral part of book promotion, especially when it comes to media. Your blog will highlight your continued marketing efforts, show how willing you are to share your knowledge and show off your level of expertise. Blog regularly—shoot for once a week if possible.
Write A Thank You
Regardless of the level of media coverage you receive, always send a personal thank you note. Even if you get rejected outright, a simple “Thank you for considering me" may go a long way in fostering a relationship and leaving journalists willing to consider you for future stories. Remember it’s not personal. The media is often tasked with the sometimes impossible job of finding the exact right expert for their topic. That may or may not always be you. Thank them anyway.
A Great Media Resume Starts Small
I once wrote an article titled Nobody is Born Famous—and by that I mean that unless you are a celebrity baby, most of us don’t pop out of the womb famous with a million Twitter followers. Building a media presence takes time. And, you must have a solid infrastructure in place in order to capture their attention. This includes your website, your social media, your blog and any pitching you’ve done for yourself. It can be magical to watch the pieces come together as authors methodically grow their presence—online and off—by starting off small and building. One media hit can lead to another. One big blogger hit leads to another. Each hit creates a snowball effect, and they gather steam and momentum as they go.
By beginning with a solid foundation, you can market your existing book as long as the topic remains relevant. A successful book and successful interactions with the media are the results of a long-term strategy. A solid analogy is a plane taking off from an airport. Most don’t start their engines and poof, they’re in the air. They start their engines, warm up, approach their target and then charge down the runway until they take off.
You—and your book—can take off, too, because no matter how much we see in social media, our traditional media is still in need of good stories, great experts, and unique insights.
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