Publicity is a great way to get in front of new audiences and introduce yourself. A list of conversation starters makes it easier to move past “I’ve got a book” into more interesting territory. One way to come up with compelling angles is to set up a media calendar so you can craft your pitch around upcoming events. These can include holidays, seasonal events, and other special occasions. After all, the media is already planning to cover them. When you leverage your expertise to speak on one of these, you may include yourself in a conversation they were planning to have anyway.
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
Later in the article, we’ll talk a bit more about crafting media pitches around upcoming events. But I want to make sure you understand not to wait until that “special event” is imminent to send your email.
For example, say that you’ve got a great angle that attaches your expertise to the Christmas season. If the stores have put up their decorations and started playing carols over the loudspeakers, it’s already too late to make your pitch.
How far ahead should you pitch? The lead time can vary from outlet to outlet. When in doubt, a good rule of thumb is to pitch at least 90 days ahead of whatever issue or episode you’re pitching for.
Why so far ahead? Let me outline what’s happening from the perspective of the media…
Media slots are available based on a few different factors:
- Editorial format
- Production schedule
- Editorial calendar
- Available openings
How many different subjects does the outlet cover in their editorial cycle? How many pages or how many minutes do they have to cover them?
The answers will be different from one outlet to the next. I always tell authors to study a media outlet before emailing their suggestion for a segment or feature story.
Reaching out to a publication? Flip through a couple of issues.
Reaching out to a show? Listen to or watch a few episodes.
Reaching out to a website? Click through some recent articles.
For the purposes of this post, what we’re looking for at the moment is how many subjects that outlet covers in a given editorial cycle.
- Are there columns?
All things being equal, a media outlet that features a dozen subjects in a month will be easier to get into than a media outlet that only features four or five in that same period.
How long does it take to make that next issue or episode? Whomever you pitch to, it always helps to have an idea of where they are in their production cycle. While it may take you 30 minutes to consume that content, it took them a lot longer to create it. They’re at the mercy of how many hands and resources they have at their disposal.
Media producers are working weeks and months ahead of their publication or broadcast dates. How far ahead is the result of several factors—including the type of media, the number of staff members, and the number of people in the chain it has to go through.
For example, a magazine goes through an editorial process; a design process; a production process; and then it gets sent to a printer. Each of those stages multiplies by a factor of several days how long it takes to make that issue of the magazine.
On the other hand, if we’re talking about a podcast made by somebody working out of his basement—maybe you can talk to him today and it will be posted next week.
Editorial Media Calendar
How far ahead do they plan out their editorial coverage? If that media outlet is planning extensive coverage of a major event—like an award show, tournament, or convention—it would start far enough out to account for all the moving parts.
The outlet might also have an editorial schedule based on themes. For example, one magazine I worked with would create whole issues around a single theme—and that schedule was posted more than a year ahead of time.
How far ahead do they lock down guests? You’re not the only guest with a great idea for that holiday issue. If you pitch and they’ve already booked up all the guests or interviews they need, that means there’s no room left for you.
Building a Media Pitch Around Seasonal Events & Special Days
Now that we all understand that you reach out to the media way in advance of when you hope to appear, let’s talk about the kinds of ideas you can find coming up on your media calendar.
Fact is, there are all kinds of opportunities in the coming months. There are “seasonal topics” that you can speak about that include perennial events, holidays, and ceremonies. These all happen at regular intervals so you can look at your media calendar and plan ahead. Take advantage of preparing way ahead of time to join conversations that you know are coming.
After all, you know all of these are going to be discussed in the media in the coming weeks and months:
- Spring cleaning
- Summer vacation
- Fall holidays
- Winter preparedness
- Sporting Events
- School Events
- Religious Observances
- Bank Holidays
- Award Ceremonies
- Taxes / Financial Planning
There are also events more specific to your particular category of expertise. These can include…
- Trade shows and conventions in your field
- Events and special days relevant to your category
- Awards and celebrations in your field
Then there are events specific to your audience, such as…
- Cultural or international holidays and observances
- Special events for your ideal audience
- Anniversaries or milestones that are relevant to your audience
Authors with Seasonal Angles
Here’s a seasonal example from Djuana Berlin, an event planner and author. She took advantage of Halloween as an opportunity to talk about her specialty. Since Halloween comes every year, she had lots of time to plan ahead. Read the original article here:
Financial author Pamela Yellen was a guest on Good Day New Mexico to discuss New Year’s resolutions as an excuse to talk about her expertise. The angle is that even if members of the audience are struggling with keeping their resolution, it’s not too late to get back on track. Watch the segment here:
Eliza Knight is a historical romance author who writes about pirates. She took advantage of Talk Like a Pirate Day. So even though it’s not a “holiday” in the traditional sense, it’s a fun day people like to talk about—and she knew it was coming way ahead of time.
Robin Wilson is an author and ambassador for the Asthma & Allergy Foundation. She took advantage of spring cleaning to talk about her expertise. It’s not even a particular “day,” but a seasonal event that comes every year.
Historical romance author Julie Klassen went to this Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England. All these fans showed up in period clothing, and Victoria Magazine ran a photo essay with commentary from the author.
What Are You Going to Do Now?
Look ahead on your media calendar. What special events or milestones are coming up that you can speak about from your expertise? Can you bring a fresh angle to a familiar day or event? Or maybe introduce the audience to a day that they may not have heard about?
Share your thoughts and questions below!
[Additional Resources: For more on the art of the media pitch, see Chris Well's Expert page.]
If you aren’t already a member of BookWorks, please check us out for more great content like this and join our community of indie authors, editors, coaches, designers, marketers, bloggers, and other self-publishing pros.