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Guest Post by Katie Andrews, project consultant, Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists
You’ve crafted your picture perfect strategy and it’s time to start contacting the media. Proceed with caution. Contacting media members is a fine art. Let’s talk about how to do it.
I should preface today’s post with a few words of caution. If you are publishing with a major publishing house that has an in-house publicity team, make sure you never contact the media without discussing it with them first. Same goes if you have hired your own publicist. The most important thing that a publicist brings to the table are relationships with key members of the media and experience working closely with them to help them communicate entertaining and informative information to their audience.
That’s what you are paying for when you hire your own publicist—their ability to package your message and take it directly to members of the media they think will be a good fit for your work. They are likely to be out pitching you and your book to their many contacts and will not be happy if they get a producer on the phone who mentions receiving a note from the author already. Coordinate with your in-house publicity team or publicist.
There are several tools that a publicist uses to get the word out about a book. One of them is the press kit. The press kit is a tangible introduction of you and your book to a producer, journalist or whomever your publicist has contacted. The total press kit is drafted in accordance with strict media specs and is design to pique the interest of relevant media. The press kit has several working parts:
AP and Broadcast press release: The purpose of a press release is to give journalists information that is useful, accurate and interesting. The body of the release is very basic; who, what, where, when and why. Press releases conform to an industry standard; AP press releases are sent to print and online media outlets and broadcast press releases are sent to radio and television outlets.
Trade information sheet: The T.I. sheet contains information about the book that is pertinent to trade reviewers. It includes the book’s vitals, such as the publisher, pub-date, price, page count, synopsis, a brief author bio and marketing and publicity plans.
Author bio: An effective bio should reflect the author’s personality while outlining past achievements, including educational background, career highlights, professional affiliations and literary accomplishments.
Sample media questions: These are sent to members of the media prior to an interview. If you’re working with a publicist, help develop your sample media questions, as this will enable you to formulate the best possible answers ahead of time.
How to craft a good pitch
When it comes to crafting pitches for different types of media, it’s important to do your basic homework. Journalists and producers loathe receiving multiple pitches, especially those that aren’t relevant to their beat or audience. It’s a quick way to get negative coverage or ensure your book doesn’t get any ink. When you’re doing research as to which media outlets you’d like to pitch, take some time to learn about their audience and the types of stories they typically cover. Give them “news you can use” pitches. Why do their readers or viewers need to know about your book or your perspective?
It’s no secret that space for book reviews is slowly disappearing in major print outlets around the country. Some papers are getting rid of their book reviewers entirely (such as the Atlanta Journal Constitution) while others are getting rid of stand-alone book sections (Washington Post). To succeed in garnering meaningful publicity for your book, you have to look beyond the book page.
Authors and publicists have to become more creative with their pitches. You can do this by thinking of ways to tie your area of expertise to the stories that media are looking to cover. Instead of focusing solely on the book, think of ways to tie your expertise in with what the media is interested in talking about.
As an example, we have worked with best-selling author Nancy Rue for years. Rue has authored many books for tweens and teens, including many FaithGirlz! releases (Zondervan/HarperCollins). In addition to targeting review coverage for her titles, we always look for ways to plug her in with journalists writing stories about issues related to tween and teen girls. She was featured as an expert source in this Chicago Tribune article about the lack of young female role models in Hollywood. Rue’s mention in this article is a great example of how an author can rely on their experience with a topic (not necessarily academic credentials) to secure media opportunities beyond book reviews.
How can you apply these principles to your release? Have you thought about promoting your expertise on topics related to your boo ? Sometimes being quoted as a source in an article can be just as visible as a book review. What’s more, if a reporter feels you’re a source they can trust, they will often keep you in their “expert file” of contacts for future stories. A number of clients we worked with years ago still get calls to comment on stories related to their expertise.
When major print outlets use you as a source they establish credibility, build your platform and encourage readers to find out more about you and your latest projects. If a media opportunity arises that doesn’t seem directly related to your book, don’t say “no, thanks” right away. It’s a way to get your foot in the door and presents an opportunity to plug your book.
Think outside the box:
•What are your credentials?
As literary publicists, we are trained to think beyond the book. It’s just the nature of this business. In fact, any good publicity firm will use author credentials as a major factor in their decision to represent a book. So, what academic degrees do you have? What companies have you consulted in the past? Are you a CPA? Worked with high-risk kids for 20 years? Do you have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do? Involved in any charitable organizations? How do these different experiences relate back to your book?
•What’s everyone talking about?
Lindsay Lohan’s fumble opened up an opportunity for Nancy Rue to be used as a source in the Chicago Tribune article. Have you heard anything going on the news lately that relates to your book or professional credentials? Do you feel confident that you could say something pertinent about it? What comments and ideas can you bring to the debate that differs from competing expert sources? If you are currently writing your book, practice connecting your message to breaking news over the next few months—it will pay off once your book releases.
•What news cycles are coming up?
The media operates according to editorial calendars that are used year after year. Though breaking news trumps seasonal stories, you can bet certain topics will be covered by print outlets around the country this spring. Think about ways that you can plug your message into these seasonal news cycles. A few of the seasonal stories that will be covered over the next several months include Valentines Day, Spring Break, Child Abuse Prevention Month (April) and one of the most sought-after news cycles for publishers: Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
You have to think like the media to pitch effectively. Even when you are working with a publicist (hopefully you are), it really helps your publicist when you understand how they have to pitch.
Today’s extra credit is found over at the Phenix & Phenix blog. Learn how to hone your media instincts.