During a lively conversation with a participant in my book proposal course, he asked, “how to speak to journalists and not give my book away before my book is published?”
It’s an important question, especially if you are writing nonfiction that draws on new research or offers a fresh perspective.
- Be generous but not naive. Conversations with journalists can spark friendships and collaboration. You share a common passion about the subject, after all. Such relationships can lead to new exposure, new opportunities (such as speaking on a panel) or new types of collaboration. Yet, you don’t want anyone to appropriate your material without crediting you.
I once worked with an author who sent a journalist so much great information about the subject, that the journalist used the author’s answers to write the entire article. Yet she only quoted him twice and did not credit him for the rest. The PR is great and maybe was worth it, but understandably it left him feeling used and wasn’t ethical.
- Save the freshest parts for your book so that they don’t seem old before you publish. Plus, someone with a large platform might take your ideas and run with them. So share some fresh information, but not all of it.
When Victoria Dunckley, MD worked on developing her platform before sending her book proposal to agents, we set upon a strategy of blogging tangentially about the subject of her book (protecting children’s brains from the effects of screen time and electronics). She blogged about the effects of screens on Tourette’s syndrome, a much more niche subject. She blogged about the importance of time in nature. And she found other tangential subjects to blog about.
Make a list of the the information you have that offers a new perspective, recent research applied to your subject or fresh material.
- Choose which aspects you want to share before the book is published–to share on your blog or website and discuss with journalists.
- List the information you will save for the book launch.
- Not sure what to save and what to share? Ask a trusted colleague or your book publishing coach!
- Before any interview, review your lists or even have them in front of you to remind yourself what’s off limits.
Before you say yes to an interview, ask these questions:
- Will I be credited or quoted for the ideas I share, or are you just gathering general information at this point?
- How will this information be used (in an article? A blog post? A book? What are the specific venues (such as the name of the news website). Make sure that the plan matches your goals.
Have questions about how to speak to journalists, publish a nonfiction book or anything else? Ask your book coach as a comment below.