Writing and Book Marketing - Pitching the Media (Part4)

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Pitching the media requires courage. And knowledge. It helps to know that the likes of journalists, hosts, and bloggers need you as much as you need them. Without content (that’s where you come in!) they have no reviews, no stories, no interviews.

Think of yourself as building relationships when you approach the media. You present yourself as someone who can help them do their job. You present your book or expertise as something that will interest their audience. To do that, your pitch might include:
  • Information that is brand new to a gatekeeper’s audience.
  • Something that will solve a problem for him or for his audience.
  • Something that will entertain his audience.
  • Something that will involve the audience emotionally (a human interest story).
  • An idea how he might use your message or skills in a regular feature that appears in his magazine or an idea for an article for his blog.
The time or space you have to catch a prospect’s attention is limited. The journalist/editor/host/producer needs to know what you can offer that will make his job easier. In the sample Tip Sheet I give you in the Appendix of this book are twelve publicity “No-Nos,” one of which tells you that editors you are pitching do not exist to give you free publicity because you want or need it. They are on deadlines and overworked. It is your job to make this editor’s job really, really, really easy for him. Make it clear that you are there to help and that you have all your ducks quacking in unison.

Start your pitch quickly. Make the media person aware of a problem that you can solve for him, then—just as rapidly—outline how information about you or your book is the solution to that problem. He won’t want your life’s story or a synopsis of your book until he’s convinced that he needs you.

Here are some ways you—not necessarily your book—might be interesting to the media gatekeepers:
  • Hometown reporters want to know they have a published author living in their town.
  • Journals for seniors are interested if you are over fifty-five, but almost all publications will be interested if you are very young.
  • Perhaps you’ve changed careers midstream. That might interest editors of newspaper business sections or business magazines.
  • You might have a women’s or men’s angle that will work for gender-related periodicals.
  • You are a vegetarian or practice yoga and that affects your creative process.
  • You can be controversial. Some say there is no such thing as bad publicity. The exposure and sales of Richard Clarke’s book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror was helped considerably by controversy and its well-timed release.
Here’s how your book might fill a reporter’s need:
  • Some editors like the idea that a novel is set in their locale.
  • Are there any premises or themes in your fiction that shed light on what is happening in the news? A book that exposes the corrosive nature of intolerance after 9/11, as an example.
  • Is there a literary interest? You might have written in a cross-genre or experimented in some other way. If your concept is unusual enough, that will be news for periodicals marketed to authors.
  • Is there a strong similarity in your work to a film or book that everyone is talking about? Sometimes reporters tie one book to another, and some reviewers pack reviews of two or more similar books into one commentary.
When we are squeamish about meeting the media face-to-face or by phone, we often rely on mail, e-mail, and faxes. We shouldn’t. In-person contacts bring a caring attitude to your association with editors. Aesop said, “Do you, while receiving benefits from me and resting under my shade, dare to describe me as useless and unprofitable?” He knew that those with whom you’ve built a relationship are more likely to do you a favor and more reluctant to be negative about you to others.

Hint: Scripting a pitch can help. In fact, when you make contact by phone, you can use your script as crib notes to guide the conversation. Well-known publicist and author Raleigh Pinskey graciously allowed me to use her scripted pitch in Appendix Five of this book. I encourage you to learn from her example.

Why do publishers put the pictures of authors on the flaps of dustcovers? Because human beings relate to faces. Although editors try to be impartial, they are human; they relate best on a one-to-one basis just like readers or anyone else. You will have more success if you get to know your media contacts at close range. When that’s impossible, include your photograph in your media kit or add a link to a video of you on the Web or, second best, a podcast of your voice.

If this feels scary to you, make your first contact a fact-finding mission so the editor is aware you want to make her job easier. You might even arrange to see her in her office. Let’s pretend you’re working on your first, big event—your book launch. This contact will require your short pitch to be as close to letter perfect as you can make it. It will include one or two sentences about your book and then a sentence about the launch you are planning. Then ask her questions like these:
  • “How can I help with pre-event coverage?” Word this so that the benefits of covering your event before it occurs rather than after are visible to her.
  • “May I give you photos to accompany your stories or would you prefer to have your photographers cover them?” I wrote to ask for a copy of a picture the head photographer of my local paper had taken of me, complimented her on it, and copied that praise to her superior. All sincere. They didn’t charge me for a copy of the photo.     “How are photos best submitted? Electronically? By mailing slick copies? Color or black or white?”
  • “Would you be interested in learning about (you fill in the blank about one of the remarkable people associated with your launch) as the subject of a feature article?” In case she shows an interest, be prepared with specifics about your story idea. When an editor uses your idea, she usually mentions you and your event.
  • “I would love to have you attend as an honored guest. May I send you a map? A parking pass?” If the editor accepts, formally introduce her to the audience during your presentation.
Caveat: Match the editor to the kind of coverage you’re seeking. Study the newspaper’s roster to learn what each editor covers. Call TV and radio stations and ask the receptionist to direct you to editors interested in different kinds of stories. Check Web sites. Pronounce names correctly. You may want to contact more than one editor for a given event. Here are some possibilities for newspaper editors who specialize:
  • Calendar Editor.
  • Feature Editor.
  • Weekend Editor.
  • Book Review Editor.
  • Assignment Editor (usually TV).
  • City Editor.
  • Beat Reporters. (These can range from business to arts and entertainment.)
When you work with the media, you may need more than one pitch. You’ll need one for what your book is about. That can be wrapped in a pitch about how your story can benefit a specific audience. And you’ll need a pitch about you!

That's it, the last part of this December 2013 four-part series on pitching you and your work.

Excerpted from the multi award-winning Frugal Book Promoter, http://budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Instructor for nearly a decade at the renowned UCLA Extension Writers' Program
Author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally books including the second edition honored by USA BOOK NEWS
Web site: http://www.HowToDoItFrugally.com


Heidiwriter said...

There certainly is a lot to this marketing stuff! Thanks for sharing your wonderful tips, Carolyn!

Magdalena Ball said...

The whole series has been superb and is an excellent reference - not just for people pitching but for anyone who wants to promote their work. Thank you.

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Seconding that Maggie. We are just so fortunate to have Carolyn sharing her talent and expertise in writing and marketing. Many thanks. So much to take in here I shall be referring to this series again and again.

Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, this series offers so much valuable writing and book marketing information for us writers. It's an excellent resource that we can reference over and over. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Lots to think about Carolyn. Thanks

Unknown said...

I am a book writer and from a long time I've wrote some books. But, this book fair conception is able to makes me more impress to write more. hopefully,customer writing premieressay.com also help us a lot to build-up more our writing career.

Honoring Your Voice

As a writer, your voice is one of your most powerful assets. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, novels, screenplays, marketing copy, y...