Showing posts with label writing pitches. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing pitches. Show all posts

The "Small Big" Tactics for Writing Pitches and Selling Books

Writing Pitches (and About Everything Else) That Influence
I read and reread The Small Big: Small changes that spark big influence by Steve J. Martin, Noah J. Goldstein, and Robert B. Cialdini. It’s not that it tells me anything new about marketing, writing copy, or putting together great pitches. It’s that it inspires me anew, and reminds me of what a tough job those tasks are and how so many other disciplines are involved, two of my favorites. Words matter. And Psychology. And, yes, capital letters because they are so important.

For instance, here’s a quote that beautifully distills the six principles of marketing for any field you are in:
  •    “. . . reciprocity (people feel obligated to return favors performed for them),
  •     authority people look to experts to show them the way)
  •     scarcity (the less available the resource, the more people want it)
  •           liking (the more that people like others, the more they want to say yes to them)
  •     consistency (people want to act consistently with their commitments and values)
  •     and social proof (people look to what other do in order to guide their own behavior).”

This book includes studies that show people in any industry (including my favorites, those associated with writing of any kind) how to frame what they have to say right down to what to put first, what to stress, and words to choose that influence people in different ways.

This is a book you’ll want to read—and reread—as I do. 

Reread? Well, it is so jam packed you’ll need to go back to it time again to get it all and keep utilizing what it teaches you in everything from your blogging, to your query letters where a great pitch is essential, to writing your synopses. Here’s the link again—in bright red so you you’ll have not trouble finding it and using it:

Contributed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books--one for writers and one for retailers. She is now working on the third in the seires (after The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor), Getting Great Reviews Frugally and Ethically. All her books, including her fiction and poetry,  are available as paperbacks and e-books on Amazon. 

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,

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:

Writing and Book Marketing – Crafting a Pitch (Part2)

Wow, the members of Writers on the Move who participated in our first December Innovative and Proven Writing and Marketing Strategies Week should get a round of applause – I certainly applaud and thank them. They really did out-do themselves with useful fresh information to help us on our book writing and marketing journey.

Today, we end this special week with Part 2 of Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Pitch series

Crafting a Pitch (Part 2)

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Crafting a pitch may be easier if you reread your book to find possibilities for pitches within it. As you read:

1. Identify the aspects of your book that will most interest a reader in a given market or at a given time.

2. Write them down.

3. Turn these features into statements that show how readers or audiences will benefit.

4. Here’s an example of one I might use for this book: “The Frugal Book Promoter is a super coach for your book’s marketing campaign.” On the back cover of my book Your Blog, Your Business: A retailer’s guide to garnering customer loyalty and sales online and in-store (, I tease future readers with practical ways to:

o   Build a blog in five easy steps.
o   Minimize the time it takes to run a blog.
o   Find material to blog about.
o   Integrate your blog with other social networks.
o   Manage a blog frugally or free.

5. A frequently-used fiction example is: “This book keeps readers turning pages late into the night.” I’m sure you can do better than this because you have the details of your plot stowed in your head. Working with and learning from the screenwriters’ loglines we discuss later in this chapter will help you with this project.

You can find possibilities in your book of fiction. My first novel, This Is the Place, is one of the most difficult genres to promote. I thought of it as a literary novel but found that it also fit into little bitty categories: a little bit historical, a little bit saga, a little bit romance, a little bit feminist, a little bit women’s, a little bit western. I also found that, by virtue of my age, there were lots of aspects of my past life and former careers that interested editors and could be worked into pitches for feature articles.

To avoid missing the obvious pitch for your book, set up a brainstorming session with three or more who have read it. Assure them no idea is too silly. No idea will be booed. Nothing is to be repressed. You may be surprised at how many angles come from such a group effort.

Because we are so immersed in our own writing we don’t see it clearly, writing a pitch for someone else’s book is easier than writing one for our own. Practice writing pitches for books you’ve read and movies you’ve seen.

Once you have an idea for a pitch, add a little cayenne.

  • Boil down your plot or nonfiction premise into three sentences or less.
  • Maintain the passion you feel for your story.
  • Use present tense. “Is” instead of “was.”
  • Use punchy, specific verbs. “Lobs” instead of “throws.”
  • Avoid adjectives and adverbs. (If your verbs are strong enough, you probably won’t need them!) Find more on getting rid of unhelpful adverbs and adjectives (and turning them into metaphorical gold!) when you read my The Frugal Editor (

To learn more about writing pitches in all its forms, take a lesson from screenwriters:

  • Join a screenwriters’ forum. Throw out the topic of loglines (very short, catchy plot synopses) and watch members of the group go to town. Offer up one of your own and let them tear it apart and rebuild a thing of beauty. Search for these groups at and With any such group it is only right for you to contribute as well as learn from others.
  • Study Jonathan Treisman’s article at He is President of Flatiron Films and produced Warner Brothers’ film Pay It Forward.

Hint: The screenwriter’s craft is a fertile ground for learning both marketing and writing skills that may be adapted to any kind of writing, from poetry to science fiction.

Now you have a picture-perfect pitch or two, find a place for one or more of them:

  • In your media releases.
  • In your fliers.
  • On your business cards and other stationery.
  • On your posters—the ones you use for events like fairs and book signings.
  • In taglines and credits.
  • In your e-mail signature.
  • On the back cover of your book.
  • In your advertisements.

Stockpile your pitches in a special file in your computer so you can pick, choose, and perfect them as needed.

Now you can write pitches, let’s put them to work. Pitch an agent or publisher. Pitch the media. Pitch that all-important group we call readers.

Note: Your pitches to the media are indirect pitches to your readers. Their audiences will be the folks who read your book.

Stop by on December 17th, for Part 3 of this Pitch series.

Excerpted from the multi award-winning Frugal Book Promoter,

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:

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