Following our recent Author Marketing Mastery installments on Seeking Press Attention and Crafting the Perfect PR Message, literary publicist Lynda Bouchard offers up some insights into what to do when your book’s media pitch hits the ditch!
You have spent months developing your book launch and you are sure the media will love it. You start pitching, fully confident that coverage is only a few, targeted pitches away. You have nothing to worry about, right? Oh, if life were only that simple.
Instead, the response to your carefully constructed outreach is silence.
I love to craft seemingly unrelated concepts in a book, tie them to current events, wind ‘er up and make an ‘outside the book’ pitch. It’s thrilling when the media runs with it. And humbling when they don’t. Those are the teachable moments.
Here’s an example of a creative pitch I made on behalf of an author who wrote a historical fiction book on The French & Indian War. A tough sell, right? I drilled down to find different ways to make it interesting and relatable. It was 2008, an election year. PITCH: Leadership lessons the candidates can learn from the Generals of the French & Indian War. This garnered the author many speaking events at history museums throughout the South, Rotary Clubs, and the Daughters of the American Revolution annual meeting. He sold his book after each presentation plus received honorariums.
There are so many unknowns and variables in getting your ‘news’ in the news, and you can’t always put your finger on what certain media are looking for. Yes, content calendars and social media accounts help – but nothing can sincerely prepare you for what is going to work at any particular moment.
Here’s the reality: the media will often ignore your pitch. Why? Because the media’s priorities are not your priorities. It’s normal to a send out a hundred emails and get five responses. You thought it would be easy. Instead, you feel like tearing your hair out.
You are not alone. Breathe. Then, use these five tips to help you keep your cool when media are slow to respond to your pitch. Or not at all.
1. Stop Following Up
Without an absolute “not interested,” you are unable to stop following up, because there is a chance you might get a yes. Right? But you can only push the media so much until they get annoyed – nonstop follow-ups on a story idea that isn’t a fit is exactly that. Annoying.
You may feel like you’re pitching the best angle and that is a total fit for the publication or media outlet, but there are a ton of reasons why you might not be hearing back. Don’t take it personally. Wait until you have something new to pitch, or at least a fresh angle, before reaching out again.
2. Send A Follow Up
Contrary to the above point, if you have pitched once and then you hear crickets, shoot a short follow-up email. Follow up is essential. There is a fine line between a professional follow up and badgering. The media are inundated with pitches, and if you don’t have a working relationship already, or it’s a particularly busy season, absolutely send a reminder to those contacts that you believe to be the best fit for your idea.
It’s totally old school, but I give editors/producers a call. The gatekeepers are often the key to success -they have the power to truly help build your following and get you to the right person. Absolutely worth the effort. HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR and have fun with it.
3. Revamp Your Pitch With Data Or Trend Information
Media aren’t interested in the amazing features and benefits of a single item, they are interested in the impact that it can make in their audiences’ lives. If your pitch feels more like a sales pitch than a story idea, they will be put off.
A more successful idea is to couch your pitch within research or a larger current events story and work on key ideas or messages that make it clear the idea you are pitching is relevant. And make sure you know the important facts inside and out so that when the media responds, you have the knowledge to speak intelligently about the larger concept and how it will benefit their audience.
4. Double Check Your Media List
When you’re getting zero responses, go to your greatest resource: your media database. Make sure that the editors/decision makers on your list are still working there and truly are the most relevant to your pitch. Media types move around A LOT. You may be skimming through and not picking out the right contacts or accidentally deleting the ones that are actually important.
Go back to the basics and look over your media lists, double checking that your contacts are correct and up to date. When it is all said and done, you simply may not be connecting with the right people. Restart and do more research on each contact to confidently know that your media list is strong.
5. Ask For Feedback
Ask someone you trust to review your pitch, to provide feedback, suggest alternative angles and if relevant, to pitch the story to a contact with whom they have a stronger relationship. At the end of the day, it’s in everyone’s best interest so don’t suffer in silence – everyone goes through this. Asking for help and objectivity can help you move forward.
Pitching the media is a huge part of what a publicist does and one that we only have a modicum of control over, even under the best of circumstances. This is why your media relationships, your trust of other publicists and creativity are all part of your toolkit. Remember, just because the media ignores your pitch doesn’t mean you did an awful job. There are always new strategies to put into play. Fearlessness and perseverance are your best friends when facing the media. You’ve got this!
LYNDA BOUCHARD is founder of Booking Authors Ink, a boutique marketing firm dedicated to Southern authors. She is known for her ‘outside the book’ unique pitches and has garnered major media hits for her clients as a result. Follow her on Twitter: @AuthorsInk or on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bookingauthorsink