To enjoy attention from traditional PR sources (newspapers and magazines on the print side; radio and TV on the broadcast side) requires understanding who you’re pitching, how to pitch each journalist, and what role you want traditional PR to play in your overall author marketing strategy.
Putting yourself in the place of that journalist who’ll decide whether or not you’ll get the PR nod is key to enjoying ongoing press attention.
Journalists Are Busy – Give Them What They Need
With so much online content and subsequent budgets being shifted this way, it’s no secret that staffs in both print and broadcast media are stretched thin. If you send a journalist reams of stuff they have to wade through to determine what they’re seeing, it’s easier to hit the delete button. If you send too little and it will require them following up with you, it’s easier to hit the delete button.
So, what’s the “just right” answer? Give them a lead line (like your elevator pitch) they can sink their teeth into, and add info to your press release funnel-style, so the most important info is up front.
And, while you don’t want to inundate them with info, you can give them easy links to get as much or little as they need. Examples include links to book stores where you’ll be signing, a Q&A with the author at your author website, the link to your book page with synopsis, and a link to high-res images (author photo, book cover, and/or event specific photos). If you have links to reviews of your books, this will also prove useful.
Journalists Need to Engage an Audience – Give Them a STORY
Not everything you’ll do as an author is media worthy. Sending journalists a release that claims your upcoming signing at a local store is the greatest thing since the invention of velcro won’t win you brownie points (though it may get you laughed at by the water cooler). News media is meant for news, not shameless promotion, not commercials (those they’ll ask you to buy!)
True, there are those who are gifted at manipulating the media mob for personal gain. If you caught Trump’s birther announcement you might’ve noticed CNN was gullible enough to spend 20+ hours on pre and post- coverage of a non-event that amounted to little more than a commercial for Trump’s D.C. hotel. (Imagine how many great books they could’ve talked about in that time… sigh.)
But let’s assume you’re not Donald Trump. Some of what you’ll do as an author IS press worthy. Will your book event benefit a local children’s charity, for example? Does your book speak to the local population served by the media outlet, or does it feature a unique bit of history about the town in which you’re pitching press?
Perhaps your path to publishing includes a compelling story, such as a newsworthy incident that kicked off your book’s premise. Or maybe you overcame great odds to write your book. Or your main characters were inspired by local heroes. Or this Friday’s booksigning kicks off a 40 stores in 40 days record-setting book tour. You get the idea…
Just as your book needs to be a compelling story for the reader, so your press releases must offer up compelling stories for journalists to share with their audience.
Journalists Are Selective – Pitch the Right Person(s)
Just as you’re encouraged to get to know a bookstore before asking for a book event, it pays to know which journalists to pitch with your story. True, books will often appeal/appear in the arts section of a newspaper. But if it’s a cookbook will it appeal to the home section? Does it have a fashion, travel or sports slant?
And don’t overlook calendar advisories or online options. Most press outlets have places on their websites where you can submit calendar listings for those upcoming book signings, readings or launch parties. That’s where you should send an upcoming book-signing, vs. a features editor who might not bother to get it sent to the calendar editor.
Timing is Everything
Understanding that newspapers, magazines, radio and TV are businesses will help you realize that you can’t pitch a journalist on Monday for an event happening this Friday. Often a release will have to go through several layers to get to its final resting place (hopefully in the form of an article or interview). This is known as “lead-time” and it’s as important to journalists as deadlines. If they’ve already scheduled their segments or done the layout for the next magazine, you’re out of luck.
This is known as “lead-time” and it’s as important to journalists as deadlines. If they’ve already scheduled their segments or done the layout for the next magazine, you’re out of luck. As compelling as your story may be, if the newspaper is on its way to press, it’s too late.
Lead times will vary among media types and from business to business. But a general rule of thumb is two-three months for magazines, one-two months for TV appearances (i.e. local talk shows) and at least a couple weeks for most other media, including those calendar advisories.
Obviously, there’s not much you can do if a bookstore suddenly has an opening for a signing this weekend. But having an idea of lead times will let you plan ahead. If you’re planning that book tour and it’s 90 days away, start pitching those journalists now!
How to Identify Press Contacts
There are expensive press directories you can purchase, but you can also do your online research. Many state press associations (visit this link for a linked list of state-by-state newspaper associations) will also have links to their members, such as this linked list from Florida Press Association.
It’s usually easiest (and most relevant) to begin with media contacts in your own area. You can then also link those resulting articles, videos and mp3 radio interviews to your site, which will also provide a useful reference for future press reach-outs.
Other useful tools include:
- Set your Google Alerts for search terms that will help you identify outlets and journalists talking about your topics
- Just Reach Out lets you plug in keywords to show you the most relevant journalists who may be interested in your story and help you build a lasting relationship with this journalist.
- Pitch Rate lets you list yourself as an “expert” for journalists looking for more info on that topic. You can also search the site for journalist queries.
A Shout-Out to Book Publicists
If all this sounds overwhelming, and you’ve properly equipped yourself with a marketing budget, you’ll want to consider hiring a book publicist. They not only know all the rules to pitching journalists, but more importantly, they’ve developed personal relationships with those journalists. A journalist will trust a good publicist because they know that PR person has steered them right in the past. A publicist can make a phone call and “get ‘er done” faster than you can blindly pitch.
Know Your End-Game
Finally, whether attempting to attract your own press or using a qualified PR professional (email us for our favorite go-to book PR resources), you want to have very specific goals in mind. Journalists aren’t mind-readers; PR professionals aren’t miracle workers. Unrealistic expectations will almost guarantee disappointing results.
If building your author brand is your ultimate goals, then interviews will serve you well, but know they won’t sell many books. You can’t expect a flurry of press attention to necessarily translate to moving the sales needle. BUT, savvy authors will make sure links are included to your author website. Your goal can then be to attract enough attention from the piece to drive people to your site where you can incentivize them to join your list by providing a free sample of your book. (Journalists like this as well because now they’re offering their audience something “free” too!)
If your press is event-driven, to build buzz around your book signings and help get warm bodies to your book events, put all your energy into that, and provide links that will drive readers/viewers to the actual events. Get the bookstores involved; they often have also established favorite press contacts that will give them (and by association, you) a nod.
Having a solid PR strategy will help you define the content you provide to press, and help them better tell your story!