Media Friendly Tips to Help Promote Your Book
Guest Post by Irene Watson
It’s no secret authors want and need media attention to sell their books. But many authors have had no media training so they do not know how to approach the media in a professional manner or how to get the media’s attention. Following are some tips for how authors can be media friendly so the media takes notice of them and their books.
The biggest problem most authors have in trying to promote their books is they don’t understand what the media is looking for, or how the media wants information provided and presented to them. Here are a few simple tips about how to be media friendly when promoting a book.
It’s Not About You: Yes, you may have written a great book but the media isn’t going to spend time reading your book—there are murders to cover, local politics to address, and the weather to talk about. Don’t expect the media to read your book; don’t expect media people to be interested in your book. Instead, accept that they aren’t there to do you a favor. If you want media attention, you have to do the favor for them of making their jobs easy. You do that by making your story newsworthy.
Make It Newsworthy: What makes a book newsworthy? It may not be the book at all but the author. Few people will care that another mystery novel is out, but if the author was a CIA agent, or an elderly grandma whose deceased husband was a spy, or if the author is disabled, or if the story ties into current events, then the media might find the author to be newsworthy and consider doing a feature story on the author that might also mention the book.
So, in approaching the media, don’t just try to sell your book, but sell yourself. Tell the media what makes you unique and newsworthy. If you’re writing a press release, don’t summarize your book, and don’t come off being preachy like you want to teach someone something. Instead, make your topic sound like breaking news; make it feel current and even controversial.
Keep It Brief: People in the media are pressed for time. They don’t have time to read books; they don’t even have time to read long-winded press releases. You need an attention grabbing headline and short concise paragraphs to get their attention. If you’re writing a letter, be upfront about why you’re writing. Tell them you want an interview, give them a short paragraph or two about you and your book, and explain why the newspaper’s readers, newscast’s viewers, or radio station’s listeners would want this information. Then give them contact information in case they want more from you.
Email It: Again, people in the media are pressed for time. Check how they want information delivered. They don’t want you calling them to tell them about a news story—they don’t have time to chat on the phone. Nor do most want to have to retype your snail-mailed or faxed press release. Email it so they can quickly copy and paste and chop—be prepared for them to cut out your information—so they can make their deadline and have less work to do.
Be Prepared: Being media friendly includes being prepared at a moment’s notice. If you work hard on a press release or letter, but then you aren’t ready to be interviewed when the media calls you, you’ve wasted your time and theirs. Understand that they might call you at 9 a.m. to come and interview you at 10 a.m. so it can make the 6 o’clock news. If you miss the phone call, you may not get called again. Media people are on a deadline and can’t wait around for you to check your voicemail or email. Equally, don’t sell them on your story if you’re not prepared to discuss your story in an interview.
Respect Deadlines and Be Early: If you’re submitting to a publication with a deadline, be early. No one has time to scramble to put your story in the newspaper at the last minute. No TV show host wants to be worrying five minutes before it’s time to film live whether you’re showing up for the interview. Remember magazines and newspapers are often working on issues months in the future. December 1st is too late to pitch for a Christmas story—try June or July instead.
Don’t Hound or Waste Time: It’s fine to follow up if you send a press release or you make a phone call and don’t hear back from someone. But first give people the time to reply. Find out when the newspaper or magazine’s deadline or publication date is and avoid contacting them in the days before. The local newspaper doesn’t want you showing up on its doorstep on deadline day to talk about your book. If you don’t hear from someone in a few days or a week, send a friendly email just saying you’re following up to make sure your press release was received. Don’t call unless it’s truly urgent—the telephone is always an interrupter and a frustration when trying to get something done by a deadline; email can be read at one’s convenience.
If you are polite and professional and all around media-friendly, you are more likely to get the media’s attention and stay in their good graces. Then, not only will the media run your news story, but they might remember you, even come to consider you an expert, and then invite you back in the future.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.