Educate Yourself about the Media
The smartest, fastest, most efficient way to get your story told is through the media. You could spend endless hours on the phone calling all your contacts—and all your contacts’ contacts—and you couldn’t reach as many potential book buyers as could a single story in the New York Times or People magazine or on the Oprah Winfrey Show. You wouldn’t even come close!
In our information-intensive society, the media controls the channels through which information circulates. Those channels include print publications, television, radio, and the Internet. The media finds, shapes, and disseminates what we read, see, and hear. Its handiwork is constantly beamed into our homes, cars, and computers. We’re surrounded by news, and everything we get is filtered through the media.
Telling stories and spreading the word are the media’s job, and it’s really good at it! Providing news is the media’s profession; the news is the media’s entire focus. When most authors try to get the media to publicize their books, they’re entering foreign turf and are out of their element. They don’t know the ground rules, how the media works, and how to approach and deal with it. These authors are amateurs in a professional world, and although they may make valiant efforts, they usually don’t get the desired results.
If you want to work with the media, learn how it works. Study it; become a media junkie, a media expert! Start by reading everything; get a broad overview. Concentrate on national and local newspapers and magazines. Identify the trends and subjects the media is covering and which media outlets are providing that coverage. Then follow the breaking news and ongoing stories in your field.
Systematically monitor the media. Keep a list of the items each outlet reports and its favorite way of presenting them. Follow the patterns of individual journalists, editors, producers, and program hosts. When they cover books:
Do they write reviews, news articles, or profiles of authors?
Do they write features on groups of books or on subjects on which they quote books or authors?
What approaches do particular radio or TV talk shows typically take?
What types of books or authors do they feature and which do they avoid?
What are their tendencies, preferences, and styles?
Media outlets have diverse styles; they handle different subjects and deal with them in varying ways. Just look at the difference between the styles of Oprah, Howard Stern, and Chris Matthews. Compare the approaches of the New York Times, the New York Post, and the Wall Street Journal. Magazines vary even more, especially those that are written for specific niche subject matters.
Identify the writers, publications, and programs that are most likely to cover your book. Before you contact them, read their articles, and then tape and study their shows. Note what they’re writing or producing, where they’re working, and what interests them.
Make Them Bite
The media thinks in terms of story ideas. The first question it asks is, Would you or your book make a good story? Therefore, present yourself to the media in terms of story ideas. Link yourself and your book to each media outlet’s interests, and show how well you would fit.
Understand that people in the media are busy and vastly overworked. They’re under constant pressure to find new stories and meet deadlines. Media people are usually flooded with more submissions than they can use. So, they must constantly take time from their jammed schedules to sift through stacks of leads in the hope of uncovering gems that they can use.
Basically, they quickly scan all submissions for flags, key words or phrases that grab their attention, and if they don’t immediately find them, they quickly jump to the next lead. So make your pitches short, clear, and convincing. Bait your hook with irresistible descriptions that will make them bite.
When you pitch them, people in the media will probably be working on other stories. They may be running around to get information or holed up putting stories together. So they may not answer, return your messages, or even glance at what you sent. Don’t take it personally, don’t let it discourage you; just understand that it’s how the media works.
So be persistent; follow up and keep trying to reach them. Plus, don’t expect them to call you and even if they do mention your book, it’s your job to follow up. While some media outlets might supply a copy, they are usually not in the habit or business of supplying tapes, tear sheets or reviews.
From AUTHOR 101 Book Series