A few weeks ago I attended a media training event with panels presented by journalists from national news outlets (NPR, Associated Press, Mashable, Techcrunch, Time Warner News Broadcasting). These journalists are the ones who are writing and reporting on stories, and the people we are all trying to reach.
Here are their tips for how you, as an author or publisher, can get their attention, hopefully resulting in book publicity and press coverage for your book.
1. Tell a good story.
Everyone loves a good story, and having a good story makes it easy for a journalist to write a piece that is interesting and engaging. It is not enough to tell a journalist that you have a new book out. The journalist is interested in the whys and the hows: Why is this book relevant today? Why did you write this book? Why should my audience care about this book? How does this book tie-in to larger national conversations or trends? If you can answer one or all of these questions in a compelling way, the odds of getting press coverage will go up.
2. Make it about people.
Rick Willis, News Director for Time Warner Cable News said, “What makes good TV is a good story, and what makes good stories hasn’t changed since the Bible was written. It’s about people and people you can get emotionally attached to. If the story is about a thing, it’s hard to get emotionally attached to a thing.” When telling your story make sure to incorporate the human aspect of it. Focus on a person – the author, the person who inspired the novel, the people supporting or funding the book, the reader – so that there is an emotional hook form which the story can hang.
3. Keep it short and simple.
Avoid overcomplicating your story. Write your pitch the same way you would tell it to your neighbor. Journalists are inundated with pitches all the time. Your pitch can stand out if it’s short and to the point and allows the journalist to understand the concept after a quick scan.
4. Leverage Local
Local journalists are far more likely to cover a story about a local author than national outlets. Connect with your local journalists by following them on social media, meeting them at local events and offering to act as a source for them (see below). Many national stories get their genesis from a local stroy so focusing on the local angle is a good use of your time and resources.
5. Build relationships by becoming a source.
Just like most professional endeavors, networking counts. It’s easier to get press coverage if you already have a relationship with a journalist. Journalists are always looking for sources so a good way to begin these relationships is to reach out to your local journalists and offer to act as a source for them. You can be a source for any topics you are an expert in (your professional line of work if you write part time, cooking if you are a home master chef, raising kids, running a business, publishing or self-publishing, living in a certain type of community, hiking, biking, yoga, your political views, etc). You will build a relationship with journalists by giving them quotes or data when they are writing stories unrelated to your book. But now, when your book is published, you have a working relationship that you can leverage for a story that is focused exclusively on your book. The free online service HARO (Help a Reporter Out) allows you to set up your profile as a source and pitch journalists on your expertise.
6. Make it easy to get in touch.
Oftentimes journalists are working on a deadline and need to get in touch quickly. Make sure to include a phone number or working email address on your website so journalists can get in touch easily. It is also helpful to have ready-to-use photos on your website that specify that the media has a right to use so journalists can easily incorporate them into their story.
Successful book publicity requires an investment in time and in building relationships. Knowing that upfront and leveraging the tips above are your first steps in your journey to book publicity success.