For authors, being on television is one of those rare milestones that can boost your value, strengthen your reputation, and increase your book sales in a matter of minutes.
The challenge, of course, is learning how to get the attention of a national television show's staff, which is inundated with new stories at all hours of day and night.
To help you craft more successful pitches, I recently interviewed David Perozzi, the producer of Anderson Cooper's new daytime show.
David, who very well may be the most generous guy in television, shared a long list of suggestions for getting your national television pitches noticed. Here they are:
Serve, support and assist. When you're pitching to a national television show, your job is to add value, not to sell your book or be the star. Throughout the process, you need to be prepared to help in any (and every) way you can.
Being the most helpful guest the show staff ever worked with, while also delivering a stellar on air performance, can take you a very long way.
(Most bestselling authors I know refine this skill with professional media training, which teaches you how to balance self-promotion with delivering valuable content to viewers.)
Research is king. Before you write the first word of your pitch, you "need to know the audience, the people watching the show you're pitching." If you're pitching a morning show, for instance, your story should appeal to stay-at-home moms and seniors, who are most likely to be home during the day.
Short is good. Punchy is better. Given people's packed schedules and abbreviated attention spans, the length of your pitch definitely matters. "Shorter is better, punchy is best, and sexy is always good. Try to hook them in 9 or 10 sentences," David recommends.
Be the squeaky wheel. The goal of your pitch is to get attention. Once you've done that, you'll need to follow up, often multiple times, by email and phone. Pitching major media, David adds, requires that you "aggressively pursue" each opportunity.
Work the system. Your initial point of contact at a television show is typically the booking department. Approach them first, David advises, but remember also to pitch the show's producer(s). The more points of contact you have, the better your chances of getting on air.
Never discount the "little gal." The more senior the person you're pitching to, the less time they have to look at your pitch. Assistants and associates, whether in the booking or production department, can be valuable allies -- if you approach them in an interesting, respectful way.
Be exclusive. The shows you're pitching want to offer their viewers fresh stories, so listing all the other shows you've been on can be "a real turn off," David says, because it makes you look "overexposed." Share your media resume if and when you're asked for it.
In that same spirit, it's best to pitch different story angles to different media, so you avoid "boilerplate" pitches that risk getting the attention of more than one show. Also, the more generic your pitch, the less likely it is to appeal to any particular show.
Sidestep the multimedia trap. Adding video to your pitch isn't always your best bet, David adds. Only include video in your pitch if it's "stunning" or "jaw dropping." If your video is even vaguely lackluster, it may weaken, or even kill, your pitch.
Face the facts. In visual media, visual matters. In daytime television particularly, David confesses, whether right or wrong, your looks are important. "People have to really be presentable and articulate and front the project in a compelling and attractive way." If you don't include photos in your pitch, expect that producers will Google your name to see what you look like. For evening and news shows, your appearance may be slightly less important than it is for daytime television.
As an author and former book publicist, I always recommend that authors work with a professional stylist, stay healthy, and remain as active as possible. While we can't all look like Heidi Klum, we can always put our best foot (face, hair and wardrobe) forward.
Keep rejection in perspective. A "no" can mean "not right now" or "not for this show." It's not uncommon for a producer to forward a good pitch to the producer of another show that may better fit that particular story.
We're all (just) human. Keep in mind, David adds, the media contacts you're pitching to "are people just like you and me. They're doing their job. They want to be able to present good stories to their executives. They want this to work. They want to have meetings about your book. It's just a matter of how it's pitched and if the content you've written is the right content for their particular outlet."
And last but not least... "It's important not to take this stuff so seriously," David concludes. The pitching process can be alternately fast and furious, and long and laborious. Whatever happens, try to "have a good time with it."
It is, after all, just television, which means the opportunities, while rarely timeless, are always abundant.
Arielle Ford has launched the careers of many NY Times bestselling authors including Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Neale Donald Walsch & Debbie Ford. She is a former book publicist, literary agent and the author of seven books. EverythingYouShouldKnow.com
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