In the age of all things social media, we don't get as many requests for stand-alone media campaigns. Which is good... I've never actually recommended stand-alone campaigns. I think good marketing is a blend of various things and in some cases, media is a part of that. With that in mind, our indie authors often ask us what they can do to keep their book marketing momentum building. Here are some guidelines I've pulled together to keep in mind when you're pitching media - whether your focus is National, Regional, or Local.
Do You Know Your Media?
First you need to know the right media for your topic and book - as well as media that will align best with your background and expertise. In this hot, political season, we get a lot of authors who want their books to be mentioned on all the big morning shows, talk shows, etc. But they have no platform, no blog, and no prior media. That makes it really, really hard. Unless you have Trump's love child (or Bill's), this is going to be a long shot at best. But stick around, because if you can't be in the top media markets, there are other places you could get your message out to.
What's Your Expertise, Really?
I think it's always good to know your limitations. And I don't mean this in a negative way. I mean know what your expertise is, really. Let's go back to the political books. A few months ago I had a guy pitch me a book about Trump, why he hates him and why he'll ruin America. When I asked him what his political background was he said: None, I just hate Trump. Well, ok, but therein lies the problem. For most non-fiction markets you really need some "juice" to back up your statements. If you wrote a book on strong relationships, you'd better have some traction in that market vis-a-vie your business, speaking, other books you've written, etc. Writing a book makes you an expert, to some degree - but in order to get media attention, you'll need more than a single book on your resume.
What is Your Book Hook?
So what's your media hook? I mean what's going to get them really interested in your topic. If your answer is: I wrote a book. Then I suggest you go a little deeper. Writing a book, in and of itself, it's newsworthy. However, the angle attached to it, could be. So what's a book hook? It's a hook that you can anchor your story to. Think: HUH - Hip, Unique, Helpful. So it's current, meaning in terms of either pop culture or news. Or maybe it's timely in that it's an upcoming holiday - even a less than major one like National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, or National Margarita Day. It could even tie into an upcoming movie release, or some celebrity news. You get the idea. But your story should tie into something bigger. Anchor or hook your book onto a bigger topic.
Years ago, I hooked a fiction book to a Presidential race and got an Amazon bestseller out of it. You can see that story here.
Point being, find something that's relevant to your topic - even if it's less than serious. For example, most Americans are already pretty sick of the election, maybe you have a funny, anecdotal story that ties into your book that you can share. Something that adds some levity to an election process that's lasted 14,975 days.
How to Write Your Pitch
Now it's crunch time. Pitches are extremely important and it's not so much what you say, but what you don't say. Keep your pitch short - one paragraph max. Think "above the fold" the old news term related to important news that was always above the fold in newspapers. Next, you want to consider your subject line because the media you are pitching will absolutely judge your pitch my its subject line. Saying something like: Pitch for consideration or Local author publishes controversial book will almost certainly not get your email opened.
Think short, punchy, here are some examples of email subject lines I've used successfully:
Holiday: Valentine's Day
Hook: Did You Know You Could Meet Mr. Right in a Soup Kitchen?
The story behind the hook: Our volunteerism author commented on how singletons are meeting their significant others while volunteering. While her book did not focus on singles and volunteerism, she knew enough about this topic to comment on it. Once we did our research we found that single volunteer organizations were springing up all across the country.
Hook: Give Your Kids the Gift of Laughter This Holiday Season!
The story behind the hook: We were working with an author who specialized in the importance of humor and children. He offered ways to give kids the gift of a lifetime: laughter.
Calendar hook: Fire Prevention Week
Hook: How to Get Organized Without Resorting to Arson
The story behind the hook: Our author had a book about organization but the title pulled right into Fire Prevention Week so while promoting it around other dates that supported organization, we also pushed it during Fire Prevention Week!
Calendar hook: Holidays
Hook: When Airplanes and Relatives Don't Leave on Time
The story behind the hook: This was a humor-based book about family dynamics around the holidays. The media loved this, we got tons of radio, print and TV for this hook! We also had the good luck (or bad, depending on your perspective) of a massive snowstorm that shut down the east coast and ground most transportation right after Thanksgiving so it was a great local tie-in.
I love local media. Not because it's easier to pitch there (because it isn't) but it's a great place to start and they are often looking for stories with a local tie in. Also, most bigger shows have "scouts" who look for things that are buzzing in regional areas. It could be a good way to get into national outlets. Also, local media is a great place to get your feet wet. If you're a newbie to media and have no media resume, build it locally first. And here's a tip: regional media loves a local spin on a story that's making national news. So consider that as your first angle.
Don't Forget the Power of Social Media
Following media on social media networks is always a great idea. Also, if you follow them on places like Pinterest and Facebook, you may also be able to get a sense of their own personal interests as you're deciding who to pitch and/or you may incorporate that into your pitch. Media likes to know you're paying attention and a personalized pitch that shows you've done your homework is a great way to do that.
Utilize Twitter Lists
One thing I will also do is start Twitter lists for various media I'm trying to get in front of. I like to see what they are tweeting, share their tweets, and respond to their content. You can create Twitter Lists very simply on the Twitter page itself. It's a good way to track media and also other experts in your market.
Think of Media in Terms a Relationship, Not a One-Night Stand
When you're "in" with media - whether it's local or national, this isn't going to be a one and done kind of a thing. Media will often call on their experts regularly to comment on stories so foster these relationships by staying in touch with them. Comment on their blog posts if they have one, share other stories they've written or have done in a broadcast medium. Building those relationships will help you for many years to come.
Update Your Website/About Page/Media Room
If you're going to pitch anyone - I don't care if it's media, bloggers, or your local bookstore, make sure that your website is ready to go. You have a solid About the Author Page that highlights your areas of expertise, what you've done, associations you belong to, awards you've won, etc. Your media room is also important. Be sure to list all media you've done, and I mean all. I had a gal who was on the talk show circuit years ago when Oprah had her show - she was on Sally Jessy Rafael - and failed to mention it and other shows she'd done because they were no longer on the air. Mention them anyway. Media likes media and we all know shows come and go.
Be a Connector
You're not always going to be able to comment on every story that the media comes to you with. It's ok to say you don't know but at the same time you should offer to find someone who does. The more you can connect the media to the right people (even if that's not you) the more you'll become the go-to for all of their relevant stories.
Are You Blogging?
If you are promoting your book you need a blog. Especially when it comes to media, your blog will not only show your generosity of information but it will also show the depth of your knowledge as it relates to your topic.
Write A Thank You
Whether you received the best media coverage on the planet, or none at all - always send a hand-written thank you note. "Thank you for considering me!" Is a great one if you got rejected - yes, I said rejected. Remember it's not personal. Our media people are tasked with the sometimes impossible job of finding the exact right expert for their topic. That may or may not always be you. Thank them anyway.
Understand the Building Blocks
I once wrote an article titled Nobody is Born Famous - and by that I mean that unless you are a celeb baby, most of us don't pop out of the womb a celeb or without our Twitter handle of a million followers. Things take time. Even if you have the hottest topic out there, if you have no platform or history with it or the media, you may get ignored. Your building blocks consist of your website, your social media, your blog and any pitching you've done for yourself. I know some authors who so methodically build their on- and off-line presence it's almost magical to watch. They know they need to start off small(ish) and build from there. They know that one media hit leads to another. One big blogger hit leads to another, and they know that each they do, can build on another.
If you start off with a solid foundation, you could market your existing book for years - or as long as its relevant. The runway to success is not short but long - think of a plane taking off from an airport. Most don't start their engines and poof, they're in the air. They start their engines, warm up, approach their target and then charge down the runway until they take off.
You can take off, too - because no matter how much we see in social media, our traditional media is still in need of good stories, great experts, and unique insight.