In this episode, Chris shares why authors need publicity, how to approach the media, what to include in their media kit, how to get media even if your publicity shy or afraid of the spotlight, and how to do it without spending a fortune!
Free media kit templates: http://tiny.cc/diymediakits
Where to find holidays to tie your event to:
3 Key Points
Don’t pitch your book, pitch you as the expert and tie it to an event, holiday, etc-something that would be of interest to their audience.
Go for a niche audience who is actually interested in your topic, not a mass one who may not care about it.
Publicity doesn’t have to be scary; you can start small and you don’t have to be on camera if you aren’t comfortable doing that; it’s just about sending the right pitch to the right person.
[0:51] Today my guest is Chris Well, Chris has worked more than 30 years at national media brands.
He’s been a magazine editor, a columnist, a journalist, and a broadcaster, with field experience covering music, publishing, human interest, and more. (There was also that time he was the editor of a bridal magazine. He says, “Long story”.)
Chris is the founder of Build Your Brand Academy, a columnist for BookWorks, and recently returned to DIY Author as the new owner/editor. As a novelist, he’s written for traditional publishers and as a self-published author. As such, he can share his experiences from both sides of the desk so that authors can learn how to get the media to work with them.
[1:44] Ellen was excited to have Chris because she is not in the publicity with more traditional media space herself. Her area of expertise is more online.
[2:03] Why is publicity important for authors?
Every author needs to reach more people if they want to sell books, spread their message, and change the world. Other methods take a lot of energy and you could end up spinning your wheels. With publicity, you go to other people who already have an audience and get in front of their audience.
[2:47] What can publicity do that social media can’t do?
Social Media is about who you can reach yourself and whoever is in arms reach and you’re always talking to the same few people Plus, organic reach keeps going down, unless you are using pay to play. (i.e. paying Facebook). You only reach about 2% of those who say they want to hear from you. And if you pay you reach 4% or 8%-you’ll never reach a lot of people without spending a lot of money or doing a lot of labor-intensive work.
[3:48] You’re going to someone who has built an audience, a magazine, a podcast or a show. So, you’re able to reach a lot more people.
[4:25] Can authors do it on their own? Or do they need a publisher or to hire someone to do it for them?
Authors can do it themselves. They can hire someone to help them or do it for them but that can get costly and if they hire the wrong person they won’t get enough value out of it. But, there is no reason they can’t go directly to the media.
[4:53] In the old days, the media was like a castle with giant walls, the moat, and you had to travel to a faraway land and cross the moat and get past the guards at the gate because the media was owned by someone rich enough or powerful enough to own a distribution network or a printing press, or broadcast tower. But with the Internet and digital media there is more access and more opportunity than ever. And it’s a lot easier to get in touch with traditional media because you can find out who they are and, in most cases, email them. If you can find the right way to email the right person, you can absolutely do this yourself.
[5:51] When is the best time to promote your book? Does it have to be tied to an event in the media that is timely?
Tying into the news is one way. You have to say something interesting. You don’t lead with the book or yourself as the story unless you have a crazy amazing story. Pitch a topic or an angle so they think this is going to keep their audience engaged. Their #1 job is to keep the media or they lose their job.
[7:08] Here is something that your audience will find entertaining, educational or engaging in some way. If you can tie it into something going on at that time and speak from your expertise, then that is the way to pitch yourself. But, there are other ways as well.
[7:45] Example-a natural disaster-they are going to cover it anyway- and they are looking for people to give them something new to say. But, you can also think of seasonal things: at the time they were recording this the Oscars were coming, The Super Bowl was coming, The World Series… every holiday that was going to happen this year were coming. Find a way to speak about them because they were going to be in the news anyway.
[8:32] To go back to don’t pitch yourself, don’t pitch your book, you as an author are more than your book; you are an expert or a teacher or a speaker or a storyteller, so don’t focus on the book. Focus on what you can offer and the reason you can offer it. And once you are in front of that audience, they will naturally have to say this person is the author of this book and it’s one of the reasons they are the expert-it’s the proof that you are the expert.
[9:05] So if you’re thinking of the Super Bowl, Ellen thinks of champions, so she asked if it has to be specific to the Super Bowl, or it’s at the Super Bowl time, but it’s actually about being a champion (which you could tie to several other events as well throughout the year).
As long as it ties in in some way, sure. It could also work for the Olympics or other sporting events (or academics like a spelling bee for instance). If you don’t have an exact connection, it actually gives you a lot of flexibility. And there are numerous points of entry with the Super Bowl. People could be thinking about the economics of it, or that it’s a global event. If there is a natural seque in and out of an event, you can use it. But if it’s a pitch that would work for several, don’t just pitch for one and think you are done with it.
[11:21] With the champion idea, every time there is an excuse to talk about it, you tailor it and re-pitch it. It could be for a business event.
[12:51] You really want to come up with multiple ideas or multiple ways to talk about your book.
[13:12] Publishers think about books like perishable fruit. They put them out for six weeks and then they’ve moved on to something else and they are done with your book. But, for you, as long as the book is relevant, you can continue promoting it, continue expanding your influence, reaching out to new audiences and continue building your brand. You could have at least six completely different ways to talk about your idea throughout the year from events coming up, there’s a convention, a sporting event, the financial aspects of your topic if there are some, then you’ve got tax season, or a relationship aspect, there is Valentine’s Day. You might also think about military holidays or kinds of special days throughout the year. Holiday Insights (dot) com. www.holidayinsights.com/moreholidays
[15:17] It gives you a framework throughout the year to schedule the year from.
Chris worked at a music magazine and they did a much better job. One publicist would find a reason every six weeks to get her band into the news. Once week they would be in the news column, a couple of issues later there’s an interview, then a review, then in another part…
[16:24] You want multiple ways to talk about your expertise so you can go to more places and so you can keep going back to the same place because if you pitch something and they say “No”. When you come back two months later etc. with a different pitch you’re not nagging them because you started a new conversation. And maybe the second one they’ll like or the third one. Or, they were interested and it fell through the cracks for some reason, so when you come back with a new idea, they will be glad to hear from you because they wanted to do something with you. But if it’s a podcast, you don’t want to come back in two months; it’s too soon. But, if it’s a medium that does multiple things like a magazine or newspaper, a website or blog, you can potentially show up again and again, but you can’t bring the same pitch each time
[17:41] What are some of the best ways for authors to get started with publicity?
Chris tells authors three things starting out:
- Start small
- Start local
- Start with text
[17:58] Start small means niche media. It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking they should go after the large audience to get in front of lots of people , but it is not only hard to get into but that audience potentially doesn’t really care-it’s on in the background while getting ready for work etc. but on a niche show that is more about your topic, the audience is there because they care about it and are more likely to be engaged and get on your website, be involved in social media and buy your book.
[19:03] And in the case of local, there’s less competition. And even though it may be more general but they are pulling for you- and you’re still having trouble not pitching yourself, because being a local author IS news. So, it’s good practice in a much lower competition situation.
[19:50] Start with text, a text interview-a blog, newspaper, or magazine, it’s done by email so you don’t have to worry about how you look, how you are going to sound, how you are dressed-you don’t have to go to a studio and get some quick wins. Then, you can put it on your media page and put these in your portfolio, which will set you up for more opportunities because you can prove that you’ve been in the media, you can demonstrate that you’re a good guest and you’re getting a lot of practice so you are more comfortable as you start getting in front of bigger media.
[20:57] Ellen thought that was great because so many people have blocks about how they look or sound, so it’s good to know they don’t have to start out worrying about that.
[21:12] For an introvert or someone uncomfortable with the media or being on camera, there are a lot of places you can do media and publicity without ever being on camera or being on a microphone or without ever driving to a studio. Ellen added that that’s especially great for authors who tend to be introverts and want to sit at home and write.
[21:40] Another thing that holds people back is a media kit. What can help with that?
It doesn’t have to be expensive. Most of the pieces in a kit or on your media page, you can make yourself with a Word program.
If the media is considering you, the first thing they do will research you. It’s part of deciding if they want to interview or feature you, or if they decide they are going to it helps them get ready for the interview. Or if you’ve made a comprehensive kit, they may be able to grab and use some of them. These are also the kinds of things that will explain you to event planners, booksellers, librarians, potential readers; they serve as promotional materials to a person who is curious and they serve as bonus materials to a reader who already likes you and wants to know more.
[23:09] Pieces to include:
Pieces about you as an author: author bio, suggested interview questions or an author Q & with questions that you actually have answered. That will work well for text media. So, they can copy and paste a quote or copy and paste the interview.
Pieces about this book specifically that you are promoting: an excerpt of the book, a description of the book, maybe a press release, a one sheet, your book cover-not fancy, not 3D, just a straight flat cover-no filters and an author photo of you looking at the camera. Not photos of your events or personal life. It’s fine for your website not your media kit. With enough room around your face so they can crop it if they need to. You don’t have to hire a photographer. You can use the smartphone. You must have more light in front of you than behind you with a plain background If you can’t take it yourself, you can have someone else take it of you.
[25:13] How does an author figure out who to contact in the media?
Ask yourself , “Which niche audience do you want to go after?”And, “Who are the media who talk to your audience? What are the shows they watch? The podcasts they listen to? What publications do they read?” Go to those places and figure out who is the decision maker for editorial content in a publication, it might be a department editor, a section editor. For a small publication, you might reach out to the columnist directly. Or the host directly. For a bigger outfit- tv or radio, you might be looking for a segment producer and if it’s a podcast reach out directly to the host most likely.
[26:18] Once you figure out the media outlet and the person you are going to contact…, BTW: you don’t send out mass emails. You want to talk to a specific person at a specific place by name. You can send the same pitch to multiple people as long as they are sent to each person with their information in the heading. Hello person by this name, at this place this is your audience and this is why your audience would be interested in this topic. Then, you can find that person in the staff box at the front or back of a publication, also potentially on the website.
If it’s a show, look for the credits, probably at the end for who made that show. It could also be on the website. Once you find them you can go a step further, find them online, on a website, social platforms, you can start to figure out what they are posting and that will tell you the kinds of things they are interested in and/or what they are focused on which helps with the pitch.
“I noticed that you cover this, or are interested in this, or focused on this…My angle compliments that or contrasts with that.” The more personalized it is, the more it feels like a conversation. If it feels like a mass email it’s easy to delete. But, if it’s a personal email, it’s harder to dismiss you. It doesn’t mean they will agree you’re a good fit, but it raises your odds.
[28:35] What are the common mistakes authors make reaching out to the media?
Aside from sending mass emails….pitching something that is not relevant.
Pitch a specific topic or angle that you can speak to from your expertise.
Don’t say, “I’m an author I have a book.” You are pitching something specific to talk about.
Don’t make the materials hard to find, hard to access, or hard to use. Don’t put them where you need an account or password to get to them.
Don’t make it too long. Understand that the media is working way ahead on their schedule. Don’t wait until the last minute to pitch something that is timely. Pitch 60-90 days ahead of the event or deadline. Otherwise, all their slots could be taken or gone to press or the editor. The worst case you want is to hear it’s too soon and to come back later.
Ellen agreed. She used to work for trade magazines and when it’s deadline, it’s deadline. Once it goes to print, that’s it.
[31:19] Do you have to reach out yourself or can you hire someone (a Virtual Assistant) to reach out for you?
Someone can do it on your behalf- if they are sending your email out in your name-representing your company and the name of your company is in the signature. As long as it’s professional and still follows the rule of trying to make it easier for the media person. But you don’t want to have someone reach out and put the media person on hold to wait while you come to the phone.
The pitch still needs to be to the point. It can’t be, “Are you interested in my author?” But, “Would you be interested in talking to this author on this topic?” But it might be, my author has a new book and here are some topics he/she, do any of these sound interesting to you? “You don’t want the media person to have to figure out why you are interested. It’s your job to explain to them why you would be a great fit.
You could even write the pitch and have the VA send it.
[34:56] Closing thoughts
Publicity doesn’t have to be scary. You don’t have to jump in fast or hard. It’s just about sending the right email to the right person. You can do it at your own pace. Don’t feel like you have to go on a media blitz or invest a lot of money or do anything faster than you are comfortable with. And as mentioned earlier, don’t feel like you have to be on camera. You can exclusively talk to podcasts or websites, that’s fine. You can mold them to your schedule, your energy level or whatever your comfort level is in terms of appearing in public.
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