Whether you are a writer or business person, then you know the importance of learning to pitch your ideas quickly and concisely.
I have been on the pitching end of PR to the media and publishers for twenty-five and learned early in this business there is one easy way to catch an interviewers attention. And the best news is anyone can do it.
It would be foolish to suggest there is only one correct way to pitch a product. However, I can tell you as one on the receiving end of author pitches in my role as a literary agent, I know there are solid ways to get my attention and equally solid ways to let me know that you don't have that edge I'm looking for.
Twenty-five years ago as a newbie in the publishing world working for a mid-level publishing house, I had to fight hard for media attention for my authors. The books often didn't have a huge marketing budget behind them, so it made my work as their publicist (which is the free side of marketing) even more important to the success of the project.
Because I didn't represent a Tier 1 publishing house, our authors didn't receive automatic attention. I had to define and position my authors so that they and their works received it anyway. Here are the important tips I learned that you can apply to the marketing of your own book or product. (I realize these are Publicity 101 tips, but I'm amazed at how often these basic instructions aren't followed...and they can make all the difference in the world.)
1. Position your book in your pitch with its unique factors.
If this is a novel, then go through and find the non-fiction elements that are trending. For non-fiction, it is easier, but do the same. Perhaps the story includes famous venue (which you researched and can share niche details), ties to an important historical date or fact, or an element of a current trending story. Make a list of those things that could be discussed in an interview and can help broaden your audience.
My friend, W. Terry Whalin, (who by the way has some tremendous writing tips he offers in Right Writing News or follow him @Terrywhalin) did this when he wrote the book, "Billy Graham, A Biography of America's Greatest Evangelist." He and his publisher tied the release to Rev. Graham's 95th birthday celebration and the release of his last book. There's nothing like catching the wave of publicity already taking place to help you with your own. #catchthewave
2. Find allies in the media who might relate to and champion your cause.
One of my books shared how a well-known minister had been instrumental (unknowingly) in a major miracle that occurred. Once the book was published I sent them a copy thanking them for the part they played and noting their role and the page number where it appeared in the book. I made it easy for them to find. This type work often results in perhaps a thank-you/endorsement you can use on your website and promotional material, an interview or alliance/partner link with the ministry. It's worth the effort.
Perhaps your book deals with, for example, adopting a handicapped child. There are several areas to leverage to help gain promotion such as working your release and publicity around National Adoption Day or World Orphan's Day. Or send a copy of your book with a press release highlighting important facts to a prestigious, recognized organizations that applaud and promote these efforts. This may also land an endorsement or recommended reading list on their website.
Or perhaps one of the main characters in your book (fiction or non-fiction) is a secretary (excuse me---administrative professional). Consider contacting The International Association of Administrative Professionals who might be willing to lend an endorsement, statement or assistance with your book. Send them a copy of your book. Not with a note that says, "I hope you enjoy this." That will get it tossed into File 13. Instead let them know in a quick nutshell, why it will interest them, how it applies and what you would like them to do. And that leads me to step #3.
Note: Most professional roles have some type of association to which they are linked. Find them and see if they might be instrumental in your marketing plan in some way. Again, do not just stick a promo copy of the book in the mail to them, with a "thought you might be interested" note. They won't be. Show them quickly and with detail, why the book would be of interest to their association.
3. Make their Job Easy for Them
Truly this is the most important tip I can give you from my twenty-five years in the business. Do the homework, so that you save them work. I've had several articles and interviews picked up over the years, because I did the extra grunt work in advance for the media professional which made it easy for them to say, "Yes" to my project.
What did that include? In addition to a promo copy of the book, I provided a press release with all the detail information on the price, release date, publisher and key points as well as author bio and links to their pages. I included a sample Q & A Sheet.
I pulled out 2-3 sections of the book which connected to trending news stories and how they connect. Then I showed how the author was an expert they could interview or how the book was an important reference tool---going so far as to provide stats and quotes the interviewer could easily pull out for their article or interview.
Did this take time? Absolutely. Did it always pay off. Absolutely not.
I recently had an interviewer tell me they couldn't be bothered with reviewing my materials because they were sooooo busy (and important) that they didn't have time to look up the material needed to write the story. I had to laugh.
First, it was their job to do interviews and the necessary research. So I wasn't sure how they performed their job if they were unwilling to do their part. I'm going to give them grace and say maybe they were having a bad day!
Second, had they simply opened the attached press release, they would have found that all of the information she had noted she needed for the article was all hand-delivered already for her in the press release. I had already done her work for her.
I gently let her know that the material she needed was all there...and an interview did result.
And that is a great reminder of why follow-up phone calls are imperative...to make sure the recipient not only received, but opened (and read) your email or package. Don't take anything for granted. Follow up.
I will say there have been numerous times that going the extra mile in this way, gave my projects the edge needed for my authors work to be chosen. It sometimes also garnered a kind compliment from the interviewer/editor who most are under fierce deadlines.
I always end by letting them know in what areas the author is an expert and how to contact them.
4. Utilize Your Research to Create a Promotional Article
If you wrote a book on marriage, perhaps your research included little known marriage destinations on a budget....or the top ten reasons marriage headed for divorce survive. Of if that wasn't in your book, you could still research and write an article about a popular newsy topic such as those and tie the book into the article. Local newspapers are often more than happy to run those type short articles...especially if you tie it into a national holiday or event. So are e-zines which are always looking for that kind of material. Once the story runs, although you may not get paid for the story, you can promote the link on your social media and web page to gain coverage and utilize their platform. The key is to find a connection and run with it.
5. Be Quick to Respond
It's the early bird that catches the worm in this industry. Most editors and interviewers are working on deadlines. Especially news writers. So if they are writing a story, and need a quick detail to finish, they may send a short email or call you to get what they need. If your voice mail box is full, your story probably just got deleted. If you don't call them back within the hour, your story probably just got bumped. If you don't respond to their email quickly with what they request, again your story may never see the light of day. Let me state again the key is to make their job easy for them.
I was able to secure an interview for a small business a couple of years ago for a story in an important paper. I did all the steps listed above with the press release and details, but the editor wanted a personal quote from the business owner. He called her for the quote. I learned later she was in the middle of running her kids around that day. She did pick up the phone and take his call, but let him know she was busy and couldn't talk with him right then. I tried to intervene and save the story once I learned what happened, but the editor was frustrated. The story never ran....never.
That may sound harsh to your ears, but remember we are competing with over 3 million books and authors that get published every year. They don't need us nearly as much as we need them. So go the extra mile, do the detailed homework. Check your e-mail and voicemails often when you have sent out pitches (and actually always) and always thank them for their time after the fact.
That's PR 101...and if you do it, you might be surprised that they will remember you next time and welcome your submission.