An efficient media strategy can put your name and your book in front of a far bigger audience of potential readers than you can possibly reach yourself.
Unfortunately, many self-published authors assume that traditional publicity is out of reach. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Once those are in place, it’s time to focus on publicity and media coverage.
Over 30 years working in the media, I’ve been contacted by all kinds of people who wanted access to my audience — including authors, filmmakers, recording artists, comedians, businesspeople, as well as publicists representing those people.
Their pitches have ranged from elaborate and expensive (custom-made folders, branded tchotchkes, publicity materials printed on the fancy stationery) to some that were very simple (just an email or a few sheets of paper).
The best pitches weren’t necessarily those that were the most elaborate or the most expensive. In fact, what the best pitches have in common has nothing to do with expense or extravagance.
At the most basic level, a media pitch is simply correspondence that explains your story angle. It doesn’t require a formal press release, glossy paper, or a presentation over hors d’oeuvres or martinis.
At the end of the day, all that matters is whether your story angle will keep my audience engaged. You can send it via singing telegram — sure, it would get my attention — but it’s not going to help you if I don’t believe that my audience wants to hear your story.
[bctt tweet=”Here are five common myths about publicity for self-published authors”]
Plus ways to break them as you start your own promotional campaign.
Publicity myth #1: It won’t work for my kind of book
Every type of author has a fair shot at being interviewed, profiled or reviewed.
Sure, some types of books are easier to sell than others — but any kind of author with any kind of book is just as eligible for coverage from print, broadcast and digital media. It’s all in how you present yourself.
The next time you’re standing in the checkout line at the grocery store, take a look at the magazines racked next to the candy. The cover text text shouts story hooks that pique your curiosity. That text has one job: Get you to flip open the magazine.
The cover lines promise you the answers to secrets, gossip about someone’s private life, and tips to be healthier, wealthier, and/or wise. The text almost never proclaims, “Here’s a product that exists!” They’re always focused on topics and story angles that will make that audience turn the pages.
Now, let’s look at your book. No matter its primary topic, there are likely to be more discussion starters than “This book exists.” The topic of the book may lend itself to discussions about money, health, or issues of public interest.
But what if it doesn’t lend itself to an easy discussion starter? Maybe your book is a novel, a retelling of some obscure historical events, or a how-to book on building cabinets.
If that’s the case, you may have to dig a little deeper. But discussion starters are in there somewhere. What can you share about what inspired the book, or what you learned while writing it?
Publicity myth #2: Media coverage is expensive
Actually, publicity, by definition, doesn’t cost anything at all. If you have to pay for it, it’s called “advertising.”
You can book an interview yourself with just an email and a PDF copy of your press kit. And email and PDFs are free.
Now, should you hire a publicist?
Think of it this way: A good publicist can be like a guitar teacher or a tour guide or an athletic coach.
You don’t need to hire that person to play the guitar, take a mountain hike or train for a marathon. But a good teacher or guide may help you get results faster than you would have alone.
You may decide to hire a publicist or a marketing team. You just don’t have to.
If you’re going to be your own publicist, the first job is to figure out whom to contact. How do you do that? Let’s think of it as a series of circles around your target. Working our way from the outside toward the center:
- Your perfect audience
- The media outlet that speaks to that audience
- The reporter or producer at that outlet
- The best way to contact that reporter
Don’t be mesmerized by the size of a particular outlet’s audience — if that outlet doesn’t speak to your audience, you’re just wasting everybody’s time.
Remember to tailor your media pitch — which is more of a letter than a traditional press release — to a specific person at a specific outlet. Start with a goal of contacting 3-5 media influencers. Get some small wins before you start gambling away your time trying to get on The Today Show.
Remember, every time you appear in the media is valuable to your long-term goals.
Publicity myth #3: The media only cares about famous people
TV producers and print editors and webmasters only care about their audience.
Media producers are interested in any guest or topic that will hold that audience’s attention. If you can make a compelling case for your news angle’s appeal to the audience, you have a realistic chance of getting booked.
If you can make a case for your new book (as reviewed in myth #1), you’re well on your way to grabbing producers’ attention.
Publicity myth #4: All I have to do is announce myself
The best publicity pitches succinctly explain your story hook and why your idea is suitable for that specific audience. Since media professionals are always on deadline, “Here I am, figure me out!” pitches never get anywhere.
If you want that media contact to take you seriously, make your pitch clear and to the point. Explain who you are, why you’re pitching, and your story angle for their audience.
A strong publicity pitch will go past the “This book exists” angle and use that book as a discussion starter for that audience. In fact, the pitch may not even be about the book at all. It could be about a part of your research, or how current events can be viewed through the lens of your book.
Your story pitch won’t always be directly about your book. The resulting coverage will always include your book, since you’re the expert. See the difference?
Publicity myth #5: I only have one shot at media coverage for this book
For several years, I was the editor in chief for a group of music magazines. During that period, one of the sharpest publicists I knew found a brand-new excuse to pitch something about a particular client every six to eight weeks.
Some pitches got her client into the news column, some got the band into the review section, and some led to interviews. She understood that a strong publicity strategy unfolds over time.
How about you? Can you think of five or more different points of entry to start a discussion about your book?
As you plan your promotional campaign, think beyond “Here I am!” announcements and dig into what you have to offer readers, viewers and listeners.
If you know your target audience, and you know the media outlets that speak to that audience, there’s no reason you can’t come up with a great pitch. More importantly, there’s no reason you shouldn’t come up with a brand-new pitch for that audience every few months until you publish your next book.
And then the cycle can start again.
What tips do you have for authors pitching themselves to the media?