This edited transcript is the third in a four-part series from an interview on Jan. 12, 2015. Julie Eason asks me about how authors can do their own publicity. Prefer audio? You can listen to the podcast on iTunes or on Stitcher Radio. Part 4 will be published here tomorrow.
Julie Anne: Let’s say we actually want to find our readers among the “Today” show viewers or New York Times readers or whoever, even the local Bangor Daily News. I live in Maine. What if we want to get that traditional media coverage. How do authors go about doing that?
Joan: I hear—and you probably hear this, too—“I want to be on Oprah,” “I want to be on the ‘Today’ show,” “I want to be on Fox & Friends.” First, if you’ve never done TV in your life, you have no business pitching the ‘Today’ show or ‘Fox & Friends.’ OK? I want you to go to your local TV station in Bangor, Maine and try to get on the small channels, even if it’s public access TV.
You say, “Nobody watches public access TV.” Get on it anyway because it will help you make your mistakes in front of the camera, so that by the time you’re getting onto bigger and better shows, you’ve made all your mistakes on TV and you’ve learned from them. I promise you, you will make mistakes. I’ve made mistakes on news shows I’ve been on, and I learned from them.
Start low and work your way up.
Weekly Newspapers Want Local News
If you’re trying to get into print media in your own community, try your weekly newspaper. Their bread and butter is local news, versus the daily, which has a lot of information from the wire services.
Go after the weeklies, talk about your work as a writer or editor.
In little my little weekly here in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, there was a story about a woman author. What was her book about? I can’t even remember. She’s a local author, she’s older and her book has something to do with the environment. She got about a quarter of a page story with a photo showing her holding up her book. The story refers to her West Coast book tour and why she’s written it and all of this. Newspapers love those stories because you’re a local hero.
How to Pitch Journalists
Julie Anne: Absolutely. What’s the best way to get a hold of the journalists or the people involved in actually producing these stories?
Julie Anne: Email?
Joan: In general, it’s email. Before you pitch anybody—anybody—and this is a cardinal rule and you better not break it because if you break it, you’re probably not going to get publicity. You need to research the media outlet you’re pitching. You need to know who their target market is and what their audience needs.
You should also know if they’ve covered your topic in the past because if you pitch a story idea that they just covered last month, they’re going to know that you probably don’t read the publication.
Julie Anne: I was going to say sometimes it’s a good thing that they’ve covered it before though, because if you know they cover local authors and what they’re doing with their books, then there’s a good chance that they’ll cover you, too. But if it’s not a regular monthly column or something, you may want to wait a little bit of time before you start pitching them.
Joan: OK, good. You see the author’s story in the local Ozaukee Press where I live, and let’s say I’m an author and I pitch myself. I may wait a month or two and when I pitch the editor, I will reference the story about the older woman author to let him know that I have seen that, i.e.: I read the story and I know you covered it.
Julie, I can see and smell an off-topic pitch from 20 miles an away. I get pitched a lot by people who want to guest blog for me. I get pitches from people who want to write about how to be a good salesperson.
Julie Anne: Right, and that has nothing to do with what your audience needs. This is all again back to target market.
Julie Anne: It’s the most important thing that you can understand. It’s not only what your target market is, but what are those media outlets? What are their target markets? That journalist’s Number One job is to keep those readers happy, otherwise they lose their job.
Publicity Mistakes New Authors Make
Julie Anne: All right. I know that you have a ton of strategies and you do webinars and all kinds of things online, teaching how to write press releases and all the tools you use and online and offline and you have a crazy amount of resources. Let’s go and switch gears into some of the mistakes that beginning authors make when they’re trying to publicize their books. We’ve already covered pull marketing or push marketing where they’re pushing out, “Buy my book, buy my book.” We’ve already covered target market. Are there any other big mistakes that we should avoid?
Joan: Well, the big mistake that I see a lot of authors making is that they don’t understand that their ideal readers and even ideal reviewers—and that includes readers—they’re all over the Internet and there are a lot of places that you might not know about and they’re in very tight niches. For example, most authors are familiar with Goodreads. Go to Goodreads and find those groups, find those niche groups of readers.
There are Goodreads groups that devote themselves to only one character in the Harry Potter novels, for example. You think that’s crazy. Why would they do that? Because they are in love, not only with the Harry Potter series of books, but with that particular character. They are passionate about talking about that character.
There are lots of reader review and recommendation sites and Goodreads is the biggest one. Barnes & Noble has one, Amazon has them, there’s one called Romance Times. If you just do a Google search for reader review and recommendation sites, they are all over the internet and that’s one of the best places to find readers.
Julie Anne: Awesome. Finding your readers and going directly to them and setting yourself up as an expert, really the best way to get that public outreach that you need in order to sell your books and sell your products and services.
Tools to Help You: