Not very long ago, I spoke to the Long Island Romance Writers, a great group who are very interested in marketing. During my presentation, we discussed press kits, what goes in them, and who they should be sent to. I rattled off the list like I always do: author bio (long and short), author photo, cover flat, business card, endorsements from other authors and reviews, if you have them, and your press release. As soon as I finished, hands flew in the air. One of the members said, “I have press kit materials available for download on my website, but I don’t think anyone’s ever used them.”
That got me thinking.
The LIRW member was probably right. No one had used the press materials she spent time and money creating. Then, I asked a few of my own chaptermates and got the same answers. Yes, it was all up there: author bio (long and short), author photo, cover flat, endorsements from other authors and reviews and the press release, but never downloaded.
Why? My best guess? Most authors aren’t taught how to attract the press. Therefore, I’m using this article to put together a cheat sheet for how it’s done. And, I’ll prove to you this method works by using RWA Member Kourtney Heintz and the press coverage she received for her book “The Six Train to Wisconsin” as my example.
Step One: Create a Hook
Just as you would create a hook for a query letter or pitch, you need one for your press release, especially if you are soliciting a feature story. Ask yourself, “Why would anyone care?” Your answer, the hook. In Kourtney’s case, she used her contest results to create her hook. “Author Jumps from small town Connecticut to Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Semifinalist.”
Step Two: Start small
Your local, hometown paper is your best friend. Start there first. Most local papers like stories about residents who are newsworthy. Generally, their contact information is easy to find. If it’s not printed in the paper, it is usually listed online. Ms. Heintz sent her press release into the Waterbury –Republican, hoping for a mention in their “Book Briefs” column.
In response, got a photo of her book cover and a nice mention. But it didn’t stop there. They followed up with a short article on her called “Hot Wolcott Author Makes Appearances at Waterbury Venues”. Then she received a call from an award-winning reporter to schedule an interview. Ms. Heintz was given a full-page feature and her photo was placed on the cover of the Accent/Women section. Her article was then uploaded to the AP, where it was run in the Newsday Long Island. http://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/author-turns-wall-street-layoff-into-second-career-1.5195361. And, it didn’t stop there. It was also picked up and published in The Republic, in Columbus Indiana, http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/82e9d9a861834e6588cbcde4e40927a9/CT-FEA–Second-Career-Author
Step Three: Solicit everything free
Most regional newspapers and arts & entertainment sites have a section on line for readers to submit stories, events and press releases. Take advantage of these opportunities and upload like mad! Kourtney uploaded her press release to the Hartford Courant, http://articles.courant.com/2013-04-27/community/hcrs-74087hc-statewide-20130423_1_heintz-book-signing-oliver
Step Four: Branch out Past Newspapers
Once your story runs locally, and regionally, it’s time to take it to other media sources. Radio, podcasts and daytime television are your next step. Email your press release with links to where your articles have run online and in the paper; include copies of all the press you have received. By attaching links to past coverage, you are showing the media that you have a story people are interested in. No piece of media coverage is too small. Using this approach, Kourtney was featured on WTNH’s CT Style, a local daytime news show. http://www.wtnh.com/dpp/ct_style/wall-street-to-wolcott-author-kourtney-heintz#.UZWY5rXqlZ4
She also snared a radio interview, EVERYTHING INTERNET 660AM Dallas/Decatur with Ed Frazier and Lisa Mckibben to talk about her book. http://18.104.22.168/EIradioshow/EINSHOW051113Seg3.mp3
The above was Ms. Heintz’s approach to earned media. If you pay to have something distributed, then it’s paid media. But if someone else distributes it for you, like the Associated Press, then it’s earned media. Earned media takes a good story, perseverance and a great deal of luck.
The last step is always national media coverage with solicitation of national newspapers like USA Today, and morning shows like GMA. Now, a little birdie told me Kourtney is working on these, I’ll let you know how it goes.
As for the rest of us, while a press kit hosted on your website is nice to have, it’s passive. Don’t be afraid to actively solicit your local newspaper and see what happens. Press releases are easy to write. If you’ve never written a press release, please remember to write it in the third person. Always include, “For Immediate Release” at the top of the page. This lets the newspaper know they can proceed with the story. List all of your contact information, including your address and phone as well as links to your social media profiles. Finally, make sure you call yourself by your last name. In Kourtney’s case, she is referred to as Heintz, not Ms. Heintz.
So, tell me. What tactics have you used to attract the attention of the press? What has worked? And, what hasn’t?