Attracting the Press

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://208.78.223.6/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?

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12 thoughts on “Attracting the Press”

  1. This is all great information, Jennifer. It fills a huge gap in my marketing plan, as I have done very little of this type of reaching out to media. I sent out press releases on two of my books to local papers and got no response despite following up a couple of weeks later. My problem is time! All of this takes research time, preparation time (I don’t find writing a press release to be easy), and persistence with follow through. Although the exposure is potentially great, (kudos Kourtney!), I’m not convinced any of it leads to direct sales. I’ve come to the conclusion that my time is better spent advertising on line where most people are “buying” books these days–especially since mine are not found in brick and mortar stores. I’d love to hear your take on this.

    1. Good questions, PJ. I’d be curious to see if this sort of thing leads to an immediate translation in sales, but I suspect it’s more about building a profile and a record of media presence. One or two small spots may lead to something bigger, and then you are guest-hosting on a national morning talk show 😉

      The question of opportunity costs is a good one, too. If this Might work after some time and effort, but you have other tools that you know will work now, how much of your limited time are you willing to give to find out?

      I wonder if enough media presence could entice a few Brick and Mortar shops to carry our books, too…
      Questions, questions
      Cheers!

      1. I released the book and got the press around the same time. It’s really hard to say what lead to sales. I really don’t know how anyone can conclusively or confidently say what caused sales when they are doing multiple things simultaneously to sell books. I posted on my blog, FB, Twitter that the book was released. Without knowing the names of the individuals who bought the book, I can’t say how many were my followers vs. strangers who saw me in the paper or on tv. I can say my numbers spiked around the press.

        I do think it helped influence some people to buy the book.

        My question would be how do you know if any tool works with absolute confidence? This is my debut novel so I’ve been doing anything and everything I can to promote it. No opportunity is not taken. But that means multiple variables are changing at the same time. How can you tell which is the one that is working?

    2. PJ, I had no idea how to write a press release. I hired Market or Die Author Services to help me. I also hired them to do the bulk of the contact with the press. It’s a time vs. money issue. As a debut author, I had no idea what worked so I hired an expert to help me out. We got lucky. I did notice sales spiked around the tv coverage but it also was around the time of my release. I can’t say where the buyers came from–I don’t have the data on that. But I do think the press helped spread the word and get interest in my book. 🙂

    3. PJ- It’s great that you know what works for you, but make sure that you are looking at marketing through a wide enough lens so that you won’t deny yourself opportunities to try something new.

  2. Great information, Jen.

    I was thinking of creating multiple PRs for different markets. A local author PR, a PR for the state my book is set in. A PR for the Deaf community because my heroine is deaf. A PR for the Christian market…

    Would this be beneficial?

  3. For people who want to write their own press releases, sources for examples are college and university communications offices (also called public affairs, media relations, etc.) which are free and plentiful on the web. One fashionable thing at the moment is the “web teaser” text which appears below the headline before the text of the release. Stanford University utilizes this format, for example, http://news.stanford.edu/pr/2013/pr-jurafsky-mcfarland-dating-050613.html The purpose of this is ready-made text for an index page that entices people to click through. Of course not all media outlets will utilize such text, but if they do it is a good idea to have it prepared for them!

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