It’s one thing to write a book, it’s quite another to truly understand which book marketing strategies get the attention you deserve. Book promotion feels tough, and it is tough – but it’s not impossible. And when it comes to media pitching, national and otherwise, the rules have really changed.
I’ve written a lot about how a great media pitch can improve a lot of your book marketing strategies, beyond media pitching even, and why a solid subject line is more likely to get your intended target to open your email, but I want to go beyond that. I’ll go a bit behind the scenes, so you know what the media really wants – and it’s more than just an outstanding pitch.
First and foremost the media wants someone who is an expert – who is on top of changing trends, new statistics, and who brings with them a robust social media platform. I’ve had reporters tell me that they sometimes won’t pick an author who isn’t really active on social, or who has a following that isn’t engaged with their message.
Now let’s take a look at that, and other important book marketing strategies that factor into whether or not you’ll get the ‘yes’ you’re looking for on your next big book promotion push.
Timing Your Pitch: It’s really important to know when to time a pitch for a higher acceptance rate. We have an author who came to us in late spring, asking to get pitched to national media – talk shows, morning shows, you get the idea. The issue is that while morning shows continue through the summer, talk shows have either gone on hiatus, or will soon as the May sweeps winds down. Most won’t come back online till August when they begin filming shows for the fall season. So pitching for a talk show now, for example, won’t really help her much. Also, the returning shows like to kick off their September lineup with big-name authors – bestsellers and often those who are traditionally published.
An option would be to look at the post-September season into fall, October and beyond, and pitch something that ties into that time of year. Regardless of the media pitching you’re doing, unless it’s a timely news topic – meaning something they need an expert on ASAP – you are likely pitching weeks or even months before the show airs.
In the case of national magazines, they always work well in advance of their issues – 3-6 months out in most cases, and most share editorial calendars so you can figure out when your topic might have a chance at fitting into their lineup.
What You Bring to the Table: This means you need to be blogging on your website, at least a few times a month. Being a voice in your market is part of your platform, and the media cares about this. Also, get busy on social media, but keep in mind a robust social media presence doesn’t have to mean running yourself ragged on every social site, it can be your Instagram or Twitter feed that’s your main go-to, but it must be active and followers should be responding to you. This is called engagement, and you need lots of it to support all your book marketing strategies. Why does the media care about this? I’ve had journalists and producers say that the potential bounce a story can get from whatever the author can accomplish, by sharing on social, always helps when they’re trying to sell a story to their boss.
Being A Unique Expert: You should always be an expert in your market. You should know trends and be aware of statistics that are critical for your area of expertise. Why? Because if you’re pitching the media you need to be a voice in the industry, and being an expert is part of that. Getting quoted in trade publications, or even in local media, is helpful and contributes to your platform, just like networking with followers on social media is always a great way to enhance your presence and build your platform. And don’t forget the competition. By this I mean you need to have a unique point of view for your topic, because no one in the media is interested in featuring someone that can only regurgitate what’s already out there. Think critically about how your POV stacks up and don’t take the easy way out by telling yourself “it’s good” because “good” won’t get you a ‘yes’ either – you need to be beyond great.
Pitching Current Events: The media is always looking for experts – so if there’s something going on in your industry that you can speak to, by all means pitch yourself and your talking points. Let’s say you have a book out on airplanes, and you want to pitch yourself around the 737-Max jet issue that Boeing has been having. Come up with a new angle, something someone hasn’t talked about yet and pitch that. Choosing news topics is often referred to as news-jacking, meaning you’re anchoring your media pitching to something that’s top of mind in the news. This can be a great way to garner lots and lots of media if your point of view is unique and if you pitch them in a timely fashion.
Building Your Media Room: To improve your book promotion and your brand overall you have to have a media room on your website. List where you’ve been featured previously, including links to the show or buzz reels, whereby you show what a good interview you are. If you have none of this, I’d suggest working with a media trainer/videographer to create some sample reels that you can put up on your website to show off your interviewing skills. This is also a great time to start creating video clips for your social, because the more on-camera time you can log, the better your platform looks. Think of short, 2-5 minute videos where you cover a single tip, tackle a common problem or question your audience faces, etc.
Starting Local to go National: In most cases authors just aren’t ready for big media, that’s the hard truth – so you need to work up to being in the national spotlight. You can do that by pitching yourself to your local media market. Local media loves their neighborhood authors, so capitalize on that. But know they still need a story; they won’t cover you simply because of your zip code and the fact that you have a book for sale. If you are doing any local events, this is a great reason to get in touch with them with as much lead time as possible. The other reason I love local media is that the bigger shows often have scouts all over the country (either living in these cities or tracking them from the main office). National media loves to be the first to break a potentially big news story, or bring in someone who is building buzz on a local level.
Studying the Media: One thing I’ve become obsessed about in my eighteen+ years in media is studying what’s trending and what’s top of mind. Both so I can pitch our current authors, but also so I can keep an eye on what’s coming up, to ensure my book marketing strategies are always current. You should do the same, and it’s pretty easy on sites like Apple News and others which allow you to plug in your keyword and see everything that’s being written on your area of expertise. Staying on top of what’s going on in your industry will not only help you craft a better pitch, but it could also help you during an interview – to quote statistics or other factoids, maybe dispel or challenge some common misconceptions, all that is critical to the readers, listeners, or viewership.
Being Different: I agonize over all of the pitches I write, and clients who work with us for media pitching know that I often push them to the very edges of their comfort zone. Why? Because the media needs different, a different angle or topic or slant to an old story. Come up with a new way to talk about something, or a new spin on an old topic – combine this with your unique point of view and you’ve got a winning combination. Because you can’t expect to get big media attention if what you bring to the table isn’t different. Most importantly: the media wants to look smart and they want to be an undeniably effective source for information. If you can help them achieve that in some way, you’re light years ahead of the competition.
Doing the Work: Your media pitching needs to be succinct and on point, include tips whenever appropriate, do as much of the work for the media that you can. Make their job easier, and the more likely you are to get that foot in the door. Think and write in talking points. There’s a term I like to use called HUH – Hip, Unique, Helpful. These are all the things the media is looking for. Remember it’s not about you, it’s about their audience and that’s all they care about.
Being Self-Aware: Your book marketing strategies will continue to fall flat if you’re not able to put a critical eye on your own work. This means not just ensuring your media pitching is on point, but also ensuring your branding is super clear, your website and top social accounts are clean and branded accordingly, your book cover looks like it belongs on the bestseller list, you’ve secured at least 50 reviews and have a plan for getting the next 50 soon. If you’re not at the top of your book promotion game you need to get there fast.
Don’t expect the media to fall all over you for your story. They don’t care that you wrote a book, which is partially why I think that press releases announcing a new book are a waste of time and money. Much like your readers, the media only cares about how your story can help their story.
How can you help them get to that next level by featuring your tips and unique point of view?
Resources and Free Downloads
Media Pitching 101: Know Your Media
Marketing a Book on Social Media in 2019
Just read Secure More Media With 10 Critical Book Marketing Strategies and appreciated the brutal honesty of your perspective (geez… you’re even more cynical than I am!)
The advice applies to all authors, of course, but there are more connections for non-fiction writers. Got any words of wisdom for the fiction folks?