Sunday, August 28, 2011

30 Ways to Woo the Media

There is a reason so many pitches get rejected by the media. On average, the media rejects 95% of pitches they get. How can you become part of the 5% that get picked up for a story? First, you need to know the reasons why pitches get rejected. Keep in mind these aren't the only reasons, but certainly the majority of them:

Uninteresting email subject lines: Often your pitch is judged by the subject line. Make it something interesting, make it a headline or risk getting relegated to the delete bin.

Long emails: I don't know about you, but I hate reading long emails. The media hates it even more, in fact many of my media friends have told me that if they have to scroll through a pitch, they often won't consider it unless it comes from a very trusted source. How long is too long? If you can read it on the screen without scrolling down, you're in good shape.

Non-compelling topics: You won't get attention for your topic just because you pitch it. It has to be timely, unique, and relevant to the audience they serve. Think HUH: Hip, Unique, and Helpful.

An opened email isn't always a sure bet: Even if your email gets opened, it might still get deleted, here's why: For all of the above reasons. Create a tight, focused pitch that isn't too long and stays on topic. This will increase your chances that the media will read it through.

Not relevant: What I mean by this is that it's not relevant to the audience the media outlet serves. Don't think for a minute that just because you find it interesting and compelling that your media target will. For example, I once had an author tell me about the amazing world of fly fishing, and then insist that Oprah would be interested in this topic. Really? I think not so much. Watch the show, listen to the broadcast, or read the blog or publication - before pitching.

A false sense of urgency: Often I find that folks pitching, in order to get noticed, will call upon a false sense of urgency. Yes, it's urgent that we fix our school systems. Yes, it's urgent that we clean up the environment. Neither of these things is going to blow up tomorrow so don't pitch them as though they are. While it might make for a more compelling pitch, it will only serve to paint you as an unreliable and often excitable source. Neither of these is good.

Unknown senders: An unknown source or sender may be considered an unreliable one. It's easy enough to get to know the media long before you start pitching. And I highly recommend that you do so.

Now, let's look at 30 things you can do to make yourself, and your pitches, irresistible to the media!

1) Start early and Focus on Relationships.
2) Connect on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn: get to know your media, connect with any local and national reporters, journalists, and news people via these social sites so you can get to know them.
3) Comment on postings via Twitter and Facebook: comment on their postings and news when appropriate.
4) Facebook birthdays: this is a great way to connect to everyone on your list, especially media. Wish them a happy birthday, they'll appreciate it.
5) Watch those Twitter hashtags: as you follow your media, you'll start to see a trend of most-used Twitter hashtags, I highly recommend you follow them so you can see who else is talking about the story.
6) Blog about them on your site, referencing a recent story they did.
7) Comment on their stories, whether it's on their site or on their media site.
8) Sign up for (HARO) and respond to stories appropriate to your topic.
9) Get to know your smaller, regional publications, and also trade publications. Both of these tend to be easier to get to and could offer you some exposure well in advance of your book launch.
10) Get to know your local radio hosts, or the hosts of stations you'll be targeting. Especially in radio, it's great to get connected to the broadcast people as early as you can. They also tend to be pretty accessible.
11) Go to events where you know you might meet some media folk. This is often a great way to engage them on mutual ground. Attending the same event is a great way to start a dialog or relationship with the media.
12) Practice your elevator pitch! What's an elevator pitch? It's a short, succinct description of your topic or pitch. Short enough to keep them interested (1-2 sentences) but long enough to tell the story, or at least the headline.
13) Become a source for your target media: becoming a media source is something we'd all love to do. But this takes time. By getting to know your media, commenting on stories they write and letting them know your area of expertise, you might become one of their regular sources!
14) Become a connector: be the person the media goes to for other experts as well. How do you do this? Whenever you introduce yourself to media, make sure they know your area of expertise and your ability to connect them to other experts who might be helpful as well.
15) Every now and then, I will share a blog post with a journalist that I think will be helpful to them. I don't do this a lot - just every once in a while.
16) Be succinct: define your story in one sentence. Keep it short, sweet, and relevant to your topic.
17) Sell the benefits, not the features. The media cares about what consumers care about, and all they want are benefits.
18) Make sure the media person has all the information he or she needs prior to the interview. This is especially true for late/breaking news. If there are new developments, make sure they are aware of them. This will save them research time and make them look good!
19) Speaking of making media look good, this is your job as well. Yes! It's important to make them look good, give them a set of questions, a synopsis about the book or interview topic and be prepared in case they ask you a question that doesn't seem quite right. Sometimes the person who is interviewing you doesn't get the media packet until 10 minutes before they go on, which doesn't leave them a lot of time to prepare. Be sure to help make their job easy!
20) Jump on breaking news when it happens and be ready when the media calls.
21) Be flexible. If a reporter covering a big story wants to chat with you on a weekend or late at night/early morning, say Yes.
22) Be excited about your topic: if you're not excited, how do you expect the media to be?
23) Never, ever give up. It might take a while for you to hear back, and sometimes (most times) the media won't respond to you until they have a need for your story.
24) Keep it short. Write short emails, always. Generally media folk are on email overload anyway; don't add to that with long, elaborate emails.
25) Think locally when appropriate: craft a local spin to a national story. While local media will always cover local, they love regional angles to stories that are making national news.
26) Stay on topic: when you do get the interview, stay on topic. Don't stray all over the place, you will confuse the media person and you'll end up getting a much smaller piece of a story if you look too fragmented.
27) Respond immediately: even if you are on vacation, reply right away to all media queries.
28) Don't tell the media anything you don't want to see in print. Assume everything you say is "on the record" even if you ask them to keep it confidential. I've seen authors say "well, off the record;" when it comes to media, assume there's no such thing.
29) Avoid slang and industry jargon: it will confuse the media.
30) Be grateful: always. Send a handwritten thank you note after an interview, and even if you didn't get the interview for which you were being considered, send a note of thanks anyway and wish them well on their story.

When it comes to media, get started as early as you can and build those relationships. Remember that while the delete rate of pitches is high, they are still in need of great guests, interviews, and stories. Be all those things and you'll not only be irresistible to the media, but you'll get a lot of placements that could really help launch your career!

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Five Top Tips to Make Reading Rock!

With the plethora of gadgets and technology at their fingertips, getting kids to open a book seems a daunting task for many parents. However, as any parent knows, when kids are interested in something, it’s hard to tear them away from it! You can turn your kids into avid readers by making reading exciting and interactive. Creative and interesting approaches to reading will transform this activity into something novel and stimulating. These tips will also enhance your child’s reading experience, encouraging them to think more deeply about the characters and themes in books, while having a whole lot of fun! My guest post today comes from Susan Black, who is a freelance writer and mother of two pre-teens.

As pleasurable as reading is there are many ways to engage with a book other than simply reading it. Active reading strategies help young readers formulate their own ideas about characters, events and themes in literature. Outlined below are 5 active reading strategies to try with younger readers.

Strategy One: The Treasure Box

Whilst reading a book ask the young reader to choose a character and fill a shoe box with small items that would be important their chosen character. For example, if you were reading the Twilight series and the reader chose Bella they might fill the box with an old keepsake from her mother, a ring or flower given to her by Edward and a photo of her and her father. The idea is that the reader updates the treasure box as the story progresses. It’s almost like physically emptying the pockets of a character to find out what is important to them personally. This gives readers a deeper understanding of the characters at hand and enables them to engage with characters at a deeper emotional level.

Strategy Two: Reader Turned Reporter

Reading is a great tool for writing and a great activity is to get young readers to act as newspaper reporters throughout the story. This could range from getting them to read out a TV style news item to writing a column for the local newspaper based on events from the book. Most books involve dramatic events that would easily be covered by local, and sometimes even national, news channels and encouraging them to report on events from the book might help them look at the book from a new perspective. For example was the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood really the villain? The media’s penchant for twisting facts can make for an interesting perspective on new books.

Strategy Three: Hot-seating

Have young readers step into the shoes of a character and get them to respond to a series of questions. As all of the answers about a character are not always given in the book the reader will have to think imaginatively about their responses and make up believable answers. This works particularly well for stories involving passionate crimes as it can be set up in a court of law situation with the reader having to justify the actions of the character. If this is a little bit advanced for a child the adult may instead step into the shoes of the character and allow the young reader to question them. Formulating questions for a character is a higher level thinking skill as the reader is probing the material and creating a personal line of enquiry.

Strategy Four: Thematic Collages

Young readers who respond well to art projects will enjoy creating collages around the major themes in a book. Looking at the finished collage anybody should be able to tell you what a particular book is about. For example, in the case of Romeo and Juliet there may be images concerned with death, love and violence. This would give anybody coming to the play for the first time an idea of what to expect if they read it, or indeed, watched it. This works well for young readers as it gives them a visual representation of all the major aspects of the text. With complicated texts this can help to break down more sophisticated concepts into simpler terms.

Strategy Five: Create Your Own Ending

When you reach the last chapter of the book it’s always a good idea to stop and digest everything that’s happened. An even better thing to do is to make predictions about how the book could end and to write an alternative ending. The fun of this activity is that it can be easily made as serious or as fun as you want it to be. For fun you might try and get a young reader to write the most unlikely ending to the story. If you’re wanting the reader to take the text more seriously however you might get them to make sensitive predictions about how the book will end and write their own version. Not only is this enhancing their ability to analyse books it is giving them the opportunity to improve their creative writing skills. At the end of it they will have produced a piece of work they are proud of and will probably enjoy reading the end of the book even more to look at the similarities and differences between their written ending and that of the author.

Susan’s other interests lie in photography and amateur interior design. She has written this article on reading with kids on behalf of her favourite recliner sectionals specialists.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Beauty of Book Reviews

Just how important is a book review and why should writers bother with them? The benefits to any author are mind-boggling in terms of the potential reviews have to boost an author from obscurity into the stratosphere. Dana Lynn Smith’s How to Get Your Book Reviewed opens many possibilities that encompass not just reviews and their benefits, but also the add-ons of marketing and promotion.

How to Get Your Book Reviewed is a step-by-step method to creating a winning book marketing strategy. Beginning with understanding the book review process and why many submitted books do not get reviewed, this guide takes the writer through the entire process. Given the hundreds of thousands of book published each year, the author stresses the need for writers to make sure their product meets the industry standards. This book also offers great tips on the extras that can draw positive attention and ensure their book is chosen above others: a media kit, a good press release and sell sheet—simple elements that are actually a valuable tool to further publicity.

Each chapter is laid out in user-friendly fashion, with details that will save a writer time and money: how to search for favorable outlets, how to approach potential reviewers, timelines attached to review publications, and details on print and online options. The guide also explores the formal (literary and review journals, newspapers, magazines etc.) and informal avenues (blogs, book and author sites, virtual reader communities) available to the writer seeking reviews. Approaching people or experts for endorsements and testimonials is also covered. Interspersed throughout are the succinct savvy tips for which Dana Lynn Smith is renowned. The author also provides many useful web links to review sites, and explains the process of getting reviews uploaded. A section on Amazon gives great advice on how to successfully utilize the Amazon tool.

This gem is the definitive guide for any writer who wants to get their book out there. I highly recommend this publication!