The guidance Annie gave in that presentation was invaluable, and because I’ve wanted it to reach a wider audience, I’ve finally written the following article (with Annie’s blessing!) in an easy-to-digest Q&A, highlighting the information we shared in that webinar.
Yes, newspapers are still alive, both in print and online. And our goal was to take writers from feeling intimidated and overwhelmed about approaching local media to being more knowledgeable, confident, and respectful of the process so they could gain the editor relationships and exposure they desired. I hope you’ll find we accomplished this as you use these tips to obtain coverage for your own labor of love!
Q: What kind of attention or coverage can someone expect from their local newspaper?
A: An article, a post in the Calendar or Business section, a Things to Do This Weekend listing, a book review, or even an author profile.
Q: What does an author need to know when it comes to the basics?
A: For one, you likely won’t notice your local reporter—they tend to blend into the background, unlike some people think. Two, because they’re inundated with requests and under tight deadlines, you really almost have to do their job for them by preparing your article, press release, and photo for submission. Last, even if you do all the work, you need to realize that coverage isn’t guaranteed, though reporters do make their best effort to see that good stories are included.
Bottom line: The more effort you put into your story pitch, the more likely you’ll get coverage.
Q: Which publications should an author approach?
A: 1. Those that have a reason to publish info about you and your books
2. Those with a local or local interest connection
3. Those you’ve done research on to see what the publication covers
4. Those with relevant material for readers
Q: How do I approach an editor or reporter?
A: Send an email first; or, if you call, make it very short. Remember: Editors often receive hundreds of emails a day, so be courteous and patient.
Q: What do I include in the email?
A: 1. An appropriate subject line with all pertinent info
“Palos Verdes author will sign her book at Book Frog June 9”
“Local author and mom publishes book on autism”
“Press Release” or “Story Idea”
“For immediate release”
2. Brief introductory note
Dear Ms./Mr. ____________,
I’m a Rolling Hills Estates resident who just published a history of my city, and I will appear at the The Book Frog for a book signing on June 9th. Would you be interested in writing an article prior to the event and placing a notice in your Calendar section? I’ve attached a press release and photos for your use. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions.
[date] May 6
[subject] cookbook – Food for Fitness on Amazon
[intro] I have written the above and wonder if you are interested. I had a nutrition class at Joe’s Gym, a local cable show a while ago, and this cookbook answers the most frequently asked questions from my students.
Check out my soon-to-be-published cookbook titled Food for Fitness on Facebook: [facebook link]
Note: This author didn’t say if she was a local resident, so the editor had to write and ask. The editor also had to click on the Facebook link to find out that the author was doing a book signing on May 11 at Joe’s Gym, which she hadn’t even bothered to mention. Further, the lead time to put the event in an upcoming issue was too short—her email was written on the 6th; the event was the 11th.
Bottom line: The author made the editor do too much work to find out the details and with not enough notice to publicize her book signing.
3. Press Release or “One-Sheet”
This is one page that includes:
- Media contact (name, email, phone, website)
- Headline (who, what, when, where, why)
- SHORT synopsis of book (what book is about, subjects chapters cover, age group and genre for fiction)
- How readers can learn more or purchase (website address, link to bookstore site)
- Author bio (experience relevant to book)
- Word or text version of press release (this is written in body of email, but should be included as an attachment as well)
- High-res (300 ppi/dpi), FLAT image of book cover (not the 3D style)
- High-res head shot of author
* artistic ONLY if appropriate
* no candid or blurry shots
- Ideal: include a link to your website (such as to a media or press page) where the editor can easily download your press release and photos.
Q: What things should an author NEVER do?
A: There are actually several:
- Forward an email (it should always be personal to that editor from you)
- Tease the editor (they don’t have time for that)
- Promote themselves
- Include reviews
- Format too much (this can make it difficult for the editor to format your material for the publication)
- Be too casual (a professional tone is always best)
- Attach a flyer the editor can’t use (like a fancy PDF)
- Embed large photos
Q: What scenarios can an author expect?
A: There are actually a few:
- No reply or acknowledgement—good for you for trying!
- No reply, but a Calendar listing appears—at least you got that!
- The editor acknowledges you—could be brief with no promise of coverage, but that means you’re on the editor’s radar.
A: 1. If you want to call, wait a day or more after email.
- Quick intro: “Is this a good time?”
- If no, call back at a better time.
- Be prepared to answer questions.
Instead, ask: “Do you know of another editor or publication I can get in touch with?”
3. If you want to go into the office:
- Call first for best day/time.
- Keep visit super short (respect their time).
- If editor isn't there, be prepared to leave your book with a note.
Q: What does an author do if he/she receives a reply or a request for an interview?
A: Several things are key:
- Get back to the editor ASAP!
- Provide all pertinent info immediately.
- Be available and on time.
- Do NOT miss a scheduled interview.
- It’s okay to ask how much time you’ll need for the interview.
- It’s okay to ask for a list of the questions the editor will be asking.
Q: How does an author prepare for the interview?
- Be prepared to spell names and technical terms.
- Read the reporter’s articles for style and quality.
- Be prepared with 2–3 things you want to be sure to say.
- Keep the phone line clear and don’t use a speakerphone.
- Be in a room where you can close the door and not be disturbed.
- Remember when talking to a reporter that you’re on the record.
- Relax and enjoy the conversation!
A: The following are crucial:
- Send a follow-up thank you email.
- Once the article breaks, send another thank you in the form of a handwritten note or another email.
- You may ask for a link to the article.
- If you wish to link to the article via your website, ask permission first.
- You may ask for copies of the publication, but offer to pay and be prepared to go pick them up.
Now that you’ve established a relationship with the reporter/editor, it's okay to send emails if you write another book or have another book signing.
Just remember: Always be respectful of the editor’s time, be professional, and prepare your materials so that it's easy for the editor to say yes! :-)
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If you found this post helpful for getting the insider scoop on obtaining local media coverage and think other writers could benefit too, please do share it on Facebook, Twitter, and/or LinkedIn. And if you have something to add or would just like to tell me you enjoyed the info, please let me know by leaving a comment below. Thank you!
Stay tuned for my next post, where I'm going to give a crucial grammar lesson for everyone who speaks and writes (that ought to cover about everyone! :-) ) ... so you can immediately sound smarter (if you aren't doing this already). Don't miss it!
In the meantime, I wish you all the best with your writing … and hope you're now feeling fabulously armed to obtain local media coverage for your labor of love!
Write from the heart,
Stacey Aaronson is a professional Book Doctor who takes self-publishing authors by the hand and transforms their manuscripts into the books they've dreamed of—from impeccable editing and proofreading to engaging, audience-targeted cover and interior design—rivaling or exceeding a traditional house publication.
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