Reporters are busy people these days. The news cycle is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Media outlets receive dozens, if not hundreds, of press releases every single day. Add to that the fact that many media outlets have very strict, fast (even unreasonable) deadlines, and you start to see why a press release about the release of a book may not grab their attention. After all, books are released every single day (more than one million in total last year alone).
With so much vying for the attention of the media, how can you possibly grab their attention? As a former reporter myself with more than 20 years of experience in the news business, I have a few suggestions on how you can break through the clutter and grab some headlines:
1. Your story has to be interesting. This is a given, right? Not necessarily. Something about you or your book has to be newsworthy. We've already mentioned that the act of releasing a book isn't necessarily newsworthy (unless you live in a really small town where there isn't much news). Releasing a book about how to live on one income in a bad economy, on the other hand, is newsworthy. Find the "story" behind your story, and you have something to pitch to the media. Is there anything about you or your book that you can tie to a current event? If so, you've got a great "in" with the media. Newspapers and magazines are always looking for great feature stories, but again, there has to be a "story behind the story."
2. Be an expert. Did you do a ton of research to write your book? If so, consider yourself an expert. Offer yourself up to the media as a local source they can turn to for local reaction to regional or national stories. One author I work with has several years of experience in law enforcement, and I refer media contacts to him when they need a comment about anything that has to do with crime statistics or personal safety. Of course, they mention he's the author of a book when they quote him.
3. Contact the right people. If you have written a Christian book, try to talk to the Religion reporter for the local newspaper, not the editor of the paper. If you have a sports related book, you want to talk to the Sports Editor, not the features reporter. Make sure you talk to the people that would be most interested in what you have to offer.
4. Don't be a stalker. Go ahead and contact those reporters, but within reason. Sending them a press release and following up by phone once or twice is fine. Emailing or calling them on a weekly basis to wear them down into submission is not. Want to ensure you'll never get news coverage? Spam a reporter's email inbox repeatedly and stalk them by phone to the point that you're on a first-name basis. If the reporter is interested, they will call you. If they aren't, they won't.
5. Keep in mind what sells. The media is in business for one reason: money. They want to attract the most readers, the most viewers and the most listeners so they can continue to sell advertising and turn a profit. To do that, they want to offer their audience one of the following:
If you can tie yourself and your book into a topic or a story that touches upon one of these attributes (or all five), you'll get some media attention.
6. Don't forget the alternative media. Striving for coverage from newspapers, TV and radio is fine, but don't forget that there is a whole world of alternative media available. There are literally thousands and thousands of blogs, Internet radio shows, local cable access TV programs, alternative weekly newspapers, podcasts, video blogs, newsletters and other outlets where authors can get exposure for their books. Exposure from these alternative sources can often lead to broader exposure on national TV and radio if your story goes "viral." Too many authors try to get on the national news right out of the gate. Don't overlook your local media sources, and don't be afraid of the online media. They are the cutting edge of the media industry.