So how does an author get the attention of the media? One of the best ways is to tie in your story with a big national story going on right now. Bill Hanks, the author of Serenity: It's a God Deal recently did an excellent job of doing just that.
You have no doubt seen the public spectacle of Charlie Sheen's recent meltdown in which he bragged of his drug use, proclaimed he had "tiger blood", got fired and lost custody of his kids. Bill's book is a very personal story of overcoming substance abuse, and he wrote an editorial about Charlie Sheen and the symptoms of drug abuse for the Tulsa World newspaper. Not only does this help the newspaper localize a national story and give them content to share with their readers, but it establishes Bill as a local expert on the topic of drug abuse. The editorial does mention Bill is an author and plugs his book at the end.
If Bill had just contacted the paper and told them he released a book, would the Tulsa World have given him this kind of space in their newspaper? Probably not. But, because Bill was able to tie his personal experience and expertise to a big national story, he was able to get across his message and promote his book at the same time.
If you have a story that is emotional, informational or sensational, and you are able to tie that information to a national story, you will find it far easier to promote yourself and your book.