Picture this: you are an underpaid, underappreciated and overworked producer at CNN. Every day you receive 30 press releases, 15 media alerts, and at least 20 books.
What can an author possibly do to make their book stand out as a producer or editor wades through their daily mail?
Create a unique press kit. By including a press release that is interesting and concise, an article establishing your credibility, a sharp bio, and a book or book cover, it is possible to avoid going directly from the in-basket to the trash.
Call ahead and obtain the correct contact information. “I have gotten letters addressed to Patty Neger (a producer at ABC’s Good Morning America),” says Andrea Smith, producer for NBC’s The Today Show. “I received one letter that went on and on about how much Joan Lunden would love this book. Joan Lunden used to be with Good Morning America as well (Katie Couric is the host of The Today Show). I said to myself, ‘Why am I reading this?'”
The cover letter should explain to its recipient why your book is different than any other book on the market. If there is a newsworthy event, holiday, or other hot tie-in to your book, this is the place to tell the producer about it.
“If I can’t get through the first line, I toss it,” remarks Gina De La Santos, producer for Good Day Dallas. Keep your press release precise and to the point. Never forget: the first paragraph must include who, what, where, when, and why, and is often the only paragraph that gets read.
Include a quote that demonstrates your excellent writing style and portrays you as an expert on your topic. The quote should be pretty, witty, and wise.
Bullets are a quick way to communicate the topics covered by your book. Producers and editors hate receiving thick stacks of irrelevant information. Karen Blumenthal, Dallas bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, fills a huge recycle bin with extraneous press materials every day. Limit your press release to one page.
What are your qualifications? The bio should briefly highlight your accomplishments. Reference previous books written, companies or clients you have worked with, and a bit of personal information (where you live, an interesting hobby, etc.).
The most efficient place to put an author bio is at the bottom of the press release. No, this is not an excuse to make your press release two pages long. Use twelve point type and one inch margins and you will be just fine.
Books, Galleys & Covers
Your book is being judged by its cover. “I know it’s terrible,” says De La Santos, “but if the book has a catchy cover and appearance, I am more likely to give it a second look.”
When mailing to your target media audience, always include a book or galley. Send your secondary media audience a press release only. If cost is not an issue, send a cover too. If they are interested in interviewing you, mail them a book then.
“We love to get galleys,” says Adora English, a producer for Crook & Chase. “It makes the show feel as if we are breaking a story, that we are on the cutting edge.” Galleys are usually sent only to print media, as they are working on stories six months before they are published. A good time to ask if a TV or radio producer likes to receive galleys is when you are calling for the correct contact information.
The Little Extras
While publicizing a book about vampires, I wrapped the book, press release, and a single black rose in red tissue paper and stamped the package with a fang logo. I was inundated with calls from producers and editors who thought it a hoot! And not only that, the author ended up a guest on Dateline NBC, The Ricki Lake Show and America’s Most Wanted.
Gimmicks have their pros and cons. “Ultimately,” explains Smith, “I look at the book as just a book. Gifts catch my attention but do not sway my decision one way or another.”
Send a video of yourself only if it’s requested. If a producer needs video, they will ask for it.
“Video is really, really helpful,” says English. “It’s great ammunition for pitch meetings. I’m looking to see how they present themselves. The video can even be of them at home.”
Previous Articles & Reviews
Providing the media with articles that have already been printed about your book can present a catch 22 even though TV and radio producers like to see what other people objectively think about you and your book.
Magazine and newspaper editors may see previous press as an indication that this story has already been done, someone else got to it first, and it is now tired and dead. On the other hand, Jeff Guinn, associate book review editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, once told me that if he finds a review written by someone he admires he is more likely to read and review the book as well.
Rule of thumb: Include the article if it is positive and from a respectable source.
As English states, the press kit only needs two things: a book and a pitch. “Tell me why I should listen and what I should listen for.” Do not put your press material in a folder with 30 pieces of background information. Put your book in a padded envelope with the cover letter, press release, and article(s) folded in half and paper-clipped to the first page of the book.
To come up with a truly unique press kit, take your time and be creative. Be sure to include a contact name and information on every piece of press material to ensure that you can easily be reached for an interview.
(c) 1998 Katherine Brandenburg
Katherine Brandenburg is President of Avalon Marketing & Communications, 5611 Abbey Court, Suite 6, Lincoln, NE 68505, 402/466-4531.
|This article is from thePMA Newsletterfor February, 1998, and is reprinted with permission of Publishers Marketing Association.