Getting Publicity via Freelancers
by Marika Flatt
For the past several years, I’ve worn two professional hats, one as the owner of a PR company primarily dedicated to the book industry and small businesses, and the other as a freelance writer for two local magazines. You can say I live on both sides of the fence: pitching and being pitched. Our company, PR by the Book, has developed a good track record for working with freelance writers, who are in some ways a hidden asset when it comes to PR pitching.
Freelance writers are not in the newsroom constantly receiving press releases and phone calls from PR practitioners, so they typically are not as jaded about pitches as journalists working on staff. They make their living by querying publications, and when editors respond positively, they write features for those editors. That means it’s to their benefit to get targeted story pitches. Targeted is the key word here.
Here are a few tips on how to best build relationships with freelance writers who can help you get the word out about your books:
Know what kinds of publications a freelancer writes forso your pitch can be as specific and targeted as possible. Don’t pitch a piece on a travel book to a freelancer for a sports magazine unless you want to burn a bridge. As always, know your audience. The good news here is that freelancers typically write for a variety of different publications, so you’ve got a better shot with multiple pitches than you would when pitching to a specific magazine editor. For instance, as a freelancer, I write for both a women’s magazine and a parenting magazine.
Find freelancers with appropriate interests.We can be quite elusive, but here are a few places to look:
—Help a Reporter Out, helpareporter.com
—Profnet queries, profnet.com
—The Gift List, giftlistmedia.com
—Cision (formerly Bacons) online database, us.cision.com
—Book Expo America, bookexpoamerica.com
—American Society of Journalists and Authors convention, asja.org
—Editorial Freelancers Association, the-efa.org
Once you find freelancers interested in your area or areas, create and maintain a good database for their contact information and for notes on what each one likes and dislikes.
Be patient when working with freelancers. The process can be lengthy. It goes something like this: publisher pitches freelancer; freelancer likes the story and develops a query to editor; editor says yes; freelancer does interviews and research and gets the story written; freelancer sends to editor who edits the story, possibly deleting some parts; it runs in an issue several months down the road. In other words, it can take quite a long time between when you pitch and when a piece runs. Don’t become a pest by checking in with the freelancer every week. Checking in once a month is plenty.
Stay in touch with your freelance contacts, asking what they are currently working on and if you can help them find sources or information. Like most journalists, freelancers are extremely busy and appreciate any help you can offer. Keep your eyes and ears open for experts and resources that might be useful to the freelancers you deal with; even if the leads you supply don’t help you directly, the freelancers will be more willing to help you going forward.
If you’re pitching a book or some other product, keep the description as concise as possible and provide all the important details a freelancer will need for a story, such as the product’s price, where it can be bought, a Web site for more information, and a JPEG for illustration. The more you anticipate what freelance writers will need, the more time you save them, and who doesn’t love to save time!
I hope you can use these tips to build stronger relationships with this hidden corps of journalists. I feel quite sure it will pay off for you in the long run.
Marika Flatt is the owner of PR by the Book (prbythebook.com), a media-relations firm dedicated to helping clients spread the word about their books, products, and small businesses. In her spare time, she is a freelance writer.