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Master the 20-Second Pitch

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by Brian Feinblum, Chief Marketing Officer, MEDIA CONNECT —

Brian Feinblum

You only have a few seconds to wow a media outlet … go!

Let’s say you’re an overworked publicist at a small to medium-size publishing house or a university press, and you have just 20 seconds to convince a media outlet to give exposure to one of your titles. How will you do this?

Before you dive into the actual pitching, take these factors into consideration:

  • Which are your most promotable books? Focus only on them.
  • Which type of media should you approach? Contacting online media is different than pitching television shows, so create a pitch generated toward specific media formats and outlets.
  • Look at the current news cycle, as well as upcoming anniversaries, holidays, honorary months, or any tie-ins to the books you are promoting. Then contact the media many weeks prior to those special dates.
  • Regard your author as an expert who can speak on topics beyond what’s in the book. Be story-centric and not book-centric.
  • Think like the media in order to deliver what they want. Research the media to know what each outlet tends to cover and know more about specific journalists, producers, bloggers, and talk-show hosts so that you can find relevant ways to connect with them.
  • Be prepared to have multiple pitches for the media. There are at least three ways to present a book or author to the media. Rotate your pitches and experiment to see what works best with certain types of media.

When conversing with the media, time is at a premium. Don’t ask them questions or be slow to get to the point. Lead with the obvious—who you are and why you are calling them. The order of your presentation is important, and you won’t have time to spit out many details. Think in terms of hooks, buzz words, bullet points, and headlines. Why are you calling them? To give them a great story—not to sell books. You want to be perceived as serving their needs. I have been promoting authors for 25 years, and though the media has changed a lot, one rule remains the same: Give them something newsworthy, interesting, or entertaining.

The 20-second pitch amounts to around 100–120 words. Use them wisely. Write out your pitch to see its length and begin to replace words that shorten sentences. Switch out other words for impact. Open with:

“Hi, it’s (first name) from (name of publisher). I have a great guest for you. He/she is an award-winning author with a new book that shows listeners how to save their marriage even when a partner strays. I know Valentine’s Day is a time for celebrating love, and the author, based on his 24 years of treating thousands of couples as a therapist, reminds us how to rekindle the romance even when big issues divide a couple. For instance, she shows us how to (give two short examples). We are scheduling interviews for February 8 and 9. Which time and date work best for you?”

You’ll notice that I didn’t give your last name (they won’t remember it), the names of the author (only give it if it’s a celebrity or known entity), or the book (unless it is catchy). I didn’t ask any questions other than what time to schedule an interview. Lastly, I tied the book into a holiday and gave a sense of specificity and urgency by presenting exact dates of availability.

Call the right people at targeted media outlets during the times they are in the office but not under a deadline. If you can’t reach them, don’t leave a voicemail. Try other means to reach them, from email to physical mail. Don’t give up on trying to reach them, because once you do, you’ll wow them with your powerful 20-second pitch!

Brian Feinblum is the chief marketing officer for book promotions firm Media-Connect.com. He blogs at BookMarketingBuzzBlog and can be reached at 212-583-2718 or brian.fienblum@finnpartners.com.

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