Tools for Reaching Media, Booksellers, and More
by Linda Carlson
How do you find out exactly what writers and editors want, and keep your media and bookseller databases up to date? Here’s a quick look at some of the most popular free and low-cost publications and Web sites you can use.
IBPA members report subscribing to several online publications that provide publicity leads. The hands-on favorite for effectiveness as well as price (it’s absolutely free) is Help-A-Reporter-Out, or HARO (helpareporter.com).
Created by Peter Shankman, a PR entrepreneur, this email newsletter comes as often as three times each weekday. It’s a list of requests from reporters, writers, and editors—sometimes as many as 40 in an issue. In addition, Shankman forwards requests for donations for benefit auctions and swag (a.k.a. goody) bags once a week. If attendees match a book’s target market, it may make sense to send discount coupons for the bags or a gift certificate for a raffle prize.
HARO deadlines are frequently very tight, and West Coast publishers may have only a few hours to respond, because Shankman is based in New York. But reading HARO first thing in the morning can pay off, as Carol White, of RLI Press in Wilsonville, OR, can testify. “I’ve just been notified we’re going to be in an article in Business Week as a result of a HARO lead,” she wrote me recently.
At that time, White had read HARO for only a few months, but she had already gotten her husband interviewed for the AARP Bulletin. “He had just gone back to work due to the economy, and I saw a pitch that was perfect as I was wandering through the listings one day,” she reports. Although that coverage may not have sold books for RLI, White says it made her husband an instant hero with his bosses at a sizable men’s clothing chain—“The chain was mentioned and photographed in the largest-circulation magazine in the country as a good place to shop for holiday gifts.”
Thanks also to leads on ProfNet (see below), RLI was featured in a variety of publications in 2008, including National Geographic Traveler, Real Simple, Women’s Health, and more. The stories on Grandparents.com and Entrepreneur.com created noticeable increases in sales, White adds.
At Seattle’s Globe Trekker Press, Beth Whitman notes that she has been quoted in many online publications and in some print ones because she regularly responds to HARO inquiries. And she adds that she also used this service to find dozens of women to interview for a forthcoming book on women traveling with kids.
Another HARO advocate is Elaine Krackau, at PR by the Book in Round Rock, TX. “Its greatest benefit so far is finding new contacts that have an open call for ideas. There are a lot of podcasts looking for a steady stream of guests,” she says.
A similar service—ProfNet (profnet.prnewswire.com)—is run by PR Newswire. According to its Web site, subscribers may receive as many as 150 queries from reporters each day. You can decide whether you want to receive them as often as hourly or as seldom as daily. You also can filter by subject and geographic area.
ProfNet prices are $950 per year for a sole practitioner. For corporations, the fee works out to a little more than $200 a month ($2,650 annually). Nonprofits pay $600 a year, and colleges (which might include college presses) pay between $600 and $1,050, depending on student enrollment. For more information or a Webinar, IBPA members can contact Annette Falvo, a product demonstration specialist, at 201/360-6504, or at email@example.com.
Shelf Awareness (shelf-awareness.com)—a free daily newsletter created by John Mutter and Jenn Risko—is oriented to bookstores and books and authors being publicized on television. It also provides a digest of publishing and bookselling industry news and a few book reviews. Because almost every issue quotes booksellers, Shelf Awareness is my favorite tool for keeping a database of booksellers updated.
“You can see that the staff really combs the other trades and newspapers for industry goings-on,” Shanna Knowlton, publicist for Mountaineers Books in Seattle, notes.
Described on its Web site as an “eNewsletter” that covers “big deals, personnel moves, sales information and technology developments . . . and author media appearances,” PW Daily is free to Publishers Weekly subscribers. To sign up, see “Subscriptions” on the bottom menu and follow the prompts to publishersweekly.com/subscribe.asp?screen=pi10.
Another PW service, RSS feeds of its headlines in several niches, is explained at publishersweekly.com/learnRss.
Knowlton is one of the publicists who also recommends MediaBistro. Its newsfeeds are the most valuable in content and overall interest in terms of general media, she says.
There’s lots of free information at mediabistro.com, and for $59 a year, you have access to entire articles and other services, including many that might help author/publishers trying to sell serial rights or place excerpts of books.
Wooden Horse Newsletter
One of my favorite publications for maintaining a magazine and trade journal database is the weekly Wooden Horse Newsletter (woodenhorsepub.com), which is available in a free edition and an expanded paid edition ($19.95 annually). The free edition provides less contact information, but in most cases a quick online search will fill the gaps.
Each issue describes at least a dozen publications—for example, such special-interest consumer magazines as Bead Trends, Bike Monkey, and Black Health, as well as trade journals covering topics ranging from autism to Web-site design. At least another dozen publications are mentioned in each issue’s section on staff changes.
Editor Meg Weaver also offers an online media database on a subscription basis for terms starting at 24 hours ($1.99) and extending to one year ($149).
Describing itself as a worldwide media directory, Mondo Times (mondotimes.com) emphasizes newspapers and broadcasting. Although incomplete, it can be an excellent starting point when you’re researching media for a distant city.
Getting a story picked up by Associated Press is a real coup, because it means that media in every market will see—and possibly use—the material. AP has bureaus in every state; see ap.org for contact information.
The best-maintained directories are often those produced by state , regional, and specialty press associations. They may also be the most comprehensive, because they often include smaller media that national for-profit directories ignore.
On the downside, they usually reflect association membership, so they may omit publications from organizations that aren’t their members. For example, state “community” weekly newspaper associations seldom list alternative weeklies. And, because all these associations were founded to facilitate group sales of advertising, you should check contacts carefully; some will be for advertising personnel.
Here are examples of helpful portals, arranged from least to most mainstream.
North American Street Newspaper Association (nasna.org) provides contact information for papers sold on streets by homeless or poor individuals. Editorial content “primarily addresses issues related to poverty and homelessness.”
Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (aan.org/alternative) represents 130 weeklies across North America. Its Web site provides a directory with detailed contact information for member publications and describes them as having “a strong focus on local news, culture and the arts; an informal and sometimes profane style; an emphasis on point-of-view reporting and narrative journalism; a tolerance for individual freedoms and social differences; and an eagerness to report on issues and communities that many mainstream media outlets ignore.”
Suburban Newspapers of America (suburban-news.org) represents nearly 2,400 suburban papers—some daily, many weekly, some paid, some free. The directory page allows you to search by city or state. Its listings overlap with those of some state directories.
National Newspaper Publishers Association (nnpa.org) represents about 200 members of what it calls the black press of America, and its NNPA News Service distributes feature and investigative stories to association members. Through its Media Services (202/319-1291, firstname.lastname@example.org), you can pay to have your press releases distributed on the association’s site, which serves most of its members and also has a list of members with a few links to home pages.
National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (nabob.org), a smaller group, has an online directory that provides links to most member stations.
National Association of Hispanic Publications (nahp.org) provides an online directory, complete with URLs, of its member papers and magazines, which are Spanish-language or Hispanic-owned or both.
Hispanic broadcast stations have no common Web site, but I’ve created a directory of them by using the sites of the largest Spanish-language broadcast companies: Entravision Communications Corp. (at entravision.com; select “Media Properties”), Spanish Broadcasting System Inc. (at spanishbroadcasting.com, select “Station Directory”), and Univision (at univision.net, select “English” and then “Media Properties”). Other networks exist, some with large audiences but relatively few news and talk shows.
National Gay Newspaper Guild (nationalgaynewspaperguild.com) includes 12 publications that focus on GLBT issues. Contact information for each appears on its site.
EDGE (edgeunitedstates.com), a network of 13 portals, serves the same demographic and has limited contact information online for its regional editors. “Network Partners” will link you to the Web sites for associated newspapers.
Canadian Newspaper Association (cna-acj.ca) provides directories of Canadian dailies.
Newspaper Association of America (naa.org) has a list of state press associations with contact information under “State Affairs.” This list will lead you to organizations such as the Alabama Press Association, with 25 dailies and 98 nondaily papers on its roster, and contact information online; and the South Dakota Newspaper Association, which provides information on 136 daily and weekly papers, including the ZIP codes of the markets each serves.
Regional newspaper associations include the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association (pnna.org), which covers daily papers from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Utah, as well as British Columbia; the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association (snpa.org), which lists 400 members, primarily in the South and Southwest; the Inland Press Association (inlandpress.org), which covers much of the Midwest, but does not offer a directory on its site; the New England Newspaper Association (nenews.org), which provides an online directory of its 134 members under “Industry Links”; and the New England Press Association (nepa.org), which restricts its online directory to members and sells its paper directory for $60.
Library of Congress provides links to several lists of contacts at public libraries via “Ask A Librarian” (loc.gov/rr/askalib/local-library.html). To ensure that a list is complete for your purposes, especially if you want to contact all the branches in a library system, search each appropriate list and consider checking your results against a state or regional list.
American Booksellers Association (bookweb.org/index.html) makes it relatively easy to develop a database of independent bookstores through its Web site. “Member Directories” allows you to search by state or community.
Regional bookseller associations, which sometimes have individual chain stores as members, include Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (pnba.org), Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association (books-gliba.org), Midwest Booksellers Association (midwestbooksellers.org), Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association (mountainplains.org), New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (naiba.com), Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (nciba.com), New England Independent Booksellers Association (newenglandbooks.org), Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (sibaweb.org), and Southern California Independent Booksellers Association (scibabooks.org).
Bookstore chains provide information you can incorporate in your bookseller database at corporate sites such as barnesandnobleinc.com (use the “Find by Zip Code” search box at the bottom), booksmillion.com (use “Store finder” at the top), and borders.com (use “Store Locator” at the top).
Linda Carlson (lindacarlson.com) writes from Seattle.
For More Resources
Like “AdWords and Other Marketing Opportunities That Search Engines Offer” in the October 2008 Independent and “Show Up on Major Sites” in last month’s issue, this article is part of a series designed to help you identify readily available resources that you can use in several different ways to improve your media and customer relations and to increase the visibility of your books and authors.
In an upcoming issue, we’ll report on how IBPA members are making the best use of virtual worlds, social media sites, and blog tours.
To access earlier pieces in the series online, use the “Independent Articles” button in the lefthand navigation bar on the Home page at ibpa-online.org, and then the search box on the next screen.