You’re an author! Congratulations! Arriving here, book in hand, you’ve joined a very exclusive club. Writing is vulnerable, sacrificial and truth be told, a bucket-list item that most will never check off.
An incredible amount of work goes into writing a book: the research, the writing, the editing and various publishing tasks. These can take months or even years. So as easy as it may be to exhale and think your work is done when you’ve wrapped up the manuscript, the reality is, you’re just getting started!
While there are many factors involved in growing an audience, one of the most dynamic, proven and timeless ways of becoming known is by making media appearances. And while the mediums and platforms seem to be ever-changing, the importance of media remains the same. In fact, it could be greater than ever, as it’s also the single fastest way to grow your social media presence. But, before you book a trip to New York to grace the sets of Fox News or the Today Show, there are a few things you need to do.
The first? Start locally.
Your local market is not only where you’re best known; it’s also where you’re most relevant. The chances of you landing local media are exponentially higher than landing a coveted spot on one of the major networks, cable outlets, or national radio programs. Besides, before you appear before a national audience, you’ll want to have honed your skills before a smaller and friendlier crowd—and local media can help you do that. These appearances can sell books and gain you the momentum, confidence, and energy you need to continue. They can also be a key factor in obtaining bigger media opportunities later. National media is much more likely to take you seriously when a local outlet or affiliate has vetted you and seen you perform admirably.
And what do you need to do before pitching yourself to local media?
1) Get your house in order
The first thing producers do to verify the legitimacy of a potential guest is to check their website, blog and other social media sites. Make sure these platforms are current with recent photos (preferably something professionally done), biographical and contact information. They will check these sites and feeds to be sure you are, at the very least, who you say you are. If they see anything there that’s offensive, you’ve struck out. However, if what they see strengthens your case as a qualified, credentialed expert/guest/thought leader, you’ve greatly strengthened your chances.
So, keep it clean. Websites should be easy to navigate with the information you want people to see being the first thing they see. Don’t make them search for it, because they won’t. You have to assume that not only will the media check out your site and feeds, but that you’re going to get that interview and that thousands of people will click over to your site/feeds. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so make sure when they come, they find what they came for. You wouldn’t invite hundreds of guests to dinner without cleaning up your house, would you?
2) Get flexible
Don’t clear your entire calendar, but, you’ve got to build in some flexibility and be ready at a moment’s notice. What will you do to get away from work? Or with the kids? It’s all about timing and you may not get a second opportunity. Most local radio shows are going to prefer to have you in the studio, if possible, so a 20-minute radio interview could take an entire morning, if it means driving across town. A television opportunity could take all day, if you take the time you probably should getting yourself ready to appear on television — and by that, I mean in terms of both your physical appearance (haircuts, dry cleaning, etc.) and other preparation, i.e., going back over your talking points, writing thank you notes to take along, etc. Finally, interviews are cancelled and rescheduled all of the time. It’s the nature of the beast. The news cycle rules the day. Don’t take it personally. A willingness to accommodate the producer and host is a must. The truth is, you’re at their beck and call. When they can have you, you need to be there.
3) Stock up
Producers often ask for review copies of a book/product before they extend an invitation. So, it’s vital that you have inventory and can get it to them quickly. Be willing to do what it takes to get it there. A PDF version of your book can be sent to a producer via email in a pinch, but most still prefer a hard copy. Also, be sure to have two to three additional copies available to offer for on-air giveaways. Be sure, too, that whoever is selling your book is ready to accommodate orders. You also need to take inventory of a few other things — digital assets, endorsements and statistics, among them. It’s not at all unusual for a producer to ask you to email them files such as book cover images and headshots. If you’re unknown to them, they may ask for any endorsements you have from local influencers or known commodities, if you will. It’s also wise to enter into a conversation armed with statistics, research, etc. that can, if necessary, support your message. Sources are important — particularly to journalists.
4) Take a bite
Always make sure to have prepared a single sound bite — a ‘money quote’, if you will. Particularly for TV. If it’s not live, a two-minute interview can/will quickly be edited down to a 5-10 second sound bite and you want to make sure it’s the right one. So, instead of depending on a 24-year old editor in the newsroom to decide where to make just the right cut and determine what the audience hears from you, make it easy for them. That said, it’s wise to prepare talking points you’ll want to cover in both short and long conversations. I.e., know what you want to say and become comfortable working it in conversationally.
5) Make it easy
Lastly, producers and hosts want the important information in as few words as possible. A good press kit makes it easy for them to see your availability, areas of expertise, credentials, relevance in relation to current events, biographical and contact information. Links to previous media appearances are fantastic, if you have them handy and did well the last time you were on the air. Knowing they’re getting an experienced guest goes a long way. All told, keep it to two pages or less, and always send it as a PDF to make it easy to download and view. Remember that the show wants to interview a person, not a book, so your press kit should reflect that. It’s always a good idea, too, to keep color schemes and designs similar to any others you have used across digital platforms, making your content cohesive, memorable, and recognizable. You won’t have time to compile this after you pitch. Do it first.
A longtime literary publicist and agent, Jason Jones is the founder of Jones Literary, LLC and Local PR Toolkit. He is also the host of The Book Publicist Podcast and the author of ‘Landing Local Media: An Actionable Guide to Help Self-Published Authors Book Local Press’.