Thursday, February 13, 2014

Have Them Eating Out of Your Handouts

One of the complaints I often hear from authors is that they can't seem to get their signings and book info into the pubic eye through the local newspapers. I don't have that problem and I have taught several organizations in my area a few ideas on how this is accomplished.

I once was a lowly paid newspaper reporter. I remember days of looking for feature pieces to fill up the pages and make my editor happy. I also remember getting excruciating “press releases” from the public. Sometimes it was more work to rewrite them than to use them.

Now I work with newspapers in 4 counties in my area, as well as TV and radio. I also learned a lot of techniques while doing PR for the local Sisters in Crime group and the library local authors' program. Here's my step-by-step method:

First, make a list of all media outlets in a 40 mile radius of the area where you will be speaking or signing. Call local libraries to find the local papers and use the Internet.

Call each outlet, ask for the name of the Features Editor. Hopefully, they will put you on the line with that person. If not, they usually have an outlet called "Community News." Get a FAX number or email where they would like to receive announcements. If you send a FAX, have letterhead stationary (order it from Vista Print).

When you send a FAX, never let it fall into the hands of whoever goes by the FAX machine. It can wind up in the general file or the trash. ALWAYS put the name of someone on staff so they will receive the paperwork. It may get lost on their desk, but at least it will make it there. Make the effort to change the name on each FAX you send. No generic “Features Editor” in the routing.

Even a small paper will feel good that you even think they HAVE a designated person as a feature editor. Small papers struggle and deserve respect. NEVER make demands or be pushy or overbearing. But, remember, they need to fill their paper and you can make their job easier by knowing how to write an effective Community News release. Here's a sample:

TO: (insert editor's name)
Local author Sunny Frazier will speak on January 15 at the Kings County Library, 401 N. Douty, Hanford. The event begins at 6:30 pm until 8 pm.

Frazier is the author of the astrological mystery, Where Angels Fear. This is a free event. Refreshments will be provided by Friends of the Library. Books will be available for purchase and a book signing with the author will follow.

Offer (but don't insist) that you are available for an interview if they have room for a longer piece. Or, create your own piece (write in 3rd person and try not to be too self-serving). ASK if they have room and would care to run it. Don't push a press packet on them or make them feel like they are there to do PR for you.
Ask about deadlines. I have papers that want info 3 weeks in advance, some only a week. Cozy up to the librarians. Make flyers and FAX or mail them to the library. Ask if they would like you to make an appearance.

Always act as if the media people are doing you a huge favor--because they are. Give the feature editor a copy of your book as a thank-you. I also make sure the local library has a copy. Libraries are often forced to cut back on book buying.

My info always makes it into the newspapers, TV and radio. The news people know my name and my credentials. I keep my contacts current by checking every six months to see if there have been staff changes. I write a nice thank-you note and praise for any article written about me (even if they spell my name wrong). By doing my end of things, and doing it well, they are more than willing to give me publicity for my next project.


Liane Spicer said...

Great advice, Sunny. I have always found the local media very receptive.

Charles Gramlich said...

My wife is good at this too.

Dean K Miller said...

Awesome advice here, Sunny. Thanks. Timing is good, too. I'm looking at events 3-6 weeks out and this is a great resource for me.

Amy Reade said...

Wow, Sunny. You couldn't have made that any easier. Thank you very much for the advice and suggestions. I will most certainly use all of them.

James Callan said...

Good advice, Sunny, as of course we expect from you. Thanks for reminding us and pushing us to get out and promote.

Patricia Gligor said...

Great tips, Sunny. Thanks!

Jewel Amethyst said...

You always provide great tips that authors can use. Thanks.

marja said...

I printed this one so I won't forget your advice. Thanks!
Marja McGraw

Joseph Chiba said...

Thanks for the great advice, Sunny. I will definitely save these ideas and use your techniques when I get to that point in my writing career!