Invaluable Insider’s Tips for Running a Book Campaign

As a former journalist and a publicist who has booked authors on Oprah, Montel and National News Shows, I want to share with the writers who follow this blog, some of the best kept secrets for putting together an old-school print, radio, and television media campaign.

Remember, media wants fresh stories.  You need to get to work on your campaign BEFORE your book is released (magazines need to book you 3-4 months in advance).  Your articles and interviews should run before and shortly after your book becomes available.

Materials – things you will need to gather ahead of time

  • Pitch Letter
  • Press Release
  • Author Bio
  • Testimonials
  • Sample Questions for hosts to ask during interviews
  • Photo copies of any press clippings or reviews of book, or any relevant articles on you
  • Galleys or finished books
  • Colored copies of your book cover
  • Video of a recent TV appearance or interview with you discussing your book (If you don’t have one, try to get one.  Big market television producers often want to see evidence that you can handle yourself on-air)
  • Letter head paper with your contact information (print the first page of your press releases, pitch letters etc. on this letterhead)
  • Color head shots
  • Business cards
  • Glossy two-pocket folders in a bright color that will attract attention. Find folders that include a spot for your business card. If your book cover is mostly dark blue, then try to find glossy dark blue folders to match.

Rather than go into the specifics of how to write a winning pitch letter and press release, I suggest googleing pitch letters/press releases/Bio’s for authors.  There are many wonderful websites dedicated to this topic with excellent sample copy.  The main thing to remember here is to target your pitch.  A radio producer’s idea of a great interview is different than a television or magazine editor’s idea of a great interview.

Once you have your materials, you will want to put together press kits. Here’s how you do it:

  • Copy and paste a color copy of your book cover on the front cover of your folder and add your business card inside.
  • On the left side pocket include photo copies of any articles in which your book has been mentioned.  If you are lucky enough to have many articles, pick the top three or four.  These should include the best stories that ran in media outlets with the largest circulation.  For example, include the article that ran in the L.A. Times versus the Sacramento Bee and a full article dedicated to the author versus a short blurb.  Your goal is to show that other media outlets are interested in you.
  • On the right side pocket include, Press Release, Author Bio with a wallet sized picture of you photocopied onto the upper left corner of the page, Sample Questions for the host, and your Testimonials.

Now that you have your press kits ready to go.  You are probably wondering, what do I do with them.  The answer – find your media contacts.  For a proper campaign you want to target: radio, print, and television outlets.  One way to find contact info. is to visit your local library and page through media reference guides such as BEACONS.  BEACONS will give you lists of every radio station in a given city, television stations, as well as print.  It will give you names and relevant contact info.  You need to call each of the outlets before mailing your press kits to confirm the person is still there and make sure the mailing address is correct.  There is quite a bit of turnover in the media world. It is important to target the right person at each media outlet.  For example you want to send your media kit to the morning producer at KIXY Light, not the Afternoon D.J.  If you are unsure who the right person should be, ask them when you are calling to confirm all of your other contact info. I suggest contacting all of your local media as well as planning out a few other cities to visit.  Call those other cities ahead of time and schedule book signings at local book stores in those areas.  Then target all the surrounding media outlets in those areas and tell them in your pitch letter and calls that you will be in town on such and such date.

So now you have all of your media picked out and press kits put together, it’s time to really get to work.  Paper clip your personalized Pitch Letter onto the front of your media kit.  Put the kit and a copy of your galley/book into a manila envelope and hand address it to your contact. Send it priority mail.  

Make your follow-up calls in the morning

  • Call the contact 6 days after sent. VERY IMPORTANT. You call within 6-7 days so they don’t let it get buried or forget about it all together.

 

  • If no response, leave another vm 3 days later. 

 

  • If no response, leave another vm 4-5 days later, making it somewhat funny, “I know you’re busy and I don’t want you to miss out on a great interview.”

 

  • If no response after leaving vm Fax 2-3 days later, reminder, new info, etc.

 

  • Try one-two more times 1 week before the tour date or a few days after last call.

 

If you’re working with national media, try a new pitch with new information every 2-3 weeks.  Then start your calls all over again. Don’t give up until you get a “No we are not interested…ever!”

It is very important and absolutely necessary for your success:  To call the first time within 1 week or 6 business days after sending out every single package and then leave a minimum of 6-8 messages and at least one fax.  Sometimes they are just busy and need to be reminded and hit over the head!!! As many of them have told me. I’ve had some say, “thanks for calling me so many times because I’m so swamped and I can’t return your calls.”

You are doing them a favor by suggesting and offering them a great interview – they have to fill 2-3 hours every day with worthwhile talk.  Find out what they want and give it to them.  And if it’s not for them, find out who else at the station might be interested on that topic; get the correct spelling of their name and direct phone line.  Do it quickly and thank the original producer you talked to for his/her help.

Notation: for national magazine, extend days between alls from 3 days to 10 days.

Finally, I have a few Do’s and Don’ts tips for making your media calls.

  • Always have a smile on your face when you place a call
  • Know exactly what you want to say and the result you want to get – The interview. Ask for it!
  • Be authentic, enthusiastic, and friendly
  • Don’t mail out something unless you have the time and energy to follow-up with several phone calls
  • Be prepared to send material out over and over again
  • Don’t call the “News at Noon” producer at 12:10 pm – don’t call when they are on deadline
  • Listen for state of mind – if the person sounds busy, find out a better time to call back
  • Don’t take rejection personally
  • Be persistent without being obnoxious
  • Become a resource – find out what else they are working on and see how you can help them.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment box below and I will do my best to answer them.

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8 Responses to Invaluable Insider’s Tips for Running a Book Campaign

  1. Mark says:

    Aloha Holly,

    WOW! Super Mahalo for this insider’s guide!

    While I (sadly:) don’t need it at this exact moment, I have already cut and pasted the info into my writing folder for future use.

    Cheers, and aloha!

  2. cyelkoth5637 says:

    This is an AMAZING post! Right now my agent is in the process of getting my new sci fi novel, Illusion, out to publishers. Your tips and hints about what to do when it gets picked up is going to come in so handy. Thank you so much for posting this!

    • hollyyoumans says:

      Thank you Christa! It makes me smile to know I’m helping another writer. Please feel free to email me any questions as you get closer to your pub date. I haven’t started sending to queries to agents yet. I gave my manuscript to one publisher who was interested and have just been waiting to hear back. How long did it take you to find an agent? How much editing did you do after you were signed? Best of luck to you! I can’t wait to read your published book.

      • cyelkoth5637 says:

        I will most definitely email you if I have more questions as things progress with my novel. As for finding an agent, I spent 2 years cold querying and had two agents actually ask for pages. (I must have queried close to a hundred agents during that time.) It wasn’t until I went to a writing conference this past Feb (SCWC in San Diego) that I met my agent, Kate Folkers. I think having the chance for a one-on-one interview really helped. It was something that I had to pay for, but even if she hadn’t been interested, professional feedback would have been worth it. And the only editing she suggested was making my main character a little older (I couldn’t believe that was all I had to change!!), to make sure it wouldn’t be confused with YA. (It is for adults.)

      • hollyyoumans says:

        Thanks for sharing your story Christa. Wow, two years of sending out queries. I imagine most of them sat in slush piles the whole time. Thank goodness for the SCWC. I met with a publisher at the last one in OC and she requested a full. I’m keeping my fingers crossed she loves it. Did your agent give you any idea how long she typically waits to hear back from publishers after a submission?

        I can’t wait to pick up your book at the local bookstore!

  3. Such a fantastic post, Holly. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

    I love this tip: “Be persistent without being obnoxious.” I’ve found that to be a particularly useful line to stay mindful of. 😉

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