One of my favorite "advice columns" on how to query an Editor is Kit Whitfield's Dating Your Publisher, wherein she discusses the inappropriate things some newbie authors say or the way a newbie might say the right thing in such a very wrong way. Writing your press releases is another opportunity for catching foot-in-mouth disease. There's a right way and a wrong way to say things--and it's not just about promoting your brand, rather than your product. It's about drawing attention, standing out from the crowd and most-importantly, doing it with class.
The secret to doing publicity well is not limited to avoiding being too bland. Understanding how to write good press is also about not offending the consumer by being too personal, too lewd, too shocking, too...anything. You need to channel your inner Goldilocks and make your publicity "just right" the first time because you never get a second first impression. Click through the jump break to read more.
Picking the Right Pecker
Yeah, I'm actually referring to what you think I'm referring to here. There is a pecking order in the media industry and you must pick the right pecker at the right time and in the right place--or you are not getting lucky tonight, m'dear. That's okay, the pecking order is fairly well-known or at least, it's something you can learn how to do right with just a little advance research. You'll find it a heck of a lot easier than dating ^)^
For example, The Wall Street Journal won't do a story that has already run in USA Today; however, USA Today might be willing to do its own version of a story that ran last week in The New York Times. And none of the three of them will touch anything that appeared in Time, Newsweek or any of the major "consumer magazines." Not even the Time Magazine editors will touch a story that appeared in a supermarket tabloid.
So if you want publicity, you have to send your request to the right editors at the right time and in the right order. No one reads the media more than the media workers, themselves. They want to know why they didn't have the current "big story" first. They might decide to "find a new angle" and do their own story a week or two later. Not more than two weeks--it'll be "old news"--but not less than one week or it's "concurrent" and makes them look like they can't get their own sources.
If you send out press releases yourself, bear all of this in mind when you address the editors and make sure to tell them about who else has run any stories on your brand, what's been said and maybe suggest a slant on a new story they can run that no one else has done yet. You never know unless you ask, so you might get turned down until you suggest a new slant they can use. The point is to make sure you remember it has to be of use to the editor, not merely to you--even if you're paying for the story to run (see "editorial islands" in advertisements).
The internal relationships between media outlets influence your publicity strategy. Some only want new ideas, some only those that have already gained credibility. Understand the difference and use the state of your brand to your advantage at all times. Just knowing "how to play the game" will make courting the press more of a "sure thing" and less of a dating challenge. So what do you do if you cannot tell who will run your story first? Just like playing the dating game, you simply have to pick one and see what happens. Make an educated choice, though.
This is exactly what it sounds like. You place an announcement or story in a media outlet where it will get some attention. It should be a media outlet you can later use as a foundation on which to build the rest of your publicity campaign. That is, you want to be able to reference the press you get in this keystone location when you pitch coverage to other editors later. You are using the pecking order to your advantage rather than having it defeat you.
If you contact a small blog or new eZine that just launched last year and only has 500 or fewer subscribers, it really won't help you. Writing to USA Today might. Obviously, it's harder to get into USA Today but again, if you don't ask, you won't find out if it's possible.
Sending a press release to The New York Times would help if they picked you up but like USA Today and other major news outlets they tend to get thousands of requests for PR (daily, not just weekly) so you'll need to either have extremely good luck, good timing or "know someone" who can get your press release read.
Instead of "knowing someone," there's always the option to use a service--PR Web comes to mind and they specialize in small business customers (yes, such as, Indie Authors). A public relations or press release service will cost you money whereas creating andsending out your own press release is free but you don't have connections--yet. If you did, you wouldn't need to get your foot in any doors. You would call your connection at The New York Times and get a review. Since you don't have the ability to just go the NYT directly, consider paying money for a service that does business with them regularly.
Publicity Placement in the Publishing Industry
Say that heading 3 times quickly! ^)^
One of the most-influential trade publications in our industry is called Publishers Weekly. Last year they started offering a small publicity opportunity called PW Select to Indie Authors for a small fee of $149. The name makes me cringe, deliberately linking PW Select to Amazon's KDP Select program. Given the class action lawsuit filed with the U.S. Department of Justice this past week by Indie Bookstores against Amazon and Big Six traditional publishers for violation of anti-trust laws (like the monopoly Microsoft tried with web browsers a decade ago) I'm not sure Publishers Weekly really should be getting into bed with Amazon by using a related name. It's like getting into bed with your cousin and that never ends well.
There are other, similar opportunities that don't tie you to Amazon or a law suit. You do have to look for them; they won't come looking for you. Again, it's a lot like dating. You wouldn't go out on a blind date in this day and age without running a background check, would you? Don't go sending out press releases without doing your research first. It's all part of being a Digital Publishing professional and it's not hard to do, but you do have to do it. Publicity doesn't "just happen" or happen "to you." It's something you start and the public finishes. Get started today.
I like to tie my Tuesday Tips to my Monday Marketing blogs so tomorrow's post will run through some tips on how to use social media to get people talking about your brand. These were all recently shared by my favorite online social medial gurus at Mashable but if you didn't see how to adapt them to being an Indie Author, be sure to stop back tomorrow and I'll try to connect the dots for you. I hope to see you then.
Thanks for stopping by!