Pitching to Media: A Brief List of Author Dos and Don'ts

As many of you probably know by now (I hope!), Orange Frazer has a young reader’s book release in March. We’ve been gearing up for this release for months, and as our resident do-er of publicity and marketing, that means I’ve spent the last several weeks working with Sarah to send out press releases, schedule interviews and appearances, and set up local book signings and author events. All of this involves a lot of pitching—pitching to journalists, to bloggers, to producers, to librarians, to booksellers. If you’re an author, this is either the most exciting portion of your book release publicity, or the most taxing, intimidating, and downright frustrating. While pitching to librarians and booksellers is often more intuitive (because you, as an author, are most likely a lover of books and reading and have probably been in a number of libraries and bookstores), pitching to journalists, reporters, and producers can feel foreign. Unless you spend your spare time chatting with TV producers and scheduling radio programs, you are probably less familiar with how media outlets work. This can make pitching to media intimidating and unsuccessful, but it doesn’t need to be.

A photo of John Paul (Morning Anchor on WHIO-TV) and me at the Cox Media Group office in Dayton, Ohio.

For this post, I thought I would offer just a brief glimpse into some of the dos and don’t of pitching to media. If you have others to offer up or add to this list, please let me know in the comments!

Do Pitch to the decision-maker. Don’t send a press release to the webmaster, copyeditor, or human resources director to get a feature article. Even if their contact info is readily available, it only shows you didn’t do your homework, and oftentimes, your release will get lost in the shuffle.

Don’t Spam five different reporters at the same outlet with your press release. Again, find the decision-maker, and don’t just send your elevator pitch to every email address on the “Contact Us” page.

Do Think about their audience and goals. No journalist/reporter/producer wants to know why it would benefit you to feature or review your book. Why would it benefit them? Does it speak to their audience, help them meet their goals? Know what they’re looking for, and deliver it.

Don’t Assume you are giving them the gift of your book. There is no bigger turn-off than a huge ego and an assumption that your book is the one thing every reporter has been waiting for. Make your pitch intelligent and assertive, but also make it graceful. No one likes to be bullied.

Do Follow up. Emails get lost, or mislabeled, or forgotten. Phone messages end up buried under a mountain of other immediate issues, and sometimes, your pitch will get lost in the mix. It’s okay to follow up once to make sure they received your materials.

Don’t Follow up ten times. If they haven’t responded after a single follow-up, it’s very likely that they are not interested. Move on, and if they get back to you in the future, great—perhaps it just wasn’t the right time.

Do Provide a free copy. Most outlets will want to actually see your book—even to just flip through it, check out the cover, etc. Make sure you’ve budgeted for complimentary copies.

Don’t Assume an Amazon link is enough. Pitching to a media outlet with a purchase link is unprofessional and unproductive. No one is going to spend money to help you get publicity. What do they gain from that? Why should they buy your book, if it might end up that it’s not a good fit for their publication/show?

Do Demonstrate local tie-in. Do you have a book signing in their area, a special event, a school visit? For local and regional publications/shows, these local tie-ins keep their audience engaged, and make your pitch that much more relevant.

Don’t Pitch to irrelevant media sources. Sure, you want to sing the news of your book release from mountaintops, but don’t pitch your Young Adult fantasy book to a trade publication for pre-natal yoga teachers.

Any others to add to the list? Let us know!