Thursday, June 9, 2011

Random Thoughts Thursday

Time Tested Tips for Promoting Your Book to the Media
Melissa Jarvis

A mild-mannered Public Relations executive by day, and action-packed writer by night, Melissa Jarvis lives in celebrity-friendly Southern California with her husband and son.  For over 14 years, she has worked in the public relations industry, doing press releases, bios, newsletters, media campaigns and more for clients ranging from the Playboy Jazz Festival to the Los Angeles Mission to JVS.  And she’s survived with most of her mind intact!  An active member of RWA, she writes both paranormal romance and urban fantasy, as well as spicy paranormal under the name Melissa L. Robert.  Her debut book, Past Her Time, a time travel historical, was just released from BookStrand Romance.  You can learn more about her, time travel and the agents of the Lineage at

Let’s travel back in time to 10 years ago, when Facebook, MySpace and YouTube were unheard of, Twitter was something that woke you up in the morning (darn birds) and blogs could still be counted in the hundreds.  How did writers promote themselves?  And do those methods still work?

There is no question that Social Media 2.0 has changed the way we reach readers.  I’ve been in Public Relations for over 14 years, and we are still trying to grasp the implications for our industry.  I can’t tell you how many seminars I’ve sat through with so-called “experts in the field.”  The fact is, the field is changing so fast that everyone is trying to catch up, and we’re still two steps behind.

Most of us have figured out how to blog (although this is my first one), utilize Facebook and other similar sites as a networking tool for connecting with other writers, book reviewers and readers.  We’ve all put up a website, and worked on our brand.  But the one thing I’ve noticed that’s fallen by the wayside is promotion the old-fashioned way, or rather, the tried and true methods that have worked since the era of Mad Men.

So, here are some methods to garner newsprint and maybe even a sound byte on the six o’clock news.

Despite the new social media, newsrooms are inundated with thousands of press releases every day.  As a writer, how do you stand out from the kids feeding the homeless, bear in the backyard or latest slow-moving freeway chase?

Well, even the most heart-tugging shots of children visiting the hospital can’t compete with the bear in the backyard story.  But there are ways to break through the clutter.  You may need to be a little sneaky.  You may need to be a little devious.  But, hey, we’re romance writers.  Sometimes our heroines have to bite the bullet and go undercover just to land the hero.

Calendar listings:  Every newspaper, from the Los Angeles Times to the New York Times, has calendar listings.  Generally, each paper also has an editor assigned to do nothing but sort through these.  These listings range from a few sentences to almost an entire paragraph, and should be written that way as well.  A calendar listing should include the very basics: who, what, where, and if you have enough room, why.  If you’re having an event such as a book signing, or participating in a panel discussion, send in a calendar listing.  But know WHO to send this to and what their lead-time is, i.e. how far in advance of the event they will accept a listing.  You can find out editors and lead times by calling the paper or checking out their website.  There are also directories available out there of all the media in the U.S.—radio, print and television, even blogs, with specific information on how to contact them (ie email or phone), when, what they cover and more.  PR firms use media list services available from companies like Cision, and the Public Relations Society of America.  Most dailies have a lead-time of 1-2 weeks, and most weeklies have a lead-time of 3-4 weeks.  Many radio station websites also offer a page where you can submit a listing for an upcoming event. 

Letters to the Editor/Op-Eds/Editorials: Got an opinion?  Don’t be afraid to share it.  If you’re a writer of e-books and ABC News does a story on e-books being the fastest growing segment of romance in America, send a letter on why you agree or disagree.   If the Daily News does a piece on the growing popularity of tearooms, and you’re a Historical writer, send in a letter.  Pay attention to the news.  If it relates to you or what you write in some way, WRITE!  Most papers have guidelines on how to send a letter to the editor or opinion piece in those sections.   However, a word of caution: make your letter interesting, either totally agreeing or totally disagreeing with the viewpoint presented in the story.  Your letter cannot be a blatant advertisement for your new book, although you can briefly mention it when talking about why you’re qualified to offer an opinion.  Another word of caution: be fast.  If you see a story you’d like to respond to, write and send in a letter or op-ed piece that same day.

Position Yourself as an Expert:  This one takes a little more time, and a little more patience, but the payoff can be far greater.  Reporters are constantly on the lookout for sources, someone to back up or disagree with their viewpoint.  If they’re doing a story about the addiction of romance fiction (which we’ve all seen the articles on recently), you want to be someone they quote.  How do you do this?  There are a couple of ways.  First, find out which reporters cover what beats, i.e. who covers books and publishing, current events, women’s issues, etc.   Send that person a Rolodex email stating your name, occupation, and what you’re qualified to talk about, or sign up to follow them on Twitter.  Watch the paper for stories by those writers, or listen to the radio talk shows.   If you see a story you think you could have commented on, or know someone they could have talked to, give them a call or drop them an email.  Mention you saw their story, thought it was great, but you know of someone who could really be useful to them.   This way, you are positioning yourself as a resource to them.  And, they don’t see you as self-promoting.  Be a fountain of information, not just on yourself.     

Human Interest Stories:  Do you think your life story would make great copy for People?  Are friends hanging on your every word at parties?  Then you may have a human-interest story.  This category is the most competitive and the hardest to sell.   You first need to think of who your readers are—what do they read?  Are they the type to go for People and Ladies Home Journal or Sci-Fi Quarterly?  Once you’ve figured out your target audience, pick the magazine that best reflects that.  Research it.  Who covers what?  You’ll then need to craft a 1-2 page pitch letter—similar to a query letter, only it’s about you.  What makes you interesting?  Why would your story appeal to their audience?  If your story centers around an upcoming event (such as you’re giving birth to your daughter’s kids), be aware that magazines have a 3-4 month lead-time.  To find out who to target and where, check out the magazines masthead page—the listing in the front of all the editors and offices.  Most magazines are based out of New York, with bureaus in Los Angeles.  

Radio:  This is a category unto itself.  Radio, more than other outlets, needs a constant stream of news.  They have more space to fill, especially with the satellite specific channels.  Who are the morning show hosts in your area?  Are they conservative or liberal?   What kind of guests do they feature?   Are there any nationally syndicated shows that you think would be a good fit?  If you’d like to be a guest on a radio talk show, put together a packet of information on yourself—bio, book covers, any press clippings you have and send it with a pitch letter on why you’d be a great guest.  Don’t contact the on-air personality directly though, contact their producer.   Find out how the radio station conducts their interviews—in-person, by phone, taped or live. 

Public relations is exactly that—it’s about relationship building.  You’ve already done it in the social media realm, and you can transfer that knowledge to radio, TV, and print.  Get to know your local media—who and what they cover.  Don’t call them about something you’ve never seen them do.  Be reliable.  It’s the same as with your editor.  Deliver what you promise.  And get used to rejection.

Past Her Time
Agent Alex Raines takes no prisoners—in her job or in her personal life. But all of that changes when the time travel organization The Lineage sends her to 1793 Revolutionary France. Used to a "get in, get out," modus operandi, she finds her heart and will tested by local English nobleman Lord Gabriel Huntington, whose reasons for being there are as deceptive as her own.

In the midst of revolution and betrayal, can these two learn to take off the disguises and trust each other? Or will the fate of the world and time travel rest on Alex's ability to betray the one man she has come to love?


  1. Great tips! Just what I needed. Thanks.

  2. Great tips. Thanks for sharing. The newspaper calendar listing is a great idea!

  3. I'm glad everyone is finding the info useful. Please feel free to ask me questions.

  4. Thanks for the tips. Great job on your first blog! Good Luck. Jordan