The Renegade Writer

How to Sell More Books and Boost Your Platform by Getting Your Story in the Media

By Alison Hill

So you have an idea for a non-fiction book, are in the process of creating your masterpiece, or are even polishing up a completed manuscript. Well done. Great job.

That takes care of the writing bit. Now comes the selling part.

Whatever publishing route you choose to take, whether traditional or independent, you will be responsible for some (or most) of the marketing and publicity.

And that’s not all. You need to be media ready and media savvy, so when you do snag those prime time television interview slots, you’ll do a knockout job and attract thousands of readers to your book.

Remember you have two things to sell: your book, and you as an author.

And for magazine writers with no plans for a book, this information also applies to you. If you’re a passionate writer, have expertise in a certain topic or area, and the clips to prove it, then being media ready could really boost your career. So keep reading!

Can’t I just hire a publicist to do that marketing stuff?

By all means, if you can afford it. But even having a publicist at your disposal will not necessarily prepare you for media engagements, especially television and radio interviews. Most writers are not prepared to meet the press.

Can’t I just do some publicity online? Isn’t that enough?

Your marketing strategy should be a multi pronged effort, and even before writing the first sentence of your book, you should be busy building a platform in your area of expertise.

A website or blog is mandatory for all non-fiction writers, and you should also be active on social media sites. But don’t ignore traditional media.

Is traditional media still relevant?

Absolutely. It’s not only relevant, but by far the quickest way to attract readers to your book or articles, and make a name for yourself.

Securing media appearances, including television and radio interviews, newspaper articles and magazine features, is a guaranteed way of gaining visibility and boosting sales. It brings immediate credibility and professional recognition. It also has the advantage of a targeted audience.

There are online TV and Radio shows you can also target, as well as publications and niche websites. Just make sure you don’t spend too much time with start ups, as they probably don’t have a large audience. It’s good practice, but won’t sell many books. Calculate the best return for your investment. TV or radio shows will guarantee you thousands (maybe even millions) of viewers/listeners at one sitting.

How do I get invited onto these traditional media shows? Or featured in magazines?

By making yourself irresistible.

Think about what people like to read and watch on television or listen to on the radio. Would you like to watch yourself on a talk show discussing your book? Are you interesting enough to warrant an interview or feature? What’s different about you? What are you offering people?

Ask yourself: why should people fork out $26 to buy my book? Are they getting their money’s worth? If so, why? Or why do people read your articles? What do you have to say that’s so important?

You’re selling information or expertise, so it better be unique, new and groundbreaking, or at least a different spin on something that’s been done before.

The media needs stories to fill time slots. So your story — which is the content of your book and why you wrote it — should help, inspire, inform and entertain. Your job is to convince media professionals that people need to know the information you possess and you are the best person to deliver it.

And if you’re a magazine writer with many years experience writing about a particular topic, then you’re also considered an expert. So advertise this to the world. Start a blog, create a website, list your areas of expertise. Make yourself visible online, so when a producer is looking for guests, they can easily find you.

How do I make myself irresistible?

When media professionals search for show guests or interviewees, they are most likely to choose those with a strong platform. These people are experts in their field and constantly promote their work through writing or speaking engagements. A ‘platform’ can refer to your visibility, your reach (the extent of your visibility, local, regional, national, international), and your reputation, especially in your chosen subject area.

So what do you have to offer the media, readers and society? What skills, information, knowledge, or experience do you have that’s unique? What sets you apart from the rest? What communities of people are you connected to?

When a reader buys a non-fiction book they expect the author to have special expertise or knowledge to make their investment worthwhile. Credentials, either academic or professional, add to your credibility, as do years of experience in a certain profession or field.

If you don’t have either academic credentials or professional experience, then hopefully you’ve done many years of research or have some personal story that builds your credibility.

Remember media professionals love experts, and always need to fill seats on talk shows. If you have an area of expertise (related to your book or articles), you could be invited as one of the guest panelists on a topical discussion show, or even featured in a documentary. This is a great way to build your reputation.

Say, for instance, you’ve been writing about parenting issues for years in well known magazines, and your local news channel wants to do a segment about baby car seats, you could be their go-to expert. And if they like you, you could become a permanent fixture.

People who see you on TV will want to read your articles. You’re building a name, a reputation, and a television appearance is a potential gold mine.

Which media outlets do I target?

Be realistic, and do some research. Start locally and then branch out to bigger markets. If you get onto local TV shows then you will have clips to send with your pitch letters to the nationals.

Check online to see what media outlets are in your area — newspapers and magazines (don’t forget the free ones), public and commercial TV and radio stations, and even community television.

Watch and listen to the shows you’d like to be on, the ones that cover books, authors, and general topics. Read the magazines in which you want to be featured. Who is the audience? What do they like? What is the focus of the show or article? Are you a good fit? If so, what makes you a promising candidate?

How do I pitch myself to the media?

It’s no different to pitching an article to publications. Sell yourself, your knowledge, and state clearly why your book or expertise is important and how the information can help and inform people.

When you’re pitching media outlets, give them an idea for a show or article — something that’s topical, trendy, and informative, as well as entertaining. Ask yourself: why did I write this book? Your reasons for writing the book can be a story in itself. So do some self-searching.

How do I prepare for these interviews?

Know yourself and know your stuff.

Knowing yourself sounds redundant but it’s amazing how many people freeze up during interviews. So write a short bio and memorize it.

Also dig into your past for any funny or interesting stories, preferably relevant to the book, your journey as an author, your writing life, or your profession. These are great discussion enhancers. Bring humor into the mix and be humble. Keep the conversation interesting.

Writing a book isn’t easy, so talk about the process. How much coffee did it take? How did you overcome procrastination? For magazine writers, are you freelance? What’s that like? How do you make enough to pay the bills? People love to hear how others make a living, especially when you work from home.

Knowing your stuff means knowing your book, or for magazine writers, knowing your topic. Again, talking about your work may induce ‘deer in the headlights’ reactions, so be prepared. Practice summarizing your book or expertise in a sentence or paragraph. It’s very important to have a one liner for short interviews and conversations.

Your one-liner is also good to break the ice in a longer, more in-depth interview. You can then expand on this short description as the conversation progresses. Don’t be long winded — think in terms of soundbites, while also being natural.

It sounds tough, but practice really does make perfect. Watch how other authors or journalists/writers perform during TV interviews. What works? What doesn’t work? Learn from them.

Remember to also be yourself. There’s nothing worse than a nervous guest trying too hard. You’re going to be nervous regardless and you might trip up a few times. Most people do. But nobody will remember, except for you.

So relax, and enjoy the experience. If you make a mistake nobody’s going to get hurt — this isn’t brain surgery. All you have to do is talk about your work, which you love. This love will then carry over to the viewer or listener, and hopefully they’ll be hooked.

And this is how you connect with your potential readers, sell books, land more writing assignments, and make a name for yourself.

Alison Hill is an Emmy-nominated producer, an accomplished journalist, and a regular news analyst for BBC Radio. She produces and edits online video, writes articles for a website, offers media strategy sessions for authors, and is an aspiring horror novelist. She is also the author of Media Ready, Media Savvy, The Media Workbook For Authors (www.mediaready-mediasavvy.com) Alison Hill is originally from the mountains of North Wales, and now lives in Durham, N.C. For more on Alison Hill: www.AlisonHillMedia.com

Oct 11, 2012 Book authoring, Book news, Freelance writers, Freelance Writing, Ideas, Writers, Writing

13 Responses

  1. This is a really interesting idea for a topic and I agree with many of the points you raised, Alison. But I fear you left out one MAJOR point. The author who succeeds in making a pitch will be one who approaches the issue from the media outlet’s point of view. It’s not enough to sell your knowledge. You need to be able to explain why and how the particular publication you are pitching will benefit from writing about you,

    It’s essential to tailor each pitch to the individual media outlet. No more sending the same press release to everyone and his dog!

    I’m a former books editor at a major metropolitan daily and I can tell you that anyone who who wanted to sell me their knowledge got short shrift. The people who were successful were the ones who made a tailored approach that explained exactly why MY market would benefit from their information. They were “problem-solvers” who tried to solve my problem rather than self-promoters who concentrated only on their own!

    • Great point, Daphne! I think you would definitely want to point out how your expertise is relevant to the editor’s audience. Thanks for your insights!

    • Alison Hill says:

      Thank you for the comment Daphne. Since this was a comprehensive article I didn’t get to cover everything in-depth. But you bring up a great point, one that I delve into in great detail (covering two chapters) in my workbook: ‘Media Ready, Media Savvy.’ It’s not only how the media outlet will benefit, but most importantly how their AUDIENCE will benefit, and this is where I emphasize the need for authors to research and target specific TV shows/magazines, etc. to see where they may fit in, and how they (and their story) can appeal to that particular audience. How will the viewers/readers/listeners benefit from their knowledge, groundbreaking information, and expertise or story? How will it move them? Inspire them? Motivate them? Inform them? That’s the key. In my book I set out tasks and exercises for this very purpose and of course emphasize the need to tailor each pitch accordingly. In fact I include specific pitch examples. I’ve spent over 17 years working in the media – including newspapers, radio, television broadcast journalism, producing and directing, so I know firsthand what the media is looking for in a potential TV show guest or interview subject. For instance, as a PBS senior current affairs producer, I chose topics and found guests for various weekly live and taped talk shows, and often invited authors onto the show, either as a one-on-one guest or as part of a four-person panel on a topical subject (in which the author was an expert!) Since my programs concentrated mostly on current events and political topics, I kept a contact list of experts to call upon, and many of these were authors with knowledge in various areas. So I was very happy to learn of potential guests with enough knowledge to deem them an expert in their field. It brought credibility to my show, the station, myself as a producer, my host, and of course provided a useful and important source of information for my viewers. So it’s important for authors to promote themselves and build a platform, so producers and reporters like me can find them! And as you’ve quite rightly pointed out, it’s vital that authors tailor each pitch when contacting media professionals. This is a vast topic, and I could go on, but I’ll leave it right there for now (that’s why I wrote a book about this subject!) Thank you again for bringing up this aspect of book marketing and taking the time to read the article and write a comment.

  2. Lisa Hagan says:

    Fantastic article, exceptionally helpful. Clear and concise information, easy to follow and understand. I took away a lot from this and will definitely use it for future books for my clients.
    Thanks, Lisa

  3. Thanks for compiling this helpful info on building a platform and selling yourself to the media. As writers, this is often the most challenging part of our jobs, and we’re on our own to figure out how to make ourselves attractive to the media. I think the multi pronged approach is important–too many writers rely solely on social media, which is a mistake. The questions you asked will definitely help me to focus my message and consider in which areas I can be considered an expert. Thanks!

  4. crautepred says:

    Great job with nice ideas.Your expertise is nice.
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  5. Alison Hill says:

    Thanks for your comment Elaine, and I’m glad you agree that the multi-pronged approach is important.

  6. Johnson Brierley says:

    A great and very in depth article, providing very useful information for both newcomers and experienced writes alike. Whether you have had something published previously or not, there are a number of very interesting and relevant points which should be heeded by anyone looking to get published.

  7. Gurdjieff says:

    Thanks for the tips. Not all authors make good public speakers and not all public speakers make good authors. It’s useful to know your strength and focus on that. In our age of video blogging, a book might not be necessary for a good speaker to disseminate his or her influence. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a one-minute video is worth about 60,000 words.

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