Getting interviewed by the media is not as difficult as you might think. We live in a 24 hour news cycle, and your next door neighbour has a blog. The all-consuming internet beast needs to be fed, and your book could be a tasty little morsel.
You can get interviewed in print. You can get interviewed on the radio. If you’re lucky/brilliant/connected or some combination of all of the above, you can get on TV too. You just have to know where to look.
The Media Kit
The first thing you’ll need is a media kit. This will contain a press release, which sounds fancy but is really one or two typed pages announcing the publication of your book. It should tell people the synopsis of your book, and also why they should care. This is not the time to be modest. Remember: nobody cares that you published a book. Why should they? You need to make them care, by telling them something about the book that makes it newsworthy. Do you explore issues that are currently in the news? Do you offer a fresh perspective on an important topic? Are you an expert in your field? Offer the media something that they can use.
Your press kit should also contain a short author bio, a sample interview Q&A, some talking points your book raises, and high-resolution images of you and your book cover. All of this is designed to make a journalist’s life easier, and make them more likely to want to talk to you.
Now you’ve got your press kit, what do you do with it? You need to get it out to the media; journalists, bloggers, producers. Where do you find them? Well, the internet, of course.
You can find bloggers online, obviously. Newspapers and radio/TV are more difficult, but still doable. Use HARO; this is a free email service that journalists use to find sources. This is probably the single most useful thing I did to promote my book; it enables you to contact people in the media who are actively looking for stories! Just follow the rules; don’t send your press kit to people who asked for something totally different.
As discussed in a previous post, I hired a publicist, and she did most of the pitching for me. With that said, some of the interviews I got came about as a result of my own efforts, and HARO was central to that.
Target, target, target! Do not waste your time sending a generic press kit to a list of impersonal names; even fairly obscure journalists get dozens of pitches a day. Drop a few lines in the email letting this particular journalist know why you chose them, and what you, specifically, can offer their audience. The human touch goes a long, long way.
Often, the best way to get an interview is to make yourself a worthy interview subject, rather than pushing the book. For example: I wrote this article on Thought Catalog. It went viral, and suddenly people wanted to interview me about that, rather than about Scar. The closest I ever got to major national media coverage came from that article, not from the mere fact that I had written a book. It’s 2012, and attention spans are short. Articles get people in the media at least as much as books do.
Be nice. The media industry is still largely one of personal relationships, so you want people to like you. Ultimately, you’re asking these people to give you free publicity, so make it pleasant for them. Make their jobs easier, and they’ll give you the press you need.
One of the easiest ways to get press coverage is in the local market. Does your town have a university? If so, there may be a college radio show that would happily have you on. Community radio is another great place for authors to get attention. The same is true of TV, especially if your book has a strong local angle. My hometown newspaper did a full page feature on me and my book, even though I haven’t lived there for a decade. (Naturally this depends on where you live/are from. If you were born and raised in New York or London, the local angle won’t be as useful. Then again, you’re already in the center of everything anyway.)
Persistence Pays Off
I have to persist in talking about persistence, because it happens to be key to all of this. It takes persistence to write a book; it takes persistence to self-publish. Virtually everything I’ve talked about on this blog requires enormous persistence. Getting interviews is no different.
Jobs in the media are highly desirable, which often means they’re underpaid, if they’re paid at all. You’d be amazed how many people you will deal with in the media that are doing this as a hobby. Anybody can host an online radio show from their basement, and lots of people do. Blogging is not known for the vast amounts of money it generates, either.
As a result, people don’t necessarily have the time to respond to your emails. Life happens. People have jobs and kids and cars that break down, and promoting your book might be quite low on their list of things to do. Every single interview I’ve ever done required multiple emails or phone calls to arrange. And then there’s all the ones I didn’t get to do. Yeah, there’ll be lots of those.
Have fun with it
I’m a classic introvert, but I have to admit, being interviewed on the radio about your book can be a lot of fun. Most radio hosts are pretty genial folks – it’s their job, after all, to get people comfortable and willing to talk to them. Let’s be honest – this is what you dreamed of, isn’t it? I did. I dreamed for years about being interviewed for a book I wrote. I dreamed about doing it on the BBC or in the New York Times, but everybody has to start somewhere. You get to have conversations with people you would never otherwise have met, some of whom may have real insights into your book. After all, writing is a lonely profession, and it’s nice every now and again to hear something back from the void.
Getting press coverage ultimately requires a skill set you should have developed long before you got to this point, because it’s the same things you need to be a writer in the first place. Persistence, patience, creativity, and an ability to cope with failure. It’s another uphill slog, but we’re all just hoping the view is worth it.