5 reasons the newspaper isn’t covering your book

dog newspaper

It happened again today. Two books were placed on my desk in our busy newspaper newsroom, sent by a hopeful author.

“Do you think you can do anything with these?” my editor asked.

I thumbed through them, my face surely revealing the doubt I was feeling.

“I’ll try,” I said, and I placed them on my growing to-do list.

I revisited these books by this mysterious author the next day. There was no press release included with them. There were no pages that told anything about the author. The book description on the back cover didn’t tell me anything remarkable about the books at all. There wasn’t even a link pointing me to the author’s website. Googling his name didn’t come up with much else, as he had a very common moniker. I finally found his books on Amazon and Google Play, but there was no author page on either of these sites, nor anything that pointed me toward any kind of website.

Now, had I been just a regular writer at the newspaper, I probably would have tossed this author’s books in a pile of other books by hopeful authors, and that would end his chance of any kind of coverage. However, I, too, am an author who is struggling to make my books known to others. I know how much blood, sweat, and tears go into these books. I know that any kind of mention by a newspaper can be worth its weight in gold to an author. So I gathered all the information I could find from the Amazon book page and what I could gather through a quick scan of the book, and I created a small web item that pointed to where you could find the book online. It was meager at best, but still offered a chance for readers to find this author’s books and purchase them.

In my last two posts, I covered how to take advantage of the media spotlight, and how to write a rocking press release. Today I want to reveal 5 possible reasons why I or any other writer at the newspaper isn’t covering your book.

1. We don’t have time to read your book. I’m sorry. I wish we did. As an avid reader, I want to read every book that crosses my desk. As an author, I especially want to read books by other local authors. Unfortunately, the dozens of books I see every week are only a small portion of my job in the newsroom. So if I’m handed a book with no other information, it’s highly unlikely it will ever get any press.

2. A press release can make or break your chance for coverage. Consider this kind of like the first page of your novel. The information you present on this sheet of paper or personal email tells us whether or not we want to cover you, or whether we’re intrigued enough to find out more about you. If we find you interesting, then so will our readers.

3.You don’t have a website.  This is especially true if I need to know more about you in a hurry, or want a place to point readers so they can purchase your books. I’d much rather point readers to an author’s website than to some other bookseller’s website. You deserve that traffic much more than they do. Also, you have more control over what’s shown on your website than some third-party seller’s website. Think about it this way—if you decide to stop selling on a third-party website, that link becomes dead. But if readers are directed to your own website, you can change the buy links at any time, allowing readers to always be able to find your books. Wouldn’t you rather have readers pointed to your own website from a media article?

4. Your book is your only selling point for an article. It’s not enough that you wrote a book. Lots of people have written books. Even if your book is excellent—and I’m sure that it is—it may not be enough to garner attention. Authors that share something beyond just their book are easier to cover. If you will be at a signing event, or you plan to take part in a writer’s conference, or you will be reading at an open mic, that gives us an interesting event to share with our readers, plus a chance to mention your book. If you are helping the community—either through your book’s subject, sales from your books, or as a side project on top of being an author—that gives us a chance to tug at our reader’s heartstrings. Give us something to share with our readers that is beyond just the book you’ve written, and we will be more likely to cover you.

5. The harder it is to find out about you, the more likely it is that we’ll just give up. It’s not because we’re lazy. It’s because the workload inside a newsroom has grown exponentially in the past few years. Our assignments have increased. We are being introduced to new, innovative ways to reach readers. And the shrinking number of newsroom employees has increased the responsibilities of those of us left covering their work plus our own. So when a book is placed on my desk with no press release, no author bio, no website, and not even an email, there’s really no way to gauge whether this is worth our limited time or not. If we’re handed only a book, it’s more than likely it will end up on the slush pile.

I cannot stress this enough. If you want your book to be covered by the media, you MUST make it as easy as possible for your book to be covered.

To close, here’s your checklist of bare minimum items you must do as an author:

  • Create a website with an author bio, pages about your books and links to where you can purchase, and great photos of you and your books.
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  • Write a press release for each one of your books that tells about why your book is a must-read, and describes the interesting person you are. When you send it, be sure to address your recipient by name and why you thought they, personally, would be interested in your book.
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  • Join local author events, like open mics or signing events. Tell the media when this happens in hopes that they’ll cover the event and you as an author. Bonus: The more times they see your name, the more familiar they will be with you as an author. The more familiar they are with you, the more likely you’ll be covered.

Other things you can do to increase your chance of being covered by the media:

  • Create a following via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media outlets. (I’ll go more in depth on this at a later date)
    ***
  • Become an expert in a specific field of writing careers, and share your expertise through seminars or essays. The more the community recognizes you, the more the media will, too.
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  • Become somewhat of a philanthropist. Focus your passion of being an author toward helping your community. You can organize a book drive to raise funds for the homeless. You can use the skills you’ve gained to help authors who are just starting out. Find a way to use your love of writing, marketing, or some other aspect of being an author to benefit others. In doing so, more and more people will want to help you, as well. And the media will be clamoring to write about all you are doing in your community.

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Create a rocking press release for your book

newspaper extraIf you’re getting ready to publish a book, you have to spread the word about it. You can email everyone you know that you’re writing a book, contact every blogger you’ve ever heard of, or even post a sign on your car so that drivers will be compelled to look you up (yes, I’ve considered this!). But the truth is, no one will even notice these efforts if you can’t get them to care about your book.

This is where a press release comes in. A press release is a short, to-the-point introduction to your book in an effort to get a reporter or the like to care about covering your book. Because reporters are busy and on deadline, a press release should quickly nail why readers would want to hear about this book, and should make writing an article about your book as easy as possible.

There are numerous ways to write a good press release. Personally, I like to follow a formula:

  1. Start with a compelling headline. You can be quirky or straightforward, but it should grab the reporter’s attention. If necessary, save this part and write it after the rest of the press release is complete.
  2. First paragraph: The hook. This is the who, what, and why of your book, and why an audience would want to hear about your book.
  3. Second to third paragraph: Interesting information about your book and yourself.
  4. Next paragraph: A testimony about your book. This is a great place a quote by you, or to put someone else’s quote or review about your book. Think about what a reporter would want to use as a quote in their article. If you are quoting someone else, it’s helpful if it’s someone the audience might recognize.
  5. Final paragraph: Sum up who you are and link back to your website.

Ideally, a press release should be just one page long, and should be simple to read. Here’s an example using my own press release for Reclaim Your Creative Soul.

Of course, you can follow any formula and still have your press release ignored. Here are some prime reasons why a press release will end up in the slush pile:

  • It’s full of grammar issues or typos.
  • It isn’t clear who the audience is.
  • It’s not clear what the point is.
  • It fails to be interesting.
  • A reporter can’t find an easy way to write about it.

That last point sums up everything a press release should do. The #1 thing you should think about when writing a press release is, how can this make it easy for a reporter to write about your book? Reporters are on deadline, and they are too busy to unravel why they should write an article about you or your book. You need to give them a clear reason why an audience would care about your book, and offer easy quotes they can insert into an article. Pretend like you’re writing the article yourself in a limited amount of space. Whose attention do you want to grab? What should this audience understand about your book? Include that info, and nix any extra info that’s not relevant to the point you are making.

Finally, and probably the most important part, make sure to personalize your email when you are sending your press release. This means, DO NOT send a mass email with your press release. This is the #1 mistake some authors make, and a sure way to be ignored. Instead, take the time to send the email personally to the editor or reporter you hope to cover your book. After all, you want them to take the time to write about your book. Extend them the same courtesy and take the time to get to know who you’re writing to. Address them by name, and maybe even offer a reason why you thought to send your press release to them, specifically. And because reporters might be sketchy about opening attachments, copy and paste your press release into the body of the email.

Here’s an example of what you can write:

Hi Sally! I am sending you information about my upcoming book that releases on March 15. I thought you might be interested since you wrote about books on creativity last year, and it seemed to gather a great response. I think you will find this book just as compelling, if not more. I’ve attached the press release to this email, and have also copied it in the space below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Ready to craft your own? Here are some sites that offer more information on writing a rocking press release.

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Are you having a hard time finding time for your writing? Are the mundane parts of your full-time life eating up the time you wish you could spend on your craft? Learn how to fully engage in your creativity without quitting your day job in Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The secrets to organizing your full-time life to make room for your craft.

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