Many of you may remember agent and friend, Lisa Hagen. I interviewed her for Media Bytes Studio a few years ago during which she shared invaluable information for those wanting to secure an agent for their literary work.
This week Lisa posted an article that appeared in Writer’s Digest magazine featuring 13 Things you Should Not Say to an Agent or Editor in a Pitch or Query Letter. Some of them seemed so obvious but then I remembered, if you don’t know, you don’t know. It got me thinking of the things never to say in a pitch to a media person, so that is the focus of today’s post.
13 ThingsYou Should Not Say or Do When Pitching Media
Never pitch your book. Pitch a story idea. Of course you want your book covered. That is why you’re doing any sort of media in the first place, but you always need to put yourself in the shoes of the media person. What do they want? They want to please their audience and their higher ups, so be sure and pitch a story idea that speaks to them.
Never make them guess what the story idea is. This runs along the same lines as above, but the idea here is you don’t want to send them your pitch letter and make them guess or try to figure out the story or segment idea. You need to give that to them fully-formed. Now, it may not go live like that, but this is to at least get them to consider what you have to offer.
Not being available. You would be amazed how often this happens. If you are pitching or doing any kind of campaign, you must stick around to respond to any queries that come in. You want to respond ASAP, not a few days from now, not next week, and certainly no later than that. It would be like inviting someone to dinner and then not being there when they come to call. You must be responsive.
Not including all your contact information. This, too, seems very obvious, but you would be amazed at how often pitches come in without the necessary contact information to make it easy to get back in touch.
When they do respond, treat it like a pre-interview. They are sizing you up from the moment they receive your pitch letter all the way to saying yes to an interview. You are always on. Remember that.
Not getting the media contact what they want when they want it. It really is very easy. Every editor, journalist, producer, and host has their own way of wanting to receive information. Take very good notes and do as they ask in the way they prefer it. This really isn’t the place to say, “I don’t use Google, ever.” Also, once you land the interview, this is not the time to begin working on your talking points, bio, or interview topics. All these things should be written in advance of your outreach so that when they say, “Send me a high-resolution photo and your talking points,” you can respond immediately. This is not the time to ask, “What are talking points?”
Not being prepared for an interview. If you are positioning yourself as an expert, then be sure to stay up on research, trends, and news related to your field. Think about how you will share your ideas so you can articulate them quickly and confidently and so that you can easily answer questions about current news stories, research, and trends. If you are doing local media, research news stories that have recently come out and comment on them. It makes you more relevant and credible.
Don’t be too salesy. This applies to doing interviews and preparing the materials that got you the interview. It is one thing to design some pieces to pick up paid speaking gigs, and in that case, you want some slick-looking materials, but it is entirely different from approaching media about an interview. They are not looking to help you sell your book. They are looking for you to entertain or inform their audience, and in exchange, they will plug your books.
Stop saying, “In my book…” With some hosts, this phrase alone will end an interview. When you say, “In my book..” it sounds like you’re telling people to buy your book if they want the real story. This is just the opposite of what you really want to do. Share lots!! When you share a lot, people know you’re being generous. “If they shared that much is a simple 8 minute interview, imagine what is contained in an entire book!
Thinking it’s all about you. Big mistake. It is NOT about you. (Between you and me, we know it’s about you. We want you on the show or in the story. We want people to buy your book.) However, you must make it about the audience. You must get them to feel that you care and you’re there to share valuable information for them. We know that is really want you want to do anyway. You simply want to remember the Golden Rule, beginning with Do Unto Others…
Not getting to the point. If you have a tendency to ramble, it is time to learn how to be succinct and get to the point. Learn how to create and use sound bites. Practice sharing stories that are riveting for others, and not just so you can hear yourself talk. Sometimes when people are nervous, they will use words, and a lot of them to fill the space. Remember. Less is more.
Don’t think that just because you’re a speaker you’ll be a natural at doing interviews. They are entirely different skill sets, so be sure you hone those skills. Speakers often have the hardest time breaking certain habits when doing media interviews. There is a very big difference between being on stage and holding your audience in the palm of your hand, versus having a one-on-one conversation with a host or journalist. The latter is a shared experience with back and forth dialogue and ideas exchange.
Don’t wait to learn about the publicity process. If you are interested in doing any kind of a campaign, it’s important that you’re operating from the most recent information regarding what works and what doesn’t when it comes to media. It is constantly changing, and I can tell you that from personal experience. Learn the trends and how to increase your chances of getting the coverage you desire.
To your success!
P.S. I am delighted to let you know that another live version of The Book Publicity Master Course is starting again in August through the Nonfiction Authors Association. You can learn more about it here. I will be leading the course and I have special gifts for those who are part of the Savvy Sunday News community.
You can just get the course, or you can wrap it up in a NFAA membership, which I highly recommend. If you’re a writer or an author, this is simply a must do. Looking forward to seeing you there!
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