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Whether your book is published by a large publisher, a small press, or is self-published, having a publicity
plan for promoting your work is vital for its success. Before you begin developing your publicity plan, however,
you need to be clear on your "message points".
Why should you have your message points first? Because frankly, I'm not into doing double the work or double the
expense and I don't think you are either.
If you craft everything you do in your promotion to build around your message points in one fashion or another,
you are going to be much farther ahead than many of the authors who have a full staff of in-house publicists
behind them at the houses in New York.
Most of these folks are great at setting up events and knowing who to send out review copies to, but they are not
in the business of setting up interviews that might have controversial aspects to them, nor are they familiar
with using branding message points that focus on the author brand rather than just the book. They are paid simply
to tell people that your book is wonderful and available. That is not going to cut it with today's media.
Your publicity plan
Your publicity plan is going to be based on your book's release date, but also go much farther than that.
First, based on your message points you need to decide who the best audience is going to be for your book. If
your message points lean towards censorship you'll be able to talk to political talks shows and write editorial
opinion pieces to be submitted to newspapers. If the subject is censorship of child's material then you can also
work with parenting magazines, teacher and librarian publications and general interest talk shows that deal with
family related issues, like Oprah. I hope you are kind of seeing how the message points allow you to expand
outward who you can touch and impact.
Second, you'll organise your media into those that have long lead times (4–6 months), medium lead times
(2–3 months) and short lead (2–4 weeks). Based on when people need information, send it out in that
order to meet their deadlines.
Third, you'll decide if there are other avenues to best reach your various publics with your brand such as
conferences, speaking opportunities, community events, etc. and work into your plan those that will give you the
best return for your time and money. Return should not just be measured in sales. For example: the point of a
book signing is not to sell books. Shocked? Don't be. It's the equivalent of kissing babies and shaking hands in
politics. People may not be voting on the spot at that moment, but your presence makes an impression with them.
Same at the book signing. You have an opportunity to meet with fans and more importantly make friends with
the bookseller and their staff so that they will hand sell your product and help you build word of mouth.
Last, review your plan and then budget it out. This is the best way to see what you can cut without eliminating
vital processes. If all you can afford is $50 a month, then you might be best off going for one or two big hits
in the media with very targeted pitches to large shows or print media where you'll be seen by thousands. Radio
interviews are marvelous for getting you big attention for small dollars. If you must, save up that $50 a month
for six to ten months in advance to be able to accomplish the most important parts of your publicity plan.
Finding media contacts
Once you have determined which types of media you plan to go after, you can locate information about editors,
producers and reporters in several ways. You can find details for magazines at www.firstwriter.com/magazines. For
other contacts, the easiest (but more costly) way is to order them through www.bacons.com. They cost about a
dollar a contact, with a minimum $100 order. The advantage of this resource is that they are updating media
contacts on a daily basis so you know you'll always have the information sent to the best person.
The second way you can glean the information is to go to the library and look up the information in Bacons
printed directories. It tends to be a little more dated, and you will have to call each media outlet to ensure
the information is correct before you send out a pitch or press kit, but it is free.
The third way to reach a media outlet is to find the information on the internet, in a phone book or, for
magazines, look in the front where they have the one or two columns listing all the editors, sales staff, etc.
They usually have a phone number listed there where you can call for the address if it isn't listed.
If the prospect of asking someone for information seems daunting, you can always use my
favourite trick. Play
dumb. Honestly. I've gotten more information from a receptionist who figured I was some dumb blonde who wouldn't
have a clue what to do with the information once I wrote it down, than in acting like I knew what I was doing and
asking to be put through to the editor. Once you have the contact information you'll need to figure out which
message point and one of the three hooks (point to an opportunity, offer a solution, explode a myth) that you
want to work your way into an interview.
What to send
Now, what do you send them? Usually the first contact is going to be a pitch letter or e-mail. Sometimes, but
rarely, a phone call. In a single page you are going to hook them in the first paragraph with a statistic, a
comment, a stunning idea and then in the second paragraph follow it up with how this would fit their
publication / show and how you are suited to be interviewed for it. It's like query letter for your book, only
slanted for an interview pitching you as an interview possibility instead of the book for sale.
Interview sheets (pitch letters) will differ in presentation, depending on the media. Those for newspapers are
going to be less graphic oriented since print is preferred by print and visual by broadcast media.
A lot of the time I find my job as a publicist is to figure out what the journalist does for a job and then do it
for them and hand it to them. The better I do their job for them, the better my success rate is.
Once you've sent a pitch letter via fax or mail, give it about a week to two weeks. Then call the editor/producer
and follow up.
This is important.
If you don't follow up, they won't know you are serious and may probably file the pitch in the trash. In general,
publicity is a numbers game. It takes often 20–30 pitches to get one media hit.
Okay, say you get a hit. You've hooked a producer at the morning news show for your local area and they want you
to send a press kit and a copy of your book.
At this point I'm going to walk you through building your press kit and incorporating your message points into
each of the pieces in your press kit.
Your Press Kit
A press kit should include:
Cover letter: Remind them that they requested it and why you are sending it and keep it to one page. Let them
know you'll be contacting them to see about their interest in setting up and interview. And please include
how they can contact you! This is vital and often missed!
Photo: Prefer 5x7 or 8x10 with an inset caption at the base that gives your name and website, email and phone number.
Biography: Keep it to one page, insert your photo and write just
the highlights of how you got where you were and why you write, where you live
generally speaking (this is important when pulling the hometown kid angle with
FAQ: Also called "frequently asked questions" in a question/answer
format that gives them some of the details that you get asked all the time by
people who don't write ("What's your typical work schedule?"; "Where do you
get your ideas?"; "Have you ever put someone you know in your books?"; "Do you
make a lot of money writing books?"; "How did you get started?" etc.)
Title sheet: If you only have one book then this will feature the
back cover blurb of your book and a photo of the front cover. Also include
relevant information a journalist would need like publisher, publication date,
type of book (genre and format like hardcover, trade, mass market, disk) ISBN,
and cover price. Give complete information on all works published in lesser
detail for as many pages as necessary.
Statistics: Journalists love statistics. It doesn't matter where you pull them from as long as you can
attribute the source for them. They can be about anything related to your topic or industry. These go a long way
in making the journalist feel like you've helped them out, which in turn makes them more interested in
You may also include things like quotes from other people on a page, a page listing your awards if you have them,
or an excerpt of the book. All of these items need a uniform look with the same colour scheme and accents
throughout. Don't be switching into different fonts on each piece or make them on coloured paper. Clean black and
white with small accents of color, if necessary are always best. The only exception to this is when you are
mailing out pitch letters to radio or TV for a guest appearance and want to grab their attention as soon as they
open the envelope. Then coloured papers are appropriate.
How do you incorporate your message points? Think about what you are writing in your cover letter, pitch letter,
bio and FAQ page. How does it link back to your message points. How are you connected to them? How is your work
connected to them?
Robert W. Morgan recently
acquired an agent using firstwriter.com's database
of literary agencies. We asked him about his writing, and
how he found success.
fwn: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Robert – and congratulations on securing
an agent. What is your book called, and what is it about?
RWM: What caring parent has not fantasised about taking serious revenge upon those slimy
drug pushers and their suppliers who prey upon children even on school playgrounds? Citizen Spy is a
thoroughly documented and corroborated account of one civilian father who did precisely that. His purely
voluntarily efforts helped cost the American Mafia “families” not mere millions of dollars; the ensuing
investigation would cost them half a billion dollars... and more. Much, much more.
At the outset, this civilian acted alone and without the knowledge, co-operation, consent, or protection
of any law enforcement agency. After all, his initial goal was merely to take a taste of “street justice”
to one of those creatures that directly profited from the sale of his poisons around his daughter’s school
and playground. However, more than simply “nailing” one, two, or even a dozen common street dealers, circumstances
developed that granted him unprecedented access to the Mafia’s most highly placed financial mentors.
This civilian succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. It took seven years in total, but fate, luck, (and a
huge dose of naivety!) allowed him to provide the DEA and the FBI with evidence that helped uncover,
penetrate, and destroy the most diabolical money-laundering plot in modern history.
As fortune would have it, left in the wake of these revelations were corpses of internationally recognised
high profile individuals and a multitude of smashed criminal careers.
One innocent career that was lost was his own.
fwn: Where did you get this story from?
RWM: I lived it.
fwn: How did you go about writing it?
RWM: I wrote straight from the heart. I simply state exactly what I felt and what I did
– and I take the reader on every seesaw emotion because I sure as hell am no one's angel.
I was greatly aided in the minutiae because (a) I had kept copies of every single "confidential"
report that I had filed with my two control agents. One was DEA and the other was FBI.
Moreover, and only because I was indeed a "civilian" who was not working off a "beef" with the law,
I was treated not only as an ally, but I literally became friends – true friends ndash; with both agents.
To this day, and especially since they have retired and can speak privately, we are even closer. They have agreed
to do something unusual – they will insert counterpoint chapters for me – and will probably make me
look like the ding-dong that I was at times. While I was doing X they were seeing Y. Our readers will see both
sides and it will be one hell of a ride.
I can vouch for this: law enforcement men and women have huge hearts and carry extraordinarily heavy
burdens. During their workaday life, they seldom enjoy much of the lighter side. Worse, they suffer from a heavy
divorce rate and other personal problems at a much higher rate than most of us.
Midway through my UC work my immediate family suffered a bizarre twist of fate. My elder brother had a
major and tense face-off with "Bill" Bonanno, a Mafia capo (captain of a crew) who was trying to penetrate
Campbell, California, where John D. Morgan was Chief of Police. What John did not know – and never
knew – was that capo's Don, the infamous Joe Bonanno, was my main target in Tucson, Arizona.
Shortly after his encounter, John collapsed and began a seven year odyssey in silence and helplessness.
He had suffered a massive stroke and spent seven years in a wheelchair only because he was determined to run a
clean town for its residents. As a direct result of his position, he became totally paralysed. He could not eat
or speak or scratch a single itch. His mind remained crystal clear: he managed to write a small book,
Messages to My Children, and a weekly newspaper column by blinking his eyes while his wife recited the alphabet.
John was a father to eight beautiful children and an icon in his community. Peggy Fleming honored him by
dedicating a skating arena in the municipal park named for him. Visit the John D. Morgan Memorial Park and you'll
see what his community thought of him.
Midway through my brother's decline, our mother died of a broken heart. The horror of it all, the serendipity,
the fate... came home to me like a sledgehammer. How could these two events happen while I was dead-centre within
that same Mafia capo's Family? Did God hate me, or what?
It was difficult for me to resurrect those feelings and to put them onto paper. After all, this mission had
dominated my life for seven years; in truth, it has never left me. However, as I worked on the mss I realised that
it was those two events coupled with my lingering fury over that street dealer's attempts to hook up my child with
their damned drugs that erased any sense of guilt for betraying their confidences. Sure, I had laughed with them,
drank and partied with them, was a guest in their homes, and I listened to all their dirty little secrets. So what?
Their incomes came from selling drugs to anyone who had a dollar no matter of they were young or old. How many kids
spent their lunch or baby-sitting money to put the jingle in the pockets of these jerks?
The bottom-line is they made a huge error when they targeted my kid.
How close did I really get? A pal of mine, author Oscar Fraley (The Untouchables) and I signed an
agreement with a high profile Mafia figure while he was in the Witness Protection Program to do a "tell all" book
that would have nailed his own father. Go figure.
Worse, one of their mob attorneys who was in exile, literally ran into me on a street in London and he about
peed his pants. He thought I was there for him. Nope. I was just passing through from Moscow. Sheer accident.
However, over lots of booze in a shoddy little restaurant in the notorious East End, he blew a cork and babbled it
all out. I learned exactly how the mob had been moving billions of dollars out of the USA, where it went, and how it
got back in fully laundered... and what high profile individuals had been assassinated when the case I had helped form
nailed them. The FBI had been ordered to cease and desist confiscations because too many state, federal and innocent
third parties were being hurt. By that time we had already taken down half-a-billion dollars.
What was my end? Not one thin dime.
But I had won, damn it.
fwn: That's a hell of a story. Had you ever tried to write anything before this?
RWM: I wrote and sold my first four screenplays while living in Florida. I also wrote two film
concepts that sold. I wrote, co-produced and directed one feature film and several paramilitary training films.
I have had a docudrama made about some of my other interests and appeared in TV documentaries. I did my first film
stunt with Bill Shatner knocking me onto my butt, and played a lead "bad guy" in the low-budgy film Bloodstalkers.
I had a small book published by Daring Books, and have a feature film script in the process of being funded in Europe,
and my agent has four more on the docket.
fwn: That's an impressive list of credentials. Do you think that helped you to get an agent?
RWM: They were of no relevance. My present agent took one look at Citizen Spy and that was sufficient to gain his interest.
fwn: How did you go about trying to get an agent?
RWM: I shot a few queries off but I could tell the readers either couldn't read English or were
simply stuffing polite letters of "it's not right for our line" and waiting for a coffee break.
It was firstwriter.com that really broke the ice for me and made things so much easier. Even so, I think
I scared the hell out of a few agents and even went through one of those "pay us to evaluate your work" mills. I also
approached some reputed "top" agents but was ignored. But then, firstwriter.com listed someone whose bluntness
pleased the hell out of me. I shot off a brief email – he responded with a "Say, what? Prove it!" I did. He's
happy – but then he discovered I have six more book proposals and four feature screenplays waiting in the wings.
He's asked for them all and we agree that we do Citizen Spy first for obvious reasons.
However, his ears really perked when I advised him that I had also acted as the paramilitary Adjutant to Frank
Sturgis, the CIA counterspy who had been assigned to assassinate Fidel Castro (that was way before Frank and I hooked up).
My new agent really came to attention. Frank was best known for his role in the Watergate burglary; but what folks don't
know was what else he was doing among the anti-Castro Cuban movements in Florida. Being the record keeper that I am, he
gave me the inside scoop on JFK's betrayal at the Bay of Pigs, the links between Castro, Mafia don Carlos Marcello,
and Onassis in the drug trade, why Teddy turned right instead of left, stuff like that. I complied it into a proposal
under the working title of Secrets from the Sturgis Files. Frank and I entered into a contract and after he was
assassinated in 1993, all his existing records and photos came to me. Now that Fidel is about to pop off and his
brother Raoul will come into power, he is sure to form a link to Chavez and the US had better be prepared for more attacks.
Yes, I have a few more things to add... (smile).
Looks like my new agent and I are a good match.
fwn: So using firstwriter.com worked for you?
RWM: Best approach was firstwriter.com. Easy to use, fast, accurate and fair. Good on ya!
fwn: Did you get a lot of rejections? How did you deal with them?
RWM: Probably 20. How did I deal with it? I laughed. Hell, they were telling me how dumb they were. They saved me time.
fwn: Do you have any advice for other writers trying to get an agent?
RWM: Thank everyone who turns you down. First off, that makes you tougher. Secondly, if they are not
a good match you are wasting your time. We all have a certain amount of heartbeats in this life. Don't piss them away.
fwn: Thanks for your time, Robert – it's been fascinating to hear your story.
Literary Mama is a web magazine for the "maternally inclined".
Currently, Literary Mama is a non-paying market. However, it was rated a
"Best of the
Web" by Forbes in 2005, and recently, a collection of writings from the site was published as a book, which was reviewed by the
War Poetry Contest
5th year. US$3,000 in prizes. May 31 deadline. Submit online or by mail.
New publishing business model New publishing company Spirit Publishing is launching a new model for producing and selling books. Their stated aim is to publish quality written work without authors having to pay.
They hope to achieve this by encouraging authors to become a marketing force promoting all the company's books. For every book an author sells, a copy of their own will be printed and distributed.
The company is currently seeking manuscripts for consideration, and will accept submissions for most genres. The company stesses that, unlike pay-to-publish operations, they will not accept everything they receive, and will only publish material of high quality with high sales probability.
Adrian Streather Literary Agency closes Adrian Streather is in the process of closing his literary agency. He will continue to represent his existing clients until they are published, but will not be taking on any new clients.
Adrian cites the lack of profitability of the business, and the difficulty of finding quality writers, as the reasons for his decision.
Women's Corner Magazine closes Women's Corner Magazine has closed, effective immediately. The final issue was published on March 1, and no further submissions will therefore be accepted.
Andrew F. O'Hara told us that the team had enjoyed working on the magazine, and that he was "delighted that many of our best submissions came to us through
firstwriter.com", but stated that pressure on time had become too great to continue producing the magazine.
WriterOnLine is an e-publication dedicated to writers and lovers of writing.
Fiction, poetry, business and technical writing, how-tos, articles, reviews,
freelance markets, jobs for writers and much more, published bi-weekly.
renewed! Visit us at www.writer-on-line.com