HARO: Help a reporter and help yourself

“Help a Reporter Out” (HARO) is one of the greatest tools you’ll ever find for promoting yourself and your book. And, it’s free.

Basically, HARO is a web-based “source repository” (their words) where reporters, journalists, free-lancers, and other in the media go to find experts or sources on topics they’re writing about.

For example, suppose a reporter is doing a story about mother-daughter relationships in the 21st century. Through HARO, the reporter can easily connect with sources for his/her story– people knowledgeable about the subject who are interested and willing to  give information and be quoted.

So, how does HARO help an author like you?

Pretty simple. You’re an expert, right? You’ve probably spent hours and hours researching your subject and gathering information for your book. Who better than you to serve as a source for HARO reporters.

Returning to the example above,  if you’ve written a book about family dynamics, parenting,  women in the workplace, or any similar topic– you probably have lots to share with the reporter about mother/daughter relationships in the 21st century. You can be a great source for that story.

It’s easy to become a “source” on HARO. Just sign up and you’ll receive daily notifications of  every reporter and journalist looking for source information that day. The notices are organized by subject matter, so you can quickly scan the list to see if there’s a reporter looking for source material on your topic.

Each listing also gives detailed information for how to get in touch with the reporter, deadline information, and a description of what the reporter is looking for.

Once you’ve connected with a reporter and he/she chooses to use you as a source, most likely the reporter will also include a mention of your book title and perhaps even a link to your blog, web site, or book page in his/her story. This is a great way to get exposure for yourself and your book.

As a publicist, I use HARO to connect Gray & Company authors with nationally-based reporters and others in the media. It’s an excellent, free publicity tool and one I highly recommend.

Click here for a link to the HARO site.

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Pick up the phone

My land line. Often sad and lonely

Lately, about 95% of my communications is done through email, Facebook, and Twitter. It seems I’ve forgotten one major rule about good book publicity:

PICK UP THE PHONE.

It’s amazing what a real-life, old-fashioned phone conversation can yield in terms of cementing good media relations and generating new story ideas. Connecting with your media contacts, whether it’s to update them about a new book, thank them for a book review or story, or learn more about they’re looking for in terms of story ideas can lead to some definite positive results.

Let me give you an example.

This morning, I called a Gray & Company author to discuss a story idea for his blog. We had been emailing back and forth but I needed a little more information from him so I thought I’d give him a call.

Luckily this author was available and ready to converse.

We talked awhile about his blog, then moved on to other things.

“Say,” the author mentioned. “Father’s Day is coming up. I was thinking of setting up a book signing and some radio interviews in advance of the big day. What do you think?”

“Great idea,” I replied. “What venues were you thinking? What radio contacts did you have in mind.”

We brainstormed for a few minutes (actually speaking with one another- not emailing back and forth) and came up with a dynamite sales and media plan. I’m pretty sure our phone dialogue is going to result in at least a few book sales– something that would NOT have happened had we not conversed by phone.

Of course, I’m not suggesting abandoning email communications, texting, social media direct messaging or any of the other newer forms of communications. I’m a huge advocate of these methods and recognize they can be highly effective and efficient in most instances.

All I’m sayin’ is don’t forget about that old-fashioned phone (I still have a land line with an actual cord) that probably sits on your desk unused for many hours of the day. Picked up occasionally and for the right reasons, your phone can be a valuable book PR tool.

RRRRINNG!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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How to Pitch Your Book to Blogs: Part #2

Hopefully, after reading my last post, you’ve come up with a targeted list of blogs and bloggers you think will be interested in your book.

Now you’re ready to make the PITCH to gain their interest and attention. But how?

After years of pitching to mainstream media (and now bloggers), I’ve developed a strategy I’d like to pass along. Here are a few tips:

Keep it short

Keep your pitch short and sweet–– no more than a couple of paragraphs at most. Use a chatty, informal style so your pitch doesn’t read like a  form letter.

Here’s a sample pitch, sent to a blogger via email:

Personalize

Use an informal, breezy style as if you were writing the blogger a personal note. Let him/her know you’ve actually visited their blog and that you’d be happy to send a book for their review– “no strings attached.” Pick out a few key points from your book to highlight based on what you think their blog readers will find most interesting, helpful, or enjoyable.

Follow Up

If your pitch is good, the blogger will most likely reply right away, asking for the free book you offered.  Ship the book right away and be sure to follow up within a couple of days.

With your follow-up, include a photo of the book cover and links to your web site, book page, or blog.

Here’s a sample e-pitch follow up:

Verify

Check back frequently to see if the blogger has actually posted something about your book once it was received. Some will. Some won’t.  Remember- many bloggers have “day jobs” and can only devote limited hours to blogging.

Never, ever pressure a blogger into writing about your book. If/when they do write a review, thank them with a personal email and definitely share the review by including a link in your social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

Keep Pitching

If you pitch to ten bloggers, you might only hear back from five. Out of these five replies, only one or two bloggers might actually review your book. Consider this a great start and whatever you do– keep on pitching!

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How to Pitch Your Book to Blogs: Part #1

A positive review on a  blog can generate great interest for your book and ultimately more sales. But, there are literally thousands of blogs and web sites pertaining to your book’s subject. Pitching to them can be very overwhelming.

So, how do you come up with a workable list of blogs to target? Here are a few easy suggestions:

1- Perform a simple internet search on your book topic using phrases like “Blogs about Cleveland sports.” “Blogs about hiking in Northeast Ohio.” “Blogs about mysteries.” This will give you a quick list to begin with.

2- Check out some of the available blog directories including:

Enter your book’s topic into the “search” field of these directories and a list of related sites will pop up.

3- Once you’re on a site, check out the “related sites”; “recommended links” or “blogrolls” listed on that particular site. One site leads to another– literally.

But keep in mind that not all blogs are created equal. Before pitching, make a quick assessment of whether or not the blog has value. To rank a site, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the site well-designed and professional looking?
  • Is it current and updated? (i.e. was there an entry for today?)
  • Does it have well-written, substantive content?
  • Are there a lot of “user comments”?
  • Is contact info provided––ideally the blogger’s email address?

Coming next: How to Pitch Your Book to Blogs: Part #2

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Twitter: A Valuable Book Publicity Tool

When I mention to folks I use Twitter, the response is often: “Well, I DON’T. Why should I tell people what I had for breakfast or how often I brushed my teeth today? Who cares?”

They think Twitter is just a gossipy site for providing “too much information” to people they don’t really care about or care to connect with.

I try to explain that Twitter can be a highly effective communications tool, especially for authors interested in promoting their books.

For book publicity, Twitter can be used to:

  • Publicize an upcoming book signing event- date/time/place
  • Link to a book review
  • Link to Amazon or BN.com
  • Announce a new title
  • Promote a book giveaway or contest
  • Promote an upcoming radio or TV interview
  • Link to a radio or TV interview that already aired
Here’s an example of how Twitter can be used to publicize a book signing event:
Twitter can also be used to promote an upcoming media interview:
Or, a book giveaway contest:

Through Twitter, authors can transmit targeted messages to hundreds or even thousands of readers in an instant– literally. It’s a pretty amazing communications tool once you understand how to use it and when.
If you’re now a bit more convinced to sign up for Twitter but don’t know where to begin, here’s an informative You Tube tutorial  called How to Set Up a Twitter Account. Click on the link for a user-friendly video to help you get started.
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The Power of a Guest Post

You’re an author. So why not use your writing skills and talents to build more traffic for your blog, promote yourself, and eventually sell more books?

If you’re blogging yourself (and I certainly hope you are!), you can increase your own blog readership by contributing what’s called a guest post to someone else’s blog. Guest posting is a great way to widen your sphere of readers by contributing stories and articles to other people’s blogs.

Here’s how this worked for one of Gray & Company’s authors, sportswriter Dan Coughlin.

Dan has been blogging at Coughlin Forever for awhile now, but he wanted to increase his blog readership and introduce a larger audience to his work.

As Dan’s book publicist, I reached out to blogger Brendan Bowers from Stepien Rules to see if Brendan might want to feature an original piece by Dan on his blog.

Brendan was interested and that’s when the fun began. Dan wrote a guest post for Stepien Rules which was very enthusiastically received.

We can only assume that after enjoying Dan’s guest post on “Stepien Rules,” at least a few readers visited Dan’s blog and perhaps signed up to become regular subscribers.

Everyone wins. “Stepien Rules” gets fresh, new content. Dan Coughlin attracts more readers to his blog.

And, as an added bonus, Brendan from “Stepien Rules” tweeted news of Dan’s guest post to his many Twitter followers, bringing even more attention to Dan’s books and his blog.

Guest posting is a great book publicity tool, but it does have its own rules of etiquette. Here are a few pointers:

  1. Personalize your pitch. Email the blogger directly and ask if she/he would be interested in a guest post from you.
  2. Match your content with theirs. Suggest only story ideas that relate to the subject matter of the blog you’re pitching to (i.e baseball-related stories to baseball blogs; chocolate-themed stories to food blogs, etc).
  3. Offer an original. Host bloggers will be thrilled if you’ve created a guest post just for their readers.
  4. Send unformatted text or plain text. This makes it much easier for the blogger to insert text into their blog
  5. Include a photo and a tagline. Attach a photo of yourself or a related image. Include a short bio or tagline which also includes a link to your blog
  6. Reciprocate the link. Once your guest post appears on someone else’s blog, make mention of this in your own blog and include a link. Your host blogger will appreciate this!

Further Reading (other guest post examples)

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Beyond the Book Review

Image courtesy digitalart

I’m always thrilled when one of our Gray & Company books is selected for review.

But, often the review is just the beginning of a series of publicity opportunities that begins with the review and ends with something more.

Let me give you an example.

Recently, one of our books, The Cleveland Creep by Les Roberts received a kind review in the popular crime fiction blog Sons of Spade.

While perusing the site and reading through the blog archives, I noticed the blogger (a writer himself) included not only book reviews on his site but also Q & A’s with authors as well as guest posts from other writers.

Given the blogger’s interest in The Cleveland Creep, I contacted him again– suggesting perhaps he’d like to conduct a Q& A with Les Roberts as a follow up to the book review. He responded immediately and within several weeks a second posting for the book appeared on the site — this time a delightful interview with author Les Roberts, a perfect complement to the book review.

I was really pleased with how this turned out, but here’s a word of warning:

Be sure not to wear out your welcome when it comes to pitching publicity for your book–– whether it be for a blog, newspaper, magazine or any other media outlet.

There’s nothing worse than a “greedy” author or publicist who receives a mention or review, then begs for more. Suggest your idea only if it makes sense for the given publication and adds value to what’s already been done.

In a later post, I’ll be suggesting how to build on the book review in other ways. More to follow . . .

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