Authors and publishers know that to get their press releases read by the media they need a catchy or alluring subject line for the email carrying that press release. So how do you craft the perfect headline or subject line that makes others want to read the rest of what you wrote? Follow these 15 steps.
1. It needs to be short, especially a subject line for an email, so use words sparingly.
2. Take into consideration who is receiving the email—write for your targeted audience. An email to the media is not the same as an email to a friend or potential customer.
3. Forget what you know about the English language when it comes to writing headline copy—abbreviations and slang are in; lack of punctuation and syntax go out the window.
4. You can make a statement, a prediction, raise a question, state a statistic, report news, or use any number of vehicles to get one’s attention. Write a headline for each one and compare them.
5. The headline statement can be something bold: "President Obama's Healthcare Plan Will Pass, Says New Book".
6. The headline question can make the reader ponder: "Is the Federal Bailout Working? Asks Economist in New Book".
7. The headline statistic can paint a picture: "50% of Allergy Sufferers Can Be Helped, Says New Book".
8. News hits hard: "Diabetes Book Can Cure Millions".
9. Predictions have lots of latitude: "Republicans May Run a Celebrity in 2012, Says New Book".
10. Do not state something basic such as "Pitch idea” or “New Book” unless it’s followed by more info, such as, "Economist’s New Book Details Bush Missteps".
11. Using humor or the outrageous could work—but only if the subject matter or reader lends itself to that.
12. Referencing something in the news is always helpful: "King of Pop Is Gone, but Branding Expert Details How He’ll Live On".
13. Borrow popular language from other genres: A cookbook can be referenced using sports lingo: "Chef Nancy’s Chocolate Mouse Is a Home Run!" Or, sports can be discussed using business terms: "Pro Athletes Bankrupt Their Sport, Says Steroid Author".
14. Link your headline to things that matter most: love, death, health, wealth, fun, beauty, art, nature, education, children, etc.
15. Nothing works better than prefacing your story idea with one word: "EXCLUSIVE." Let someone have the first crack at a story and let them know they have a limited window of time to respond.
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Planned Television Arts, the nation’s largest and oldest book promoter, celebrated their 45th anniversary last month, and in honor of reaching this milestone, we are pleased to offer on their behalf 45 free tips on what authors need to know about getting published, promoted, and distributed. If you have further questions, please contact PTA’s Chief Marketing Officer, Brian Feinblum, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to visit their website and download The Million-Dollar Rolodex, a great publishing resource, at no cost. You can also sign up for their free e-newsletter at the site. And now, the tips.
1. Time: You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to generate publicity, but you need a lot of time. And your time is best served writing and growing your business—not tracking down media contact lists, making lots of calls, and trying to learn who to reach, how to reach them, and then what to say once you finally get hold of them. Use a publicist—it’ll save you time and a lot of headaches.
2. Affordability: They say never gamble or invest money you can’t afford to part with. The same is true with PR. Don’t dip into a college fund, retirement account or take a loan on the house to pay for publicity. Think of PR and publishing as an experiment. It’s certainly worth trying—just don’t bet the farm on it.
3. Goals: Determine what your goals are and explore how publicity will help you achieve them. For instance, you need more than a radio tour if the goal is to be a bestseller, but you don’t have to be on national TV to sell books, build your brand, create a media resume, get a positive message out there, or to increase website traffic.
4. Control Your Ego: The worst reason to do PR is pure ego. Additionally, some people simply expect their book will be an instant bestseller and be featured on The Today Show. Instead, you should do PR because you have a useful book and a positive message that deserves exposure. The rest will flow from there. Be optimistic, but contain your expectations.
5. Have a Good Book on a Timely Topic with Good Credentials: Know your competition and determine why you offer something truly new, different, unique, or better. The consumer and the media don’t need more of the same—they need a fresh voice and perspective.
6. You Can Judge a Book By Its Cover, Layout and Title: The media is like anyone else: They look at surface and make quick judgments. Your title should be one that’s short and easy to say. Don’t use insider terms that only hold significance for a few. The subtitle should clearly explain what the book is about. As for the layout design of the contents, no one will read small print, hold cheap paper, or stare at dull chunks of text in books that just don’t feel inviting. The media also likes a cover that draws them in. Appearance counts!
7. Endorsements Only Mean Something if You Don’t Have Them: You should get testimonials from fellow experts and authors on the topic you write on. Go after recognizable names, organizations, schools, etc. Professors, heads of corporations or non-profits, politicians, and celebrities are all fair game. Once you get them, do not be under the impression that this alone ensures sales. But be aware that the media and consumer will notice if no one or only small names endorse the book.
8. Timing is Key: The merits of your book speak for themselves, but if you can also link your book to a story the media would find more interesting and relevant, do so. If it’s a parenting book, link it to the first day of school, graduations, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. If it’s a hot topic like politics, link to the upcoming elections, the war in Iraq, or July 4th. Or maybe your book ties into an anniversary of an event or lines up with an honored day-week-month such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month or Literacy Day, etc.
9. Road Tours: The use of road tours is still popular, but many people substitute or supplement road tours (physically traveling to other cities) with tours they can do from one location, such as a radio tour by phone, a local TV tour by satellite, or an e-marketing campaign online. It’s a waste of time in most cases for authors to purposely hit the road for a 10-city tour. But if you already plan to be in various cities because of business, seminars, or family matters, you can seek out piggyback media, where a publicist gets you media in the cities you are in. Just don’t hit the road solely for a book tour with no events or connections to those cities.
10. Hire a Firm, Not a Publicist: PTA is unique in that our performance is tied into our fees. We offer specialized campaigns that are customized to fit the needs, goals and budgets of authors. When a publicist is willing to be invested in the project (not necessarily to get paid based on book sales, but to get compensated based on the number and types of media placements secured), only then will you have a partner in synch with your objectives. Further, a larger firm typically has more depth of knowledge, skills, resources, tools, and media relationships than one-person operations. Though some of these small entities are very devoted and hardworking, they are often stretched to the limits. They spend more time trying to bring in business than executing it and have no support to fall back on. A firm, on the other hand, has many people who can step in and assist in a campaign.
11. Watch for Ridiculous Promises: Avoid the publicist who says he has an "in" at Oprah. She only covers a few dozen books a year in the course of doing a few hundred shows annually. 175,000 books have been published in the last twelve months. You figure out the odds. That isn’t to say you can’t be on Oprah—just don’t put too much stock in empty promises about being her next guest.
12. Money is Not the Sole Deciding Factor: When comparing publicity firms, don't let cost be the deciding factor. Sure, have a budget in mind—or some sense of a rate of return on your investment—but you should consider the key factors: What is being promised as opposed to being guaranteed? What is the length of campaign? Has the firm promoted many authors in your genre? Is it a one-person shop or a larger firm with more resources and media contacts?
13. Know Who’s Working on Your Campaign: The person who is doing your outreach is very important. Find out who will actually be conducting your campaign. It usually is not the person who is trying to bring you in as a client, and shouldn’t be. A good client manager will stay involved, but the day-to-day media booking is reserved for experienced specialists.
14. Get Good Counseling: Part of selecting a publicist means finding a knowledgeable advisor, someone who not only generates media exposure for you but who also can coach you for the news media. He or she should also provide valuable guidance and advice on all things pertaining to marketing and promoting your book, taking both a short-term and long-term approach.
15. Press Kit Writing is Important: Your publicist should write a press kit and generate creative press releases. Typical elements include a press release, biography, Q&A, book excerpts, story angles, side bar material, related statistics/facts, and other materials that will get the media’s attention, help summarize your book for conducting interviews, and go beyond what’s in the book.
16. Get Familiar with Books in Your Field: When interviewing a potential publicist for your book, ask if they have represented books like yours and if you can see some of the placements they got. Ask for references.
17. Get to Know Bookstores Within Thirty Minutes of You: Make friends with your local bookseller(s). They can influence potential customers.
18. Study the Media: If you have no media experience, watch and listen to interview programs and critically examine what good interviewees do and how they get across their message. You will want to balance your publicity efforts—the goal is to get exposure in all media: radio, print, television, and the Internet. Secure local coverage first and then spread out to national media.
19. Learn by Listening to Yourself: It's amazing how many people have never seen or heard themselves on tape. Practice your interview skills on videotape and audiotape as a friend questions you. When conducting an interview, your answers should not be longer than thirty seconds. Practice narrowing your comments and message down to smaller sound bites. Always say the interviewer’s name back to them when doing an interview—it sounds personal and friendly.
20. Give Yourself Online Presence: Before you even create a website for your book, reserve your personal name and misspelling of your name as a domain name. Then reserve at least ten potential titles for your book (think of having a series of books). You can reserve names inexpensively at www.rickscheapdomains.com. Remember to build your list of faithful fans and have an online newsletter. One way to build your list is to circulate your newsletter or blog through friends and family to their lists of friends and family. Another way is to circulate a freebie—something you give away for free that is of value to others—which can serve as your best advertisement and keep them coming to your site. The free item can be an ebook, an audio speech, or a teleseminar. For your website, set up a shopping cart system and a mailing list system. CornerstoneCart.com is a great site to help you set this up.
21. Do Teleseminars: Tape them every week or every other week. You can check out www.plannedtvarts.com for over 50 hours of free teleseminars. Re-purpose those teleseminars into ebooks or traditional books.
22. Go to as Many Publishing Seminars as You Can: You will not only learn from the speakers, but from fellow attendees. A good one is the Mega Marketing Publishing seminar put on by Mark Victor Hansen, co-creator of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul series. It’s happening May 31st.
23. Attend Book Expo!: You should attend BEA (the first week of June in New York City this year). It’s the publishing event of the year, where thousands of publishers, authors, literary agents, editors, distributors, and other members of the publishing community gather. Visitwww.bookexpoamerica.com for more information.
24. Consult the Gurus: Read publishing expert Dan Poynter’s material. Publishers Weekly is the book world’s Bible. Read it! Keep up with the publishing industry at Publishers Lunch. Think about subscribing to Publishers Marketplace and consult John Kremer at www.BookMarket.com.
25. Network with the Pros: Join Publishers Marketing Association (PMA) or the Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN) and learn from a group of authors like yourself. Visit Bestseller University as well.
26. Budget Money or Time: Though you don’t have to hire a PR firm, you do need to set a budget aside to invest in PR. This budget consists either of your money (if you hire help) or your time (if you do it alone). PR will pay off with book sales, prestige, a boost in your career, and possible future book deals. You should always be branding!
27. Build Up Your Media Resume: Don’t expect national TV until you do some local media or gather press clippings. You must build up experience before you can even begin to think about major media. But you have to start somewhere, and the Internet, radio, and local media are great places to begin.
28. Book Reviews are Not So Important: Book reviews can be effective, but they are not always the most effective type of exposure. Broad coverage in other parts of the paper—like in op-eds and byline pieces—attracts a bigger readership and has the potential for greater exposure. If you have a diet book, for instance, getting into the health section of your paper is more targeted than being lost in the book section. Plus, book reviews are much harder to come by these days, given limited book review space and reviewers’ biases against self-published authors or small publishers.
29. 15 Seconds of Fame: Know how to summarize your book in fifteen seconds. That’s how long you have to convince someone your book is worth looking at. Whether it’s a consumer, member of the media, bookstore manager, or organization that you want to speak before, be concise. You need a sentence or two to summarize your credentials, three bullet points of what’s in the book, and a reason why people should care. Blabbering on won’t sell it—being concise, creative, and timely will. Writing a 250-page book is not as hard as reducing all of that to a 15-second sound bite, but that’s exactly what you need to do when promoting and marketing your book. When you meet a stranger or want to explain to a friend what your book is about, you need to do it in a quick and interesting way. By the end of your description, they should want to buy it or ask more questions.
30. Timing is Important: A key to promoting yourself is to do it with great timing. If you want to be featured in a magazine, you have to send a galley of your book three to four months in advance of the book’s official publication. If you want to visit a city and get local media coverage, it helps to call them about 4 weeks ahead of your arrival. Once a book has been out for 3-4 months it is deemed “old” by most media.
31. Create Your Own Virtual World: Creating a new blog, podcast, or teleseminar is easy and effective. Check out the audio and video resources for authors here. Your book is a tool to drive people to your website, and having audio when they get there is a huge plus. Get an Audio Generator. Have a shopping cart and mailing list system. You should also have a way to capture their e-mail address with an "ethical bribe" and then send them newsletters. Once you get them in your "funnel,” you can sell them more books, e-books, CDs, teleseminars, seminars, and any other services you might offer.
32. Traditional Publishing: When considering your options for publishing, realize that if you want a mainstream publisher to publish your book, you’ll need to first get an agent. To get an agent, who takes 15% of your lifetime earnings for that book, you can consult The Literary Marketplace for a list of agents that represent your type of book. This process—finding an agent and a publisher and then seeing the book finally get into print—could easily be 18 months to two years from start to finish.
33. Print-On-Demand: You can also go POD (print-on-demand) with companies like iUniverse<. They charge anywhere from a few hundred dollars to up to a thousand to get your manuscript set up and printed as a book. Copies are printed one at a time, based on actual orders. You will likely keep about 50-60% of the book’s cover price in this format, though authors generally sell fewer books with POD as opposed to traditional or self-publishing.
34. Self-Publish: If you don’t want to use traditional publishing or POD, you can self-publish and print the book on your own. You’ll lay some money out, but you will get to keep all of the money from the sale of each book, as opposed to earning a smaller royalty when someone else publishes your work. However, it helps to get a distributor—a middleman who will sell the book into bookstores and libraries—which usually costs you about 25-30% of the net proceeds. A list of distributors can be found in the Literary Market Place.
35. Killer PR!: One look at the headlines and you’ll see that, unfortunately, the best way to make the news is to commit a crime. So how do you compete with murder and mayhem, as well as celebrities, weather, sports, terrorism, and the latest Hollywood blockbuster? The first way to get media coverage is to tie your book’s message to stories that are making news. Can you comment on the latest court case or media tragedy? Do you know anything about Anna Nicole Smith? If you’re an expert on paternity, celebrities, law, marriage, or self-destruction, you can get media coverage discussing some aspect of her life or death—even if your book never discusses the case.
36. Predict the News: You don’t have to be Sylvia Browne to anticipate the news. Check your calendar for upcoming holidays. Memorial Day means war, security, international relations, death, history, etc. Father’s Day means dads, grandfathers, parenting, family, etc. Can you speak on those topics? How about the seasons? Summer brings stories about travel, camp, droughts, picnics, West Nile, baseball, etc. Think of how your message ties into a holiday, a season, or an honorary day, week, or month (e.g., February is Black History Month, March is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, April is National Autism Month).
37. Create Your Own News: Make news with the results of your research, surveys, interviews with important people, or the uncovering of hidden facts. Even if your book lacks original earth-shattering discoveries, perhaps you can create a poll of 500 people on your subject and report those results. If you can shed light on the newest treatments for a disease or effective parenting strategies or tell us the three smartest ways to save for retirement, people will listen.
38. Keep It New: An old book is only promotable when it becomes new again. Revise and update your book if it’s older than six months and you want to hire a publicist. Or even better—build on the book and create a sequel
39. Raise an Issue or Ask a Question: Declare something interesting or controversial. Should pets be allowed to sue for health care? Should we eliminate the presidency and instead have three co-presidents? Should there be a legal limit on how much someone can weigh? Should people who have cosmetic surgery be forced to disclose this to the people they date? Tactics such as these are great attention-grabbers.
40. Don’t Give Out the CliffsNotes: When you tell someone about your book, the goal isn't to provide them with CliffsNotes for your project. You don't want them to know about everything in the book, only something that will tease them, whet their appetite, make them drool for more. Less is more. Also look at the vocabulary you use. Move from the functional to the descriptive. Load up your verbal diet with adjectives and use verbs that have some sound effects. Don't merely say your book is about how to invest money in the stock market; it’s really about how to use the same proven strategies and loopholes rich people use to turn hard-earned money into bigger pots of gold. With this book, you’ll retire early! See the difference? Finally, always give an analogy or metaphor, something people can instantly relate to. Make it funny, timely, or eye-opening. Use your words wisely and always remember that when it comes to PR, style trumps substance.
41. Word of Mouth: It’s what sells books, so get the word out early and often. Tell everyone you know and everyone you meet about your book. Initially, you’ll need a grassroots campaign. Where appropriate, speak before any group that will have you—a church or temple, a college, a library, a bookstore, an association, a book club… anyone! Partner with others to cross-promote each other’s book, service, or product.
42. Find an Internet Guru: Learn from people who have made a ton of money on the Internet. Check out Tom Antion’s Internet Marketing Training Materials Package.
43. Get a Knowledgeable, Experienced Publicist: Get a publicist who has a track record of success, familiarity, and interest in your genre of expertise. This person should share your vision and see beyond the book. Conducting a PR campaign has a bigger potential payoff vs. one-time advertising. Ads rarely pay for themselves. Do not expect a publisher to do everything or anything for you. It’s up to you as the author to promote your book. If you self-publish your book, seek to arrange for distribution before hiring a publicist.
44. Sell More Than Your Book: Have other products and services to sell, so that when your book generates publicity and traffic to your website, you're building customers for life.
45. Make It Personal: We know that creating your book is a labor of love—and of time and money. But the biggest step you have to take comes once the book is printed and ready to be sold. You need to have an aggressive publicity and marketing plan, or your book will get lost in the tsunami of new books published every year. And when you're promoting your book (particularly to the news media), you need to make it stand out. The best way to show off your book's uniqueness is to make it personal. To differentiate your book from others on a similar topic is not to highlight the contents but to spotlight your very own story. No one, regardless of the subject they write on, can have your story. You are one of a kind, at least until cloning takes over. Link your work to who you are—your experiences, your credentials, and your personality. We must be able to hear a distinct voice from the author even when the books begin to look alike. So the next time you discuss your book, discuss yourself. Lastly, whatever you say in describing your book, be positive, smile, and give off a confident, inviting look. People must feel they need, like, and trust you before they’ll buy from you.
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Contributed by Brian Feinblum
We know that creating a book is a labor of love—and time and money. But the biggest commitment you’ll make that will have the greatest effect on sales comes once the book is printed and ready to be sold. You need an aggressive publicity and marketing plan—or else your book will be lost in the wave of 175,000 new books published annually. That’s five hundred books published every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And when you’re promoting your book, particularly to the news media, you need to make it stand out.
The best way to show off your book’s uniqueness is to make it personal. If you want to differentiate your book from others on a similar topic, don’t just focus on the content—spotlight your own story. No other authors, no matter their subject matter, can offer your story, your perspective. You are one of a kind (at least until cloning becomes legal), so make the most of it!
Every day I receive calls from authors and potential clients with diet books, first-time novels, tomes on how to make money, books on how to improve relationships, compilations of 500 tasty recipes, or literature about how God spoke to them. In one week I may speak to several people with books in each genre. If you want to be noticed, my advice is to link your work to who you are—your experiences, your credentials, your personality. We must hear a unique voice from the author, particularly when the books begin to sound and look alike.
So the next time you promote your book, discuss yourself and you’ll leave a more memorable impression.
Brian Feinblum is the Chief Marketing Officer of Planned Television Arts, one of the nation’s leading book publicity firms. Consult www.plannedtvarts.com or contact Brian at email@example.com.