Friday, August 22, 2008

Beyond Self-Promotion

It started with the local newspaper asking me to write a monthly column.
I live in a small town, population 25,000. Everybody knows everybody. I graduated in this town, moved away, came home after 33 years. I'm the local mystery writer.
One of my first columns was about a speaker presentation at the county library. The librarian contacted me to thank me. She said they had a hard time getting publicity.
Publicity isn't as difficult as people make it. Okay, I have a degree in journalism, and I worked as a reporter for a newspaper. But, anyone can learn to write a press release. The media is easy to penetrate. Their business is to fill pages, and the less work they have to do hunting up stories, the better.
I decided to give the library a hand. They needed a local authors program, but didn't have any idea how to flush writers out of the woodwork. Through my own writing, I had connections. I also used the Internet to scout out authors. I write detective fiction and have worked with narcotics detectives in one of my past occupations. If I could find drug dealers, how hard could it be to find authors?
Next, I made a few simple phone calls and created a list of media contacts. They like info FAXed to them, and I have two tricks to get attention. First, I use a letterhead. Always impressive. Next, I make sure I list a specific person as recipient. That's to ensure that it reaches the reporter's mailbox and not the trash can. I also note the timetable each publication has for their Community Calendar. Public Radio likes three weeks notice.
My town has a total of two reporters on the newspaper, and one is the editor. Both are women my age and we know each other. I volunteered to write interviews on the authors I was bringing in to speak. For other publications, I provide contact info for radio and press interviews.
What's in it for me? Name recognition. Community contact. Support and sales for my own books. Endearment from authors for helping with their promotion and sales (I can be very endearing). Oak Tree Press will benefit. Oh, and the Poets & Writers wants to give me a grant.
The point of my blog is this: in the writing world, it pays to go beyond your own self-interest. It takes little time but lots of initiative. Authors who wait for the media to discover them are missing opportunities.
A little generousity goes a long way. The author who suceeds is the one who goes beyond self-promotion.


BillieJohn said...

Nicely said, Sunny! Like you, I have found writing for our local paper to have many side benefits, even though the paper doesn't pay me. Most of my articles have been to promote our tourism events here. I put an organized plan together in place of a chaotic and sporadic series of articles leading up to the events. The paper loved it, I became good friends with the main reporter and have had a wonderful entree to media folk in Springfield and Decatur and beyond. It's turned out to be a gift I gave that has returned benefits to my company many times over.

Helen said...

It's so true that helping others ends up helping yourself, whether or not that was your original purpose. And authors have to reach out beyond themselves, even if they think they don't have time. It's part of networking.

Marilyn said...

Of course Sunny is a special friend and we've done lots of promo events together and I hope we'll do many more.

I love helping other writers. It's kind of the "pass-it-on" syndrome.

One of my writing students from years ago became a good friend. I edited several versions of her book gratis and she's the one who has planned a fantastic event for my latest book at a Bed-and-Breakfast in Crescent City.


Maryann Miller said...

Thanks for the informative article, Sunny. I, too, have a background in journalism, so I have been able to write press releases that are actually short articles. I have had good luck in getting some stories in small town newspapers withing a 50 mile radius of where I live.

I also agree that helping others can ultimately lead to good things both ways. We can't always do something with an eye on what we are going to get from it. Much better to just do it and then be pleasantly surprised like Marilyn.