News room: How to pitch your book to a journalist

How to pitch your book to a journalist  by Sarah Juckes


Getting your book reviewed by the press is probably at the top of your marketing schedule. But with such fierce competition, it’s important to make sure that your pitch is as awesome as it can possibly be. To help you craft the perfect pitch, we’ve asked top journalists and book bloggers for their dos and don’t on pitching your book to them.




Sue Magee is the co-founder of, and top book reviewer for The Book Bag and has reviewed hundreds of books from across a range of genres. Below, Sue shares her top tips for pitching your book to a book blogger.


If the book has been reviewed elsewhere, give short quotes from reliable sources. DON’T print out the twenty seven, five star reviews you have on Amazon. DO remember that an experienced reviewer might well look at Amazon reviews, but the first thing they’ll do is disregard those where the reviewer hasn’t written any other reviews, or where the reviews look suspiciously similar – and it’s surprising how often what’s left doesn’t amount to much. You might not have set out to deliberately manipulate the star ratings – but Mum, Dad, the relatives and all your friends are not going to be honest about the book. They love you too much. Remember too that you are approaching a reviewer for his or her opinion of your work and not for free publicity – sending a stack of other reviews suggests that they might not know what to think unless they were told, and no reputable reviewer is going to like this.

Also, beware of overselling your book. Saying that you’re the next Jane Austen or that you have Ian Rankin/JK Rowling worried is unlikely to persuade someone to read the book – but it might invite a clear explanation of why you’re wrong if they do read it.



Alex Gazzola has worked with words for almost twenty years. He has written for The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Reader’s Digest and hundreds of magazines, and is the author of four books on his specialist subject – food allergies and intolerances. He is also a writing tutor, proof-reader, offers a non-fiction critique service, and runs the Mistakes Writers Make blog.


The first thing to bear in mind is that most journalists do not write book reviews. Book review space in journals is difficult to secure, and mainstream publishers tend to be on good terms with most prominent book editors. If you’re self-published or published by a small publisher with little marketing budget to help you, breaking into this competitive space is extremely difficult – although that’s no reason not to try. The best approach is to find out the name of the books editor, and send them a copy with a covering note and a press release.

In my experience, I think more likely to bear fruit is coverage in sections other than dedicated book review slots. I would look for the unusual, remarkable or quirky in your book. Does a key character in your novel suffer from a very unusual disease or topical medical condition? Look for a non-mainstream medical journalist who may not have heard of it, or who may be looking for a new ‘hook’. Does your local history book recall a long-forgotten incident that has particular resonance today? Find a freelance newspaper journalist local to that area. Take time, carefully target, and avoid the ‘scattergun’ pitching approach. If they’re interested, they may build a story around your hook, drawing from lots of sources, but also including yours, and mentioning your book.

You must do your research on the journalist. As a journalist and an author, I’ve been on both sides. In general:


Do:

  • Use their name in your pitch (I still get “Hi There” approaches even though my name is in my email address).
  • Show that you’ve done the legwork – that you are familiar with what they write, who they write it for. Perhaps mention a particular article you enjoyed. Be sincere. Don’t over-flatter.
  • Tell them you have a new book out, an aspect of which may interest them. Say why. Offer them a copy, if appropriate.
  • Make sure you include full contact details, and although an immediate call-back is unlikely, you must be prepared to ‘act’ should the phone ring – ready to talk about your book, your character, your work, at short notice.

Don’t:

  • Don’t overstay your welcome.
  • Don’t Ramble.
  • Don’t come across as desperate – care, but don’t care too much
  • Don’t sign off with “I look forward to your response” (“favourable” or otherwise) – they may well not respond, and are under no obligation to do so. Accept that, and move on. Keep trying.

If your book ‘qualifies’ you as an expert in a particular subject, consider registering with sites such as Expert Sources, where journalists look for specialists to comment on subjects they’re researching. Similarly look out on Twitter for the hashtag #journorequest, which journalists use to seek particular input. Being willing to help is key. You have to give (expertise, comment, review copies, whatever), before you can receive (coverage!).



Gavin Sherriff is a chief reporter at The Sunday Post.


Remember that what makes a book special for you may not be the same thing that gets a journalist interested in it. They may see something in it that that you consider to be trivial but which will appeal to their readers.

If you can’t manage to read a copy of the publication you are pitching to, at least try to have an idea of their readership, which part of the country they cover, and why they might be interested in your title. Keep phonecalls and emails to the point.


Have some of your own tips for pitching books to the press? Leave them as a comment below!





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Written by
Sarah Juckes
Published on
09/09/2014
Tags
Book marketing, Press, and Pitching your book