It’s a common mistake, and authors make it repeatedly.
They create a one-size-fits-all pitch about their book, or an upcoming event, and they blast it to the masses.
Their thinking goes like this. Let’s say an author has written an historical fiction book with a food theme. If she sends a pitch about the book to 200 journalists and bloggers who write about food, and she gets only a 5 percent rate of return, she’ll end up in 10 media outlets, right?
But it doesn’t work like that anymore, because audiences are more fragmented than ever.
She might be pitching food bloggers whose readers care only about gluten-free recipes. Her list might include the food editor of a weekly newspaper. But if the author is hoping to attract readers under age 40, she’ll be out of luck. Few people under 40 read newspapers. And if her list includes a nutrition columnist, the author might not stand a chance if the book doesn’t deal with healthy eating.
In all three of those examples, the pitch MUST be customized to serve each audience.
The New Math
Here’s what the new math looks like in 2014 when it comes to pitching.
Choose 5 percent of those 200 journalists and bloggers. That’s 10 people. Divide by two and concentrate only on those five. Why? Because the next phase of pitching is the most time-consuming: Doing your research so you can write a customized pitch.
Your pitch must send the message, “I know who you are, I know what you do, I know your audience and I know what they need.”
You must learn all you can about each person you’re pitching. You’ll need to weave into your pitch at least one and preferably more details that will let the journalist know immediately that you know who they are.
How to Research Journalists
When I speak to the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association on April 12, I’ll discuss exactly how to pitch. But you must do your research first. Here are three of my favorite ways to play detective:
1. Start by Googling the name of the person you’re pitching and see what you find.
You’ll be amazed at how many little details pop up. Look beyond just the first page of Google.
Look especially for personal information. Does the editor you’re pitching have a favorite hobby? Does he write freelance articles for another publication?
Does he have a LinkedIn profile? Where did he go to school? Has he received a lot of endorsements for a particular skill?
2. If you’re pitching a traditional journalist, go to the website of the media outlet they work for.
Many media outlets have bios of TV reporters and anchors. Newspapers sometimes have email addresses of the reporters and beats they cover. USA Today, for example, has an entire staff index where you can find names of reports and columnists who work in various departments, along with their Twitter handles.
Follow them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, all sites where they’re dropping valuable clues about stories they’re working on and sources they’re seeking.
At media websites, you also might find places to submit your press releases and pitch story ideas.
3. If you’re pitching a blogger or a traditional journalist, read their blog!
A blog is goldmine of information. It tells you which topics they think are important, their likes and dislikes, problems their audience struggles with, and lots of other tidbits you won’t find anywhere else.
Before pitching, take the time to comment on one or two posts. l don’t know a blogger on the planet who’s satisfied with the number of comments at their blog. Return a week later to comment again and chances are pretty good that blogger will recognize your name. When it comes time to pitch, you won’t be a stranger.
Follow my tips, write a customized pitch, and you’ll have a much better chance at getting publicity than if you pitched 200 journalists blindly. If you want to know exactly how to pitch, join me for my two presentations at BAIPA on April 12.
Joan Stewart, the author of four ebooks on publicity, blogs at PublicityHound.com.