Reporter’s attention is hard to get. They are busy people and everyday they are given so many tasks, phone calls, readings in magazines and newspapers, and field work just to meet deadlines. How can you possibly get reporters’ attention when clearly he will never have time to listen to your sales pitch?
For me as a magazine journalist for 15 years, I’ve received hundreds or maybe even thousands of calls from authors and publicists. But I have only selected few. The ones that were truly worth writing for are really the ones who get a reporter’s attention. These are those who write a book that allow others to listen and learn from that small window of opportunity alone.
Tips to get a reporter’s attention
- Ask the reporter if he has time
When you call, get their attention right away by starting with “Is now a good time?” When this is the first question you ask, you get the reporter’s attention because it means that the other person’s priorities matter to you. Don’t assume that he is or isn’t busy. Always learn to ask because you never know if a reporter is waiting for a phone call or a tip. Maybe he is rushing to finish his deadline. I found that people who thought of others would catch a reporter’s attention because they would kindly tell me that they will call back again. As a favor, the next time they schedule a call, I would gladly open up time for them to talk to me. Sometimes I even search for the author’s press release date so I can prepare myself for the call.
- Writing a book is not a real story
Thousands of people write books. Writing books is not really something worth writing an article or page in the newspaper for. Well, this is unless you are Stephen King, or Terry McMillan. It sounds bad to hear that just writing a book will not catch a reporter’s attention but it is the truth. You would have to be on the bestseller list to get their attention without lifting a finger. So if you aren’t a best-selling author, then you have to work to get reporters’ attention.
- Make your book more relevant
When you are promoting your book, try to correlate them with relevant information or news. If there are related stories or subject matter then the book becomes easier to catch a reporter’s attention. For instance, you can get their attention if you have written a book about cronyism in government posts and use it as a way to talk about a happening like Hurricane Katrina and its relation to official government posts. You can say something like “Cronyism in the government has been the cause of mishaps and disasters in the government before. I can tell you how it happened and when it did.” Your press release can add to a reporter’s attention if you create a list of details in easy-to-read bullet points so that the interview would be able to flow more smoothly.
You need their attention for your books because you need a huge publicity to really get the book going. An example would be the book The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. She wrote it and had a huge publicity during the press release because at the time, there were already several missing girls reports on the news.
- Focus on the reporter.
If you can’t seem to get the reporter’s attention, don’t just walk away. Learn to engage with this person and be friendlier. Talk with him and try to find out what stories he may be covering at the moment. This way, you can cultivate a relationship and blossom it. Good media contacts are hard to find. If you have an opportunity, be friending a reporter would be a good idea because you learn and you can also be of help to the reporter later on. It is a mutual relationship that you can channel a reporter’s attention in what your book has and why it is worth writing about. The best part about this is that you also find a good friend out of the situation.