By Sherry Ziegelmeyer
There’s an adage in Hollywood circles that is very relevant to your own publicity efforts: “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” This is never more true than when you’re trying to grow an audience for your books. Without media support, all of your publicity and marketing attempts will fall flat.
Start with a media contact list. With this, you can target specific writers, editors and bloggers with whom you can form good working relationships. Once formed, those relationships—and, of course, your own pitch—may convince them to introduce you and your books to their existing audience.
The best way to put together your media contact list is to go online and start searching for websites that specifically run news and reviews related to novelists working in sex-themed and erotic literature, as well as other adult entertainment news outlets.
Read everything on the sites you find. These sites will give you a feel for what type of content they focus on, what they’re looking for from other writers—and whether your book will arouse their interest, or just go into their trash bin.
Once you have targeted a few news outlets, your next step is to get contact information for a real person at that website or publication. Some sites will have a form for submitting news. Some will have a list of editors and writers, including their company email or a phone number. And sometimes you can’t find any contact information on a site at all!
While you’re looking through these sites and publications, be sure to note individual writers who work for them. Once you have a list of the actual content writers, do a bit of research on each one. Read what they’ve written recently for that particular publication. Learn a little more about them from their company profiles, or look up their bios on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
This research will quite likely pay off. You’ll find out what a particular writer is interested in covering—and that can make or break your initial contact with them. The more closely their interests align with your work, the better received you’re likely to be—and the more they’ll ultimately value you as a news source in the future.
It never hurts to appeal to a reporter with a sincere compliment on what they have done, or how their views on a particular lifestyle topic match yours. Just remember that sincerity is crucial; anyone working in a media-related field can smell false flattery a mile away. Trying to deceive someone on how much you know about them—or agree with them—can turn them off to getting to know more about you.
Now that you have a few names and email addresses, possibly phone numbers (or—heaven forbid—a fax number) from your research, put together an introduction letter that tells these media members who you are, what you write about and how to contact you. There are a few rules that apply here, so pay attention!
Use their full name and title (if they have one at the publication).
Keep it brief.
And above all, don’t try to do a hard sell on why you are the bestest and onliest erotic novelist out there. People in media have heard (and read) it all before and are, on the whole, not easy to impress.
Your next step is to make initial contact with the targeted writers on your list. For this, you’ll need to set aside some time to create a personalized, introduction-style cover letter, for each writer you plan on contacting. You can template parts of this, as long as you are aware each letter will have to change to suit its targeted individual.
The best form of initial contact is along the lines of:
Hi Writer’s Name,
Your article on the backlash from the “50 Shades of Gray” phenomenon, and how it affects new erotic authors, was very enlightening. I wanted to thank you for the information on why sales have stalled for “mommy porn”, while growing for the male, college aged, demographic of readers. You perfectly illustrated why the shift in focus has moved away from feminist-friendly, yet kinky, erotica and why fresh voices are necessary in adult novels.
My name is . . . and I am an author of erotic books. I wanted to know if I could send you news on my new book releases. If that would be alright, please confirm the correct email address to use for news submissions, so I can add you to my contact list.
Thank you so much!
Your phone, email, website, Instant Message program of choice and handle, et cetera
Obviously, you will substitute the vague references in the sample letter above with the writer’s name and your specific compliment or point of reference to them, your own name and information about your specific writing genre. Always include all of your contact information with the email signature. You want to make it as easy as possible for media people to get in touch with you.
If you only have a phone number as a media contact point, then you can use the above strategy with a few considerations due to the change in format.
Before trying to contact anyone by phone, rehearse what you want to say in advance. If at all possible, practice with a voice recorder so you can hear exactly what you sound like to another person. This gives you a chance to keep your focus on what you want to convey when you call a potential media contact and keeps you from getting sidetracked. It also helps you to edit down your message to 60 seconds or less, without speaking so fast that no one can understand you, in the case you need to leave a voice message for a reporter.
If you are forced to leave a message (highly likely), speak slowly, clearly and repeat your phone number and email at least twice during the message. No matter how easy you assume your email address is to spell and remember, spell it out completely if you are giving it to someone verbally.
If they answer in person (rare, but it does happen), remember to keep the call brief, polite, professional, stay on point with your rehearsed message and most important of all: Listen to what the person you call has to say, rather than focusing completely on what you want to say.
No matter how you initially contact a media member, don’t expect them to drop everything and respond to you immediately. They’re busy people and don’t have time to reply to every email or phone call they receive—immediately or, sometimes, at all. Give them at least a few days to get back to you.
If for some reason the writer you contacted doesn’t want to be added to your media contact list, thank them sincerely for their time and move on. If you don’t hear back from them after a week, go back to your research and contact another person at that same outlet, using the same tone of message. Since many writers are freelance, the person you found contact information for yesterday may not be at that publication today.
Above all, don’t give up. Your media contact list is an ever growing and changing organism. You may start out with only two or three writers that respond positively to your introduction letter. In many ways, it’s much better to start with a small number of media contacts. Focusing on a few individual writers gives you a chance to develop strong professional relationships with each of them. Once you start to develop working relationships with individual members of the media, that’s when you will begin to understand the nature and value of media contacts: It is all about who knows you, not just who you know.
Do you have specific questions concerning how to generate publicity for your books? Please email questions and comments to Sherry; answers will appear as future WriteSex blog topics.
Sherry Ziegelmeyer is a professional publicist and public relations representative, who happens to specialize in adult entertainment (in all its various forms). She resides in Chatsworth, California, affectionately known as “ground zero of the adult entertainment industry.” When not working on writing press releases, arranging interviews and putting together review kits for her clients (among dozens of other career related activities), she reads a LOT, loves cooking, appreciates beefcake eye-candy, spending time with friends, family and with her assortment of furred and feathered “kids”. Get to know Sherry at blackandbluemedia.com or www.facebook.com/sherry.ziegelmeyer.