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Stop Waiting for Fame—Become Your Own Publicist
by Linda J. Parker

You only have two realistic options if you want people to read what you write. Plan A is simple. Oprah Winfrey must fall in love with your words and recommend your books (articles, website, videos, etc.) to her millions of viewers.

Plan B requires a little more on your part. You have to get you name in front of those millions of people yourself and they have to fall in love with your words on their own. And unless Oprah, the unofficial patron saint of writers, is already on your Christmas card list, you probably need to go with Plan B.

The good news is that Plan B is not as difficult as it may seem. You can build a successful writing career by getting your name in front of thousands of people, not millions. And love is a relative term. People only have to love you enough to shell out the price of your next book—about twenty dollars worth of affection. But how do you reach the market without a saint or a public relations firm behind you?

You must become your own publicist. In your busy schedule, already challenged by writing, family responsibilities, and perhaps your day job, you must carve out time to market your work.

Radio interviews are an excellent way to start building recognition. Television, music CD’s and MP3’s have not taken away the power of radio. Thanks to advancements like satellite and internet radio, radio listening audiences continue to grow. At the same time, ownerships consolidate and smaller staffs man bigger stations. Radio needs you.

Kevin Hogan, author of The Science of Influence (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005) says you can guarantee interviews if you make it known to radio program directors that you are willing to be a last minute guest. Call and ask for the name of the program or news director and his or her fax number. Send them a one-page resume, bio, book review, or any other promotional material that identifies you as an experienced professional with something worthwhile to say.

Devote a second page to outlining your interview subject matter. Emphasize that you are always willing to fill-in should they have a schedule change. You will not only land your interview, you will endear yourself to the program director.

Once you put yourself out there as the anytime interview stand-in, stay prepared for the calls. Type all your discussion points and keep your notes by the phone. Make sure your telephone is free from static and background noise, and never give radio interviews over a cordless or speakerphone.

When the call comes in, hum loudly to warm up your vocal cords just before you go on the air, and always stand while you are speaking. Being on your feet substantially increases the energy level your voice projects to the listener.

The news crew and the program director at radio stations should be on your list to receive all your press releases. A well-written press release is an effective way to get your name in front of the media, who in turn get your name in front of book-buying consumers.

Prepare and maintain an up-to-date list of media contacts. Find a simple way to database this information. You will be much more likely to send press releases if you don’t have to search for contact names and addresses each time you do it.

Write press releases that are short and information-intensive. Make what you write sound like news, not self-promotion. Perhaps you uncovered an interesting bit of history about your community or stumbled across a great human interest story in your research—that qualifies as news. And don’t overlook the venue that will give you the most coverage, your own hometown. People are always interested in the lives and accomplishments of others who grew up or went to college in their city.

Make a point of learning which news people work the graveyard shifts and the weekend schedules. Address some press releases specifically to them; late-hour news teams typically have to scramble the most for stories.

When you send press releases, remember that neighborhood associations, clubs, and civic organizations frequently have regular newsletters and publications too. The Chamber of Commerce and your local library offer directories listing many community groups and their contact person. These organizations will be glad to receive your information and eager to book you as a speaker at their meetings, as well. You don’t have to be a dynamic orator to make these occasions successful.

Research the group you will be addressing by reading back issues of their publications. Write your own introduction on a file card and give it to the person who will introduce you. Plan a simple, informative speech about something related to your writing. Tell the audience some facts they already know, because this establishes your creditability. Include new information they don’t know, because this identifies you as a subject matter expert.

You are a talented wordsmith by profession—write a great opening for your speech. If you lead with ideas that are thought provoking and enticing, you will keep the audience’s attention even if the rest of what you say is less dynamic. Speak clearly, slowly, and smile. Studies have proven that how you deliver your speech has as much as five times more impact on your audience than what you actually say.

Remember, the more the audience likes you, the more likely they are to like your work. Don’t bail out after your speech. Be friendly, personable, and stick around for the meeting and the chicken dinner that typically follow; you are there to build lifetime fans and readership.

Too many writers do not take advantage of the countless low-cost, no-cost ways to publicize their own careers. In today’s competitive market, publishers are not just looking for good writers; they are looking for writers who also wear the hats of self-marketers.

Give radio interviews and then ask the station for a courtesy copy of the broadcast. Send press releases and save clippings or videos of the news items they generate. When you speak publicly, ask the organization’s president to write you a letter of endorsement. Publishing houses recognize the value of grassroots publicity. They appreciate authors who partner in the effort to market their books. And when it comes time to send out contracts, publishers remember which authors market as well as they write.

© Copyright 2005, Linda J. Parker

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