How Do I Promote My Book Using a Media Tour?
There are three primary media outlets you can use to promote your book:
- Paid Media—This is when you buy advertisements on someone else’s platform. Amazon, Facebook, Radio ads, etc.
- Owned media—This where you promote your book to your own email subscribers or podcast listeners.
- Earned media—This is when you get featured on someone else’s platform without having to pay for it. The art of getting earned media mentions is called PR or public relations.
Earned Media vs Paid Media
Earned media is far more effective than paid media. If you are watching a TV show with an interview of an author, you will give the book more consideration than you would if you saw the book in an advertisement in between segments. Better yet, authors don’t typically pay to be interviewed on TV shows, radio programs, and podcasts.
So how do you earn coverage in these media outlets? How can you get that free promotion for your book?
Find out in this episode of Novel Marketing, the longest-running book marketing podcast in the world. I am Thomas Umstattd, Jr. CEO of Author Media, and this is a show for writers who want to build their platform, sell more books, and make a difference with writing worth talking about.
Our guest today is a Board-Certified internal medicine physician, speaker, and award-winning author. She has been featured in numerous media outlets including Prevention, MSNBC, Women’s Day, FOX, Fast Company, Psychology Today, INC, CNN Health, TED.com, and of course Novel Marketing. She came on this podcast a couple years ago and her episode about how she grew her email list from 2k to 22k in one year is still one of our most popular episodes.
Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, welcome back to the Novel Marketing podcast!
Saundra: It’s great to be joining you again.
How to Set Up a Media Tour
Saundra: My very first media tour was actually put together by my publicist, over ten years ago now. This was back in the day where publishing houses actually put in quite a bit of effort to help you promote your book.
Thomas: We’d like to hear about your first media tour. You’re a physician. You decided to start writing books and promoting your books through the media. What did that look like for you, back before you became “Saundra Dalton Smith, renown speaker and author?” What was it like to pitch a show for the very first time?
I had never been on radio, TV or anything in the past. My publicist set it all up and I just had to show up and talk about my book.
That sounds lovely, but in reality, it was a fiasco. I had no media training, and no idea what to talk about. I didn’t know how to convert those opportunities into interested customers or sales or anything else. It was horrible. It was a waste of time.
Thomas: You know, in all of my time in this industry, I’ve never once come across an author who got media training from their publisher. They just don’t do it. If you’re running for politics, media training is the very first thing your consultant has you do. They put you through media training before you make a fool of yourself. Actors, musicians, and even NASCAR drivers get media training, but the authors get thrown to the wolves.
Saundra: That’s certainly how I felt. The first few media interviews I had were horrible. I couldn’t even remember what we talked about. Did I even mention my book? It was so bad.
Lessons Learned About Media Tours
Thomas: You had to learn some lessons the hard way. What are some of the lessons you learned early on? I imagine one lesson is to make sure you mention the name of your book.
It’s a classic mistake that authors make when they start out doing media interviews. You get to the end of the interview and you realize you never mentioned your book or your website. The interview has no impact on sales because the listeners are only vaguely aware that you’re even an author.
Be Prepared Ahead of Time
Saundra: One of the key lessons I had to learn pretty quickly, was to make sure that I had a general idea of how I wanted the conversation to go. It’s important to have a goal. Don’t just jump into the interview expecting to answer whatever questions the host throws at you. You should have a few main points you want to make sure you cover in the interview.
I remember creating a cheat sheet, with all my main points on it. When I first started, there was no Zoom. Interviews were all via phone call. So, nobody knew if I had notes in front of me. Of course, you don’t want to just read your answers. But it’s a good idea to have some type of outline.
Thomas: Preparation is key. The more you prepare and the more you practice, the cleaner each individual sentence will be. But you don’t want to read your answers. As an interviewer, I don’t give our guests the questions ahead of time because I don’t want them to write out their answers.
As soon as they start writing out the answers, it kills the organic feel of the interview. It becomes stale. But, being familiar with what you’re going to say ahead of time, and saying it naturally and organically, can be really powerful.
Saundra: I think a lot of authors also aspire to be paid speakers at some point. I treat media opportunities like I do my speeches. They’re opportunities for me to get comfortable, think quickly, and not read all of my responses. I need to become familiar enough with my topic that I can talk about it without any notes.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Thomas: The first step of preparing for a media interview is to write down your thoughts ahead of time. Another step is to practice. A lot of authors disdain going on smaller podcasts. They want to go straight to the biggest podcast on their topic.
But guesting on a podcast with a smaller audience can be really good practice. First of all, it’s easier to get booked. And if you get nervous and mess up, not many people will hear you.
You’re able to practice in a safer environment while still being authentic. It’s still a real interview, but if it doesn’t go well, you’re not obligated to link to it on your website.
Saundra: That is such great advice. And I think it’s so true. Every new book deserves to start with a small interview audience. You don’t realize what questions you don’t know, until someone asks you a question that you’ve never thought about before. It’s helpful to have a barrier between you and a larger opportunity.
I actually recommend that authors start out by pitching small podcasts, for the first few interviews for every new book. You’ll be able to start formulating ideas of what you want to say, and how you want to say it.
Sometimes we miss opportunities, because we have a horrible interview on a big stage. You end up in a situation where you don’t really want to promote your book anymore.
I eventually did end up doing some media training. One of the things my media coach recommended is to write in “sound bites.” This was difficult for me at first. I’m an author. Give me 50,000 words and I’m good to go. I had difficulty figuring out what I wanted to say in short bits of information.
But honestly, most of us will naturally talk in sound bites without thinking about it. When you listen to some of your old interviews, you can identify those little nuggets that the person repeated back to you, or tweeted. You can find some of those soundbites naturally.
Understand the Media Outlet
Thomas: It’s important to understand what kind of medium you will be interviewed will be on. For example, if you have a three-minute segment on Fox News, every word out of your mouth has to be a sound bite. You may only have 30 seconds to say anything about your topic. That’s one extreme.
On the other end of the spectrum would be a show like the Joe Rogan podcast, where he’ll let someone talk for three hours.
And then, there’s everything in between. There are thirty-minute podcast episodes like this one, or you may get a five or ten minute segment on a radio show where you have a little bit more time to develop your ideas.
The longer shows probably make it easier to develop those soundbites. But it requires some practice. You need to listen to your interviews and take notes on what you said well. If you captured a thought in a really tight phrase, remember how you said it for next time.
Start on the smaller, longer podcasts. You don’t want Fox News to be your first interview. I had a friend who was interviewed on Fox News and it did not go well. I could tell he was not ready. He hadn’t done the small audience interviews leading up to it. Now no one will want to invite him onto CNN or MSNBC. He missed his shot.
Saundra: Many authors wonder how to get started with media interviews. Well, you start with the small shows, and then you’ll have something to show to the midsized shows, and then the larger ones.
So even with those smaller opportunities, act as if you are on Fox News.
What Do Podcast Hosts Look for in an Interview Pitch?
Thomas: Every time I get a legitimate pitch, (not a copy-and-paste mass mailing type of pitch), one of the first things I do is to go to their website. I look at their media kit or press kit, to see if I can find interviews that they’ve done on other shows.
As a podcast host, I’m listening for several things:
Are they articulate? Can they capture what they’re trying to say in succinct sentences? Are they well-spoken?
Just as importantly, do they have a good microphone?
If they are using the speaker on their laptop, or they are wearing a cheap $50 gaming headset their teenage son recommended, then I’m not going to have that person on the show.
If you want to come on novel marketing, you need to have a real microphone. You need to sound like you’re in the studio. When I’m listening to the sample interviews on someone’s webpage, I can quickly tell what kind of microphone they’re using. Some of you listening may have pitched a show and gotten rejected. It may be because of your sound quality and audio gear.
How well does the topic fit my show?
Third, I look at how well the pitch of the topic fits with my show. This is really important to keep in mind as you’re pitching radio shows, podcasts and TV. You’re pitching the topic as much as you’re pitching yourself.
For me, vague topics are a big turnoff. A topic like, “How I marketed myself as an indie author,” is no good. You’re never going to get on this show with that kind of topic. But if you send me a specific pitch like, “Here’s how I used email marketing to grow my list using this specific technique.” Ding, ding, ding. That’s what’s going to get you on the show.
Saundra, when I had you on the show last time, you didn’t pitch me a general topic about email. It was specifically about how you used a survey and a quiz to grow your mailing list. That’s the kind of specificity I was looking for.
Not all shows are looking for that specificity. But the point I’m trying to make is that the bait needs to fit the fish. You need to pitch a topic that will catch the attention of the show.
How to Customize Your Pitch to Each Show
Saundra: That’s a great point. As you mentioned, I’ve been on a lot of different platforms and I don’t use the same pitch for all of them. If I’m speaking on Fox News, I might talk about work-life integration and how that relates to rest.
If I’m pitching Fast Company, I might talk about how their employees are leaving the company, because they want better work-life balance. Both pitches are under the same framework of “rest”, but they are completely different topics. Whereas, if I’m pitching Shape Magazine, I may talk about human performance and how rest actually helps athletes perform better.
You have to look at your topic and figure out how you can apply it to a particular audience so they benefit from it. When you can convince a producer that you understand their audience and can serve their audience, you’re going to get selected.
Thomas: You need to adapt your topic to the particular show. Don’t expect them to do it for you. If you’re pitching me, and you haven’t adapted your topic for my show, I don’t know that you’re even able to.
Your examples are perfect, Saundra. You’re talking about the same topic of “rest” on each of these shows, but the benefits of rest are different for every audience. A CEO of a company will benefit from rest in a different way than an athlete.
When you put in the time and effort to create customized pitches for each show, you’re demonstrating to that host that you know how to contextualize your topic for their audience in an engaging way.
How Do I Contact a Podcast?
Saundra: One thing I had to learn very quickly at the beginning was how to find the contact person for the show. Sometimes you’re pitching a producer, or the show host, or a guest coordinator.
The front-line point-person’s job is to vet you, and determine if you’re a good fit for the show. Do anything you can to help them vet you more quickly. Provide them with a media kit or send them to a press page on your website. This page should have a few headshots, bios, links to past interviews, social media links, etc.
Thomas: We have a several episodes on how to create an author press kit.
You can also view Dr. Saundra Dalton Smith’s press kit. Her press kit is one of the best examples of an author press kit I’ve seen in a long time.
Here’s a little secret… that front-line screening person or the guest coordinator, doesn’t have the authority to say “yes.” They only have the authority to say “no.” Their job is to say “no” to 80% of pitches that are the wrong fit. And then they pass the other 20% up the chain.
Your pitch has to be good enough to convince those screeners. They are the ones who will present your case to the decision makers in the organization.
What if I Don’t Hear Back from the Podcast?
Saundra: One of the biggest podcast interviews I’ve had took two years to schedule. I pitched a top five health podcast. I emailed back and forth with the guest coordinator several times. She told me she would send my pitch on to the host. But then I didn’t hear anything back for a long time.
A few years later, I pitched them again. But in the meantime, I had done another interview with a large TV station. I sent the podcast a sample of my TV interview, and I was able to get onto the show right away.
Sometimes if you don’t hear back right away, you’re not really getting a hard “no.” The show may already have everything booked for this year. The bigger the show, the farther out they’ll be booked. So, unless you get a “no”, just keep trying.
Thomas: And it may be that they’ve already booked someone on a similar topic to yours. Novel Marketing is the longest running book marketing podcast in the world. There is almost no topic that we haven’t covered. I’ve talked about media tours before. I’ve talked about getting booked on podcasts as a guest.
This is one of those topics that I try to hit about twice a year. Other topics like email marketing, I try to hit every quarter, because it’s more important for more authors. Every author needs to do emails. Not every author has to do media. Media tours are really effective, but if the idea of talking into a microphone terrifies you, you’re not disqualified from being an author.
So, if I had just done an episode on “getting booked as a podcast guest,” or “getting booked on a radio interview”, I might have to say “not now” to that pitch coming in. Even if it’s someone I would love to have on the show, I ask them to pitch me again next year.
Your topic needs to fit the overall rhythm of the show. It’s common to get a response like, “Oh, I wish you had reached out a week ago. We just booked someone on that topic. Maybe we’ll keep you in mind for next year!”
Sometimes they’re not saying no to you, or even to your topic, they’re just saying no in terms of this season. The more you get familiar with each media outlet that you’re pitching, the more you can get an idea of what sorts of topics they feature and when they feature those topics.
If you want to pitch a seasonal topic, like a buying guide for Christmas, you’ll need to reach out to that show or magazine at least 6 months ahead of time.
How to Craft a Compelling Pitch
Thomas: Saundra, what other tips do you have for crafting a compelling pitch?
Saundra: Be sure to personalize your pitch email. Don’t just copy and paste your pitch. If it looks generic, nobody will want to have you on their show. Address the person by name. Mention previous episodes of their show and why you think your topic would be a good fit.
I’m a podcaster myself. I love it when someone pitches me and specifically mentions a recent episode. They might say something like, “Hey, I saw that you talked about this topic back in June. I have a similar topic, but it’s a little different, and this is how I approach it.”
I’m automatically drawn into that pitch, because I know this person actually did some leg work. They have earned my respect and captured my attention. They’ve given me a reason to go deeper with them.
Thomas: Be sure to listen to an episode of the show before you pitch them. You need to understand the style of the show. For example, Fox News likely isn’t a good fit for most novelists. They host a combative style of show, where you may be on with four or five other people who have differing viewpoints than your own. You need to be prepared for people to hate you.
This is much different than a one-on-one podcast interview between two people who mostly agree with each other. You need to watch or listen to the show ahead of time so you understand what makes the show unique.
When I receive an email pitch for Novel Marketing, I like to see that the person understands what makes my show unique. One of my goals for the show is to make every episode feel like a session at a writer’s conference. You leave with specific knowledge and actionable steps.
I don’t typically take pitches from authors who want to share how they went from being unpublished to published. That’s a great kind of episode, and I do it occasionally, but it’s not the nature of this show. But half the pitches I receive are people wanting to share their publishing story.
Create a Reader Magnet
Saundra: Another tip is to have a reader magnet ready to go for your interviews. Purchase a custom URL just for that lead magnet. You want it to be something that’s easy to remember.
Many times, especially for podcasts or radio, people are listening while they drive or exercise. They’re not at a desk or in front of a computer, ready to go to your website. You want the URL for your lead magnet to be memorable, so that when someone is finished listening, they will remember to look it up later.
Thomas: Podcasts will often include a link to that free giveaway in the show notes. Saundra, you’re calling it a “lead magnet,” which is the industry term. A lot of authors call it a “reader magnet,” and some even call it a “cookie.”
I imagine you have a “cookie” for our listeners. What do you have for our listeners today?
Saundra: I have a list of paid writing opportunities and marketing tips that I send out to authors. Go to www.ichoosemybestlife.com/authorsupport to sign up for my mailing list.
Thomas: That’s a clear benefit for people who come to your website. You’re not only giving people a reason to visit your site, but also a reason to sign up for your newsletter.
If you’re writing fiction, the reader magnet is likely going to be a short story. If you’re writing non-fiction you have a lot more options.
How Do I Research Podcasts?
Thomas: What advice do you have when it comes to researching potential shows to pitch? How do you find those small podcasts to get started on?
Saundra: I would start out by going to iTunes or Spotify or any of the big podcast websites. Type in whatever the topic is you speak on. So, for me, I would type in health, or wellness, or mental health. Then I see what shows come up in the search results.
Next, I would visit the website of each of those individual podcasts. Once you’re on their website, look for a form you can fill out to be a guest on the show. Some of the sites will only have a “contact me” page. I don’t recommend pitching on the contact page.
I’ll usually just send a quick one-liner through the contact form and ask what their process is for submitting a guest pitch. That way, if they do have a form, they can at least point me in the right direction.
If you’re pitching a large podcast, there may not be any way to contact them on their site. In these cases, I would sign up for their newsletter. When you sign up for their newsletter, you receive an email. And then I reply back to that email and ask, what is the process for a guest pitch?
This is an effective strategy. Out of a hundred pitches, I’ve only had about five people that didn’t reply back. Many of them replied back with the name of the guest coordinator and an email address.
Thomas: I love that. That’s a really great initial way to start the conversation.
Another tool I like to use is www.listennotes.com. It’s a search engine for podcasts, but it will also tell you how popular that podcast is. Listen Notes will tell you if the podcast ranks in the top 10% or 5% or 1% of all podcasts. It’s a great way to tell how popular a podcast is. Podcasts are not like a YouTube channel, where you know exactly how many subscribers and views it has.
Another tool that you can use is a podcast host directory, where you can find an email address for the podcast. But I think it’s great for your first communication to be to ask how to submit a pitch in the correct way.
Saundra: If you’re going the route of signing up for their email list, you’re now a subscriber. When you reply back to that first email, they know you’re already a fan of the show. It already feels more personal. You’re not a stranger who’s just spamming everyone.
Thomas: Here’s another hack: If you want to get to know a podcast audience quickly, look for a link in the footer of their website called “advertise with us.” If you click on that link, they’ll often have a PDF that has all the information about the podcast and the audience—how many downloads they get, the demographics of the audience, etc. This advertising information can help you tailor your pitch to that podcast.
Saundra: Take the time to tailor your pitch to each individual show. Make sure your topic is not something they’ve covered recently. Or maybe try to approach the topic from a different angle.
When I do my media pitches for a new book coming out, I always aim to send out at least 20 pitches every week. That’s a lot of pitches. You’ll need to dedicate several hours to accomplish this.
I try to stick with this pace of pitching for at least two months around the time my book comes out. After that, I just do 10 to 20 pitches per month with the goal of consistently having two to three interviews every single month for the rest of my life.
I do this, because, if I stop pitching my books, and if nobody is talking about my books, then I’m not going to sell any books. That’s just the reality of it. Somebody has to be talking about your book for them to sell. You have to be the first cheerleader to get the word out there.
Media Tour Strategy
Thomas: Walk us through your process of planning a media tour. Let’s say you’ve just finished a book and it’s coming out in nine months. What’s your strategy?
Saundra: I’m actually in the process of doing that right now. I have a book coming out in September. First, I count back about three months. You can usually get a lot of podcast interviews scheduled three months out.
And then, during that three-month period, I look at which podcasts I want to pitch and which shows are the best fit.
I always put the information into a Google or Excel file, so I can access it again in the future. If I ever write another book on a similar topic, I want to be able to go back and see which shows I pitched. I’ll usually divide the shows into different topic categories.
I log all the information for each pitch in my spreadsheet—when I sent the email, did I get a reply, what answer did I get, etc.
Sometimes you don’t get a response at all, not even a “no.” Unless I get a “no”, that means I can still pitch them again. If you get a “no” you can mark them off the list. But if you don’t hear anything, then you can go back and re-pitch them six months or a year later.
Thomas: And do you send them a different pitch or a same pitch?
Saundra: A different pitch. Something must not have clicked with the first pitch I sent. They didn’t say no, but it wasn’t enough to get a “yes” either. I mix things up a bit and approach the topic in a different way. I don’t reply back to the old email. It’s a fresh email and a new conversation. Unless they had responded and told me I should check back again later. Then I might use the same email just to refresh their memory.
Thomas: That’s really smart.
So let’s go back to your process. Three months out, you identify podcasts that would be a good fit, and then you start the pitching process. What happens next?
Saundra: Like I said, during that first month, I try to send out at least 20 or more pitches per week. Sometimes I do it all in one day.
Even though you don’t want to just copy and paste from one pitch to another, you can have a template with some general information. You don’t have to rewrite the whole thing every time, but the first one-third of the pitch needs to be customized to fit the show you’re pitching.
How to Organize Media Interviews
Saundra: One of the mistakes I see authors make is not keeping track of the responses the get. They get excited about the pitching process. But when they start getting yeses, they don’t have a system in place to deal with the replies.
If someone says “yes,” you need to be ready to schedule an interview on their calendar. You need to send them a media kit. Those things need to be in place before hand.
The host will need your bio, headshots, social media accounts, and sample questions. If you don’t have those things ready to go, you are going to get overwhelmed very quickly.
Prepare ahead of time. Your life will be simplified if you already have a media kit, and a templated email reply. You have to be organized. You don’t want to be the person who doesn’t show up to an interview because it wasn’t on your calendar.
Using a Digital Calendar for Your Media Tour
Thomas: The first step to getting organized is to take that paper calendar you’ve been using since high school, and throw it away. You need to move to a digital calendar. There are so many benefits.
First, you can set up the calendar so it sends alerts to your phone and reminds you to show up for interviews. If you don’t show up for an interview, they’ll never have you back on the show. Especially if it’s live.
I use Google calendar. Other options are Outlook or Apple calendars. You add everything you do in your life to that calendar. If you have a standing meeting on Tuesdays at 10:00 AM, you put it in the calendar and you set it to repeat every Tuesday at 10:00 AM.
Once you have your whole life captured in a digital calendar, you can use the magical tool called Calendly . Calendly is a scheduling software that syncs with your personal digital calendar.
Most podcast hosts will already have a Calendly link ready to send you. You click on the link and schedule a time to come on the show. If you have a digital calendar, Calendly will overlap with your calendar and show you when you’re both free.
If the host doesn’t send you their own Calendly link, then you can send them yours. You don’t want to be stuck emailing back and forth a hundred times, trying to find a date that suits you both. Nobody’s got time for that.
But services like Calendly are only magical if you’ve already adopted digital calendaring, and you’ve put your paper calendar to bed.
Saundra: That is so good. I live by my Google calendar. If it weren’t for that calendar, I would not accomplish anything. My life is laid out on that calendar. It’s absolutely necessary.
Thomas: Okay, so you’ve done your pitching, you’re getting back rejections acceptances, you’re scheduling interviews. What now?
How to Prepare for Media Interviews
Thomas: Let’s say you have five interviews lined up for next week. What does this week look like? How do you start preparing for those interviews?
Saundra: First, I always look to see if I have a lead magnet or reader magnet that would be helpful to the audience of that show.
Then, I look at past interviews, just to get a feel for the host. You’ll have better conversations with people if you feel like you have some kind of affinity with them.
You might be feeling nervous about talking with someone you’ve never met via a video chat, like Zoom or Skype. But listening to the podcast ahead of time can help you grow accustomed to the host and will make you more comfortable in the interview. You start to feel like you already know the person.
Thomas: The key is to know the tone of the show beforehand. If the show is more combative and argumentative, feel free to play the devil’s advocate. But if the show is all about hugs and encouragement, you don’t want to stir things up in your interview.
Saundra, imagine that you could go back in time and speak to your younger self—the one who’s doing her first PR pitches and first media tour. What advice or encouragement would you give your past self?
Don’t Be Afraid to Enjoy Your Media Tour
Saundra: I would have told myself to enjoy it. I was so scared of saying the wrong thing. I was so scared of messing up. I was so scared of forgetting what my book was about. You could literally hear the fear in the conversation.
There was no laughter. There was no fun. It was monotone and it wasn’t fun to listen to.
So, I’d tell myself: “Enjoy the process! Have fun with it. You poured your life into this book, and now you get to share it with people.”
You “get” to. You don’t “have” to. Not everyone has to do PR, but if you choose to, then act like it’s something that you take joy in. It’s a privilege.
Thomas: Even if it’s radio, listeners can hear your smile. If you’re grimacing or angry, they can hear it. If you’re having a good time, you’re inviting the listener to have a good time with you. The more of a good time that you have, the more likely you are to get invited back to the show.
Dr. Sandra Dalton Smith, where can people find out more about you?
Saundra: My main website is www.ichoosemybestlife.com and you can learn about me and all my books there.
If you would like more help on getting booked as a podcast guest and learning how to do your own media tour, I would like to recommend my course How to Get Booked as a Podcast Guest. In this course, you’ll learn how to find, pitch, and be a guest on podcasts. I walk you through my specific process.
You’ll get templates for what to say when you’re crafting a pitch. I even have a tracking tool to help you keep track of your pitches so that things don’t slip through the cracks. And so much more. You can find this course HERE. If you’re a patron of the podcast, Check Patreon for a link that will save you 50% off the price of the course.
New May Patrons:
- Terreece Clarke
- David Tabatsky
- Robbie Batman
- Leslie Davis
- Amanda J. Trumpower
- Kim Nowlin
You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here.
The novel marketing podcast is a production of Author Media. Our producer is Laurie Christine. This episode’s audio was edited by William Umstattd, and the blog post is crafted by Laurie Christine. And I’m your host, Thomas Umstattd Jr.