Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Pitching from a Publicist's Perspective

Have you ever wondered what publicists do to market books? How they approach the media?

Pam Lontos is head of PR/PR, http://www.prpr.net, a public relations firm with a staff of six that represents authors and speakers. Pam is a professional speaker with an extensive background in the radio and TV industry, where she rose to Vice President of Sales for Disney’s Shamrock Broadcasting.

I asked Pam to share her expertise as a publicist.

PR/PR via Pam Lontos

First and foremost is the importance of pitching a story – not the book. “The story idea is what they want,” she stresses. This is a mistake that authors and even publicists make. When her firm tried to pitch a book on teaching children the value of money, it fell on deaf ears. So before the holidays, the company pitched a story on spoiling children at Christmas and it was carried on CNN, and the book held up for viewers to see. “If they like the story, then they will read your credentials and then your book,” she says. “Their concern is how to get higher ratings, or readers, or subscribers. They don’t care about your book. They care about what advice you can give to their audience or readers. Think about what’s in it for them, not you.”

PR/PR works mainly with non-fiction authors and speakers. However, fiction is accepted if the author writes on a related topic – which they place in numerous publications - and is willing to be interviewed. When the American Bar Association published its first novel in 120 years – which involved drug trafficking - it was accepted because the author was a lawyer who was able to write articles and be interviewed on drugs in the workplace.

About 40% of their clients are self-published authors. Turned away are authors with books that may not interest the media. “That’s why you call for a free consultation,” she says. “I don’t want to take on clients I don’t feel I can help.”

One cookbook author who wrote about traditional American cooking is among its greatest successes. “Everytime we send something out on her, the phones start ringing,” says Pam, who admits to initial misgivings. “A lot of people with cookbooks don’t pitch them,” she surmises, or “they probably pitch the cookbook and not the story.” One story was “what foods to eat on Valentine’s Day.”

According to Pam, one reason her firm is successful is that it “gives the media what they want. We have reporters tell us that not only do we have good clients, but we never send stuff that doesn’t match.”

New clients are asked to send books and tapes and fill in 20 topics in which they are expert. “Once we have all that information, we start pitching the media,” says Pam. Sometimes a client signs up just in time. This occurred when Entrepreneur Magazine called the firm asking for a financial planner to interview and one called up. A match was made. “He had been a client for one minute,” says Pam.

In another case of successful matchmaking, when Pam read that the phone lines were jammed at American Idol causing some viewers to view the voting unfair, she called a client who installs phone systems at businesses to ask if he could speak on phone lines jamming. “That’s how we got him into USA Today.”

Asked what sets PR/PR apart from other firms, Pam says: “We are proactive. We really enjoy getting people into national magazines.” That’s one reason it doesn’t do author tours. Who needs the hassle of traveling, when one can do radio interviews from the comfort of home, she figures. “If we can get one article in 20 magazines and newspapers like Cosmo, The New York Times and Entrepreneur, they don’t have to go anywhere.”

-- by Francine Silverman
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