Maybe It’s Not Your Message, But How You Position the Messenger
Having written a book myself, I know how hard people work to achieve that coveted designation of “author.”
And, I know how it goes, you don’t want to make it a big deal with your friends and family, but deep down where you don’t talk about it openly, you really wish there was a button you could buy that reads “AUTHOR!” You also wish that it was socially acceptable to wear it on your lapel, because, darn it, writing a book is NOT easy. You worked hard to write a book and when it’s done and published, you do enjoy being able to claim membership in a relatively exclusive fraternity.
So when you prepare your media campaign to promote your book, certainly ALL your press releases and materials refer to you as an author. And, that’s where the train might be running off the tracks.
In our everyday lives, we don’t know very many authors, so being an author is a unique attribute. However, in the world of the media, positioning yourself as an author makes you one of thousands and may actually serve to lessen your value. That’s right, declaring yourself to be an author may be one of the reasons the press isn’t clamoring to interview you right now.
The first reason for this reverse phenomenon is that there are over 370,000 new books published every year, and so many of those authors are trying to get the same ink, radio airtime and TV interviews you are. In fact, many national TV shows who book guests have a separate booker to just deal with authors. That means every time you send a pitch designating yourself as an author, you are instantly put in the same category with all the authors who are pitching the same producers. Your book and expertise may be in foreign affairs—which makes you instantly relevant in today’s news cycle—but the producer who books foreign affairs guests will never see your pitch, because you’ve been lumped in with the authors.
Moreover, the media doesn’t exist to help you sell your book. They’d much rather you buy an ad if your purpose is to make money from the exposure they’d be giving you for free. So an author-centric pitch may, in many cases, go right in the garbage or the deleted email folder.
From our experience over the last 21 years of booking an average of more than 2,100 radio interviews each year for our clients, we know that if you pitch a radio producer with “I’m an author, I’ve written a book about such and such,” it can land you absolutely nowhere. These producers are inundated by authors all the time, so hearing that as the primary identifier makes you one of many. That’s why we never use the word author as the primary positioning for our clients. Instead, we call them experts, because on one level or another, that’s who they really are and that’s the value they represent to the show hosts. Compare the author pitch to, “John Doe is an expert on the legal issues regarding nursing homes, and can offer advice to people who are planning either for themselves or for their parents, and they just wrote a book about it.” The expertise is what the host wants, so we deliver it up front, using the book to add credibility to the expert positioning.
A lot of authors feel they aren’t experts in a classic sense, and for those people, I’ll wager a bet. I’ll bet I can find a genuine way to position you as an expert, even if your expertise is through personal experience. If you wrote a book, even if it is a work of fiction, there is some trigger—some amount of experience, research, expertise or passion—that drove you to write it. That qualifies you to be called an expert and helps you engage the media’s interest in having you as a guest.
Being an author is a very big achievement and no one is trying to play that down. But, to the media, who deals with a seeming endless flood of authors daily, calling yourself an author simply makes you one of tens of thousands.
If you want to be distinctive and offer the media some level of value for their audiences, then you need to take that button off your lapel and embrace your own expertise. While being an author is very important to you, being an expert is what will be important to the media.
Marsha Friedman launched EMS Incorporated in 1990. Her firm represents corporations and experts in a wide array of fields such as business, health, food, lifestyle, politics, finance, law, sports and entertainment. She consults individuals and businesses on a daily basis and is frequently asked to speak at conferences about how to harness the power of publicity. Outside of the office, she is also the founder of a non-profit organization called the Cherish the Children Foundation. In 1996 the White House recognized her charity which sets out to raise awareness of the plight of underprivileged and foster children.