Monday, April 30, 2018

Great Advice For Book Publicists & Authors

From Phil Donahue’s TV Producer

Brad Hurtado was right.  He knew how books should get interest from the news media.  You should heed his advice.

Who, you may ask, is Brad Hurtado?

His name recently and randomly popped into my head, even though it’s been at least 25 years since I last spoke to him.  He used to be a television producer for The Maury Povich Show, and then the final four years of the iconic Phil Donahue Show.

Hurtado came to Book Expo one year -- actually it was called the ABA or American Booksellers Association back then -- and did a terrific breakout session for those seeking to pitch producers of national talk shows.

He came in to the room and emptied out a few bags of books and press kits, having the contents pile onto a desk, showing us just a sampling of what comes across his desk every day.  Piece by piece, he showed us what he liked or didn’t like about what he was sent, lending valuable insight as to how he views pitches and filters things very quickly.

That demonstration, circa 1990, would be just as relevant today.  Producers and their assistants, often interns, make snap judgments on things just based on the first few words of a pitch letter or the appearance and topic of a book.  In seconds, your fate is determined.

I don’t know what Hurtado does these days.  I saw online he is a freelance producer, code for unemployed I guess, but I think his honesty back then should reward him today.

Authors and book publicists have to not think of themselves when contacting the media.  They have to instead, think like the media:  What do they see or think? Who else is bombarding them with competing messages?  What pressures or goals do the media operate under?

You don’t exist in a vacuum.  Even if you tell a producer you have a story that could expose President Trump as a sexist, crook, liar, or fraud realize that you are still competing with those who can say worse things.  No story angle is a guarantee for media coverage but to present yourself in certain ways can be a sure-fire way to get ignored or dismissed.

Contacting the media is like applying for a job.  Your resume can’t be full of misspellings.  Your clothes can’t be dirty or casual. You must speak with confidence, clarity and conviction.  Same goes for your press releases, clothes, and speaking style.  Your presentation – in whatever form (in-person, mail, email, phone) must make a positive impression and be void of obvious mistakes or shortcomings.  Just as a job candidate must be qualified for the job applied for, so should the author be seen as the best expert to talk about a particular subject.

Hurtado said that the first few sentences of a press release or pitch would dictate interest or force a negative decision, so your most interesting point has to be in your headline, subject line, or opening paragraph.

He also said the author has to have legit credentials.  The media will quickly look to see if an author is remotely experienced, licensed, degreed, or in a position to know something of value.  If not, don’t waste the media’s time.  

A fan of steak is not qualified to write about how to raise cows and a person who has been divorced three times probably isn’t the ideal relationship guru to pen a book.  And the student is not going to be the teacher, nor is the lay person going to be the minister.  Qualifications mean something.

Lastly, Hurtado said authors and publicists should really know what the media outlet is all about. Don’t pitch topics that the show never covers.  In other words, appeal to the editorial needs and demographic tendencies of the outlet’s listeners/readers/viewers.

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.”

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