Monday, June 18, 2018
How Letters & Comments Sell Books
One of the ways – out of dozens – to generate exposure for your book and to raise your profile is to post comments online to blog posts, FB posts, and retweets, and to pen letters-to-the editor at leading newspapers and magazines. It costs nothing, doesn’t take a lot of time, and builds your brand. Plus it assuages your ego.
I should know. I love getting my letters published in newspapers. In the span of less than a week I had one in The New York Post about Miss America and another in the New York Daily News about elite schools and racial quotas. Over the years I had letters published in college newspapers, community weeklies, Newsday, many more in the Post and the News, and the Washington Post. For me, it’s not as much about my brand or to hawk a book – it’s just therapeutic, like keeping a public diary. I feel compelled to share my views on how the world should be.
I got that from my dad, a letter-writing rabble rouser who wrote to politicians and newspapers to speak out for civil rights and against the Vietnam War in the 60s and 70s. He even got letters back from the White House and Congress and had dozens of letters published over the years.
Today’s author goes beyond letters to the editor. He or she can comment on almost any blog or major news site. One can also retweet and tweet and comment on it, in essence taking ownership of it. With just a few words or sentences – and a link to your site, blog, or book – you can start to get your name out there to the readers when you feel fit your demographic.
The key to getting a letter published is simple:
1. Be quick. If you see a story, respond to it within 24 hours by email.
2. Email the reporter of an article that you want to comment on, as well as the letters section. Sometimes the reporter will champion your letter.
3. Stick to a word count that’s specifically suggested by the publication or look at the length of other letters in the publication and count them up to estimate the ideal word count.
4. Include the info they ask of you – typically your name, address, email and phone number.
5. Don’t send the same exact letter to multiple publications simultaneously. You could get blacklisted by them.
6. Have a clever headline no longer than 4-5 words.
7. Letters that tend to agree with a publication’s story editorial or op-ed will have a better chance to get published.
8. Anticipate what others will likely say on the subject and go beyond the obvious. Raise a point few may initially think of.
9. Cite a stat, quote someone, or provide authoritative evidence to substantiate your claims.
10. Don’t curse or use bullying language – highlight what you stand for and not just who you oppose – and do so in a decent manner.
11. Test your logic by asking friends if your proposed letter is lacking or off balance.
12. Economize on your words and don’t look to make complete arguments. A letter is not much longer than a tweet. Don’t include links or expect to be able to pontificate at length.
13. If possible, tie into your background, explaining how you know what you know. For instance, for a letter on gun violence state if you were a victim of gun violence or if a letter on race and you’re a professor of Black Studies, say so. Or if it’s about something you have personal knowledge of or experience in or that you witnessed, bring it up.
Lastly, sound sincere, visionary, and passionate.
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