Okay, Floyd Landis just won the Tour de France. Now your race is just beginning: Ready? Set. GO! Now begins the race to pitch books and news items having to do with Floyd Landis, hip disease, Mennonites, perserverance, leadership. If you watched any news over the day or so after the race, you saw the stories yourself. I’m willing to bet the book bidding is well underway.
This happens every time a big story hits the news. The books pitched in relation to Hurricane Katrina are just beginning to appear. It’s important you know this because the news always opens a brief window of opportunity for a writer to either pitch a book or get some television or radio time based on their expertise. But you have to be ready. Here’s what you do:
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1.) Keep Up On Current Events
TV and radio producers need new material and must put stories together quickly. That means you have to be right on top of the news and able to send a pitch in the moment you see a significant story developing. For instance, if you had a unique angle on the Floyd Landis story, you would have been pitching it right when he made his stupendous comeback ride on Thursday, July 20. If you had waited until the Sunday when he was actually standing on the podium, you would’ve been too late. The Floyd stories were already in the can and starting to run. This doesn’t mean you have to be glued to CNN daily or subscribe to an Associated Press news ticker, but you do have to be aware of what’s going on. Speed is of the essence.
2.) Know How to Write a Quick Press Release
With that in mind, you’ll have to be able to craft a good press release at a moment’s notice. There are all sorts of technical aspects to putting together a press release, but basically you want it to have a strong headline, a quick and dirty description of your story and what you have to offer and contact information so producers will know how to find you. Make sure you make the connection that you are a no-brainer to be interviewed. For instance, if you were a doctor who has worked on 500 hips similar to Floyd Landis’s, you could write a press release with the heading “Surgeon Who’s Treated Over 500 Hips Says With Certain Precautions, Landis Can Recover”. Then you go on to outline a 3 or 4 point rehabilitation plan. That’s it. A producer can see an easy 3 minute segment right there.
3.) Know How to Write a Quick Book Proposal
You’ll want to be able to do the same with a book proposal. Here the most important part will be promoting your expertise and a great table of contents. The point is to catch an agent or editor’s eye so they can start moving on the idea. You might have to flesh the proposal out after that, but for now you just want them to know you have the idea, expertise, connections and ability to follow through with the book.
4.) Use a Few Well-Chosen Email Addresses
Sure, you could mass email a press release, but for your book proposal (and for certain media contacts), you’ll want to make direct contact with a few, well-chosen people who you know will give your missive more than just a passing glance. This could be an agent you met in person at a conference, an editor who once rejected (with a nice note) one of your submissions or a producer whose email you received from a friend or colleague. Mark the email “urgent” if you must because they understand when timing is important. Just don’t do it everyday! Ideally you want a person who can tell you pretty quickly if a project is viable, whether others want to do the same or if there’s no interest period. Always be on the lookout to add such contacts to your list.
You might have to do this again and again before hooking an agent, editor or producer with your idea. Don’t hesitate and don’t think “Well, I didn’t hear from this person before, they won’t be interested this time.” You never know! Be confident in what you have to say–just make sure you do have something to say! There’s no bigger turn-off for a producer or editor than to constantly receive disorganized, irrelevant information again and again from the same writer. Make sure yours is the pitch they pay attention to when it comes in.