(as featured on my weekly Huffington Post blog)
There are many ways to get publicity for your book and traditional print media is still one of them. Start by making a list of all the newspapers and magazines (local and national) that you believe would be interested in your unique story (see last week's blog on Huffington Post Writing A Punchy Press Release). Then research their particular in-house style, what sort of stories they specialise in, and of course, the right editor to approach with your pitch.
Having zero experience in feature writing, I signed up for a workshop with Kerry Fowler (firstname.lastname@example.org), an established print journalist who also happens to be the book reviewer for Sainsbury's. In one afternoon I learnt what sort of subjects would get the attention of a magazine editor, how to craft a feature, and how best to pitch it. I also learnt about lead times - that a monthly magazine works 3-4 months ahead of publication and weekly magazines up to 6 weeks in advance.
The general rule for pitching is to write a short introductory email to the relevant editor, setting out your unique idea, why it's such a hot topic and therefore perfect for this magazine (thus showing that you've done your research) and why you are the best person to write it. Don't forget to include details of any former writing experience and where it's been published. For the weeklies - or even dailies, keep an ear open for stories relating to yours in the press, then move quickly. For example, I noticed that two of the dailies were giving coverage to a best-selling book by a former intensive care doctor, Dr Penny Sartori, who had written about the near-death experiences of her patients and how a number of them reported seeing a film of their life. Since my novel is about exactly that - being shown a film of your life - I contacted Dr Sartori. After doing an interview with her, I then pitched it to those journalists who had written the original articles in the two dailies, as well as to Red magazine.
As a self-published author, you will undoubtedly have more success when pitching to local media, so make sure to include all the magazines and newspapers in your area, along with local radio.
As for getting reviews for your book in the print media, you have a much better chance of being reviewed by the online book bloggers - nevertheless, it's worth a try. Again, target each one separately and don't use the scattergun approach with a generic press release, as many of the self-publishing services do. Also make sure your type of book is one that they would review anyway (ie. don't send a teenage vampire novel to Robert McCrum at the Observer). To get the names of the various book editors, I just did the obvious and Googled, for example, Guardian books editor. Then I sent an email with the press release (not as an attachment but embedded in the text) asking if they would be interested in receiving a copy of my book. If I heard nothing back from them, I waited for two weeks, then tried again.
NB Bear in mind that these editors receive dozens of books each week from traditional publishing houses, so it's a bit of a long shot. What worked much better for me was the book bloggers, which I'll feature next week.