C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

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Authors & Publishers: How to make a media kit Part 1

My hardboiled crime thriller Higher Than Jesus is available now. Please click it to get it.

Some crazies have already put up their Christmas lights so, ready or not, prime book selling season is here. One of the easiest things you can do to promote your books is a press kit. Start with local media to get the ball rolling. (If you want a sample of my catalogue and press release so you can see how I handled it, go to my author page at AllThatChazz.com and I’ll be glad to email you my most recent press kit.)

Before you mail anything out, consider these variables for your press kit:

1. If you have one book for sale, look for some angle and detail to pitch in the press release. Non-fiction with a local angle is the easiest sell. Non-fiction by a local author is a little less attractive, but saleable. Fiction can be the hardest pitch, but the smaller the newspaper, the easier it is. If you have multiple books, focus your press release pitch on one angle but send them a catalogue. Your press release materials can be repurposed to sell to customers through your website or at conferences and author events.

2. Research your media targets and be aware of deadlines. It’s already way too late for magazines, though some small arts newspapers that focus on the local scene may still have room for a piece about you before Christmas. Read the newspaper, community newspaper or magazine first. Aiming at individuals and likely targets works much better than bombing everyone everywhere.

From this research, be selective. For instance, aiming your press release and a friendly cover letter at a columnist who covers unique business enterprises and people in your city might be more effective than hitting up the editor for the arts section. Don’t just go for the book review editor (for whom a press release now is way too late for Christmas no matter how small the venue.)

3. Don’t overlook radio stations. They’re media, too. College radio stations are often easier to get into and provide diverse programming options to a reading audience. Also consider podcasts. They hit a worldwide audience but have fewer barriers to entry if you choose to send a friendly email off to the right one.

Television is unlikely unless you’ve got very specific material that fits the show, like a unique and very visual pitch to a TV producer at “Breakfast Television” on City TV in Toronto. Newspapers and magazines are a shotgun blast to opportunity. Getting into TV or national markets in radio requires a rifle scope, a cookbook or a picture book about fashions for dogs. Watch a lot of that stuff to see if you could fit in somewhere. Be a celebrity first. That helps immensely.

4. Send your media kit to one person and be familiar with their work. Get the name of the arts and entertainment reporter, for instance, and send the email directly to his or her email. Don’t send multiple emails to the same media venue. That can create chaos, resentment and blood blisters on your genitals.

In some smaller newspaper operations that use freelancers, it may not be apparent which individuals are assigned particular beats. If so,  select the appropriate assignment editor from the publication’s masthead and address your cover letter to him or her. Don’t send it to one of those general addresses that start info@somerandomnewspaper.net or inquiries@couldn’tbebothered.com. Again, it’s best to have picked up and read an issue or two before sending out anything.

5. Tie your press release to some larger event if appropriate. For instance, if you’ve written a book about consumerism, I’d tie the press release to Black Friday right now. Always look for this opportunity to give the story traction for the reporter. They’re looking for an angle and they want you to give it to them in the press release. Remember, you have to sell the angle to the reporter because they have to sell the idea to a jaded and depressed editor who has heard it all and hates it all.

6. Write your press release as if it’s the story you want to see in the paper. e.g. “When you supply ready-made quotes, you’re making the reporter’s job easier and giving coverage of your story a better shot,” Chute said. “When I was a newspaper reporter, I still checked out all the facts stated in the press release but the document was often a strong springboard for the articles I wrote.”

7. Show some personality in your cover letter. It’s probably going to run in the Arts section, right? So why write the cover letter as if you’re a humorless conglomerate’s soulless flack trying to put an oil spill in a happy light?

I’m angling for an author profile so to get the interview — as opposed to a straight news story — I’m striving to hit a certain tone that matches my books. Here’s the opening paragraph to my cover letter for my media kit:

The book publishing revolution is here in London and it’s going to make a big boom. I thought we should talk about my plans for world domination before I give my ninja monkey clone assassins the launch codes. 

That got their attention. Here’s the slightly more serious follow-up paragraph: 

In the attachments you’ll find the media kit for Ex Parte Press and my press release. The short story is that I quit my day job to form a publishing company a year ago. Ex Parte Press lords its power over one client: Me. I now have seven books for sale on Amazon in digital and paperback. I write hardboiled suspense, publishing advice and some very quirky self-help. For more on me, you can also check out my websites: ChazzWrites.com and AllThatChazz.com. You should be warned that I ply reporters and spies alike with bad coffee.

Obviously, if you’ve written a business book about successful investing in ostrich farms, you’d be more serious. I’d go with a few bullet points on why the future is in ostrich farming. The headline would read, “Investors are losing money by sticking their heads in the sand,” which, by the way, is a persistent myth about ostriches. Even with most serious topics, write a catchy headline even if you play the rest of the press release straight. They won’t use your headline, but you still need to be catchy.

For the rest of my tips on building a killer press kit to sell more books, achieve celebrity and host huge orgies with a distinctly Roman theme, see the rest at AllThatChazz.com. 

Or overcome your better judgment and buy all the books by Robert Chazz Chute here. 

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is your fiction “just made up”?

Recently I heard an author complain about a poet because she hadn’t done any research. The poetry was about prostitutes, their struggles and how they reacted to being raped. No interviews! No research! Worse, the poet had made the (hyper)critical error of not actually being a raped prostitute herself. The poet simply made up a story for her poem based on her own imagination. No, I haven’t read the poems, but I don’t think I need to know the details of particular human tragedy to extrapolate the feelings of violation that must entail. I’ve read a lot of fiction that was clearly “just made up”, but the writers I love still strike a common chord of humanity that spur me to cry, get angry and get engaged.

The writer was disgusted with the poet because she “just made up” her fictive poetry.

“Beyond the pale!” she said.

I’m skeptical of proponents of research, especially if it falls into the category of “exhaustive.” It’s not that knowing your stuff is a bad thing. It’s that knowing your stuff can often lead to recording instead of creation. (Sometimes military thrillers beat you over the head with the research so hard, you’d think the serial numbers on the missile casing is more important than the nuclear warhead exploding over Miami.) For me, the authenticity of the enjoyment of the writing — the feelings stirred — trump the details of the particular brand of cigarette available in certain cities at certain times. Which is a fancy way of saying I don’t give a shit as long as the story is plausible within its own world. For instance, do all prostitutes read Proust? It’s probably not required reading, but you could easily convince me one prostitute reads Proust if you can write a convincing context.

Is it necessarily better fiction because it springs directly from the real world? Kevin Bacon went back to high school for a day before filming Footloose, for instance. Do you think that was crucial to performing what was already in the script? And if the writer of the script hadn’t grown up in a repressed town that outlawed dancing, would Footloose be any less awesome? (I refer here, of course, to the original Footloose. There’s a remake, but I decree it shall not be discussed and anyone associated with that abomination can go shoot themselves in the face…I digress.)

There is a dangerous trend in fiction that many writers think is required. It goes like this: If you’re going to have anything to write about, you have to go have a lot of experiences, many of them bad. That’s the dry, sterilized version. In practice, it’s more like this: You can’t write about rehab unless you’re an alcoholic or a junkie first. Terrible life choices make for great writing, assuming you don’t kill yourself in stage one of the writing process in which you’re actively pursuing bar brawls each night. Unless you’ve experienced what you’re writing about, it’s not authentic enough.

And I call bullshit. It’s fiction. Make it up but make it seem real enough that I can suspend my disbelief. We all have human experiences and we can imagine pain and transfer it to the page. You’re experience doesn’t have to be exactly what you’re writing about. Otherwise, you’re not even writing fiction. That’s memoir.

About fictive memoir (since this case inevitably springs to mind): Some people bought into the overhyped nonsense around A Million Little Pieces because James Frey fictionalized some of his “memoir” of addiction (after first shopping it around as a novel.) Nobody gives David Sedaris a hard time for doing the same thing to very humorous effect. Also, a lot of people also said that A Million Little Pieces helped them kick their addictions, even though some of it wasn’t real. Placebos often work on people, even when they know it’s a placebo, so what’s the harm in a book that’s 80% correct to the facts of one junkie’s life and 100% true to the feelings of thousands?

I have censored myself when my fiction didn’t pass my personal standard for believability. I admit I have recently dumped two short stories involving military personnel because, though I grew up around the military, I’ve never been in the military. I just wasn’t confident enough that I had the details quite right. I was writing about people, but I didn’t think the environment they swam in was there to deftly suspend disbelief. However, I have written stories from the perspective of old Asian men, a little girl, an autistic boy, adult women and a gay dinosaur.

For the record, I have never been a gay dinosaur

(not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

A few years ago a group within PEN Canada insisted no one could write about the minority female experience except minority female authors. I think that idea kind of fizzled because of the unrealistic limits (and ghettoization) such a policy could lead to. First, it was censorship, which most writers are against and (Thank Zeus!) there wasn’t a way to enforce the decree, anyway. Second, its logical conclusion was that black women could never write about white men. We would all have to conform to our stereotypes and human beings are way more variable than our stereotypes. After a short hullabaloo, the idea lost traction. Shakespeare, after all, was not Italian and never saw Verona.

We’re often told “write what you know.” That would leave a lot of sci-fi and fantasy out of our lives. Instead, I suggest you write what you care about. Write what you can make me believe. If someone doesn’t think you did a good job of recreating their real experience, they can go ahead and write their memoir so the heroine smokes the authentic brand of cigarette (good for Writer 1, but I’m fairly certain I still won’t give a shit.)

Fiction is a work of the imagination.

It’s our job as writers to make it believable.

It’s our job as readers to get into the spirit of the art instead of looking for things to bitch about.

Filed under: authors, censors, censorship, movies, Poetry, publishing, Rant, Rejection, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,


Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

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