Grab yourself a journalist: self-publishing and self-promotion with Ken McGaffin and John Crowley – 27 January 2021

A.W.C. was treated to a highly enjoyable and informative evening as our own Ken McGaffin and journalist John Crowley shared their expertise. Co-authors of their, soon to be published A Digital PR Recipe Book  (tip number one there, by the way – start promoting your work before it’s finished) they gave us a wealth of information, tips and examples of how other successful authors had found unique selling points to promote themselves and their work. One of these authors had a piece in a major newspaper and contacts for pre-ordering, long before the book was published. Another stressed how a silly mistake had led him down a whole new writing path. A third used articles in relevant magazines, sample pages from the book and handy sound-bites to bring her cook-book to wider attention.

Ken, with his experience in link-building (I didn’t even know that was ‘a thing’) and John, with his twenty years experience of journalism, writing and editing, were able to give us a head start in the daunting world of SEO (search engine optimisation – didn’t know that was ‘a thing’ either).

The main thing to remember about trying to forge links with others, to help promote you and your work, is that it is a two-way street. You are selling yourself as an interesting person who has something to offer them. You are not just digitally yelling, ‘Buy my book, buy my book!’ which is, frankly, just irritating.

Journalists, from small circulation, local papers to big nationals are always looking for interesting stories. The free-to-join website www.helpareporter.com will connect you with three journalists every day who are looking for stories or expert information on particular subjects. Perhaps, sometimes, you could provide that help. In return, they promote you. However, a word of warning – be aware of the tone of your email. Over-familiarity to someone you have never met, can be just as off-putting as starchy formality.

Clearly your website is a make or break tool which can attract followers, or put people off. When linking to related sites in your particular field, be entertaining; share useful information; help and promote others.

We were given a very useful exercise to help hone our email pitching skills to a journalist. An interesting hook in the subject line is essential. Give a brief idea of who you are and then cut straight to the meat, keeping it short and to the point in what Ken called ‘cut and paste lines’.

The feedback on this was excellent. Journalists are looking for stories. In this instance, the story is you. Your reason for writing a story might be the point of interest. For one,  inspiration came in a crazy dream, for another the triumph of overcoming cancer and turning her life around. Promoting a new trend, such as Jeanette’s short fiction ‘drabbles’ (did you just make that word up Jeanette?) can be a hook, as can semi-autobiographical work such as a novel based on experiences of living abroad. Non-fiction books on historical figures, events or places have opportunities for promotion in historical magazines or possibly local papers, radio or even TV. Altering your pitch to suit different individuals or media was also recommended.

Thank you, Ken and John, for sharing your valuable expertise. The evening gave us all much food for thought and I, for one, will be re-examining my options, website links and journalistic possibilities. During these locked down times, this is the only way to go.

Maggie Bolton

 

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