Saturday, January 10, 2015

Taking Your Book to the Media – What I’ve Done and Learned (So Far) 

I’ve made a living for many years from media relations consulting; helping businesses and organizations with their news releases and generating profile in the media for their products and services. I knew from the get-go that once Folk Art in the Attic  (FAITA) was finished and in print, I could take on the job of doing media relations for it. This role is usually the responsibility of the publisher, and while my publisher, Sonderho Press, had responsibility for design and printing coordination, the job of media relations fell to me. 
While you may not plan on writing a book, as an antique dealer or collector you may at some point decide to contact the editor of one of your local media outlets in an effort to generate some publicity for your antique business. Perhaps you are a show or antique event promoter who could use exposure from the media. Or, you may be an auctioneer. My media experience with FAITA may be helpful to you.

Fortunately for me, the process of media relations is essentially the same regardless of whether you’re promoting a book or some other product or service. However, one has to keep in mind that with the exception of the trade media, few if any editors of general media outlets have experience with antiques and with the collecting of antiques. It’s all baby steps with them.
If a major newspaper outlet has regular coverage of antiques, and most of them don’t, it’s typically a “what is it”, “what’s it worth” feature where readers send in photos of their antiques and a resident expert comments on them. This type of feature focuses largely on the “money” which is not surprising since most media outlets place a priority on quantifying a story. Numbers in a story help to give a sense of scale for the reader. How much money was made, lost, won? How many people were on the bus? What is the fastest time, the slowest time? You get the idea.
After skimming through the book, one editor who controls about 20 community weekly newspapers here effectively shut the door on my PR efforts by saying: “But the antiques in the book aren’t all from this area.”  That’s like saying I won’t cover a Margaret Atwood novel because it’s not set in my hometown.
Regardless of the logic, this editor missed the key point, or rather I didn’t make the point with her, that while collectors are certainly interested in objects that come from their immediate area, they are also interested in objects that come from anywhere else in Canada or North American for that matter – if they meet their criteria.  It’s easy to understand why she missed the point.  Her experience is with her readership and geographic area and not with antiques. In her mind, the stories that get into the paper have to be “local”.
Myself up front with the host of CBC's In Town and Out, Giacomo Panico
I had more success with the editor of the community paper in the area in which I live because I could pitch the book as being written by a local resident. I didn’t have that advantage when dealing with local editors in other parts of the city and region.
The key with many editors is to find an angle that will appeal to their journalistic sense. That can be difficult.
I dropped off a copy of the book for another editor of a magazine, which precipitated a lengthy exchange of emails in which we struggled to find an angle that appealed to her. Of course I thought it would be easy: “decorating with folk art”, for example. But I don’t think this individual even knew the term “folk art” or what it meant. Not exactly a strong foundation from which to start a PR discussion.
We went back and forth for month or two until finally in my last email I suggested a story about “finding folk art” or more accurately “where to find folk art”. In the editor’s mind, that phrase conjured up the possibility of “day trip” type article where I would write about where to find folk art in the antique shops, markets and auctions in the area. That’s the article on which we’ve settled. I think she may ask me to write it – and maybe she’ll pay for it, which is an added bonus.
A review of Folk Art in the Attic in an Ottawa community newspaper.
Another home related publication happened to have a “books” feature and they ran a positive review of the book with a photo of the front cover. However, I read a couple of back issues of the magazine so I knew in advance of sending the email that they did cover books. One should always know, at least a little bit, about the editorial content of any media outlet, before you contact them.  I’ve stayed in touch with the editor and raised the notion of at least one feature article about antiques and folk art. She’s interested.
I struck out completely, oddly enough, with a another magazine targeted at my age demographic.: boomers. One of the issues I read before sending a book to the editor, featured a cover story about a collector / dealer of vinyl records. On the strength of that, I thought it would be an easy pitch. Boy, was I wrong. Despite dropping off a book to the editor’s home and sending two or three emails, I never heard back from him one way or the other. I suspected it would be a stretch for a publication covering hunting, motorcycles and vintage cars to embrace antiques and folk art and judging from the results, it was. It’s tough to have a dialogue about a story when an editor won’t even answer their emails.
On the broadcast front, I’ve had good success. CBC Radio had me in to do a nice long interview on a local show. And CFRA Radio’s morning show has a Book of the Week feature and Shelley MacLean, their terrific morning host, accepted my book and that led to an interview, which aired in January.
Review of FAITA in Canadian Antiques & Vintage magazine
The next stage of my media effort is to approach editors and reporters further afield. Notwithstanding that I possess an excellent face for radio, I am also going to try and line up some television appearances. Let’s hope my nerves can stand the bright lights and make-up.
I originally wrote FAITA to have some sort of account of the many years I've spent finding and collecting antiques and folk art. I wanted something too that my grandchildren could one day pick up and read. Perhaps the book might inspire them to collect or study this country's material history. Now that the book is in print, I've achieved that goal. But FAITA has brought me more dividends including meeting many new friends right across the country. I don't know if I have a second book is in me or not. I'll think about that at a later date. Right now I am enjoying the fruits of this one. 

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