Message Points--what they are, how they work and how to find yours
Many authors think about promotion of their book and reach a panic state about having a pr plan and selling the book. But before you do any promotion for your book, you need to take a step back and work on message points. Why? Because without this, you are going to be wasting your time and money creating and executing your promotion plan.
Why do you need a message?
Part of the reason you hardly ever see authors interviewed in the media is because they don't have a message outside of the obvious, Buy My Book. That isn't going to cut it with the media. They are in the business of delivering stories. Let me explain how this happened.
Ever since the introduction of CNN in 1980, news has fragmented and metamorphosized into neo-journalism. The goal of every good reporter use to be objectivity. That's changed. Journalists, television producers and radio hosts are expected to be story-tellers. They're supposed to give a story a face, show it with details instead of telling about it, give it context and meaning for their viewers, listeners and readers. That's why the first thing you'll see about a ship coming home from war isn't the ship, it's three weeks in advance of that and it'll be the mom at home with the kids who've painted their house red, white and blue with a huge yellow sash across the door, or better yet, the brand new dad with twins whose wife was called off to war and how Mr. Mom has been coping. What they are doing is giving characters for us to identify with.
As story tellers you're one-leg up on the rest of the business world when it comes to promoting your product. You understand the basics of story telling are good characters, conflict and stories with heart that produce an emotional, visceral reaction in your audience. That's exactly what the media want from you.
But let me give you this word of caution. The same story telling abilities can also be a weak spot for writers. Instead of 80 or 100 thousand words, you have to reduce your message down to fit the instantaneous nature of today's media. The single biggest mistake people make is not knowing their message. In general authors as authors don't interest media at all. You don't make the phone's ring off the hook at the radio show. No one cares you've written a book. Most shows aren't about books, so producers and editors naturally assume (until you show them different) that you won't appeal to their audience. You have to have a hook and be the solution to a problem.
Finding Your Message Point
Finding your message points isn't easy, but can be done with guidance. It's kind of like looking for something that's lost. Until you know what you are looking for, it's going to be a long search.
Let's start here to give you an idea of what you are looking for.
Of these, exploding a myth gets the best response. Romance is perfect for this. Think of the following myths: romance readers (and writers) don't have a life and are frustrated housewives; romances are just sex books; romances are only read by women; romances aren't serious books in the publishing industry; romances are all formula writing; romances encourage loose morals and fantasy existence; romances degrade women. OK, now let's add some of them you've thrown at me later that have to do with the public's perceptions of self-published, POD-published or other situations. Myths: these aren't real books because they don't come from New York; authors who self-publish can't write; POD is shoddy printing done in some one's basement; author's only self-publish when they can't get published by big houses.
By exploding any one of these myths, you can drawn in the media, who will gladly debate it with you. Remember it isn't the truth you are asserting, but the juice the media can get out of it that counts. Perception is the reality here. When pitching a producer or editor, in thirty seconds or less you need to hold up the myth and then shoot it down.
Research has shown an audience will remember no more than three key message points. Everything you say, everything you speak about, needs to connect back to those points.
You need to stop thinking of yourself as a writer, and start thinking of yourself as a social commentator, waiting in the wings. Ben Aflec and J Lo get married, why do celebs marry other celebs instead of ordinary people? How does celebrity status change relationships? How do busy people find time to fit romance into their lives?
In developing your key message points, which will be different for each of you, I want you to consider answers to these questions:
Now take your answers to the above and come up with three statements that you want to repeat over and over again as part of your brand. (Example: My client Jeannie Brosius, a humor columnist with a book, found that all her work revolved around the very reason she writes: Laughter is the best medicine. This may be old hat for others, but because she is a humor columnist who writes about motherhood and everyday life, the connection between what she writes, who she is as a person and the fact that many of her stories revolve around Dr. Mom fixing things works well.)
Now it's your turn:
The Reductive Phrase or Sound Bite
By definition a sound bite is a reductive phrase that encapsulates more than the words contained in the phrase. For example, when Johnny Cochran said to the jury in the OJ Simpson case, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit." he wasn't just talking about the glove. He was talking about the circumstances of the case, the sense that somehow this was tied into racial issues and much more. It all just got boiled down into that one phrase which was repeated on every news broadcast across the country.
We need to boil down your message points to an even finer level. A one liner that will be used in every interview, every speech, every talk you give. How does this work for fiction? One of my clients found her books, both category and single title, came back toone strong point. The very reason she chose to write romance: "It's all about the happy ending." Why do you write romance? "It's all about the happy ending." Why do people read this trash? "It's all about the happy ending." What makes romance sell to the tune of over one billion dollars a year? "It's all about the happy ending." Why do people seem to be leaning toward lighter fiction during a time of war. "It's all about the happy ending...they need it, they crave it. There has to be an escape from harsh reality to keep us sane and in touch with our human side."
Once you have your message points and a sound bite to work with you can start work on a media plan. Before you budget, you need to think big. You can always scale back, but the best and most innovative ideas come when you aren't placing restrictions on yourself. Just go with it for now and you can get down to financial reality in a moment.
The first place to start on a media plan is your book's publication date.
Ideally, you'll want to have about six to eight months in advance of a
book's publication to begin your work. Once you have a date then you can
start on the publicity plan checklist. Some of it will apply to you, some
of it might not. Work with what does and improvise the rest as your budget
TWELVE TO SEVEN MONTHS AHEAD:
SIX MONTHS AHEAD:
FIVE MONTHS AHEAD:
FOUR MONTHS AHEAD:
THREE MONTHS AHEAD
ONE MONTH AHEAD
ONE WEEK BEFORE AN EVENT
DAY OF THE EVENT
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