Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Discoverability: Media Attention for Your Book

Shortly before Christmas, I found an email in my inbox from a reporter for the Globe and Mail, the largest newspaper in Canada. He wanted to know my thoughts on who discovered gold in the Klondike.

In case you’ve missed all the hype about the Klondike fueled by the upcoming Discovery mini-series featuring Game of Thrones star Robert Madden, the Klondike was the largest gold rush in recent history. The question of who first discovered gold there is more complicated than it might seem on the surface.

The reporter asked my opinion because he saw my name on the website for the Dawson City Museum, where I’d spoken in August as part of a pre-publication tour for my forthcoming book Wealth Woman: Kate Carmack and the Last Great Race for Gold. I typed a response that explained what I thought and my sources.

What happened next? A phone interview with the Globe and Mail reporter, followed by an article, and a request to contact him when the book comes out so he can do a follow-up story. Interviews with Canadian Broadcasting Company reporters (CBC is the NPR of Canada), which resulted in a web article and a “live” radio interview with me by phone. (They also asked me to let them know when the book came out.) A reprint in an online paper that gets stories from a CBC news service. A nearly full-page article in the largest newspaper in my state.

Quite the flurry of attention, which made me especially happy for the subject of my book, a Tagish Indian woman whose story was misrepresented in life and after her death.

Here, a few tips for authors on getting and handling media attention: 
  • One thing leads to another. When the ball starts rolling, expect more.
  • A landing page on the web is handy for directing attention even before your book is finished, especially if it’s nonfiction.
  • In the news business, no one likes getting scooped. As soon as I knew the Canadian media were running with the story, I contacted my local paper to find out if they wanted to do a story. They did—and it was more thorough than any of the other coverage.
  • Make it easy. Besides your informative website, be succinct yet thorough in your interview responses—especially important if it’s a radio or television story.
  • As the stories break, make pre-emptive contacts with people your story might impact. In my case, this meant emailing two more experts on my topic whom I’d been meaning to contact anyhow. Both were glad to hear directly from me instead of reading about my book in the papers.
  • Thanks the reporters (privately) for their work, and if there are substantive errors of fact, let them know (politely) for the record. Keep in mind, though, that a news piece can’t capture the whole story (that’s why you’re writing the book), and that their angle on the story might be different from yours. Some headlines credit me with "uncovering" the "true origins" of the gold rush when in fact all I did was find an additional source to go along with those already credited by many, something I tried to make clear in the interviews.
  • As with book reviews, I don’t recommend responding publicly to any comments on the coverage. If people have questions, you’re likely easy enough to find online. And that’s another side benefit of media coverage—mine has yielded new sources as well as readers who want to know when the book will come out (soon, I promised them, soon!).
  • Remember news cycles are short. Just as you’re getting used to opening your inbox to another query, they’ll stop. That’s the nature of news. Grab the links to the stories and post them on your website for posterity.