Thursday, July 31, 2014

Your Query Letters: Answering a Request from a Reporter


I think I've mentioned on this blog the value of using the Help a Reporter Out (HARO) service to get exposure for you, your business, and your book--maybe more than once! (Use the search engine in this blog if you want to know more about it!).
I'm pretty sure I've also mentioned using out-of-the-box methods of selling books, and I know I talked about selling books in retail stores other than bookstores in The Frugal Book Promoter. This post is a bit about using them all to help your book sales. It will also serve as a template for some kinds of pitches--especially when you're following up on a request from a contact.
Specifically I am pasting a quick pitch I used to answer a HARO call for information. It's really just an adaptation of a more formal query letter, but I thought maybe it would inspire you to be a little less formal with your queries and pitches and still provide reporters and others with what they need if they are open to featuring you in a story. 
 Notice that a pitch or query absolutely must be tailored to the needs of the editor or writer you are contacting and that, generally speaking, it shouldn't have the tone of a formal business letter. Notice, that I am answering this reporter's call for my favorite ways to sell books to retailers.

Elaine, I give lots of ideas for selling books in the multi award-winning book you see in my e-mail signature, and all of them are things I've tried myself. I know their out-of-the-box character is one thing that has kept this book selling for years, well into its second edition.

One of my favorite stories is how I combined my thirty years as founder and owner of a chain of retail stores with my newer career in publishing and, I have to say, that retail experience has surely come in handy.

You probably know how hard it is to get books into airports.  Here's how I did that for a novel set in Salt Lake City. It was published just before the Winter Olympics in 2001 and I knew that retail stores in and around that venue would be looking for tie-in products. Bookstore buyers do the same thing. That is, they look for merchandise that is current,  that will interest their customers and those who walk by their windows and down their aisles.

 

So, it's up to an author or publisher to finding an angle that will make the book profitable for whatever retail outlet he or she is approaching. The Salt Lake City aspect of my book was perfect for this occasion and so was the fact that the "cute meet" in the book was set on the slopes of Alta, one of the Olympics venues near Salt Lake City.

 
I targeted the chains in airports, but also the gift stores paying special attention to independent gift stores. (I sent query letters and sales packets first to the airports in Utah and branched out to other major airlines' hubs).  I offered buyers a package deal of twelve books that came with a free point of purchase display with an Olympic-Utah themed header card.

 

I sweetened the pot by telling buyers that if they didn't sell at least ten books before the Olympics, they didn't have to pay for the order. Every one of them paid, though I didn't see reorders from them all. I don't think it's necessarily the no-risk offer that is so important. I think it's that an offer like this is contagious. If the sales person (in this case, the author or publisher) is so sure of her product's appeal, the buyer or owner of the shop will catch the bug.

 

This particular sales technique once worked on me when I was in retailing. I was shown colorful little odd-shaped lollipops I never would have put in my store otherwise, but the sales person suggested we could sell them as tie-ons in our giftwrap department.  BTW, I explain this in a little more detail  in my HowToDoItFugally book for retailers, A Retailer's Guide to In-Store Promotions .
 
[I always include an offer to help any way I can with images (not attachments), more information, and a media kit. My signature gives several ways to contact me. I always include a phone number in case the reporter is on deadline. And, of course, always include a thank you.]

 

Once you have written a few query letters or pitches, it becomes a lot easier to write another. And I save each new query letters with a different focus that I write so I don't have to reinvent the wheel if that a similar query should ever be needed again.

 
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  Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .

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