Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Writers’ Wednesday :: Media Prep 101

A couple of months back PHS ed Ally Blake did a post about braving the media in this the 100th Anniversary of Mills and Boon. And one PHS member suggested talking about how she managed to get so much press would be an interesting article. So here goes!

Have a hook

Just like when writing a category romance, media outlets are trying to snag the attention of readers or channel flickers with super short attention spans so whatever hooks you can supply the easier it is for them to hang a story on you. "Local writer sells book" is not nearly as sexy as "local writer sells one million books worldwide!" which certainly gave me my fair share of media hits this year.

It took several years for me to land that great hook so before that I found things like the fact that I was under 30 when I first sold helped – as it was almost an antithesis of the Barbara Cartland image. As did, and does, the fact that I used to be a cheerleader.

And no, you don't all have to have crazy old careers! I think the "primary school teacher turned steamy romance author" or "architect now builder of romantic dreams" angle is cool too as being an author is a bit of a dream job and the fact that many of us came fro somewhere more regular, for want of a better word, is interesting.

Always be "on"

Most interviews begin with a phone call and the way I see it, it's better to start as you mean to finish. Reporters file so many stories a week they are so rushed so help out by giving them what they need as quickly as possible. So if a radio station wants to see if you can chat, be chatty. If a newspaper wants to know if you can give them quotable quotes, cram in as many snappy one liners as you can cram in in that first call. If a TV show wants to do a pre interview, doll yourself up so they don't have to try too hard to figure out how to present you.

Be prepared

Check out the RWA website, contact your publisher for stats, have a cheat sheet ready with fabulous stats about how fantastic romance novels are. How high a percentage of the paperback market we own every year. Give them the goods before they even ask for them. And it will also help you spin the article in a positive manner when they are blinded by how popular the genre is!

And have some stories up your sleeve. Some ways to make you a real person. Like you're a heroine in your own novel ;). I often mention how glamorous my writing life is spent in my tracky daks, ugh boots, glasses, hair scrunched back in a ponytail. Brings me back down to earth. I also talk about the difference between the blue books (Sweet Romance in Australia) and the red books (Sexy Romance in Australia). It's playful talking about the differences but also plugs the two kinds of books I write.

And some answers to typical questions. For example some that always come up are: Where do you get your ideas? Do you think romance novels create unrealistic hopes for young women? (Why do they never ask this about rom com movies which are the same exact thing!?!?!) Are your stories based on real life? (Of course ;)) How much money do you make? (Depends on how many books you sell)

And always direct them to your website, and give them a contact at your publisher for more information if they need it.

Be professional

When I turned up to do a radio interview earlier this year, the first thing the guy who met me at the door said was "Thank goodness you came alone. I hate it when guests bring people along." It hadn't actually occurred to me either way, it just so happened my hubby had the day off to look after my little girl and he even considered coming for a while but it was her nap time so he stayed home. But when I was being shown around the radio station, a really busy buzzing place, I realized that if my hubby had come, the poor guy appointed to look after me would have had to look after my hubby as well. To find him somewhere to sit. To offer him coffee. To make sure the neither of us got misplaced or wandered anywhere we weren't meant to wander.

Be on time. You may not be the only one being interviewed that day.

Look the part. For any photo shoots or TV spots I've done they have never supplied hair or make-up people so make sure to look the part when they turn up as they will as likely have a photographer there ready to go as not. Heck, why not take the chance for the excuse to get your hair and nails done? It's tax deductible!!!

I also have a press release stuffed into the middle of my website somewhere since I often have people looking for info quickly so rather than fax or email them a printout I had somewhere easy to direct them. Saves time for me and for them.

Which leads me to my next point…

Be available

One hundred percent of the interviews I've done have come from saying yes to being asked. I've never once actually put myself out there as an expert in the field. But when opportunities have come knocking, through Harlequin in Sydney, through meeting people at conferences, through the Romance Writers of Australia, I've always said yes. After the yes I've had many an attack of the nerves, of oh-my-god-what-in-earth-did-I-just-agree-to-is-it-too-late-to-pull-ou-itis. But the once I'm there, and in the middle of chatting about something I love I end up having a ball.

And again this feels like a nice moment to segue to…

Be positive

They will come with a ready made image of what a romance author is and does. Don't fight it. Just be what a romance writer is and you'll be refreshing.

The first ever radio interview I did was live talkback. Terrifying? Yuh-huh!!! I had never really answered the questions I've now heard many times before so every answer was ad libbed. I was wholly unprepared, wholly nervous, wholly newly to the romance writing biz. So all I went in with was a promise to myself to BE POSITIVE.

I did the whole interview smiling. I gave only positive upbeat answers, even to questions that had been geared the other way. I made a goose of myself a couple of times and laughed it off. And the response from the romance writing community was phenomenal. I think they all so appreciated the fact that I came across as someone who loved what I was doing. I made no apologies, put nobody down, and hopefully made the wide and varied audience think twice before walking past the romance section at the supermarket as I made it seem like it was something that simply could not be missed.

And in library talks, in blog articles, in my website, in conference chats, I keep that as my mantra as far as I can see it, being positive in the press I'll never a thing I've said.

Anyhoo, that's my 2 cents. And I hope that when you get asked to do your first interview with your high school paper, or a national TV program, that some of these ideas might give you a helping hand.

Now I'd better get back to my latest story. Picture me, hair scragged back by elastics pulled out of my daughter's shoes, a tracksuit top with fresh pear and banana stains from my daughter's dinner, holey socks shoved into snug ugh boots, glasses that need a clean. But if I got to a million copies worldwide dressed that way, who am I to change a thing?

Ally has books out all over the place!!! THE MAGNATE'S INDECENT PROPOSAL is out now in North America as her very first ever Harlequin Presents novel.

And next month A NIGHT WITH THE SOCIETY PLAYBOY, the sequel Modern Heat is out in the UK, and HIRED: THE BOSS'S BRIDE is out in the UK and North America as a Harlequin and Mills and Boon Romance. Phew. It's an Ally bonanza out there!

And you can check out more of Ally's writing tips on her website...

More happy birthday wishes for the Pink Guy! This time courtesy of Pink Heart Editor Nicola Marsh!

Head on over to Nic's BLOG where you can find out what she's giving our fabbo dancing guy - and see what else she's offering YOU a chance to win!

1 comment:

  1. What a fantastic post! Really interesting, hopefully one day I'll be able to put your tips into practise :)