February 25, 2004
Hook 'Em By Darlene Ryan
We've all had some version of the fantasy. Our book debuts at the top of the bestseller lists. We get to schmooze with Katie Couric on the Today Show, and we never again have to work at a job that involves wearing a hairnet or saying, "Welcome to Mega-Mart. Would you like a cart?"
In reality, most writers build an audience by word of mouth. One way to spread the word about your book is through local and regional radio, even if you write fiction. All it takes is the right hook.
Is your novel set in your area? Was the story inspired by a local legend? Does it feature a community landmark? There's your angle. "Local shows [have] a responsibility to feature local stories," says freelance writer/producer (and former radio show host), Kevin Ryan.
What are people talking about around town? At the local donut shop? On the op-ed page of the newspaper? "Sex, drugs, and rock and roll are always good," says radio producer, Mark Tunney, only half-jokingly.
Is there something in your book that ties into what's on people's minds? "The book has to be relevant to our audience," says Matthew Algeo, producer and host of public radio's, Maine Things Considered. "It doesn't have to be about Maine, but it has to touch on an issue relevant to Maine."
What did you learn researching your book? How to make rocket fuel using common kitchen ingredients? How to cure hiccups? Use that in your pitch. If your novel is a romance, can you come up with ten ways to woo a woman? "Tell me something interesting," says Tunney, who produces CBC Radio's Information Morning. "Tell me something I don't know."
"It also doesn't hurt if I am personally interested in the subject of the book," Algeo admits. "For example, pitch me the sports stuff and pitch my co-host the cooking stuff."
Think you don't have any expertise to share? You wrote an entire book. What have you learned about staying motivated? Getting organized? What are the six most common grammar gaffes?
In some cases it's the author who's the hook. "If there's something in her/his background that's exciting/newsy/sexy you'd certainly want to bring it out in the interview," Ryan points out. So, if the stripper turned brain surgeon in your novel is based on your experiences, say so.
Keep your pitch short and focused. "Tell me a story about the book," says Tunney. "And get to the point quickly."
Press kits are good, but not necessary. "It's nice to get a copy of the book, obviously," says Algeo. Email is a great way to follow up.
And don't give up at the first no. "Don't assume because your pitch is ignored once, it will be next time," says Randy McKeen, news director for CKHJ, The Fox, and Capital FM. "Some stories get done because they're pitched at an opportune time. The same story might be ignored at another time."
And be confident, even if you have to fake it. The best word of mouth about a book comes from the author who believes in it.
Darlene Ryan is the author of A Mother's Adoption Journey (Second Story Press), and Kisses (The Early Childhood Centre). She worked for many years in both public and private radio, and has done everything from writing and producing commercials to being a late-night disk jockey. She prides herself on being one of the few people to know all the words to A Whiter Shade of Pale. You can reach her at: djoy (at) nbnet.nb.ca
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