Thoughts on books, publicity, and the media from our Cave Henricks staff.

Five Things Authors Do that Journalists Love


If you’ve ever tried to do your own book publicity, you know that making a connection with a journalist – whether you have landed yourself an interview, a deskside meeting, or a simple “I’m interested, tell me more” – is hugely exciting. To make the most of it, you must temper the “THIS IS MY CHANCE!!!” enthusiasm that can blow these opportunities, and learn how to be the kind of source that the media likes, needs and will return to again and again.

Here are five things authors do that journalists love:

  1. They talk about what the journalist wants to talk about. When you publish a book, you have a specific message to share. But sometimes, a journalist doesn’t necessarily want to interview you about your book – they want your perspective on issues related to your expertise, whether it’s covered in your book or not. Please don’t pass up these opportunities. If your goal is to become an ongoing source, help journalists out when they need it, regardless of whether or not it fits into your agenda. When you do, you will begin to establish trust, and they’ll come back to you again and again. A long-term relationship with a journalist can pay dividends over time, and eventually, your latest book, project or idea may align with exactly what they need.
  2. They connect their work to the bigger conversation. Your ideas and expertise fit into a larger context, and the authors that can connect their work to what’s happening in their field and in the media conversation are the ones that get coverage. For example, if you are a business consultant specializing in workplace culture, the latest Amazon story was a huge opportunity for you to help journalists who were covering it. The key, however, is to be helpful and not self-promotional. If you offer yourself up as a source but you have a promotional agenda, journalists will spot you from a mile away. But if you offer your perspective in a way that is relevant, authentic, and helpful – without plugging your book or company – your chances of getting quoted today – and called again in the future – are solid.
  3. They make themselves available. Journalists are incredibly pressed for time, and they expect you to work around their schedule. The people who get quoted in news stories and booked on TV are the ones who are available exactly when the journalist needs them. Not three days from now, when your conference is over or you’re back from a work trip – now. Making yourself available can be challenging if you have a demanding job and complex schedule, but the reality is that the media doesn’t wait. If you’re not available, they will find someone else. If you are around when they need you, you will not only get the coverage today, but you will establish yourself as someone they know they can count on in the future.
  4. They make the journalist’s job easier. If you’re in a conversation with a journalist, offer supporting materials like images, research citations, tables and graphs, background materials and anything else that could help them with their story. But don’t bombard them with information – keep all communications short, on topic, jargon-free, and easy to digest. If you’re on the phone, share your perspective as succinctly as possible and don’t stray from the subject at hand. Respect the journalist’s limited time, anticipate their needs and deliver before they ask with no superfluous communication. The sources that do that – the ones that make it easy – are the ones that get called again and again.
  5. They don’t abuse their access. Once you have established a relationship with a journalist, it’s tempting to contact them every time you have something new to promote, or to try to call in favors. Don’t fall into that trap. Journalists are not in the business of promoting you, and even if you have helped them in the past, they don’t owe you anything. Their job is to report and analyze the news and inform their readers, and the moment you start treating them as a promotional outlet for your work, they’ll stop working with you and find someone else. Keep your outreach to a minimum, and when you do contact them, be clear about what’s in it for them. Don’t follow-up incessantly, take no (or silence) for an answer, and whatever you do, do not call them on the phone.

These five practices boil down to a few simple things: stay tuned into what’s happening in your field and be flexible, helpful, and respectful of a journalist’s time and needs. Practice these behaviors yourself, and you will become a go-to source that will get ink today, and opportunities in the future.