For a long time it seemed I was barking up all the wrong trees, speaking a language that nobody understood and wasting the little self-respect I had left on fawning before disinterested strangers. Then a wonderful thing happened.
First, I marched boldly into my local Angus & Robertson with 18-month-old son (covered in Vegemite) in stroller and asked the girl busily sorting books behind the counter, “Excuse me, I was just wondering how I would go about getting my book stocked here.” She looked bewildered and as she was taking my details down she was rescued by a more senior staff member. I repeated my question while prying a copy of Stephanie Meyers’ “Twilight” from my son’s Vegemite fingers. She tapped away at her keyboard and smiled.
“Oh, ok. Well, we’ll just order a few copies in and see how they go. Were you interested in doing a signing or anything like that as well?”
I was floored! It was that simple. Just ask. Just front up and ask. The worst that can happen is they give you the name of a manager that doesn’t work there anymore or the number of an answering service that doesn’t pass on messages. So just ask!
Second, I got an article into my local paper – The Maitland Mercury. Have a look at it here:
I called the paper and asked to speak to an appropriate person (the people who answer the phones are brilliant and know exactly where to send you if you give them a one sentence wrap-up of why you’re calling). After a brief, and I mean very brief chat, I got an email address. I then sent a nice, semi-succinct email with a reminder of who I was and that we had, in fact, spoken on the telephone. I included plenty of name-dropping, recommendations and links to current issues (ie Commonwealth Games Trials coming up) as well as an attached media release. I’ll post a sample of the email for anyone keen to see.
And third was the biggest win so far – I emailed a journalist who writes about swimming for the Sydney Morning Herald and who had once, in my swimming days, written about me. I emailed with a concept, an idea of how I might be able to help him with the coverage of the upcoming swimming trials. I floated a few ideas and options I thought might be interesting – excerpts from the book to bring swimming to life, features on the “inside story” or “behind the scenes” type stuff to give readers a deeper understanding of the sport.
He referred me on to his editors at SMH and the Sun Herald. He mentioned the ideas to them and then it was up to me.
So I sent two very scary emails and spent a month checking breathlessly for a reply…
So I sent a follow-up email, about three weeks after the first and this time I attached some sample excerpts from the book that I thought might be appropriate (and that showcased my writing while also being intriguing, exciting, revealing of the inner workings of an athlete in some way, etc).
A few emails, a meeting and one week later I am sweating over the idea that I will be writing for the Sun Herald – first feature (possibly a double-page spread) out on 14th March!
The spin offs have begun already – Dymocks George Street, Sydney have ordered stock and I now have something tangible and BIG with which to approach radio stations, other papers and magazines and book shops – another angle.
So call in those favours, contact old acquaintances and find a way that you can help the media offer their public something new and different and special. It won’t work every time, but all it takes is once.
Here’s hoping… and nervously writing!