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Knowing when to hang up the gloves – and when to fight on
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Knowing when to hang up the gloves – and when to fight on

Being a book publicist is largely a balancing act, juggling the needs of the author client with those of the journalist contact to find the common ground that benefits both. This need for balance extends beyond strategy into practical matters, too; how do you tread the tricky fine line between being a super-helpful source and a total pest? In other words, when it comes to story pitches, how much is too much following up?

I share an anecdote in my book The DIY Book PR Guide about the early days of Noble Words when I was a wide-eyed newbie to the freelance world with few clients and an abundance of time on my hands. When managing busy publicity departments in-house at major book publishers, I was forced to squeeze in the nitty-gritty of earning coverage for my authors’ books around all-too-frequent meetings, myriad admin tasks and the constant pruning of an inbox besieged by ‘All Users’ messages about IT issues, stationery orders and unclaimed tupperware in the staff fridge. Without these distractions, I could not only afford to spend time crafting better pitches, but I could follow up on those pitches for as long as it took to get a response – or as long as my self-respect would allow.

What I discovered was shocking. Seven appears to be the magic number of contacts, a fact that astonished the most seasoned publicists of my acquaintance, who can rarely afford to devote this kind of time to a single idea. So many journalists thanked me during this magical seventh approach, saying they’d been meaning to get back to me about my great story idea but simply hadn’t had the time, that I had to believe it was more than coincidence. It appears dogged – some might say pig-headed – persistence pays dividends.

But when you’re promoting your own book, the chances are PR is just one of the many jobs on a lengthy ‘to do’ list. How long can you afford to fight for your story idea? When is it time to hang up the gloves? If you’re convinced your idea is a good one – if you can genuinely visualise it as a headline in the newspaper or magazine you’re approaching, or in the introduction to a TV or radio story, then you’re probably on to a winner – keep plugging away until you get a response, or until time constraints or your intuition force you to move on to the next target. (Remember: if your idea is perfect for one media outlet, it will fit just as nicely with its competition.) Or, of course, until the magical number seven works its wonders for you too.

On a related note, here’s an excellent piece from content marketing masters Copyblogger called 109 Ways to Make Your Business Irresistible to the Media, much of which relates to books, too. Pay particular attention to tip 53.

Happy pitching!

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