It's All in the Pitch
by Paula Margulies
Having just returned from a week at nationals with my daughter’s softball team, the subject of pitching is on my mind. Many would argue (especially parents of daughters who pitch) that there is no more important position on a team than that of pitcher. Without a true ace throwing curves, rises, fastballs, and change-ups, most teams don’t stand a chance of defeating their rivals.
The same can be said for those of us who pitch to the media and booksellers. Without someone on our team who can bring the right stuff, we don’t stand much chance of success in the hunt for publicity.
So, what’s the secret to good pitching? According to my husband, who coaches softball, ace pitchers are good at three things: velocity (being able to throw really hard), location (controlling where the ball goes in relation to the batter), and changing speeds (knowing how to spin the ball so the batter wants to swing at it). Ironically, the same three qualities are important to publicists:
Velocity – A solid pitch is one that has been researched and practiced, and sounds so good the person on the other end chases after it. Want the media to say yes to your call? Be prepared and throw hard; have your press release, bio and Q & A completed and know the material in each of them cold. Don’t waste time on pleasantries (“How are you doing today?” “Do you have a minute?”); instead, bring it – tell them who you are, why you’re calling, and what you’d like from them. Get your storyline down to one or two minutes and be able to elaborate if the person on the other end wants more information. Tout your awards and achievements, and don’t forget to sell yourself as well as your work.
Location – Know the range of the publications/media/bookstores you’re contacting and make sure that their audiences will be interested in what you have to say. Choose venues where you know people (so you draw big crowds) and/or those that will give you the most PR mileage. Locate the name of the right
producer/manager/community relations rep before you call and be ready to show her how you and your book fits her bookstore/column/show.
Change-Ups – Be sure to put the right spin on the subject matter you’re pitching and be flexible about availability, dates, and subject matter. Speak quickly and clearly when leaving voice mail messages, but slow down when leaving your telephone number or email address. If the person you’ve contacted can’t accommodate your request (no room for signings/schedule booked for the fall), switch speeds and ask for other options – would the store be willing to stock your book? Is there an opportunity for a spot in the spring? Ask if you can check back and follow through if the answer is yes.
As my husband says, you’ve got to put the ball right where you want it to go, or you get lit up. Translated, that means that it's tough to win unless you've got some real pitching power on your team. But, find someone who's got the right combination of speed, location, and spin, and you can serve up some powerful publicity for your writing.