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7 ways to blow a media opportunity

In addition to teaching authors how to market their books, I work as a freelance writer. I research and write reported articles for magazines and businesses.

Nearly every assignment requires me to find people – usually experts, but not always – to interview and quote. I use a range of resources and strategies to find them.

I’ve been doing this for a couple of decades, so I have a lot of experience finding people to interview, then working with them to get the information I need.

I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Today, we’re going to talk about the ugly.

How to make sure you don’t get publicity

What’s ugly? Ugly is behavior that guarantees that I won’t quote you.

Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it isn’t. But it still results in no interview. And no interview means you won’t enjoy the business-building, book-selling benefits that come with publicity.

Here’s how to make sure you don’t snag that media interview that can sell books, position you as an authority, and drive traffic to your site.

1. Act like you’re doing me a big favor.


Before you exclaim that why, yes, you are doing me a favor by sharing your time and expertise with me and my readers, let me point out what should be obvious.

It’s a win-win for the writer and the source. I get help completing my assignment, and you get the credibility and other benefits that come with media attention.

Keep in mind that your competitors would probably be happy to step up. Writers have options, and some of them will understand the mutually beneficial relationship of writer and source. Those people will be happy to have me support them by giving them publicity.

2. Waste my time. 

So you think I’m writing about the wrong topic, but you agree to answer my questions. You plan to talk about what you think I should be writing about, instead.

While I respect that you know more about your area of expertise than I do, my assignment isn’t to poll a few experts for their opinions about my assigned topic.

My job is to write about what I’m paid to write about. If you can’t help me do that, move along.

3. Be stingy.

Whether doing an email, telephone/video, or in-person interview, make sure I can’t quote you by using short, incomplete sentences.

Say something generic in a generic way. Avoid getting specific. The devil is in the details, and nobody likes the devil, so skip the details.

Another good way to look like you’re cooperating when you aren’t is to say, “There’s information about that online.”

4. Make it difficult to contact you.


When I need a very specific type of expertise, I often begin my search for experts with Google. That recently yielded a promising source, but when I clicked through to their website, there was no “contact” option in the toolbar.

I had to hunt (and hunt … and hunt) for an email address. I eventually found it buried at the bottom of a long service description, but by then I was exhausted and needed a nap.

5. Tell me to use something from your blog post or another interview you’ve done.

You might as well tell me I’m lazy, because only a lazy writer would do this.

Then there’s the plagiarism risk. Imagine how impressed my editor would be if they ran my article through a plagiarism checker and saw that I copied and pasted from your website.

It’s not plagiarism if I have your permission to pull from your blog post, but it puts me in an awkward situation with my editor. It’s also not how good writers gather quotes.

And suggesting that I just copy something you told another writer? Publications aren’t paying for duplicate content, especially if it comes from a competitor’s article.

6. Be a plagiarist.

And while we’re talking about plagiarism, if you’re doing an email interview, get the answers to the writer’s questions by copying and pasting from someone else’s website.

I recently used HARO (Help a Reporter Out), a free service that connects journalists with sources, to find people who could answer my questions via email. Two of the people who responded provided answers that they copied and pasted from someone else’s website – the same someone else’s website.

Yes, their answers were identical.

Again, picture my editor running my article through a plagiarism checker and discovering this.

(So I suppose that tip should be “Be a plagiarist and an idiot.”)

7. Be a jerk.


I am not required to use anything from an interview when I write an article. If you’re rude or arrogant and I have enough of the right information from other sources, I might not have room for your comments.

How to make sure you get that media opportunity

Are you a smart author who knows the value of publicity? I’ve got lots of articles with book publicity advice on this site, but one of the easiest and most effective ways to get author and book publicity is to use HARO.

In my new course, “Get Quoted: A Journalist’s Strategies for Using HARO to Snag Book Publicity,” I get you up and running with this free service, and teach you how to use it the right way so you enjoy the benefits of publicity.

Learn more about the course, why you need it, and what’s included on the course description page: https://build-book-buzz.teachable.com/p/get-quoted. Scroll down to the bottom of that page to preview the first module.

An interview with the press is a free and effective way to share the messages from your book. It’s another way to help your target audience discover your book. And book marketing is all about discoverability.

Why turn that down?

How do you make it easy for journalists to find and work with you? Please tell us in a comment!

Like what you’re reading? Get it delivered to your inbox every week by subscribing to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter. You’ll also get my free “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” cheat sheet immediately!


  1. Thanks, Sandra, for this helpful blog. I’m about to release a new book, so very interested since in the past, I haven’t received much press attention. I don’t think I do the things you say not to do, but neither do I really do the things you say to do … so, the result is predictable. I’ll be heading over to HARO and checking out your course.

    1. I’m glad it’s helpful, Peter. You do have to pursue publicity — it’s not often that the opportunities come to you out of the blue. On the other hand, once you’ve been quoted several times, writers will discover those interviews in Google searches, see that you know what you’re talking about, and contact you directly. Publicity really does beget publicity.

      Best of luck with the new book!


  2. Another helpful write-up, by Sandra. I do what you say, and don’t do what you say not to do. When my books were released, I got good publicity and I believe that’s why. Thanks, Sandra.

  3. Sandra, you’ve always had spot on information and when there are lots of people out there trying to get you to use their services and you find out the hard way, they are a scam, it’s so wonderful to know you have alot of integrity and I can always use your information without a second thought. It is so appreciated. Lisa Gammon Olson 🙂

    1. Aw, thanks, Lisa. I SO appreciate such lovely, positive feedback. I’m glad that I can help — it’s my goal. Thank you for taking the time to comment.


  4. Sandra, your class on HARO responses was so good! As a result of what I learned, I’ve had two lengthy interviews published and one additional shorter article. I appreciate how specific you are about what to include in a pitch and how to make templates for yourself so the process goes faster. Yours is definitely a course worth taking, I highly recommend it!

    1. What an amazing testimonial, Louise! Thanks so much!

      You’re a great example of the impact training can have when you actually use what you’ve learned. You’ve done a fantastic job with it!

      Thank you for sharing this feedback — I appreciate it!


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