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Opportunistic book publicity: Leverage what’s in the news

This Friday, June 30, the new comedy “The House” hits theaters in the U.S.

Starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, the movie’s about what happens when parents who have blown their daughter’s college fund start an illegal casino in their basement to generate enough money to cover her higher education expenses. (Hilarity ensues!)

If you’ve written a book on how to pay for college, you should be capitalizing on the buzz around this movie starring two bankable comedians. (More on that in a moment.)

In general, you always want to look for ways to link your book to current events, whether it’s breaking news, celebrity gossip, or, as in this case, a movie that’s getting a lot of attention. It’s about being opportunistic — the opportunity presents itself and you grab it to get book publicity.

How to be opportunistic

But how do you do that?

Let’s use “The House” as an example. It might get you thinking about how you can be more opportunistic with your book publicity in the future.

In the movie, the couple has to do something outrageous and illegal to raise enough money to pay for college. Kind of sounds like real life, doesn’t it? So apply that concept to real-world media opportunities that can include:

Op-eds (opinion essays)

Write an op-ed about how for some families, this doesn’t seem too far from reality. Sure, it’s all fun and games in the movie theater, but what about in real life? How does the average family pay today’s skyrocketing college costs?

Article interviews

Pitch a newspaper, online media site, or blog on an article about more realistic ways to pay for college than what’s portrayed in the comedy. The movie provides the “hook” that will get media outlets interested in your more grounded and practical advice.

Radio interviews

Using the movie as the hook, contact radio talk show producers to offer an interview segment where you offer alternative funding options. “While the parents in this movie felt that opening an illegal casino was their best option, there are other more, um, practical ways to pay for college when you haven’t saved enough.”

TV interviews

Talk to a local TV talk show producer or evening news assignment editor about doing a stand-up interview outside a local theater playing the movie. “Crowds are flocking to theater X to watch the comedy about how Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler open a casino to pay for college, but one local expert says you don’t have to go to those lengths if you haven’t saved enough yet.”

Be prepared

Because many of the opportunities you can leverage appear and disappear quickly, you have to be able to react quickly. There’s often just a 24-hour window to use the headline or breaking news to your advantage.

It helps to have the basic tools ready to use:

Pre-write op-eds around topics that tend to be newsworthy over and over and have them ready to use when the opportunity arises. You can adjust what’s in your files to tailor it for the current news topic, then send it out quickly.

Let’s say you’ve written a young adult novel with a story built around what happens when students are bullied. Your opinion of bullying won’t change from month to month; solutions you recommend won’t either. Package all of this in an op-ed that you tweak when a story about bullying makes news and get it out to the right publication quickly.

Have a good, short author bio that’s relevant to the topic. Be prepared to copy and paste it into an email pitch.

Make sure your author head shot is labeled with your name so that when you send it with an op-ed or the newspaper asks for it during an interview, it’s ready to send. (Check now: Does it have your name? I suspect that for half of you, the file you’ve been using does not.)

Have templates in place for pitch letters that you’ll email for newspaper article ideas, radio interviews, and TV news or talk show segments. Templates streamline the process for you so you can respond quicker. (I’ve got templates for everything you need, plus samples of what your finished pitches should look like, in Build Book Buzz Publicity Forms & Templates.)

Create, and regularly update, your media list. Whether you’re seeking local, regional, or national media attention, you want to pitch the right people. You can maintain and update your own list, or use one from a distribution service (affiliate link). Either way, reaching the right people with the right information at the right time will help you score priceless publicity.

Two-step process

As you’ve learned here, it’s a two-step process:

  1. Be alert to opportunities.
  2. Respond quickly and appropriately.

Some people will tell you it’s all about luck. Me? I think that “luck” happens when you’re ready and looking for it, able to recognize it when it’s in front of you, and in a position to act on it.

I hope you’ll be ready for the good luck that comes from leveraging opportunistic author publicity.

Are you ready for your next opportunity? What’s in your publicity toolkit? Tell us in a comment. 

Tip of the Month

opportunistic book publicity 2I always share a “Tip of the Month,” a free resource or tool for authors, on the last Wednesday of the month.

This month, it’s a guide to book cover colors and what they communicate to readers. For example, according to Cover Design Studio, a red cover suggests energy, enthusiasm, emotion, and power.

Learn more about which colors work best together along with what the colors mean in “Best Colors for Book Covers.” You don’t want to design your own covers, but you do want to know enough about colors to guide your cover designer.

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. I never thought of labeling a head shot with my name. I’ve always included the dimensions in pixels, but a name as well would make it so much easier for the recipient. Excellent idea, Sandra. Thanks.

    1. Most people label the file for themselves, not the users, Kathy, so you’re not alone.


    1. I’m glad that’s helpful, Flora! Many people use the file name from the camera — IMG_… — and that really doesn’t help the user find the file in a download folder.

      : )


  2. I’ve been successful in getting interviews with Radio Guest List website. Also a great way to practice your presentation or your elevator speech. Playbacks of the interviews also offered insight as to where I needed to make some changes and to pay attention to my voice. Thanks for the great tips.

    1. Denise, you’re brave to listen to the playback, and so smart to learn from it.

      For anyone reading these comments, like Denise, many authors have had success by registering with Radio Guest List at http://www.radioguestlist.com/.

      Thanks, Denise!


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