Using surprises to get media attention

Our guest blogger this week is one of my favorite Book Marketing 101 students, Avril O’Reilly of Ireland. A children’s book author and pictures editor, Avril has had great success publicizing and promoting her new book, Kathleen and the Communion CopterI loved what she was doing with her press kits, and asked her to share with us how she uses surprise treats for journalists to get attention and a positive response. Here’s her story.

Using surprises to get media attention

By Avril O’Reilly

I am kind of old-fashioned when it comes to press packs. I like when a product or book lands on the desk accompanied by a goodie bag. I’m not greedy. When I worked on newspapers a nice biro or a bag of sweets was more than enough to earn my good will.

The BIG idea

When I was sending out copies of my book, Kathleen and the Communion Copter, I wanted the book to have that “feel good” factor. My original idea was to bake cookies in the shape of little girls making their communions. I would decorate the cookies and place each in a pretty paper box that I would buy from Etsy. These would be delivered by, I dunno, courier/winged messenger/mum, to the relevant newspapers and magazines. Journalists on a sugar high would write warmly about my book.

Bad idea

I’ll stop there and explain why that didn’t happen. The idea was time-consuming, expensive, and possibly a threat to the journalists’ health. It might have been a magnet for desk mice. And this approach was insensitive to the different lead-in times of mags, papers, and radio stations.

Better idea

The idea I ran with in the end was to make necklaces. My book is about Holy Communions and helicopters so I felt it might lend itself to jewelry. I decided on a silver chain with a cross and a helicopter. Crosses on chains are a well-known aspect of communions and are quite ageless. I was lucky to find a little helicopter that looked not unlike the drawing on my front cover.

KCC necklaces

Here’s my advice for doing something similar for your book:

  • Determine your audience. Mine is little kids and their mums, aunts, and grannies. And initially it is female journalists. Jewelry has feminine appeal. Chains and bracelets might also work for tween, teens, or romance books.
  • Set a budget. Decide how much you are willing to invest in this stage of your book. Books, stamps, and envelopes all cost.
  • Keep it cheap. I originally thought that charm bracelets would be nice but a bracelet needs at least six charms while a necklace needs only one or two.
  • Keep it light. A small gift that fits in an envelope will keep your shipping costs down.
  • Keep it simple. I knew I would be sending about 50 of these so my design used just two charms on a chain. There was minimal skill involved. I learned on YouTube how to use jump rings or split rings to attach the crosses and copters to the chain.
  • Head for Etsy. Look for what you want and then get Etsy to show the items ranked by price. Go for the cheapest. I used Bohemian Findings.
  • chopper charmsHead for China. A surprising number of usable things are available from from Asia. I got my very pretty chains from a polite and skilled chap called Cheng. (His Etsy name is Predestination.) Allow time for your package to arrive. Allow 6-8 weeks or pay for quicker delivery.
  • Give yourself searching time. It can take a while to find exactly what you want. Enjoy seeing what is out there that might complement your book. Etsy and eBay are creative places and clever ideas are plentiful. Use them.

A few extras to consider include:

  • Add chocolate. Female journalists love opening a package and seeing chocolate inside. I paid a professional company, Lily O’Briens, to make up small boxes of two chocolates with the name of my book embossed on the cover. They do this service for couples getting married.
  • Add stickers. I got large and small stickers made by Moo.com. I was going to stick them on the envelopes but instead I put them inside. That way the recipient can put them onto their iPad, notebook, or phone.
  • Make it look pretty. Keep the feminine appeal going right through your press package.
  • Check eBay. Paper bags and fabric bags can be had cheaply. Again, allow time for international deliveries.

The end result

Kathleen and the Communion CopterVery few people ignored my press packs. One website used my book and necklace as a competition prize. I have been getting a lot of press coverage and even one TV appearance. The Holy Communion season peaks at the end of May so I have yet to see all the returns from my efforts.

And because little girls like the necklaces, I have a few mini-ambassadors for the book going around.

I am told that people wait until the last minute to buy Holy Communion gifts so I will let you know if all my efforts lead to sales.

What appealing goodies could you send to the media to entice them to open and read your book’s press kit?

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. Very interesting concept! Thanks for sharing! You really “shot your press kit out of the water” with your special touches. Otherwise, it might have drowned in the ocean of submissions that flood journalists’ desks. I am a bit surprised that the old-fashioned snail-mail press kit is still popular enough to work as yours did. Two years ago, I was advised to go with emailed press material in the particular market I was contacting (Rochester, New York).

    1. Donna, general U.S. protocol IS to e-mail your material to the media, so no worries about that! You should send a printed press kit only when you’re doing something extra, as Avril has shown here, to get attention. The only other reason to send a hard copy of your press kit is when you’re pitching a story or segment idea and want the journalist to have a hard copy of your book. The material in the press kit would serve as background information for your pitch.

      When sending a hard copy, be certain to include your e-mail address and a link to your press materials in electronic format on your website.


      1. Thanks so much for your detailed reply. The info really helps! My experience dates from long before the internet was an option, so I was accustomed to mailing press kits for many years. I like the cost savings of internet uploads and email contact but sometimes, I’d just like to do it the old-fashioned way with a twist, per Avril. She has set a great example for us!

  2. What a fantastic idea.

    As children we all enjoy receiving little surprises and I guess that does not change as we get older.

    I have a new challenge to focus on that allows the creative element to be put to use. The marketing experience,as we all know, can be a bit of a slog. It will be a bit like a holiday for my brain really, a treasure hunt.

    1. Thanks, Valerie! I’ll make sure Avril sees your note. I’m so glad she could share her creativity here.


  3. Fantastic ideas Avril! Thanks for sharing your creative tips and keep inspire others how to promote their new books.

    My new book Circles of Life, goes live too in few weeks. It is the Odyssey of secrets, love and survivor of my family from pre war Odessa Ukraine, to the promised land of Israel, and my journey in America; it is a modern Exodus of my Ukrainian Family, if you will:-).

    Thanks again!

    Anna Aizic

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *