Sunday, June 10, 2007

BEA: Meet National TV Producers

Kristin Matthews, Patty Neger, Suzanne Williams & Elizabeth Shreve

Directly after the program with radio producers, Suzanne Williams (former publicity head at Pantheon; now a partner in Shreve Williams) moderated "Meet National TV Producers," with:
  • Patty Neger, Good Morning America/ABC
  • Kristin Matthews, Early Show/CBS
  • Jaclyn Levin - Today Show/NBC
This program was as well attended as the previous one. Ironically for an event about broadcasting, there weren't enough functioning microphones, plus there was fun with feedback. So Williams started off by having each producer stand at the podium to give a little spiel.

Patty Neger: On GMA, we have hard news 7-8am, softer news and books--at least one book a day--at 8:30. I meet with publishers a few times a year and send lists of books to the producers of the first and second hours. Often I don't know why they pass. I get 75-100 books a day, plus the ones from the publishers I discussed. It is OVERWHELMING. Pitch me by email [she gave out her address]. I always want to see video. Don't send original home movies; you won't get them back. I prefer to work with publicists--it's easier to say no. They also know the rules of the game and public relations.

WATCH THE SHOW! THINK VISUALLY! Two talking heads don't do it. The bar is really high: What made it on the air five years ago may not work today. You must be an expert in your field.
I hate long voice mail messages, someone reading a press release over the phone. Proofread your letters. Don't suggest we do the show on the plaza [that's the Today show]. I received an envelope addressed to Matt Lauer. [Gales of laughter from the audience as she hands it to Levin.] Tell me if you're pitching other shows.

We offer packages with our news magazine shows. We can put you on GMA Radio; put recipes, quizzes, etc. on our website; put digital video on ABC News Now and GMA dot com.

Kristin Matthews: The Early Show motto is "News you can use." Our anchors have specific interests, but also do various things. Give us 3 or 4 take-aways that make your book different. Send video footage. Pitch via email. Voice mail is useless--by the time I listen to your message, I've had 4 others come in. PITCH FOR A SPECIFIC SHOW. "Pass" from a producer is a victory--it's 4 letters. Most of the time it's just "No."

I'm a huge fan of fiction, but it's hard to get onto TV. Fiction authors don't translate well to the screen. Is the hook tied to something real? [i.e., in the news] The author must be a very good talker with an interesting angle. If we pass, you can pitch again if the books is REALLY relevant to current news. Breaking news trumps all.

We do 5 books a week, also the Saturday Early Show. Every good book section we do buys goodwill with the executive producer; every author buys an opportunity for another author.

Jaclyn Levin: Today is the #1 morning TV show. It's on air 15 hours a week, Monday-Friday. In September, it will be on 20 hours/week. Authors are very important; they serve as experts. I receive 100-200 books, emails and phone calls EACH DAY. [Gah!!!] Make your pitch concise. Know the show and who you're pitching to. If you want to be a guest expert, send pitch to me and Nancy Snyderman. Send DVDs and tapes. We're drowning in information. [Neger & Matthews heartily concurred.] I also book authors for Dateline and Weekend.

Q: How competitive are you?

Neger: We want to be the first network and morning show. We'll follow other magazine shows, but don't want to.

Matthews: Same. On rare occasions, we'll follow GMA and others if the story keeps growing.

Levin: Same. We'll follow if it's two months later. There are many books out there [i.e., they can get another author on the same topic]. We move very quickly; we have to feed the beast. We'll follow "60 Minutes" andOprah, but not the cable shows.

Q: What do you think of online press kits?

All: Pitch via email with a link to online video.

Q: What's your lead time?

Neger: We're looking at fall and '08 now. A November book must be pitched by August. It depends on the subject.

Levin: I prefer being pitched early, but you can do an embargoed book the day before.

Q: What about your websites?

Neger: ABC.com is in conjunction with what's on air, but the others have their own producers.

Matthews: They're linked but growing.

Levin: Today.com may not get an author on air, but can be online.

Neger: All material you give us must be cleared for use online.

Q: What can turn No to Yes?

All: If something happens in the news and the author is an expert. Or you have an author who became a huge success later and there's lots of buzz.

Q: How do books make the cut?

Matthews: I read all fiction before I pitch it to the producer. There's no exact algorithm for nonfiction. Tape is more important than the book. Sentence structure is less important than whether the author is able to break down the book into 4 digestible points.

Levin: It's important to know what's in the books. I rely on publicists. If you don't know what's in your book, we're not going to know. I don't have an assistant; I get an NBC page to help me every 3 months. We look at every book. The most important details must be in the pitch.

Q: What sort of email subject lines get your attention?

All: Don't be too cutesy. Be factual. Give the name of author and the book title, so it's easy to remember the email and to find it again.

1 comment:

Amy said...

This is extremely helpful, thanks.