Thursday, November 29, 2007

Holiday Hooks

I'm jetting off to Maine to do the Dutiful Daughter Thang, as both 'rents are in the hospital. To keep you occupied in the meantime, here's a helpful piece by book publicist extraordinaire Adrienne Biggs, Biggs Publicity & Special Events.

Off-beat & Alternative Hooks for Holiday Pitching
(and several good reasons to take the day off)

by Adrienne Biggs

Books are published with seasons in mind. “Important” books are published in the Fall, “new year/new you” books in the Winter, Lifestyle books in the Spring, and “beach reads” in the Summer. Likewise, the media expect to receive pitches for “serious” books for Fall, holiday book pitches for December, romance and relationship book pitches for February, Mothers' Day book pitches for May, Dad and Grad book pitches for June, and BBQ and Grilling cookbook pitches for Summer.

And every publicist knows a good hook is important. But how do you set your holiday book apart from the competition, or how do you turn your non-holiday book into a book worth celebrating?

There are hundreds of date-specific “holidays” that invite unusual pitch ideas and which provide unique hooks for publicists, media, and retailers. For example, everyone knows most new diet books are published in January but you may not know that January is also National Hobby Month, National Soup Month, National Hot Tea Month, and that the "Today" show and "The Simpsons" both premiered on January 14--in 1952 and 1990, respectively.

Lots of people know that April is National Poetry Month, but who knew it was also Alcohol Awareness Month, Child Abuse Prevention Month, Dog Appreciation Month, Month of the Young Child, National Garden Month, National Welding Month, National Fresh Celery Month, and National Anxiety and Stress Awareness Month?

The biggest holiday in July is Independence Day, but did you know that July is also National Anti-Boredom Month, National Peach and Blueberries Month, National Tennis Month, and Tahiti and Her Islands Month, and that July 3 to 9 is Nude Recreation Week, or that July 11 is World Population Day (the anniversary of the day our planet became home to 5 billion people)?

A few years ago I discovered these gems in one terrific book: Celebrate Today by John Kremer, which features 3,200 special days, weeks, months, and anniversaries that publicists can use to promote their books (or find an excuse to take the day off). At the time, I was assigned to do publicity for The Cheers and the Tears, a book about youth sports and sportsmanship, and I was having trouble coming up with a good “hook.” The book was coming out in early March, after the springtime youth sports season was already in full swing, and although the author had top credentials there weren’t any relevant news headlines to connect the book to.

I had to get creative if I wanted this book to catch the attention of the media. I started to wonder if media response would increase if I hinged my pitch to a specific holiday or unusual historic date. And I became curious to find out if a holiday existed in early March that might tie into the theme of the book.

Sure enough, in the index of Celebrate Today, I discovered that March 7 was National Sportsmanship Day, a day designed to encourage athletes and others to discuss ethics, sportsmanship, and fair play on the field and in the classroom. The day is celebrated the first Tuesday in March at more than 7,000 schools nationwide.

I had hit a home run! I used this date as my hook, expanded my media list beyond parenting publications to include sports columnists and sports radio, and the media was very receptive—I even secured a feature in a nationally syndicated newspaper column read by millions of people. The publisher was pleased, the author was ecstatic, and the book sold through most of its first print run. And then Oprah and the New York Times called.

So the next time you’re looking for a creative promotional hook for your book, why not shake things up and offer the media a holiday or season tie-in they don’t expect, when they least expect it? And when you’re daunted by having to make a heavy load of follow-up calls, or in the middle of leaving yet another voice mail pitch message, remember to be grateful for the answering machine (which was invented September 27, 1950!).

Resources:
CELEBRATE TODAY: Over 3,000 Boss-Proof, Tamper-Resistant, Undeniable Reasons to Take the Day Off by John Kremer (Open Horizons Publishing, c 1995; book and Special Events Data File available by calling 10-15-15-800).

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN: A Chronology of Life & Events in America: An Essential Collection of Facts & Dates From 986 – Today by Gorton Carruth (A Signet Book/Penguin, c 1991)

A Dictionary of Dates by Cyril Leslie Beeching (Oxford University Press, c 1993)

1 comment:

John Kremer said...

Celebrate Today is now available as an update data file for 2008 for only $30.00 as a download. You can order the download at http://www.bookmarket.com/orderform.htm.

I'm the author. The book is still available in limited quantities, but you must order by calling 575-751-3398.