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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How self-publishers can become sought after media experts

Goal: to become the media's go-to person in your area of expertise. 

Problem: in some circles, self-published books are not viewed as credible. 

Challenge: how can self-published authors position themselves in the media as experts? 

Let's face it, publishing with established houses or university presses is still the widely accepted gold standard. This elitism means that self-published authors will have to work harder to establish themselves as experts in the media's eyes.

Positioning yourself as a media expert means that you must continuously build exposure plus credibility, and you must directly let the media know you're available to speak with authority on certain topics. It's an ongoing process and a challenge, but it's not impossible to grab the attention of interviewers, journalists, and producers.  

The mystique of the college degree
It certainly can help to have a college degree in your field. Even self-help dating books are written by authors with doctorates. But what if you're just good at meeting and flirting with guys, and you've got the stories to prove it? What if you don't have a degree? What if you're just passionate about your subject and really good at what you do?

To illustrate how self-publishers can begin to establish themselves as legitimate experts regardless of educational background, I present to you the true tale of 2 clients. Both work in education – one on the "soft" prevention and motivation side and the other on the "hard" academics side. These award winning consultants are both widely recognized for their work with young people from diverse, underserved schools and communities.

The 2 consultants couldn't be more different. One was an excellent student and went on to get his PhD. He has automatic credibility with the media and is a frequent guest on radio and tv talk shows.

The other is dyslexic and was the class clown throughout his grammar school and high school years. He does not have a higher degree – yet he is a college professor and a visiting lecturer on college campuses. His self-published books have been required reading in psychology, sociology, education, and child development courses. He's a high level, self-taught, independent scholar. He too is a frequent guest on mostly radio talk shows. 

Roger Isaacs, the author of Talking With Godhas a degree in language and literature, but that didn't stop him from independently studying ancient languages, going on archeological digs around the world, and lecturing at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies. He too is a high level, self-taught, independent scholar, and his book, with its 500+ pages of thoroughly researched content, footnotes, and extensive bibliography, proves his credibility. 

Lay the groundwork for credibility
Writing a book is a good first step in establishing credibility, but a book alone is not enough. You must develop your author brand in ways that are recognized and accepted by the media. Here are some ideas.

Book quality. Make sure your self-published book is the best it can be. Is the content well written? Has it been edited and proofed? Are layout and design (internal pages, back and front covers) pleasing to the eye? Does the back cover copy make a reader want to buy the book? Your book must be good enough to stand alongside books published by the big guys. Quality is a must!

Get credentialed. Degrees are wonderful, but what if you don't have the time or inclination to go back to school? My consultant who lacked a higher degree is a certified violence and drug prevention specialist, and he's leveraged the heck out of that certification. There are ways around the lack of a degree. You'll just have to work a little harder.

Teach a class. Giving workshops and teaching at The Learning Annex and continuing education programs at colleges will help you establish credibility with the media. If people are paying money to sit at your feet, you're credible.

Lecture on college campuses. This is a great way to establish expertise (and sell books). Both of my consulting clients speak at colleges. They do general talks as well as guest lectures, which of course is more prestigious (and students have to purchase books). By the way, have you included university media in your media list?

Documentaries. If any of my writing stars know how to pitch to producers of documentaries, please let us know! Whenever I watch a documentary, I'm sold on the credibility of the expert being interviewed.  

Educate the media 
Self-published books often venture beyond mainstream thought, and that's the opportunity and challenge of promoting yourself to the media. If your book presents a truly unique idea you may have cornered the market on a topic few know about. On the other hand, few know about it so you must educate and enlighten as well as promote. Think more infomercial than ad or press release to enhance believability.

Your website. Make sure your author website is rich in information about your book and beyond. Create an archive of articles and a links list to other relevant sites. Post pictures and video so that people can see you in action doing your thing. Blog about ongoing developments in your field that were not covered in your book.

Your press kit. In addition to the typical press release and bio, make sure to include information that will help an interviewer, journalist, or producer easily understand what your topic is all about. Include an article and a list of questions that they can ask you during an interview.  

Email/fax blast to media. Send a brief statement about your book, a brief bio that focuses on why you're an expert in the field, and a direct statement to the press: "Here are the topics I am qualified to discuss." Include brief quotes from the book and most importantly, testimonials from reviewers and recognized experts in your field. As the old saying goes, you're known – and respected – by the company you keep.

The 24/7 media cycle is a blessing in disguise for self-published authors. It's a beast that must constantly be fed with news, information, and features. Lay the groundwork that establishes your credibility, and then pitch yourself with confidence.

Self-publishers, we'd like to know about your successes and challenges in establishing yourselves as media experts. Please drop a line and let us know how you're doing. Let's learn from one another!

Donna Marie

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