If you’re exploring different avenues to gain additional exposure for your book this holiday season, then gift guides are an excellent way to do this. I’ve seen a bump in sales and exposure from books that we pitched to gift guides. And you can see great success from even one placement.
What is the process for pitching these publications? Let’s first differentiate the various types.
National Magazines: Most national magazines, especially women’s magazines, publish gift guides generally by November 1, creating enough time for the big shopping season. If it’s too late to be included in gift guides for this season, some magazines also publish gift guides outside of the big holiday rush for occasions like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and so on.
The best way to find editorial calendars for magazines is to look on the magazine website, or Google the name of the magazine with the words “editorial calendar.” When I looked up the editorial calendar for Self Magazine, I found this link:
Both of these resources show the close dates for the issue. The close date for the November issue is September 1, so it’s fairly early. There are times that a magazine will say, “gift issue,” although not all of them do. It’s important to familiarize yourself with magazines that specify gift issues. Some of the magazines I’ve worked with are the following:
- People Magazine
- Real Simple
- Family Circle
- First for Women
And, there are lots of other national magazines might be good options for your book, that is, if it’s appropriate for their audience demographic.
Regional Magazines: If you’re discouraged about the long lead times with national magazines, don’t worry. Regional magazines, which often have gift guides, too, have a much shorter window. Most cities have at least one local magazine, while many cities have several. Although regional magazines might seem less glamorous than their big, national counterparts, you shouldn’t underestimate their readership. When we pitch our authors regionally, they get a nice hit of exposure and a decent push in sales.
If you’re not sure which magazines are regional to you, do your research by visiting your local grocery store, drugstore, or even your doctor’s office—they may have stacks of them. Some magazines are free and others paid. We have a mix of regional magazines here in San Diego (free and paid), and all of them publish gift guides. Similar to pitching national magazines, go online and look at their editorial calendars. If the magazine doesn’t have an editorial calendar on its website and they might have a small staff (this is the case with many regional publications), reach out to them directly. Ask if they make a gift guide and request their guidelines. If they don’t publish a gift guide, they might decide to feature your book or product because you’re regionally connected—which could also raise attention to your book. If you’re pitching a holiday gift tie-in, their feature could make you doubly interesting.
Regional TV Programs: The same applies to regional TV talk shows or news broadcasts. With a heavy dose of the evening news, there might be a gift guide segment. Most regional morning shows feature gift guides, but won’t list their schedule online. Call the front desk person at any local TV station and ask them. If they can’t help, they will find someone who can. Always have you’re your pitch ready in case you are transferred directly to the show’s producer.
Bloggers: Authors receive a great boost in book sales when we pitch bloggers for their gift guides and they include the book, not only due to the immediate promotion that the gift guide provides an author but because it’s a blog post. A blog appears in searches for as long as the blogger is around, which usually lasts a long time. Much like magazines, bloggers focus on what their blogs are discussing. For a cooking blog, they might post a best-of-cookbook guide like this blogger did: http://www.blogher.com/13-best-blogger-cookbooks-2013.
If you have a list of blogs you love, quickly search their sites for past gift guides to see if there’s a post calling for gift guide suggestions. If you don’t see a gift guide, email the blogger and ask if they’re planning a gift guide post this year. Most November and December gift guides are collected in October—again, early enough for the blogger to sort through the submissions and see what’s right for their blog.
Now that we know how gift guides work let’s discuss how to pitch them.
Get to know the magazine or blog: Spend time getting to know what and who you are pitching. Do they have holiday gift guides, or are they focused on gifts for the New-Year/New-You model? Each blog and magazine is different. Also, as I mentioned earlier, many blogs and magazines don’t just do gift guides once per year. Many do gift guides throughout the year, so if you missed the crazy holiday shopping window, take heart. Other major holidays are right around the corner.
Make sure it’s the right fit: It’s very beneficial to make sure you’re pitching a magazine or blog that’s related to your book. If you don’t, not only will you not be included, but you waste the editor’s time and yours.
Pitch the right person: As with any pitch, take the time to find the right person to address. It’s especially crucial with gift guides because editors or bloggers often sift through hundreds of submissions. They might have a separate email set up to accept submissions. Follow the rules. If you don’t, your entire submission might get deleted.
Crafting your email: While I always say you need catchy email subject lines when pitching media or bloggers, the same isn’t true for gift guide pitches. Write a subject line that reads, “Holiday gift guide,” and then a catchy title for your book or product.
Be sure to keep your email short to two paragraphs maximum, but less would be better, and since gift guides are highly visual, include a link to your product and offer to send samples to the editor or blogger.
Offer enhancements: There’s no shame in bribery, and by “bribery,” I mean to offer to do a giveaway for the blogger’s readers. Or, if you get picked up by a regional magazine or local TV show, always offer to give copies to their viewers or readers.
Do the follow-up: Checking back is perfectly okay and probably a good idea. Send a simple note asking if they got the pitch and if they need any additional information or materials to make the offer even more valuable to their readers. Remember, always focus on the readers.
Getting included in a gift guide is an excellent way to increase book sales, and although it takes some research, preparation, and hard work, the payoff is very beneficial. A mention or feature from a publication, TV show or blogger means increased exposure, which ultimately can attract new readers and lead to higher sales.
Want even more tips for increasing your holiday books sales? Check out my newest book, How to Sell a Sleigh-Load of Books, right now!
Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns.