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Welcome to Workshop Wednesday where I invite other writers to share their areas of expertise with you.  My second guest is Australian YA urban fantasy writer Cheryse Durrant who has worked as a journalist and sub-editor for 15 years. Here’s a little about Cheryse:  My Shahkara MS, a ‘sort of’ Blade meets Xmen read but with a sexy, no-nonsense female warrior, has the public ‘thumbs-up’ from LJ Smith, author of the hugely popular Vampire Diaries. Shahkara is now being considered by two Australian publishers, but I’m still searching for an agent. I live at the beach, just a dragon’s drop from Strawberry Metropolis. My forgetful husband and fractious cat are my almost-willing muses. Almost. Goa’uld-willing.”

Here’s a teaser about Cheryse’s YA Novel, Shahkara:

There are only two ways to kill a Taloner – chop off its head or rip out its heart.” The dark Taloner warriors feed off human hearts, forcing the exiled Princess Shahkara to journey to Earth to find the Elnara, a death lantern that can wipe out their race in a single blast. Fortunately, Shahkara is half-Taloner and able to fight them at their own speed. Unfortunately, she shares the same heartlust. After meeting Max McCalden, it becomes a lot harder to control her emotions and repress her heart-hungry instincts – not a winning combination when she’s being hunted by a Taloner coven, a serial killer, a secret Celtic society and the police. Many women long for a man’s heart, but is Shahkara’s lust about to prove deadly?

Thanks for that Cheryse. Can’t wait to read that story, and thanks also for giving us some tips on how to market our work – the first being a suggestion that I could change my title of Writers Working with the Media to the far catchier: Dance the Media’s Tango.  I like!  Tell us more…

Cheryse Durrant: Every author needs a media strategy, however big or small their ambitions and comfort zone. We all know the importance of self-promotion but it’s tough putting yourself out there, especially when most of us would rather sleep with a skunk than stand in the spotlight. Many authors and businesses experience further frustrations after writing and distributing media releases, only to end up with zilch.

The trick in writing a winning release is to ask, What’s in it for the media chiefs and their readers or viewers? News that you have published a book may not be newsworthy to them. Their goal is to increase circulations or ratings by presenting stories that their readers/viewers want. What is it about you or your book that will attract more readers to a newspaper or a blog? How can you dance the media’s tough, tantalising tango?

Step 1: Brainstorm. Find the stories (potential news) hidden inside you and present these “angles” in the most tantalising way. Any piece of your life may become the seed of a news or feature story, if it is interesting enough. Journalists are constantly searching for stories about family, health, injustice and consumerism. Analyse the stories in the media. What is their news value? How can you achieve news value?

Step 2: Once you have identified a strong news angle, write your release so that it fuels the editor’s curiosity. Use the inverted pyramid method (put the most important details in the first two pars – this is often all the editor reads, and submitted articles are chopped from the bottom). Use active voice, strong imagery and memorable quotes. Don’t be flowery. Summarise your news angle with a pithy headline – and include a verb. This will make the headline “active”.

Step 3: Remember your contact details at the bottom of the release.

Step 4: Customise your releases. Find different newsworthy elements about yourself or your life story that may be interesting to different media outlets or their sections, eg, the finance page or weekend magazine. Build a portfolio of different releases, each featuring different angles. Research the media and their market, just as you’d research a publisher. Know their submission requirements.

Step 5: Create a media kit. This should include at least one form media release (that can be sent to any media outlet at a moment’s notice), your bio, a Q&A sheet and some good-quality hi-res photographs (of yourself, your book cover and any other relevant images).

Step 6: Keep your media kit updated and customise the release every time you submit to a new outlet. Keep a record of where and when you submit.

Step 7: Send out media releases early. Outlets aren’t interested in old news.

Dancing to the media’s tune might feel daunting at first but the more you practise, the easier it becomes. There will still be times when you submit a release and it’s not used, but you may be surprised at your results, especially once you’ve perfected these dance steps.

Thanks for that Cheryse!  Your media expertise is greatly appreciated. If you’d like to see a sample media release that was jazzed up from “There’s a book signing at Mary Ryan’s” to “This author writes her novels on poo paper” click on the image to your left.  And if you have any questions for Cheryse, just post them as comments below.  Cheers!

Other Workshop Wednesday topics: Deep Point of View