Wow, feels good to get back to writing blogs more consistently. Today I’m going to continue with my “Creating an African Superhero” series. If you’d like to read the previous posts, you can view them here. They basically chronicle the failures, successes and lessons I’ve learned while trying to create and promote a mainstream, African superhero title (via the comic & animation mediums) called E.X.O.
In part 6 of this ongoing series, I want to talk about something that can sometimes look more like a magic trick, as opposed to what it truly is (patience, persistence, creativity and hard work). And that is getting press for your project (whether it’s a comic, animation, video game, book or even your business). Now, before I proceed, I have two disclaimers. 1) I have been very lucky to have my graphic novel E.X.O. featured on CNN, Forbes, BBC, NY times, Huffington Post, Mashable and more, but this isn’t a puff piece to brag or celebrate that. What I’m attempting to do here is provide the same practical steps I took to put myself in a position to be appear on these sites. And I’m hoping the same steps can help you get press. 2) In no way I’m I saying that doing these things will guarantee a feature on CNN, Forbes etc. But, it will certainly strengthen your chances.
Okay, disclaimers out of the way, lets get right to it:
10 Things You Can Do To Get Awesome Press For Your Project
1. Have a Great Product
There’s really no way around this one and that’s why it comes first. No matter the blog, writers are busy (more on this later). So, if you are pitching something, it HAS to be great for you to have a better chance at getting noticed. Everyone of these blog sites get tons of request daily, so when you send you pitch, better make sure it’s something that they would want to look at twice.
2. Have a Really Great Product
No that’s not a typo, I had to repeat this point. Your product must not only be as awesome as possible, but it should also be unique. And when I say unique, I don’t necessarily mean in the way it looks. The story behind your product could be what makes it unique. And that’s how I got my graphic novel E.X.O. on CNN. When I pitched to them, I was pitching two things. One, I had created a superhero story with origins where you don’t necessarily see a lot of superheroes (E.X.O. is a superhero sci-fi story set in a futuristic Nigeria. Not many of those flying around) Two, I was also pitching my personal story about how I quit my day job to chase a childhood dream of creating a Nigerian superhero. These two things (as well as also having an animated trailer for the book) I believe set me apart from the thousands of other emails. So, what is it that makes not just your product unique, but you unique as well? What is the one thing that makes your project and the personal journey to create it special? Pitch that!
3. Be Patient. You Will Be Ignored
You will feel like no one cares about your project. And sometimes it may be true. Especially when you’re first starting out. You have to make them care. And you have to be tenacious at doing that. In the past, I’ve had to send over 50 emails to 50 different journalists before getting one reply. And that one reply usually was “Sorry, it’s just not news worthy enough for us to run this.” That hurts. But you pick yourself up and send another 100. Eventually, someone will respond.
4. Find Similar Articles They Have Written
This is another technique that has really helped me. What I did was look at a site like Forbes and see if they had written something similar to what I was pitching. In my case for example, I had a book about a Nigerian superhero. I went on Forbes and read through any article I could find about Nigeria. After that, I went a step further and looked for specific articles on Nigerian entertainment. I finally found one that was close enough to what I was pitching and emailed the writer directly (more on finding emails below). In the email body, I referenced that I had read his article and pitched my story as something similar he had written in the past. 3 days later I got an email back with a request for interview.
5. Don’t Be A jerk And Don’t Stalk People
I can’t stress this point enough. Again, you WILL get ignored. A LOT! But it’s part of the process. What isn’t cool is turning into a stalker or being rude. It’s okay to send gentle reminders, maybe once a week. But please, don’t email everyday or act rude when someone rejects your pitch. Trust me, that kind of behavior will eventually come back to haunt you. If someone is kind enough to even respond to you with a no, trust me that’s a win. Politely say thank you and ask them if it’s okay to pitch something else in the future. This is how you start building relationships/contacts.
6. Use Social Media
Sometimes even when you find a journalist that may be interested in writing about your project, you may not have an email to reach said writer. If you don’t find any contact information after a good ‘ol Google search, try Twitter and/or Facebook. Odds are they have a profile. Send a friendly message with a soft pitch and gauge their interest. Again, don’t be a jerk. It’s the easiest way to get ignored or worse, blocked. Using Social media can be really beneficial because if the blogger/writer responds, it makes it easier to pitch because now they’re expecting an email or phone call from you. And if they say no, then you don’t need to spend time composing an email. You can focus your efforts on finding someone else.
HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is designed to enable journalists to connect with people who have expertise or experience in particular issues. This is how I got my book on The New York Times! Basically, how it works is reporters send out requests for information to the public (if you’re registered, you get an email) and people send pitch responses back to the reporters. So in my case, a reporter from the NY Times was looking for people who had found success in chasing their dreams. I got an alert via email and pitched my story directly to them immediately. It’s actually pretty cool and convenient. Only thing is that you have to sift through a lot of request to find the right story to respond to. Again, the same tips above (and below) apply. For more on HARO and how to sign up follow this link (it FREE!).
8. Work Your Way Up
There truly is value in pitching to niche blogs. It’s great to get on sites like CNN because of the obvious publicity, but one negative thing is that their audience is very broad. So while you may reach thousands of people, how many of them are actually interested in what you are selling? But, with a niche blog (in my case people that write about comics, animation and superheroes) you can reach you target directly. And odds are they are more prone to respond to you. Again depending on your approach. ALL the tips I mentioned above still apply. What this also does if you’re successful is that you start to build what is called social proof. If I Google you or your product and find that 20 different blogs are already talking about you and/or your product, I don’t necessarily need to know “who” is writing about you. The fact that you got 20 people to talk about you grabs my interest. So take any and every opportunity to be featured on any blogs/news outlets (podcasts included). As long as it does not affect your brand in a negative way, take the press!
9. Make it Easy for Them
Another one I cannot stress hard enough. You only have but so many seconds to grab attention. Doing things like sending lengthy emails or attaching multiple images and press releases will make you like everyone else. Try your best to fit your pitch into 2 paragraphs MAX. If you have a video, upload it to YouTube and paste the link. If you have a press release or press kit, make sure you have it somewhere in the cloud like Dropbox so you can just paste a link. Have sample questions ready if possible. Do everything necessary to make it easy for them to get your story out there. A quick example. Comic Book Resources is one of the biggest websites for anything comics and geek. I had been trying to get my book E.X.O. on there for about 7 months. I kept pitching and pitching and pitching. I must have sent about 20 emails over that span but I got 0 responses. So I switched things up. I understood that as great as my book is, it’s not as popular as Batman, Superman or any of the mainstream Marvel, DC or Image Comics titles. Which is what CBR generally writes about. Knowing that, I wrote a blog post about finding success on Kickstarter with your comicbook. My graphic novel was also included in that article. I posted it on my blog and it got almost 1000 shares in two days! This proved comics fans wanted to know about indie projects like mine. I then sent the link to the article along with traffic stats to a writer CBR. Two weeks later, he ran the article on their site. Why? Becuase I made it easy for them. Find a way to make it as easy as possible and you will strengthen your chances for a response.
10. You Have To Want It More Than Everyone Else
This is self explanatory. Getting press is not easy at all. At times it can even get very discouraging. But at the end of the day it really is a numbers game. The more you pitch, the better your chances. It takes patience, persistence, creativity and most of all tenacity. So get out there, be innovative and relentless so you can get your project the attention it deserves!
Did I miss anything? Have any questions/feedback, hit me up in the comments section below.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Roye Okupe is a veteran creative specialist who holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s in computer science from The George Washington University. His passion for animation led him to found YouNeek Studios in 2012, an avenue that would allow him pursue his dream of creating a diverse library of superheroes. Roye released chapter 1 of his debut, superhero graphic novel titled: E.X.O. The Legend of Wale Williams, a superhero story set in a futuristic Nigeria. E.X.O. was received with critical acclaim and has since been featured on CNN, Forbes, BBC, The Huffington Post, Mashabe and more!