Making a List, Checking it Twice: How to Find Promotional Contacts
by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

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I asked readers to answer questions about how they compile lists of their promotional contacts.

Writers said they collected promotional contact information in person as well as through research. Amy Shojai suggests starting early. "The time to start compiling information is months or even years before you need it," says Shojai. "Some information may change, but it's much easier to confirm existing info than to scrabble around at the last minute looking and pulling names out of the air."

Several respondents said they made a point of collecting business cards and other contact information through writing groups, writing conferences, media events and other events where contacts could be useful. Julie H. Ferguson collects names and contact information at her writing workshops by conducting a draw at every workshop.

Doing some research, both offline and online, can also turn up useful promotional contact information. Several writers said that their publishers provided them with a list of useful promotional contacts, such as places where they have sent books for review.

Online research can help with finding lists of magazine contacts, newspapers, radio venues, and also help pinpoint niche market contacts. "I found the majority of my promotional contacts by doing research online," says Josh Aterovis. "I have a niche market so it's fairly simple to find my target audience. Since my books have gay characters, I primarily target my books to a gay audience. I did a search for gay publications and found a comprehensive list of all the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Trans (GLBT) publications in the world. A few fellow writers and I got together and compiled a list of every GLBT bookstore we could verify in the country. We started with a list of GLBT bookstores we'd found online and just checked with each to see if they were still open and if their contact information was up-to-date."

Writers focusing on a particular topic can research lists, associations, and groups related to a particular topic. Julie H. Ferguson, for example, has about six pages of media contacts related to military history in Canada, US, and the UK. "I have acquired them over the past 15 years and I do try to keep them current. I have hundreds of submariner contacts around the world on another list - these were found through personal contact, submarine associations, etc."

Amy Shojai suggests looking in the phone book. "Local television and radio stations are in the phone book," says Shojai, "And if you travel to another city, the local stations often will provide you with affiliate contacts in that city, if you ask politely."

Many respondents said that they collected e-mail addresses as well as surface mail contact information, but that most of their contacts are e-mail. Marian McCain says that she also uses for fax information, "particularly for bookstores as they seem to prefer that method."

Here is a list of the type of contacts that writers mentioned:

Most of the writers who responded said that they focused on venues that might review their work as well as contacts which could provide them with promotion-related events like book signings and workshops. They also collected contacts which would help publicize these events.

Some writers only interact with these contacts when they have important news, like a newly released title or an award. Others feel that regular contact is essential.

Marian McCain says that it depends on what she is sending out. "Before my new book came out, I was focusing on publications, asking editors if they would like a review copy. Then I was focusing on stores, libraries and places where I could give talks/workshops/signings, and then on media, to interest them in the events, and organizations and key individuals who I hoped might help publicize the events and attend them. Throughout the whole time -- and still ongoing -- I was (and still am) sending out information in many different ways --- postcards, leaflets, bookmarks, e-mails... One of the ways I have used my personal contact list is to send everyone I know a little pack of promotional postcards and/or bookmarks and asked them to mail them out or hand them on to other people, and I figure that multiplies my coverage by at least five."

Peggy Tibbetts looks for review sites and sites that post author interviews. "As a new author, I'm still building readership and making a name for myself. I've found that the media and bookstores are looking for name brand authors. I feel like I have to build up my reputation to break in with that kind of publicity." Tibbetts is on the constant lookout for promotional contacts. "About once a week, I go through the possible promotional sites I've collected over the week. Then I check out the web site and if I think there's some promotional opportunity for me there, I send an email requesting a review, interview, article query, or send a link, whatever they are looking for."

Several writers said that they kept contact lists in text format on their computers, separate from their regular address books. Amy Shojai, for example, keeps a promotion file on her computer containing lists of print venues (categorized by magazine, newspaper and newsletter), television contacts, radio contacts, and miscellaneous contacts including online chat venues, BBS and e-zine sites. "Each time I come across a new listing, I add it to the data. Then when a new project is gearing up for promotions, I confirm as many of these as possible either by email or phone before spending the money on sending a snailmail package."

Julie H. Ferguson uses the category function in MS Outlook to store multiple lists ("eg. newspapers, Canadian periodicals, submarine associations, submariners, writers, teachers, school districts, writers' conference coordinators"). She has different contact lists depending on what she wants to promote.

More Ways to Compile Lists

Amy Shojai suggests the following:

Judy DiGregorio advises writers to attend conferences, workshops, writing and book groups, and to take writing classes.

Tera Leigh: "Read mastheads for magazines related to your topic / industry. Write for submission rules and follow them carefully. Go to conventions and before the event call or email editors and ask to buy them a soda to introduce yourself and give them your press kit. That has worked 90% of the time for me - and gotten me two magazine columns when I clicked with an editor."

Marian McCain says that writers can accumulate contacts by:

Josh Aterovis notes: "There are many lists already available online. You can find a lot just by doing a Google search. Someone may have done all the hard work for you already. You can also purchase specialized promotional mailing lists if you have the money in your marketing budget."

Peggy Tibbetts suggests using the Internet. "Web sites are a great way to market and promote. Spend time searching the web. When you find web sites that look like they offer good promotional opportunities for your particular book, create an email to yourself, copy and paste the URL into the message with a brief note to yourself: request an interview, or query for an article, etc. Send the email to yourself and make a marketing folder in your email program to save these links. You can come back to them later. That way you always have a starting point, which makes it easier to set aside time for marketing. You always have something to do."

Find Out More...

Building a Customer Mailing List - Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Mailing Lists: Their Uses and Abuses - Anne Marble

Copyright © 2003 Debbie Ridpath Ohi
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is a freelance writer living in Ontario. Visit her website at


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