by Stacey J. Miller
People frequently ask for the name of my contact at “Oprah.” For those individuals, and to everyone else who would like to write to “Oprah” or any other national television show, I’d offer the following book promotion tip:
You can get that contact information for free, or practically for free. Tape the show on a Friday, because production credits are rolled at the end of the show nearly every Friday.
Grab a paper and pen, and capture some names. You’ll see the names of the executive producer, producers, associate producers, assistant producers, and on and on. All of these people share materials they receive by mail at story idea meetings. The higher up the chain of command you go, the less likely it is that you’ll get the individual on the telephone when you’re following up on your mailing. But, of course, those with the better job titles have more influence (in the event that they like your story idea) than the other production staff members.
There is no single production person at “Oprah” who is in charge of booking guests (or, more specifically, authors). All the production staff members share in this responsibility. That isn’t true for all national television shows.
To get the mailing address for the person (or people) you’ve decided to pitch, you can do one of two things. The simplest thing is to go to the show’s web site. Most of the shows have a mailing address on their sites. Just be sure you’re grabbing the mailing address for sending story ideas and not the mailing address for ordering tickets.
In the event that the show you’re pitching doesn’t have a mailing address on its site, here’s what you do. Look at your local television listings (the TV Guide is actually online and available for free at http://www.tvguide.com — you just “tell” the site where you live and the name of your local provider, and you’re in business). Find out which local station carries the show you want to pitch. Use your telephone book or a web site like Switchboard.com (or splurge and call directory assistance) to get the number of that local television station. Start dialing.
When you call the local television station, ask to speak with the programming department. Ask whomever picks up the phone your question: “May I have the phone number and mailing address for the X show’s production office?” Say thank you. Hang up. Wait for a dial tone. Then dial the number for that production office to confirm the mailing address.
While you have the national television show’s production office on the phone, you can certainly ask for the name of the person who books authors. Some shows will give you this information. Some won’t. They’ll tell you to just send your materials to the attention of “Guest Suggestions.” That’ll do the trick, too. It will just make it tougher for you to follow up by telephone with an actual human being.
Either way — by harvesting the show’s credit information and marrying the name(s) you’ve selected with the mailing information you’ve gathered from the show’s web site or from your two telephone calls — you’ll have specific contact information for any national television show that airs in your market.
During your followup phone call, you may be referred to a better contact for your purposes at the show (for example, a personal finance author might find that a business contact at a particular national TV show is more interested in his or her subject matter than the producer who usually books authors). If that’s the case, congratulations. You’ve now earned your contact information in the same way that publicists earn theirs.
It’s not rocket science. It just takes a bit of resourcefulness.
Failing that, you can always subscribe to an online media directory. However, media directory subscriptions are expensive. Also, the contact information becomes outdated quickly as producers come and go. And you probably won’t find contact information in a media database for every national television show, since TV shows come and go so quickly, and media database updaters can’t keep up with all the changes in real time.
To all: Best of luck in landing a national television show.
Stacey J. Miller is a book promotion specialist and founder of S. J. Miller Communications, an independent book publicity firm. Visit her online at http://www.bookpr.com/