Engaging the Local Press
3 Nov 2004
Written by Jon Latimer
Faced with promoting my latest book, Burma: The Forgotten War, I decided to expand on an idea that began with my previous title, Alamein. Then I offered short articles to local newspapers in the areas of regiments that took part in the battle. Since one can't guarantee national review coverage, and since that only reaches a small proportion of a prospective audience, this is a good way of making up the publicity gap, especially if it means an item in the free sheets. Few of them will pay but all publicity is good publicity, and most are keen to get copy. This time, I greatly expanded the list and it seems to have been worthwhile.
The war in Burma was fought by regiments originating from practically every county in England, numerous Scottish regiments, three from Wales and a couple from Ireland. After sorting out a list of regiments I looked through the PIMS directory and on mediauk.com to compile a list of newspapers in each regimental area. Then each paper's editor or newsdesk was offered an article based on the exploits of their local regiment. This required a standard format letter that could be modified with each regiment's name, or in some cases group of regiments, and then sent out by e-mail or as a letter where it was difficult to track down an e-mail contact. In all cases, it is best to send the query to a named contact rather than ‘the editor'.
It was quite a time consuming business, but proved rather an enjoyable change from the usual. The style of writing that newspapers like is more direct and sparse than my normal style, and it's important to tailor it accordingly. In all some 40 papers took articles, and these included papers that as part of groups in the same area, would share the copy further afield. The articles were built from certain general points about the war in Burma and anecdotes concerning the local unit. They varied in length with some only 500 words long, a few at 1,000 but most around 750.
Also, many other papers printed an edited form of the query letter so that at least some coverage was generated. Even before the book's publication I received letters from former servicemen and their families thanking me for reminding the public of the ‘Forgotten Army'. As we approach the 60h anniversary of the end of the war in the Far East, I'm glad to have done at least that much, and hopefully the effort will ultimately prove valuable in terms of additional sales.