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Who are Gatekeepers? Why are They Important for Publicity-Seeking Writers?

If you want to publicize your story or book you may need to work with gatekeepers. They are agents, web editors, bloggers, podcasters, or anyone with the authority to say “I’ll represent this author,” or “I’ll give this writer some publicity on my web site,” or “I’ll interview this author on my podcast.”

It’s important to know that gatekeepers’ interests are not the same as yours. Writers want publicity for their story or book. But gatekeepers’ primary concern is earning money for themselves or filling time or space. They don’t care about what you want; they care about what they want. They don’t care that you wrote a fascinating book. They don’t care that you authored a compelling short story. Like everyone else, gatekeepers are tuned into only one radio station: WIIFM—What’s In It For Me? (If that sounds cynical, I’m sorry. It’s the way the business world works.)

All this is not to say that gatekeepers don’t want to hear from you. They want and need to, for these reasons:

       Agents need to find new writers.

       Podcasters, print and web editors, and radio/TV hosts need to fill time and space.

So you can confidently approach gatekeepers, knowing they need you as much as you need them.

What do we want from gatekeepers?

We want gatekeepers to:

       Agree to represent us.

       Publish or broadcast our information verbatim.

       Cover our event, such as a book signing.

       Interview us on their podcast, radio show, or TV show.

In short, we want gatekeepers to act positively on our behalf, even though they’re really acting in their own interests.

What makes gatekeepers take positive action?

What compels a gatekeeper to do what you’re looking for him or her to do? There are no guarantees that anything will work because there are too many variables. But these items grab a gatekeepers’ attention:

A well-done approach

This is critical. Gatekeepers are constantly contacted by writers. Your approach to them must be superb. If you don’t know how to write a query letter, a media release, or an attention-grabbing email now’s the time to start reading, learning, and practicing.

Previous success

“Nothing succeeds like success” is the axiom, and it’s true. If you can point to past accomplishments, whether it’s books sold, radio interviews done, a large social media presence, or whatever is appropriate, your chances of grabbing a gatekeeper’s attention improve. (Yes, I know that makes it hard for beginners, but remember everyone was a beginner at one time.)

An angle

An angle is sometimes called a hook. It’s what makes you, your story, your book, or your potential interview new and different. In one of my writers’ groups, a man was writing his life story. It was interesting . . . in the same way that everyone’s life story is interesting. Our continual comments were, “This is well done, Bill, but why would anyone want to read it?” That may sound cold-hearted, but unless you or your story stand out a gatekeeper won’t be interested.

A hometown connection

If you live in Des Moines, don’t bother contacting gatekeepers in Miami. Start with where you’re living now. Also, contact gatekeepers where you grew up and pitch a “home-grown writer makes good” angle.

Knowing about gatekeepers and —most importantly, what’s important to them—will help you get the response you’re looking for as you seek publicity.

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Joe Wisinski