Friday, December 30, 2005

Authors: Are You Blogging Yet?

You should be blogging, if you're not already. So says the recently converted book promotion specialist -- yours truly. I've been preaching my "blogging for book promotion" mantra for weeks, but now I can cite a couple of influential blogging supporters: The New York Times and When the New York Times and tout blogging for authors, you know it's something you should look into.

A client of mine, Joe Vitale ("Mr. Fire"), just launched a blog for his latest book, Life’s Missing Instruction Manual. You can view his blog by clicking here.

As the New York Times points out, all authors' blogs are not alike. Authors have a variety of reasons for creating and maintaining blogs. Some authors want to disseminate information beyond what's in their books. Others want to drive traffic to their Web sites or create a dialogue with readers.

Some authors, of course, don't know yet why they're creating blogs for their books. They just have the gut feeling they "should" do it. That's the feeling of this book publicist, as well. You "should" be blogging, if you're an author, and you "should" encourage blogging, if you're a publisher.

I think Joe Vitale's blog serves as a good example of what an author's blog should look like. He's on the cutting edge of author blogging. Will you be the next author to create a blog? It's not rocket science, as they say. Visit any of the blogging sites, including the one I used -- -- to get started quickly and painlessly.

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Book Promotion Advice from the Trenches

What can a business consultant teach us about book promotion? Quite a bit, if the business consultant in question is Barry Maher, author of the science fiction novel, “Legend.”

In an Apex Digest article written by Jason Sizemore, Maher suggests treating your book as though it were a small business. Focus on your customer' needs, and promote what you have to offer them.

To paraphrase Maher, the best book promotion is a satisfied reader. If it works for Maher and his book, "Legend," it will probably work for yours.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Start to Promote Your Book Yesterday ... or Sooner.

Most book promotion specialists advise writers and publishers to begin their outreach to the media six months before the book's publication date.

The truth is, the more lead time you have to promote your book, the better off you may be. And it's never too early to start marketing your book ... even if it hasn't been written yet.

Here's a very clever book marketing plan that I came across yesterday. It's slated to begin well before even a word of the book it's supposed to promote has been penned.

The strategy goes like this:

Create a Web site, bring people to it, earn at least a million dollars through the Web site ... and then write a book about how you accomplished it. Not an easy trick in this post dot-com economy, but not impossible, either.

Oh, and these authors-to-be are not lacking in self-confidence (or in credentials). They've already alerted us to the fact that their Web site, Tooxta, will soon be as popular as Google and Ebay. And you know what? I believe them.

Tooxta. Tooxta. Tooxta. Commit that name to long-term memory. I have a feeling we'll be hearing a lot more about it. Stock tips, anyone?

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

In Changing Publishing Times, Oprah Remains a Constant.

The Canton, Ohio Repository published a must-read article on Monday, December 26, 2005 called ""Publishing Looked to Internet as New Frontier in 2005." It points out that we'll soon be reading books via cell phones, buying books online one page at a time, and using blogs to promote books.

Book publicists: take note. The world of book publishing is changing.

But, in these days when a book promotion campaign might include opt-in emails and videopodcasts, it's nice to know there's one constant: Oprah Winfrey. Oprah, the queen of the televised book club, can still turn any writer into an overnight sensation. So, for every novelist and self-help author on the planet, an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show will continue to be the holy grail no matter what else changes in the world.

The publishing industry may change and grow amid hype and lawsuits, but it's good to know that some things will remain unchanged. Thank you, Oprah, for giving us something to count on in the new year.

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Monday, December 26, 2005

Book Promotion Shortcuts: Are They Worth It?

There are trade secrets in all professions, and promoting books is no exception. But, recently, I've discovered the #1 best book publicity shortcut of all: not taking shortcuts.

Here's what happened. I've been submitting articles that were written by authors for years. I offer these articles to weekly newspaper editors around the country. The editors can print the article for free as long as they include the author's attribution -- book title, URL, and so forth.

But, lately, I've become pumped up by the possibilities of submitting articles online. So I did some research and, ultimately, bought a software package that promised magic: I'd cut-and-paste the article into the software, add information about the author, and hit the "go" button. Before I knew it, the article would be submitted to the appropriate Web sites. All I had to do was sit back and watch the software automatically work, and then check my email to find confirmations that the article had been published online.

Easy? Not very. It took me about 7 hours to set up the software so it would work. Then, once I'd taken another hour or so to carefully review the software, I realized that I could not successfully use the software to publish articles by various authors. In other words, I could use the software to submit my own articles online, but not my clients' articles.

I was not feeling good about the software at that point. Still, I conducted a test of the software using one of my articles to see whether the software would be useful to me at all. At least, then, I could recommend it to my clients. Almost immediately, the confirmations did start to come into my email box. This was good, so I checked each one of the sites that claimed to have published my article.

It's a good thing I checked, because here's what I found. In no case (so far) was the article published correctly. The article, as published, was either completely missing the appropriate attribution, or -- in a couple of cases -- it was a blank page that contained only a title (no text and, mercifully, no attribution). I'm assuming the software uploaded my information to the wrong fields, but since I'm not a programming expert, I don't know for certain what went wrong.

I only know that the software test proved one thing: Book promotion shortcuts can be counterproductive. This particular experiment cost me the price of the software and a great deal of embarrassment. I'm certainly not recommending it to my clients.

So, you see, there are valuable book publicity tricks and tools of the trade out there, but the old wisdom applies. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Avoid the snake oil, and invest your time in money in those book promotion strategies that have been proven to work.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Support Your Local Bookstore

Are you still looking for holiday gifts? It's almost too easy to order a book online these days, or to stop at one of the chain bookstores while you're in the mall.

But here's my thought for the day: if you need another holiday gift, how about buying it at your local bookstore? You'll feel good about supporting an independent bookseller, and your gesture might repay you many times over.

Independent booksellers make independent decisions. Thus, they're more likely to buy your book or set up a signing for you than a chain bookstore would be. Enjoy the holiday, and buy wisely -- and pragmatically.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

The More the Publishing Industry Changes . . . The Fewer Changes We See

Does the world need another literary agent? Well, we have one, thanks to the changing face of the publishing industry. Laurence Kirshbaum, the former chairman and chief executive of the Time Warner Book Group, has walked away from his prestigious position at a mainstream publishing house to pitch book projects to . . . well, other mainstream publishing houses. Here's the story.

I'm just wondering why changes in the publishing industry often seem to lead us back to our starting point -- more literary agents, more submissions to mainstream publishing houses, more waiting for advances and hoping for royalty checks, and more trying to entice publishers to promote books they often don't even care about.

Why do so many unpublished authors ask me to create a book promotion plan that they'll use to impress literary agents who might then agree to pitch their books to mainstream publishing houses wo that maybe, someday, their books will see the light of day? (I'll do that for you, if you insist, but it may not be the best idea because presenting an independent book publicist's promotion plan to a mainstream publisher may discourage that publishing company from conducting its own in-house PR campaign for your book.)

Why can't we see that, since the times are a'changing, we can change, too? We don't have to jump through the same old publishing industry hoops as we did a few years ago.

We don't need a literary agent, and we don't need a publisher.

We can want to work with a literary agent. We can want to work with a publisher. But we're not forced to do so.

We have the choice to self-publish.

I'm not talking about vanity publishing or working with one of the nondiscriminating P.O.D publishing companies.

I'm talking about becoming the publisher of your own book: getting your own ISBN and Library of Congress numbers, hiring your own production team, hooking up with a distributor, marketing and promoting your book, and taking on all the financial risk yourself -- and making all the key decisions about your book. What could make more sense than that?

Okay, I know that not every author wants to be a publisher, and for that reason, not every should be a publisher. Also, I rarely turn down the opportunity to promote an interesting book that's published by a prestigious house, so I fully understand why an author would accept an attractive advance from a renowned New York-based publisher.

But for those who are seeing the changes in the publishing industry and still feel forced to do things in the same old way to avoid the stigma of self-publishing, please get over it. Distributors, the media, and potential book buyers really will take your self-published book seriously if it's worthy of their time and attention. You don't have to have a mainstream publishing company's imprint on your book anymore. There are other, and often more lucrative, options for you. Feel free to explore them.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

There's Nothing Like the Face . . . of a Publisher Eating a Candybar.

You've heard about the candybar company that's suing Simon & Schuster, publisher of Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire and Utopian Dreams. Stories like this make me wonder whether publishers, authors, and even publicists ought to consider their potential legal liability before they commit to book projects. Perhaps they should.

I'll admit that part of me is relieved that I wasn't hired to promote the Hershey book (here I feel compelled to repeat the disclaimer you'll find on the site: "Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams is not authorized by the Hershey Company.") But that's only one small part of me.

The rest of me -- the part of me that gets blissed-out by seeing her clients' books in the national news -- would have found it deeply rewarding to be a part of this particular book project. Imagine: a book that automatically makes headlines courtesy of a high-profile lawsuit. The only thing that even comes close to that type of "free" (well, unless you count the legal fees the publisher will accrue in defending itself) publicity it is when the pope recently asked his faithful followers to avoid buying a bestselling novel (does Dan Brown owe the Vatican a percentage of the royalties on The Da Vinci Code, or doesn't he?).

Of course, those of us who work in and around the publishing industry could refuse to take on any projects, ever, just to keep ourselves safe from lawsuits. But even that would only offer us limited protection from litigious entities who are committed to creating difficulties where there should be none. For example, just imagine what a company like Hershey could do to a publicist who admits in public that she's just not a big fan of chocolate bars? I don't even want to go there.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Book Publicity vs. Book Marketing

People who work in, and around, the publishing industry -- along with professionals of all stripes -- love to make up their own vocabulary and word usages. That's resulted in some confusion about terms related to book promotion.

One of the best pieces I've read recently about the distinction between book publicity and book marketing comes from the Publishing Basics blog by Penny Sanseveiri. All in all, Penny, great job and great information. Penny pointed out the need to use all tools at your disposal to promote books, and she's right about that. What garners publicity for one book may not work for another, and it's important to stay flexible enough to expand the aspects of the campaign that seem to be working best.

I'd clarify one point that Penny made about book reviews. Obviously, reviews can be important for some books, but here's the hitch. Most book review editors require between two and six months' lead time before the publication date to review a book. That effectively means once a book is published, it's too late to approach most book review editors. Some authors/publishers budget to print a small number of books ahead of the publication date and label them "galleys," and then send these galleys out to the most important advance review media. However, many publishers and authors miss that window of opportunity, and that's okay. When it's too late to send a book to the reviewer at, say, Cosmopolitan magazine, there's still plenty of time to send a relevant story pitch to, for example, Cosmopolitan's career editor (or whichever editor covers the beat most related to your story).

Thanks for an excellent article, Penny!

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Can Opt-In Email Programs Sell Books?

I doubt it. There's a new online book marketing company I've just read about that, for $99, will create an email pitch for your book and mail it out to an opt-in email list.

It's "only" $99, so you might be tempted to give it a try. But I'd suggest that you ask yourself this question before you invest: How often have you bought a book, or any other product, on the basis of an unsolicited email? If the answer is "zero," then you have your answer. Why waste your money and demean yourself, and your work, by putting it into the same category as one of those "enhancement" drugs or "free" (read: illegal) software offerings? Not you, I hope.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Literary Nonfiction

We learn something new every day (even on Sundays), and "literary nonfiction" is my newly acquired phrase for the day. I was zooming around the blogosphere, and I stumbled upon Robin Rowland's blog entry of Saturday, December 03, 2005 in which he uses the word. For fun, I Googled the phrase and found that Robin hadn't invented it -- he was just tuned in enough to find it. In fact, ads from and appeared as part of my search, so that means both of those companies were aware of literary nonfiction as a genre.

Where has literary nonfiction been all my life?

I've been promoting nonfiction books for 15 years. How many of them were "literary nonfiction" titles? How many of them were just plain "nonfiction," and what's the difference, and who decides, and how, and is it possible to disagree? Hmm. If anyone knows what the rules are, give me a holler at

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Friday, December 02, 2005

Where Does Fame Come From? Larry Star Is a Case Study.

Where does fame come from? Creativity, hard work, perseverance, and . . . in at least one case, eBay.

"Did you hear about the guy who's selling his ex-wife's wedding dress on eBay?" About fifty people asked me that during a 48-hour period a year or so ago. Most of them emailed me a link to the eBay auction, and when I finally clicked on the link to see what everyone was talking about, I lost it. I just lost it. Whoever this strange person was, the image of him wearing that wedding dress was about the goofiest thing I'd ever seen, and the coffee I was politely sipping ended up abruptly leaving me through a couple of orifices that I'd rather not discuss in this space. The ad copy struck me as raw, witty, real, and funny beyond belief. Anyway, the image of that eBay character stayed with me.

So, yes, I grinned from ear to ear when I received an email a few months ago from "The Wedding Dress Guy," and I was on the phone with him in about 12 seconds introducing myself to him. It turned out that his name was Larry Star, and he'd written a book -- a very funny one that some lucky book publicist would get to promote.

I turned out to be the lucky book publicist. I also made a new friend, so please indulge me if I insert a commercial for him into this case study of where fame comes from.

Larry Star was recently featured on KING-TV's "Evening Magazine," and you can enjoy the video online, if you're interested. Click here to see "The Wedding Dress Guy" in action. If you enjoy Larry's humor and style as much as I do, please also check out his Web site. It's And feel free to buy the book. (I think that wedding dress is still for sale, too, if the price is right.)

And, next time you ponder the question of where fame comes from, you might come to the same conclusion Larry Star arrived at. Fame can come from just about anywhere if you take risks, do something different with humor and integrity, strike a responsive chord in enough people, expect nothing and hope for everything, and somehow figure out that elusive game they call "viral marketing" . . . and if you happen to be doing all of those things in exactly the right place, at the right time.

Go, Larry! I'm watching you and learning.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

It's Now or Never -- NOT!

This has been a good morning for my clients, past and present. I just received a friendly email from an editor to let me know that an article I'd submitted to him a year ago was running in today's paper. I forwarded that email along to the person who'd written the article; that will be a nice surprise for a past client who undoubtedly didn't expect additional placements from the article submission campaign we conducted 12 months ago.

Similarly, I just scheduled a satellite radio network interview for another author. We'd pitched the story to this producer two months ago, and she just decided that this author would be a great addition to a particular show she's putting together.

The lesson is: never discount the staying-power of pitches (particularly, those that are emailed to editors and producers). Journalists really do file away story ideas in their "future" folders, and authors really do see the rewards of today's pitches . . . if not immediately, then perhaps up to a year later.