Sunday, April 30, 2006

Here's My Wish for All Books.

My tongue-in-cheek wish for all your book projects is that it be either plagerized or banned by a major world religion. The book promotion value of either of those events just can't be overstated. What happens when a Harvard student plagerizes your book? Sales shoot up. And what happens when the Vatican urges all good Catholics to stay away from a particular book (and now movie)? You know the answer to that one.

Ron Howard and his fellow movie-makers must be gleeful about the fact that his latest movie, "The Da Vinci Code" (which is opening on May 15 -- reserve the date now!), has been placed firmly on the Vatican's poop list (here's the Reuter's story on the topic). Of course, the book upon which the movie is based has long been on that list. That has to make Dan Brown a happy, as well as very wealthy, camper.

Here's what I wonder. Did Ronnie slip the Pope a quick million dollars or so to get the movie "banned?" Or is the Pope freely goading all of us to see the movie and trusting that a big, fat check from Ron Howard will follow? In any case, I think now would be a good time for both Mr. Brown and Mr. Howard to write thank-you notes to the Vatican. It's the least they can do for all the great publicity the Vatican has bought for them.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Here's Another Way to Promote Your Book.

Here's another way to promote your book: hope that another writer -- preferably a Harvard sophomore wunderkind (such as the now-infamous Kaavya Viswanathan) who's been awarded a three-book contract by Little, Brown -- to plagarize it. I can't be the only voracious reader out there who has both of Megan McCafferty's books (“Sloppy Firsts” and “Second Helpings”) on order.

In a situation like this, do you suppose that McCafferty owes Viswanathan a cut of her forthcoming royalty checks? I always thought George Carlin owed Mike Barnicle (Boston's own renowned word-borrower) a hefty portion of the proceeds from "Brain Droppings."

If only ... if only ... if only a high-profile person would rip off the words of one of my clients, that author's book would virtually promote itself. This publicist can only hope she, and her clients, have that kind of luck.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

There's a New Media Outlet Born Every Minute.

There's a new media outlet born every minute. But did we really need another one that features Martha Stewart?

As professionals who are intent upon book promotion -- and who are always looking for new venues to carry news items about our books' topics and areas of expertise -- it's worth noting that Martha's latest publication is called Blueprint, and it just went on sale to the public yesterday. Its target audience is younger than the Martha Stewart Living's demographic. You can read about Blueprint on, if you're so inclined.

Look, I'm as eager as you are to find new outlets for promoting books. Really. If I sound cranky, it's only because I wish fewer new media outlets had convicted felons as their spokespeople rather than, say, people with whom we might enjoy doing business.

Oh, well.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Book Promotion - The Wrong Way

Have you heard about the latest brilliant writer who's been accused of wrongdoing? This kind of publicity, you don't need.

Too bad it's a Harvard woman this time.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Book Promotion Budget Under $100?

If your book promotion budget is less than $100, you can't afford to hire a book publicist. But that doesn't mean you can't afford to promote your book.

Do-it-yourself book promotion campaigns consist of:

* writing your own press materials
* compiling your own media lists
* getting contact information for those media targets
* isolating story ideas and news hooks
* creating a pitch
* scheduling media interviews
* following up

If you know your way around promotion, then you have an edge on authors who don't. But you still may want to learn key trade secrets, such as how to pitch the producers at the Oprah show or how to reach the editors at USA Today. Whether you're looking for tips on how to create the perfect pitch or ways to tap the book marketing potential of the Web, you might be able to find what you need at a pricet you can afford.

With several partners, I've just launched a book promotion tools site for those who want to publicize their books but can't afford to hire a book publicist (or who want to continue a book promotion campaign after a contract with a book publicity firm has run its course). The site is, and it's one way you might begin a book promotion campaign on a shoestring.

Another way to begin a modest book promotion campaign is to make a list of local media outlets, open up the phone book, and get contact information for each of those venues. When you can't afford to have a book promotion specialist do it for you, roll up your sleeves and get to work. A tight budget is no reason to delay promoting your book!

If Norman Mailer Had Asked Me...

If Norman Mailer had asked me, I would have told him to re-think the subtitle on his novel, The Big Empty : Dialogues on Politics, Sex, God, Boxing, Morality, Myth, Poker and Bad Conscience in America. Just whom, I would have asked him, do you expect to remember that subtitle? Do you even have it committed to memory? How do you expect that subtitle to just roll off the tongues of television and radio show hosts, and how do you propose that magazines and newspapers find space for it?

Then again, if Norman Mailer had asked me, I would have told him that nearly all the titles of his books (The Executioner's Song, The Naked and the Dead, et al.) were too depressing.

I'm right about the fact that Norman Mailer's book titles (and, in this case, his subtitle) aren't optimized for their book promotion value. But, okay, I will concede that, overall, Norman Mailer's career as a novelist has been pretty much on track -- even though he hasn't listened to my advice with regard to his books' titles and subtitles.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

To Create a Book Web Site

I've become a big believer in having a Web site for every book. Over the past few years, the media's tenuous question of "Is there a Web site for the book, by any chance?" has morphed into a matter-of-fact, "What's the book's URL?" Books without Web addresses have come to be regarded with as much suspicion and bewilderment as -- well -- as adults without phone numbers.

· So I've been insisting that my clients, and all other authors and publishers with whom I network, that they create Web sites for their books. The response from most of these people is, "Well, fine. Just tell me what needs to go on my Web site."

That question puts me into a strange situation, since I'm not a Web site designer. But, as a book promotion specialist, I can suggest to authors and publishers that these would be the ideal components of a book's Web site:

· A home page that includes descriptive content and a book cover (an author's photo might be nice, too, if the Web designer can fit it in).

· An excerpt

· Original bylined articles or other content (if book you're promoting is nonfiction)

· Online buying links (either to or, or both)

· Media page with a downloadable media kit, book cover, and author photos (both black-and-white and color)

· Guestbook

· Blog (you can get started for free at

· Sign-up page with opt-in mailing list manager

If you’re building your site in stages (and many authors and publishers do), then it's best to include whichever components your Web designer can create the most quickly. For many people, that's the home page, media page, and online buying links.

I have one more recommendation about building a Web site for books, and don't shoot the messenger, please. I'm sure your son/daughter/nephew/niece/neighbor/friend's child is as cute as punch and even more talented than Picasso, but he or she will not have the ability to design a high-quality site for your book. In fact, the high school/college student may do more harm than good, because whatever he/she creates, the search engines are bound to find -- and that Web site, with all its rough edges, is going to reflect how the media and potential buyers see your book.

Don't let your book pay the price because you'd rather not invest in a "real" Web site for your book. Yes, I twist arms to get people to realize that they need Web sites for their books. But I, I beg...people to realize that a Web site designed by a nonprofessional young person is worse than no Web site at all.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Does Book Promotion Increase Book Sales?

Does book promotion increase book sales? Probably. But should you hire a book publicist only for the purpose of increasing book sales? Probably not.

Here's why. A book promotion specialist doesn't sell books. He or she arranges media interviews, book reviews, article placements, search engine maximization, and the like. This raises the visibility of your book and your Web site. That may drive book sales, and it usually does. But, when it does, that's a great benefit of book promotion, but your book publicist will hope and trust it's not the only benefit you are receiving from the campaign.

Your book publicist will assume that you are promoting your book to disseminate your messages to as many people as possible. That's why you want to be on the air, and that's why you want to be quoted as an expert in newspaper and magazine articles, and that's why you want people to find your site through Google and other search engines. You have something to say, and your book is one outlet for saying it; the mass media provides additional venues for you to spread your messages.

In addition, many authors believe their visibility in the media will lead to great opportunities such as offers from corporations (perhaps speaking engagements or endorsement projects), additional clients or customers, or enhanced credibility in the professional world. This is usually what happens.

You benefit from media appearances in a myriad of ways. Book sales, when and if they happen, are a wonderful fringe benefit of your book promotion campaign. But they can't be the only reason why you hire a book promotion specialist.

An author from a mainstream publishing house was recently in discussions with me about promoting her book. She thought my book promotion plan looked great. Finally, she wanted to know how many books it would sell. I was taken aback by the question.

Another book publicist might have taken a guess and added a disclaimer such as "but no one really knows for sure." However, I opted to tell the author the whole truth which was that book sales weren't my area of expertise, and therefore, I had no idea of what number to give her. I could guess how many radio interviews I might be able to arrange for her (and that would only be a guess, because it's impossible to predict how radio show producers will respond to a particular pitch). But I couldn't make even a wild guess about how many books she'd sell if she hired me.

I received her emailed response earlier today. She asked me for a referral to a book publicist whose focus was on selling books.

Of course, I responded that there's no such book publicist. Distributors and salespeople sell books. (In the case of her book, since she's working through a major publishing company, she can't even hire an independent distributor -- she'll have to put her complete faith in the capabilities of her publisher.) Book promotion specialists arrange media appearances and reviews.

What I could have done, I suppose, is refer her to a book promotion firm that's able to toss around figures and promises that come from nowhere and are utterly meaningless. However, I don't have the heart to do that.

No, I don't want her as a client, because her goals are not in line with what I can provide for her, and the last thing in the world I want is a disappointed client. But another thing I don't want is for a book publicity firm to take advantage of her by, basically, telling her what she wants to hear.

What would King Solomon do in this situation? Hmmm.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Children's Books: A Family Business

Since it's a legal holiday here in Massachusetts, I'm taking a twenty-second break from business to tell you about something cool that I just learned. Thacher Hurd is a children's book artist and author. If you know the name "Hurd," you probably associate it with Clement Hurd. Does the name sound familiar? It should, if you were ever a kid or knew anyone who was. Clement Hurd illustrated "Goodnight Moon" and, more importantly, "Runaway Bunny" (because I say it's more important, that's why!), those children book classics that were written by Margaret Wise Brown.

Writing and illustrating children's books is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Therefore, there's something wonderful about the fact that there's another generation in the Hurd family who's willing to throw his talent and skill into the pool, and take his chances on trying to change children's lives for the better.

I don't know Thacher Hurd personally, and I've never represented his work, but I'd urge you to take a look at his Web site and see what he's up to. Click here if you're curious and then -- well, have a carrot.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Warning About National Television Shows

I'm using this space to vent. This relates to book promotion, but it's about more than book promotion. It's also about having a bad day.

Okay. More than a week ago, I scheduled an interview with a client (let's call the client "Amy") on a national television show for this Saturday morning (let's call the national television show "Early Talk about Today's America"). It was exciting.

This morning, Amy was on a plane from the west coast to New York. I called the producer at the "Early Talk About Today's America" program to confirm the interview. The producer confirmed the interview but explained that the segment had been handed off to another producer. That producer would call me back.

When that producer (let's call her "Beth") called me back, she said she first wanted to confirm that Amy was bringing her dog onto the show. I said, no, Amy was not bringing her dog onto the show. Beth then asked whether I could just call Amy and let her know they needed her dog to be on the show with her. I told her -- three times, before the message sank in -- that Amy was currently on an airplane to New York without her dog, and therefore, no, there'd be no way to ask Amy to bring her dog with her to the show.

Whereupon Beth asked me to ask Amy to find them another dog who could be on tomorrow morning's live TV segment. I called Amy's husband, who didn't go along with Amy, and Amy's husband told me that he knew of no dog. Then Beth told me to find a dog. I'll quote her here, pretty exactly: "Find us a dog. We need a dog. Call shelters. Get us a dog."

I was nice. I simply told her that, with fewer than 24 hours' notice, it was unlikely that I could find a dog (and its obliging human) in New York who could come to the studio first thing in the morning. I also reminded her that we'd booked the interview more than a week ago, and no mention had been made of a dog then. I concluded with the sad message that I wasn't getting her a dog, and my client wasn't getting her a dog.

Then I hung up the phone, put my head down on my desk, and did the right thing: I started networking with every dog person I could think of. I'm a cat person, but yes, I know dog people, too. While I was calling everyone on the planet, Beth checked in to let me know that they'd found a shelter in the area that would lend them two dogs.

The host of the show will mention, at the end of the segment, that both dogs are available for adoption. That eases my conscience a little bit (the thought of "borrowing" two dogs from a shelter, stressing them out, and then returning them to the shelter to live out their final days was a highly uncool one to me, and I'm sure it would have been to Amy, too, if she'd been in the loop for any of this).

So the segment is on for tomorrow. Despite everything, the show will go on.

But I want to reinforce something that I told Amy when we booked the interview. The segment isn't confirmed, for real, until it airs. That's true of any interview you schedule, with any medium, but it's particularly true of national television show interviews.

National television show producers mean well. They're bright. They're fun. They're talented. They're creative.

But, oh! They can be flakes.

And us? We are left, staring at the cereal bowls, hoping to find a quart of milk.

Or something like that.

It's been a long, hard day.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Mayor McBook Promotion

Here's another book promotion idea: challenge a major company, such as McDonald's, and reap the benefit in media coverage. Here's a book that was designed to do just that: "Chew on This: Everything You Don't Want To Know About Fast Food", to be published by Houghton Mifflin. And what you really have to love about the book -- other than the fact that it's so "in your face" that the cheeseburger pundits simply have to respond to it -- is that it's aimed at young children whose lifelong dietary choices really can be changed.

For more on the story of "Chew on This," check out this Chicago Tribune article. And then, next time you're choosing a topic for a book, think about which company you'd like to mix it up with in public. And then, if your lawyers are willing, go for it.

Monday, April 10, 2006

It Must Be Nice...

It must be nice to have your own newspaper column when you're promoting a book. Here's what you can do with it.

Scott E. Williams, a Galveston Daily News reporter, uses his April 9, 2006 article to plug an upcoming book signing and the aforementioned book itself, as well as two books he's previously penned. Check this out.

Reporters who use their columns to plug their books are no different from, say, psychic/medium John Edward who once used an episode of his television show, "Crossing Over," to promote one of his books (sorry, John, but I've since forgotten the title).

Media personalities should take advantage of their access to the public to promote their books, but subtlety is the key here. I don't want to know you're selling me your book, necessarily, during each of the moments I spend reading your newspaper column or watching your television show.

Plug your book once, I'll consider buying it. Make me WEAR your book, and I'm not so sure that I'm a prospective book buyer any longer.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Borg Said It Best.

Resistance is futile (or fyoo-tile, as Captain Picard put it). So why is Barnes and Noble resisting the Sony Reader?

According to a Marketwatch article, Borders is getting ready to sell the e-book reader at 200 of its U.S. stores. Barnes and Noble, however, is underwhelmed by the potential of the Reader and doesn't see it as a major breakthrough for e-books.

Sounds to me as though Barnes and Noble has seen too many promises, from too many people, about e-book readers that will revolutionize how we read books. And yet, when you see what people are bringing to the beach, it always turns out to be a plain, old-fashioned book.

So many predictions. So many devices. So many hopes for e-book publishers.

Who's right: Barnes and Noble, or Borders? Will the future be books, or will it be bytes?

Stay tuned.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Blogs as Book Promotion Tools.

If you can't get the New York Times to do a story about your book, perhaps you can get them to cpver your blog. Bogging is the book promotion technique that recommends in this post titled, "New York Times Lists Blog Entries For Hugh Hewitt's Blog."

I haven't had extensive experience with blogging as it relates to book publicity -- yet -- but I will say that blogging is a good idea for authors. Why not give search engines another reason to pick up your name and the title of your book? And why not provide potential readers with additional reasons to buy your book? And, of course, why not let the media and bookstores find you (and your work) online as easily as possible?

If you're Hugh Hewitt, and you have millions of visitors to each of your blog entries, even better. But, for ordinary mortals, blogging still is a grear addition to having a book Web site. And the price (even when you include the time commitment involved) is right.