Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Answers to Your Questions About Book Marketing, Book Selling, Book Distribution, and Book Promotion

I've always said that every book worth writing and publishing is worth promoting. I know other book publicists feel that way, too. We'd love to be able to help every author and publisher who comes our way, and many of us, on the sly, spend hours we don't have fielding phone calls from authors and publishers who have just finished publishing a book and don't have a clue what to do next.

I'll admit it. Sometimes, I hear the frustration in the voice of a caller whom I've never met, and who doesn't have the budget to hire me or any other publicist. These callers need information, but they don't know where to begin. They don't even know the questions to ask. They just sound helpless and hopeful, and at times like that -- if I haven't taken my lunch break yet -- I often sigh deeply and start talking.

During what should be my lunch hour, I start explaining the business of book selling, book distribution, and book promotion. Usually, I begin by saying: "Please be online, because I'm about to give you all of the critical links for publishers. I'll explain what they are, but you need to bookmark them." The interesting thing is that, through the years, I've found myself giving callers the same links over and over again. Sure, the URLs change, but I've kept up how to find those URLs.

And I've finally put the information together in one place, and I've turned it into an affordable e-book. It's called: How to Market, Sell, Distribute, and Promote Your Book: Critical, Hard-to-Find Information for Authors and Publishers, and the introductory price is only $24.99. It contains all the information I've passed on during those borrowed lunch hours, and then some. The e-book contains information that I don't always think of on the fly, and it's relayed in a logical sequence -- which is a progression that I'll admit I can't promise to provide by phone with my stomach growling and my phone lines ringing off the hook.

It's a win/win situation. I save my time for clients, and I still get to help other authors and publishers with their marketing, selling, distribution, and distribution questions.

If you're interested in getting answers to such questions as:

* How can you let Oprah Winfrey's producers know about your book?

* How can you pitch your book to the buyers at major chain bookstores?

* How can you establish a business relationship with and so you can sell your book online?

* How can you find a book distributor to get your work into other book-selling channels?

* How can you create media lists, and how can you contact book review editors?

* And more.

Visit my Web page for How to Market, Sell, Distribute, and Promote Your Book: Critical, Hard-to-Find Information for Authors and Publishers, and discover all of the information you've been looking for -- finally!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What we mean by book promotion opportunities for novels.

When novelists seek book publicity opportunities for their books, they run up against a reality: unless they are already a household name, or unless their work has a nonfiction news hook, it's probably going to be tough to find media outlets that are interested in book reviews or author interviews.

What's a nonfiction news hook for a novel? I know. It does sound like a contradiction in terms. But if your novel can make news (look at Frey's novel which grabbed the headlines, although for the wrong reasons), or if your novel is news, then the book promotion opportunities will be there.

Here's an example of how it works. Massachusetts-based author Michael Lowenthal wrote a based-on-fact novel titled Charity Girl (it's just been published by Houghton Mifflin and, no, I'm not Michael's book publicist). The novel reveals something that I didn't know about, and I'll bet most of us had never heard before: during World War I, many American women were locked up for the sin of having then-unmentionable diseases on the theory that they might jeopardize the health of military men.

Let that story out to the media, and you've got something: a novel with a strong news angle that's worthy of all the book publicity it gets because the story behind it is so important. Michael Lowenthal may not be a household name (yet), but that didn't stop the Boston Globe from reviewing his book. Click here to read the Globe's story.

I'm not suggesting that every novelist has to spend time in the library trying to uncover opportunities to shock people. But I am saying that, when you're pitching your novel to the media, you have to find a news hook somewhere in your material or background or experience. Perhaps you are a doctor by day who has written a medical thriller, or you were a witness to a real-life crime.

It's not enough to say to the media, "I'm a nice person. Please review my book." Or, "I've watched your show for years, and I know I'd be a wonderful and exciting guest." Or: "Here's some news for you. I've done something few people have ever done. I've self-published a novel. And, my, was it ever challenging! I'm sure your readers/listeners/viewers will want to learn all about it."

Those non-news pitches are likely to stall your book promotion campaign before it even gets off the ground. But if you find a news hook for your novel -- or, better still, if you build a media hook into your novel, the way that Michael Lowenthal did -- you have a novel that really is worthy of a no-holds-barred book publicity campaign.

You still have to do the work to let the media know about your novel, even if it does have a strong news hook. Book promotion opportunities seldom come to the author unless he or she seeks them. But, once your novel is newsworthy, and once you know how to let the media know that your novel is newsworthy, you have the makings of a successful book publicity campaign.

Friday, January 26, 2007

You Have to Love Oprah

You have to love Oprah Winfrey and her book club picks. You have to. Either that, or -- if you are promoting a book and interested in book publicity opportunities of your own -- you will drive yourself crazy at the injustice of it all.

John Steinbeck. Pearl S. Buck. Leo Tolstoy. All of these authors, wonderful and worthy (and yet deceased and beyond reaping the benefits of book promotion opportunities), have had their books selected by the most famous book club of them all.

And who is the latest author to join the ranks of the Chosen Ones? You guessed it: Sidney Poitier. According to, Oprah has just selected Poitier's autobiography, "The Measure of a Man, for her book club.

Look: a bigger Poitier fan than this book publicist you will not find. I love Sidney Poitier. Always have. Always will. I will certainly buy a copy of his book.

But is Sidney Poitier a poor, struggling writer in need of the career boost that admittance to the Book Club would provide? Hardly. Sidney Poitier needs more prestige and adulation the way Jay Leno needs another automobile.

Does Oprah have a right to choose the books for her club? Sure.

I just wish she'd get back to choosing authors whose lives would change because of Oprah's Book Club ... and who could be given the opportunity to change others' lives because of it, as well.

Blogger Claims There's No Book Promotion. Hmmm.

A Simply Audiobooks Blog entry by Sanjay took me by surprise. Sanjay asks why book publishers "don't really promote anything at all." Sanjay cites the lack of advertising as proof that book promotion doesn't happen.

Apparently, Sanjay is confusing ads for books with other types of book promotion.

Apart from the fact that you do see ads for books (in book review sections of newspapers, in trade magazines, on banner ads, all over search engines, and so forth), you certainly see authors interviewed as experts in all the media. And each of those interviews is a book promotion opportunity for the author.

Try watching television, or listening to the radio, for an hour without hearing an author mention his or her book. And try reading anything without seeing the phrase " the author of..." or "...his/her book is called..."

Doesn't happen. The media is hungry for experts, and experts answer the calls for interviews because they have something to sell: their services, their goods, or their books.

Sanjay is right about one thing. You don't hear a whole lot of radio or television commercials for books. Then again, you don't have to. Authors -- because they are authors -- have opportunities to promote their books on radio and television for free all the time. Why, then, would they pay for book promotion opportunities that they can get for free (or for the price of hiring a book publicist)?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Book Promotion Reminder: Controversy Sells

Yes, he's an ex-president. But I probably wouldn't have heard a word about Jimmy Carter's new book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, if Carter hadn't refused to debate an ever-controversial (and headlines-grabbing) figure: Alan Dershowitz.

As I understand it, Brandeis University invited Carter to speak about his book.
Dershowitz found out about the invitation and insisted the speaking engagement be changed to a debate. He, helpfully, offered to serve as Carter's sparring partner. Ultimately, Brandeis University declined Dershowitz's generous offer. Carter then faced the stage by himself -- and enjoyed more media coverage (including this Boston Globe article) than he ever could have imagined.

So here's a book promotion reminder for today: if you want people to find out about your book, find a controversial news hook, and hang your book publicity campaign on that peg. Or, if you don't have time for all that, then just find a way to get Alan Dershowitz's dander up. Or find another opponent whose wrath can buy you instant access to the limelight.

If you can manage that, then the media will follow you everywhere. Then your book publicity campaign will take care of itself.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Book Promotion Advice from Another Pro

In her blog, Fern Reiss offers book promotion tips that are worth checking out. I have a comment to offer about one of her book promotion tips, though. While Fern suggests that you include other sources in your story pitch to the media, I have experienced some unexpected consequences with taking that approach. I've even taken heat when I've implied that more than one expert is part of the "package" I'm pitching.

Here's a very recent example. Last week, I mentioned in a media pitch that a client's book had been endorsed by Rudy Giuliani. A producer sent me an email requesting an interview with -- not my author, but Giuliani. That wasn't unreasonable, since I had established a connection between my client and Giuliani, but still ... I had my client to offer, and that was all. When I told the producer that in my emailed response, I didn't hear back from him.

Many of my clients hire a publicist because they aren't yet famous. Therefore, I try to position them as the sole experts in my pitches. If I were to tie their names into other, more famous personalities ... it would be easy for the media to make a decision about which person is more newsworthy and deserving of an interview.

So, while I agree with Fern -- it's great to offer journalists a package when pitching story ideas -- I take a slightly different approach in creating that package. I always bear in mind that the goal is book promotion, and the strategy is to feature my client as the expert. Instead of offering other experts to the media, I suggest non-experts to round out a panel. These are lay people who might potentially be on "Oprah's" panel, and who can benefit from the advice of an expert -- and, hopefully, my client will be that expert.

And, hopefully, the media outlet in question will give the expert more than 10 seconds at the end of the last segment to speak as the credits are rolling.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Is TV really dead?

We're hearing so much about the "sexy" media these days: YouTube, iPods, MySpace ... and the question here is: is book promotion about focusing exclusively on the latest, emerging media venues, or is it still about scoring traditional media hits?

In other words, is TV dead? Or does book promotion mean proceeding as though nothing has changed, and pitching your story idea to book review editors, and television and radio producers, and seeing what book publicity opportunities you can shake loose?

So many authors are coming to me these days with great trepidation about the death of TV, and they're nervous because, no, they're not watching YouTube and they're not glued to their iPods -- but they're convinced their potential readers are. I can hear the panic in their voices as they postulate that the media outlets they know and understand are dead or dying, and they must find another book promotion avenue instead.

Well, I'm not buying it, and neither is Geoff Colvin, editor-at-large of Fortune Magazine. In his article, "TV Is Dying? Long Live TV!," Colvin explains that the Web is actually increasing television's audience. "Despite (or because of) the Web, we watch more television than ever," he puts forth. Although we have a staggering number of alternatives to television, most potential book buyers -- and most media consumers in general -- are still watching more television than ever before.

That means, while a smart book promotion campaign (and an effective book publicist) will include online tactics, the traditional approaches to the tried-and-true media outlets must be part of the equation. You can publish your press release online, but you still have to pitch the producers of "Oprah" and "Good Morning America." You can upload your book trailer to YouTube, but you still have to let the editors at USA Today and The Wall Street Journal see the value in your story. You can join the social networking sites, but you still have to tell National Public Radio and Westwood One Broadcasting that they'd be remiss if they didn't invite you on to share your perspective, and your expertise, with their listeners.

New book promotion opportunities arise every day, and it's critical that we follow the changes and eagerly approach the next "big thing" in the media as it reveals itself. But a book publicity campaign that assumes television, radio, newspapers, and magazines are irrelevant isn't a book publicity campaign at all -- at least, in 2007, and for the forseeable future.

Here's how to get some decent book promotion opportunities.

Here's how to get some decent book promotion opportunities: be six years old, be altruistic, be smart, and be articulate. And have an authentic fondness for teddy bears and the infirm.

You will find the media beating a path to your door.

Yes, Caitlin Ede Holmes of Ashburn, Georgia is an amazing little girl. And, yes, she does make for an interesting feature story (read about Caitlin here).

I'm just wondering. What can we learn from the media attention Caitlin has been scoring? Be kind. Be caring. Be cute.

And be six years old.

Ah, if only you could bottle it and sell it as a book promotion toolkit.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Book Promotion via Social Networking Sites

Are social networking sites part of a 2007 book promotion campaign? Sounds reasonable. Everyone who's anyone has a MySpace account.

I say that with the confidence and glee of someone who has just set up a MySpace account. Visit it at by clicking here.

Granted, I'm not so hot at HTML manipulation, but I figure that I'm educable. More importantly, I do understand the concept of real-world networking and am starting to see how it might carry over into the avenue of real-world book publicity.

Okay, so everyone who's launching a book promotion campaign still wants to be a guest on "Oprah." But isn't it reasonable for every author to want to find readers online? And if joining social networks such as MySpace are going to make the book promotion task easier, than isn't it reasonable to start making social networking part of every book publicity campaign?

I think so. But, then again, I'm still learning.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Book Promotion Tip

Here's my book promotion tip of the day (with apologies to Robert Herrick): Gather ye interviews while ye may.

If a producer or a reporter wants to set up an interview, be there and be quick to close the deal. Any hesitation on your part ("My calendar isn't in front of me; I'll have to call you back when I get to my office" or "I promised to pick my daughter and her friends up from the movie at that time; can we schedule an interview for another time?"), and the opportunity could go south.

Sure, you can try to get in touch with producers and reporters afterwards. They have email accounts and phone numbers. The problem is that, when you don't catch them at the right moment -- when their interest is the hottest -- then you may not be able to rekindle that interest later on. They may have moved onto the next appealing guest suggestion, or they may have categorized you as someone who would be too time-consuming to work with to make it worth their while.

Persistence may help you score an interview opportunity even if you've hesitated. However, far better than participating in games of phone tag is the ability to provide an instant "yes" when the phone rings, or when an email arrives, with an interview invitation for you. To the extent that book promotion can be your priority -- at least, for a particular block of time -- your campaign will be more successful than if you're spreading yourself thinly and moving in various directions at the same time.

Say yes, and you'll score the interview. Say maybe, and you probably won't. More and more, I'm finding that it's just that simple.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Book Promotion for P.O.D. Titles

As a book publicist, I would say that nearly every book -- whether it's published through a mainstream publisher, self-published, or via a print-on-demand company -- has media potential. But if you've used a P.O.D. company to publish your book, you're probably on a tighter budget than if you chose to self-publish your book instead. Therefore, you might want to consider some of the free, or nearly free, book promotion ideas that Yvonne Perry cites in her Writers in the Sky blog.

Is it possible to interest a book promotion specialist in representing, say, an iUniverse book? Certainly. We have lower-cost book promotion campaigns that are tailored to authors who are on a tighter budget. But book promotion specialists can't work for free. If you're looking for a low-cost alternative to hiring a book publicist, you might want to check out my affiliate site, Book Promotion Tools, for a product that will let you pitch your books to the media without using a book promotion specialist as a go-between.

I would join Yvonne Perry in suggesting that, however you pitch your story idea to the media, you pitch it as often as you can afford. Book promotion is a numbers game. The greater number of pitches you throw out there, the greater the number of positive responses you will receive.

Your P.O.D. title might never make the New York Times bestseller list because, for it to do that, it would have to be available on the shelves of bookstores that report to the list. But that's not to say that your book can't sell a respectable number of copies. Adjust your goals to fit the style of publishing you've chosen, and adapt your book promotion plans to fit your budget, and your project can be a success.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Book Promotion Question and Answer

Here's a request that I frequently hear, and -- in the interest of saving time (mine and, potentially, yours) -- I'll share it here, along with my response.

Q. I'm in the process of writing a book. Someone suggested that I look into hiring a book publicist before I bring my manuscript to publishers. Having a publicist lined up and ready to go will make my book more appealing to publishers, or at least that's what I've been told. So ... okay. I'm not sure what book promotion is, but if your proposal might help me sell my book, then please send it to me as soon as possible. I'll need for you to explain what book promotion is and what book publicists charge. Thank you.

A. I do appreciate your interest in my services, and I wish you well with your project. Unfortunately, I can't provide you with a proposal for book promotion until you're a lot closer to needing a book publicist. I simply can't commit to promoting a book that I haven't seen, and you wouldn't want to work with any book publicist who would. Also, since neither you nor I know when your book will be published, I have no way to know whether or not I'll have a slot in my schedule to take on another client when the time comes.

Second of all, my proposals do not serve as primers for those who don't know anything about book promotion but rather to help you compare how my approach, and my fees, compare with those of other book publicists. In order for my book promotion proposal to have any value to you, you'll need a solid understanding of what book promotion is and, of course, what it isn't (book promotion is very specific and does not include book sales, book marketing, or book distribution). You'll have to glean that knowledge the old-fashioned way -- through research.

Finally, I think you've been getting bad advice about the timing of approaching book publicists. It would be a very bad idea to hire a book publicist at this stage of your book project. Let's say that I did create a book promotion plan for you, and that you integrated my plan into your book proposal -- and your book were accepted by a publishing house. That could be an expensive mistake. I understand that you're tempted to think that commiting to a book publicist now might entice a publisher to buy your book. However, that approach could backfire. Few publishers would turn down the opportunity to have their authors pay for their own book promotion -- but book promotion is something that many publishers ordinarily do pay for, to a greater or lesser extent. Some publishers have been known to provide their authors with very generous and effective book promotion campaigns. Other publishers at least contribute something to the cost of promoting the books they publish -- but only if you haven't already promised to pay instead.

In short, I'd truly like to be considered as your book publicist once you have a manuscript, and once you have a publisher (or have a self-publishing plan in place). I'd be happy to hear from you at that time and to provide you with a book promotion plan. Thank you, and again, best of luck.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Book Promotion Focus at Libraries?

Maybe your book publicity efforts should focus on libraries. If your instinct is that your book belongs on library shelves, you could be right. Lisa Rein, who writes for the Washington Post, points out in a recent article called "Hello, Grisham -- So Long, Hemingway?" that libraries are casting aside classic books to make room for more popular, and more modern, titles. With limited shelf space (yes, libraries apparently do have the same shelf-space issues as bookstores) and tight budgets, it's only fair to focus on what taxpayers and readers want.

That could be your book.

Therefore, that could be good news.

And, besides, this book publicist was never a huge Hemingway fan, anyway. Well, okay, maybe I enjoyed two or three of his novels, but ....

Okay, I would rather see snow in New England this weekend than see my local library -- or any library -- toss out the classics. Still, from a book publicity standpoint, the trend toward buying and retaining what sells does raise some interesting possibilities. If Hemingway's books go in the landfill, there will be some extra space on the shelf. And, hey, some books will have to fill in the gap. Maybe those books will be yours.