Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Plagiarism in Book Promotion?

In the old days -- well, up until this morning -- the big question about book promotion was: is it better to receive a mediocre (or even a hostile) reception from media outlets than to receive no book promotion opportunities at all. I could argue both sides of that question, and I often have entered into such a debate. (Although, admittedly, as a book publicist I am biased in favor of the "any book publicity is good publicity" side of the argument.)

But this morning I read a strange story in The Book Standard titled: 'NY Times' Regrets Publishing Book Essay that made me realize there's a new issue. Is it better to have a self-promotional essay published with your byline in one of the nation's top daily newspapers and be accused of plagiarism, or is it better to refrain from having that self-promotional essay not published at all?

The book promotion world is full of oddities, but this story is one of the strange tales I've read about lately. So, if your self-promotional article or essay has failed to capture the attention of a major media outlet such as the New York Times, perhaps it's a blessing in disguise. Who knows?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

And the winner is...

On tomorrow's show, Oprah will reveal the newest book she's chosen for her book club and the recipient of all those automatic Oprah's book club sales. And the winner is....

I have no idea, but I hope it's an author who's talented and hungry and worthy of the book promotion opportunity that making Oprah's book club always confers.

If you need any additional incentive to tape Oprah tomorrow, note that Sidney Poitier -- author of Oprah's last book club pick, The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography will be a guest on her show. Of course, Mr. Poitier doesn't need the book promotion opportunity, but I'll never turn down the chance to see him perform -- even if it's only as a guest on a talk show.

Will the new book club pick be a classic? A hidden gem?

What will it be?

This is better than the Osars, the Emmys, the Tonys, and the Grammys, combined.

And the envelope please....

Monday, March 26, 2007

Book Marketing Article

This article isn't necessarily about book promotion, but it is about marketing. It's by Dan Tudor who has learned how to market and sell ebooks, and who shares his wisdom here.

There's no marketer like the type of marketer who plants marketing seeds in a project as it's being developed. And there is no self-promoting, PR savvy author like an author who plants news hooks into manuscripts as they're being drafted -- and sets the stage for a successful book promotion campaign even before the manuscript goes to the printer.

Kudos to Dan Tudor for a thought-provoking article. There's information we can use for book promotion or for selling our books...even before we finish writing them!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

King of book promotion

He breathes. Therefore, he enjoys publicity for his latest book.

If everyone in the world were Stephen King, then launching a book promotion campaign would be a question of announcing a new project, and the media would flock to cover the story. If you've been hiding out in a cave, you may have missed the fact that Stephen King -- in conjunction with Marvel Entertainment -- has turned is Dark Tower work into a comic book.

Book promotion opportunity? Well, this is Stephen King we're talking about. I'm not into comic books in general, and I'm not a Dark Tower fan specifically, but even I've stumbled upon the news of King's foray into the comic book world about 4,698 times since yesterday morning. Here's just one the articles about it that you'll find online.

Apart from the Dark Tower series, and one or two or three or four of King's more recent work, I am a huge fan of Stephen King. And I certainly don't begrudge him the media's adulation or the book promotion opportunities that come his way. He deserves those book opportunities. He's always trying new artforms, and that's cool. I respected him when he brought back serial book reading with "The Green Mile," and when he stuck a toe into ebook publishing with -- was that project called "The Plant?" Something like that.

King takes risks, and that's always worth the media's time and attention. I only wish that, when struggling authors took similar risks, they were granted the same visibility and accolades for trying out new artforms and interesting business models.

Way to go, King, for celebrating the release of your comic book with all the book promotion that talent and fame and hard work can buy. For the rest of us ... well, back to pitching the media, one day at a time.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Shortsighted governor slashes books budget

Book promotion presumes that all readers -- sighted and vision-impaired -- will have access to books. But if the governor of Massachusetts has his way, several "talking books" programs in the state will be downsized as a way of economizing. As Boston Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis points out in his column today, it can cost twenty-five dollars to buy a book on CD. Therefore, many vision-impaired people depend on free audio books, newspapers, and magazines.

With an overall budget of $26.7 billion budget, does Massachusetts really want to lessen its citizens' access to reading materials just to save a couple hundred thousand dollars?

From his office, Massachusetts' governor Deval Patrick practically can walk to Harvard University, MIT, Tufts, and so many other institutions of higher learning. You can't walk down a Cambridge, Massaschusetts street on any average afternoon without bumping into at least a few authors. Sure, all those authors dream about fabulous distribution and wonderful book promotion campaigns, and publishers, distributors, and book publicists can help them with all of that.

But will their books be available for everybody? If Governor Patrick has his way, perhaps not for much longer.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Book promotion opportunities are enhanced by death.

Book promotion opportunities are enhanced by death. Sounds grim, doesn't it? I guess that's the reason why I don't promote comic books.

Apparently, Captain America is dead. Woe is he. But happy is Marvel, the publisher of the Captain America comic books. Apparently, fans are flocking to the stands to buy volume #25, which is the issue in which the superhero -- or the almost-superhero, if I'm reading the news reports correctly -- meets his maker.

Can anyone doubt that Captain America will be back in some form or another, and that rumors of his death were greatly exploited in the middle to promote the comic book? Well, don't ask this book publicist. She hasn't been a fan of comics since Richie Rich in the seventies, but that may be a bit too much information for you. :)

Just know that, if you do something truly shocking -- such as kill off a main character who is beloved by legions of readers -- then book promotion opportunities will surely come. It's book publicity through murder, which can be seen as a guerilla marketing tactic. Get it? Guerilla warfare? Never mind.

Okay, it's Friday, and I'm punchy. Time to get to work on my latest book promotion campaigns, and then call it a weekend.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

What's tougher than book promotion?

What's tougher than book promotion? In my humble opinion, it's working on the production side of things. I just read in this MSNBC article that Katie Couric's evening news producer was fired because of low ratings.

Yes, I know everyone wants to grow up to be a TV producer. (I did, and so did about 75% of my classmates in Emerson College's mass communication department, back in the 1980's.) But imagine the stress of knowing that your job is in jeopardy every second of every day because of low ratings, changes in format, morphing management, and show cancellations?

And think about this: every time there's a change in personnel at a TV station or a radio station, book publicists must know about it. Book publicists can't only buy media lists and then happily embark upon yet another book promotion campaign. Book publicists have to keep up with changes -- not only at television and radio stations, but at newspapers, magazines, and Web sites, too -- as they happen.

I find it amusing that many authors believe that good publicists have good friends in the media. Well, that would be key if good friends in the media had good jobs in the media from week to week, and from month to month.

The truth is that good publicists are those who know how to make friends with new producers and editors and writers and hosts who are hired to replace departing producers and editors and writers and hosts -- every minute of every day, every week of the year, every year of every book promotion campaign that you launch.

Welcome to my world.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

When book publicists can't win.

I've always taken the position that book publicists can have private opinions, but not public ones. (Which makes it sort of strange that I blog, but I digress.) I tell anyone who will listen that the authors I represent do not necessarily share my opinions, nor do I share theirs. Even so, journalists and producers sometimes reacts negatively to a particular pitch. For example, I recently promoted a book that was endorsed by Rudy Giuliani, and a reporter who was categorically not a Rudy Giuliani fan sent me a furious, "never contact me again under any circumnstances, you horrible Rudy Giuliani supporter!" email.

Well, okay.

So now I'm beginning a book promotion camaign for a book which has a claim to controversy that is a lot stronger than who endorses it. This book is about one of those big topics that people have fought and died for, and even committed homicide over. That's the type of book that will cause tempers to flare, and could be at the center of a very rocky book promotion campaign.

I, therefore, sent out a mass email with the disclaimer that the author's opinion did not necessarily reflect my own. And wouldn't you know it: an editor at one of the top daily mewspapers in the country fired me back an email accusing me of -- well, in short, of being a weenie.

Well, okay.

This is not the start I was hoping for to this book promotion campaign. But I still have hopes that the book promotion campaign will go well, and that the author's voice will be heard, and that he or she sells some books as a result of the book promotion campaign.

Are we having fun yet?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The type of book promotion story that isn't.

When I discuss book promotion, I'm talking about working with authors, and sometimes publishers, to disseminate messages to the media. I'm talking about the reward for writing, and publishing, a book. Book promotion is supposed to be fun and creative, and it's supposed to be the payoff you receive for all your hard work. It's supposed to be a time when you're treated as the expert you are, and afforded the respect you deserve.

So I don't want to hear about book promotion ripoffs. I don't want to hear about book promotion campaigns that aren't. I don't want to hear about book promotion coaches who don't. I don't want to hear about authors who experience a nightmare with someone who calls him- or herself a book publicist.

I don't want that.

But I sometimes do hear book promotion nightmares, like this one. I don't know anymore about the situation than what the author tells us, and I don't know what the other party's position is. Perhaps there are two sides to this story, as there are to most.

But I do know that I have a hard-and-fast rule: I will consider representing only authors whose work I feel connected to, and whose books will help my credibility. That means that all prospective clients must have a completed manuscript that I can see, and must have publication plans in place. I will never agree to represent a manuscript that's in process, or a manuscript that's making the rounds of publishers.

Book promotion campaigns work only when book publicists can get behind the book. That doesn't mean that book publicists agree with the messages in every book we promote. Sometimes, we strongly disagree with them. But book publicists agree to make the authors' case during book promoton campaigns, and we agree to help find venues for the authors to give voice to their visions. Book promotion campaigns obviously cannot work when a book publicist has agreed to promote a book, sight unseen. And, even more obviously, a book promotion campaign cannot succeed when there is no published book to promote.

It's not tough these days to publish a book. It requires doing your homework to find the best publication method, and then moving forward with the information you've gleaned from books on publishing and self publishing.

And it's also not tough these days to have a successful book promotion campaign. Again, it requires doing your homework to find a book promotion specialist who is excited about representing your book and you. It means checking references. It means choosing a book publicist based on the rapport you develop with that individual.

Book promotion campaigns require an investment, and I urge potential clients to stay within their comfort zones financially whether they hire my book promotion firm or another. Book publicity is a crapshoot. You never know what book promotion opportunities you'll garner when you embark on a book promotion campaign and, presuming you garner a great number of media opportunities, you never know how well those media opportunities will translate into book sales.

Yes, book promotion is expensive, and yes, book promotion is a risk. But book promotion is supposed to be a fun gamble and an informed risk, and it's supposed to be your reward for all the hard work you've done as an author and, perhaps, as a publisher.

It is not supposed to be a nightmare, and it pains me to think that, in some cases, it can be.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Book publishing exchange, including book promotion tips

I've just found a great place online for authors to exchange ideas, learn about book publicity, and discuss their questions with colleagues from around the world. It's an email group called TWLAuthorTalks (to subscribe, email:, and the moderator is Dorothy Thompson, author of the wonderful ebook on how to promote ebooks (I'm a proud owner of a copy), A Complete Guide to Promoting and Selling Your Self-Published eBook. You can find the book online at Dorothy knows her stuff about all of the latest methods of book promotion. Don't believe me? Google her. You'll see her name everywhere, not because she's lucky, but because she puts a lot of time and energy into book publicity and self promotion -- and it's paying off for her.

I'm delighted to be a guest speaker on book promotion and book publicity this week at TWLAuthorTalks. Imagine being in such refined company...Dorothy's light is sure to shine on me, and I'm sure I'll learn at least as much as I share with her subscribers.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Every book publicity campaign begins with...

It's Sunday, and what does this book publicist find herself doing? Reading two books. Are they two books that this book publicist bought "for the beach" or because they were on her reading list or because they're in the news or to "improve her mind?"

Nope. They're books she's going to promote.

Which brings me back to my point. Every book publicity campaign begins with reading the book. To create a media kit that will get a book promotion campaign off to a healthy start, you have to know the big messages in the book and be able to turn them into media hooks now, or when breaking news invites a tie into the big messages.

For example, let's say your book is a novel whose main character with a quirk that's mentioned a few times in the book -- she eats bananas day and night. The bananas-eating represents .00009 of the plot, but still, it's in the book. Then there's a real-life news story about how eating 12 servings of bananas a day can extend your lifespan by 5 years. What a great media hook, and what a great way to make your book publicity campaign soar! But you'll only be able to make the connection if you've read the book from cover to cover -- if, in effect, you know your bananas.

So, with two book publicity campaigns starting, I am reading both books now. I'm eager to be impressed, educated, and inspired to launch two successful book promotion campaigns.

And, even if you're not a book promotion specialist -- even if you're an author or a publisher who's conducting a do-it-yourself book publicity campaign -- I'd urge you to spend some time today reading the book that you're promoting. Look for media hooks that you can immediately tie into breaking news stories. Find some gems that people will want to know about, now, and you'll give new life to your book publicity campaign tomorrow.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Book promotion or pizza plugging?

As a book publicist who loves homemade pizza -- don't even get me started on how much I love to bake sourdough, whole wheat, flaxseed-encrusted pizza crusts with all-vegetable toppings, because it would truly scare you -- I am mulling over Pizza Hut’s Book It program. Pizza Hut is giving kids who read books free pizzas to promote ... well, either to promote pizza, or to promote books.

The cynic in me says that Pizza Hut is more interested in Pizza Hut promotion than in book promotion, but that's just the cynic in me.

The pizza lover in me has this to say.

Pizza Hut, I'm sure your corporate heart is in the right place. But do me a favor, please. Let kids discover books. They will. Trust me.

Let them fall in love with reading. Then, once we have them reading ... you can sell them all the pizza you want. Deal?

Let's get our priorities in order. And let's try to let food be food ... and let kids just be kids.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Book Promotion: A Second Opinion

One of the great things about book promotion is there's no single "right" way to do it. Different book publicists have different strategies that have worked for them, and that wouldn't be of any value to me -- and vice versa. So I like to read interviews with other book publicists, or with authors and publishers who are conducting book promotion campaigns, to compare styles and successes.

I just came across an interview at Authorlink with Alan Gratz, author of a children's book called Samurai Shortstop (Dial, 2006). Please read the interview for yourself. The author is promoting his children's book, and -- because he's promoting a children's book -- his experiences are different from mine would be. (I've promoted several children's book, but my focus is on books for adults.)

Perhaps because his genre is different from the ones with which I'm most familiar as a book publicist, Gratz's strategies involve spending far more money on a print media kit than I would. For ecample, Gratz uses folders for his media kits. I would never do that because it's far more labor-intensive, and expensive, to include folders with media kits in all media mailings. Also, for me, it would be far too limiting. I'd be far more interested in sending out more media kits, and spending far less money on each of them, than in sending out fewer media kits that cost too much to be "wasted" on secondary media outlets. Also, I use ekits quite a bit. Gratz says this strategy hasn't worked for him. Again, I suspect he knows what he's talking about. Since he's promoting a children's book, his press releases may read like advertising copy for the book -- and, yes, that would be considered spam by many media outlets.

One-size-fits-all book promotion tactics do not exist. Book promotion strategies do need to be adjusted to suit the project, the stage of the project, and the preferences/proclivities/talents/schedules/budgets of those conducting the book promotion campaign.

Next time I promote a children's book, I will go back to this Authorlink interview and see how many of the tips in it might apply to the project. In the meantime...the world of adult book promotion awaits.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

When Book Promotion Takes Guts

All authors want media attention, and a successful book promotion campaign is the way to get media attention. But few authors want all that media attention to cause them problems.

For Elie Wiesel, there are three pieces of good news: one, he's alive and well; two, his book, Night, was an Oprah's Book Club Selection; and three, his message of "never again" is being heard loudly and clearly by his target audience -- all of us.

Wiesel nearly didn't survive World War II because of his religion.

And he nearly didn't survive an encounter several weeks ago with one of those lunatics who claim the Holocaust never happened, and that Wiesel (and other survivors) are lying.

Wiesel's always out there in the media, and he's always pursuing book publicity as part of his mission to educate people. In fact, what made me think of it is that I just stumbled on an article that talks about another stop Wiesel is making on his never-ending book promotion tour.

At this point in his life, I'd guess that Wiesel's book promotion campaign isn't about selling books, nor is it about making money. I'd say that Wiesel's book promotion efforts are about disseminating his messages with audiences, and that he uses his books as reasons to be part of author events and author interviews.

Mr. Wiesel is my hero, because he's a reminder that book promotion sometimes isn't about "wanting to be on the Oprah show." Sometimes, book promotion is about survival, courage, and humanity.