Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Imagine if there were no book reviewers....

If you're conducting a book promotion campaign, you'll want to read a press release that I received last night and that I reprint here, with the author's permission.

For immediate release

Last week, the Los Angeles Times folded its book review section into an opinion section, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution eliminated its book review position. Not a good week for book criticism, but not a surprising one, either: in the past few years, newspapers from the Chicago Tribune to the Dallas Morning News to the Village Voice have seen book coverage shrink.

The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) is not taking these developments lying down. This week, in an effort to support book reviews, book editors, book pages, and book culture, the NBCC is launching a Campaign to Save Book Reviews. During the last week in April and throughout the month of May, the NBCC is asking authors and editors, journalists and publishers—and in fact anyone interested in literary culture—to speak out on the value of books and book reviewing.

The campaign’s launch pad is an effort to save the book review position at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, held until last week by Teresa Weaver. Explains NBCC president John Freeman, “Teresa has the opportunity to apply for a job within the company, but it's not clear what the fate of the book page will be—whether it'll be reassigned to an existing editor, whether it will go entirely to wire copy, or whether it will be removed altogether.” A petition to save Weaver’s job has already secured nearly a thousand signatures, including those from luminaries as varied as Michael Connelly, Richard Powers, and Ian Rankin. Those interested in signing should go to http://www.petitiononline.com/atl2007/petition.html.

Throughout the campaign, Critical Mass, the NBCC’s blog, will feature Q&As, posts by concerned writers, and advice on petitioning the media to assure continued book coverage. Current posts include a lengthy Q&A with David L. Ulin, editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Check out http://bookcriticscircle.blogspot.com/ to join in our efforts and to track developments in this ongoing and important campaign.

The National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974, is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization consisting of nearly 700 active book reviewers nationwide who are interested in honoring quality writing and communicating with one another about common concerns. It is managed by a 24-member all-volunteer board of directors. For more information, please go to www.bookcritics.org.

For questions, contact Barbara Hoffert, hoffer@reedbusiness.com or 646-746-6806.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Competition for your book promotion efforts.

A mass murderer with a gun in each hand, aiming at the camera lens. A latter-day Marilyn Monroe, striking a variety of provocative poses, sometimes with her handsome young son by her side. Flooded roads, washed-away vehicles, and submerged houses.

These are the images the media is bombarding us with, and this is what the media considers newsworthy.

Well, okay.

But, to authors and publishers, Virginia Tech, Anna Nicole, and catastrophic weather events aren't only something to think about. They're also competition for the media's attention.

Can book promotion go on, as usual, when there's a mass murder at a college, and everyone in the country is seeking answers? Is book publicity to be thought of -- unless you're the half-sister of Anna Nicole with a book of your own -- when it takes an endless number of weeks to work out the parentage and custody arrangements of a deceased pseudo-celebrity's baby? Is your book publicist even supposed to be calling newsrooms around the country when people in multiple, far-flung states have been seeking shelter from devastating floods and are trying to figure out where they'll be living once the water recedes?

Bad news events aren't only riveting. They're also all-consuming happenings that can derail our plans for book promotion.

But you know something? If our book promotion plans have to put on hold, we can still consider ourselves fortunate if our loved ones were not involved in trauma or tabloid stories, and if our family and friends' psyches and homes are intact on this April day.

Book promotion is important. But it ain't everything, says the realistic book publicist.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Aftermath of the Virginia Tech Massacre

Yesterday, I was in the middle of sending emailing a client's article to weekly newspapers when the first reports of the Virginia Tech Massacre came across the wire. It didn't immediately hit me, but within a few minutes, I realized that book promotion efforts put forth that day would be a waste of time and energy.

My mind wasn't on book promotion. My mind was on what was going on in a school community, and what it meant. My mind was on the students and teachers who were involved, and on their family members, and on their friends. My mind was all over the place, but it wasn't on book promotion.

The media's attention, I knew, wouldn't be on book promotion, either.

In times of national angst, we do a lot of things. We cry, we struggle to understand, and we beg whatever higher powers to whom we subscribe to take it all back. We bargain, we become furious, we argue, and finally -- I hope -- we come to some sort of resolution. We do a lot of things in times like these, but book promotion isn't one of those things. Nor should it be.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

There's One Less Book Promotion Venue.

As you've heard by now, Don Imus's radio show is no more. Wow.

Shows come and shows go, and part of a book publicist's job is keeping up with those changes. But this book publicist wishes that radio shows wouldn't leave the airwaves for reasons like this.

There's no excuse for the words Don Imus uttered, and there's no excuse for his failure to convince us that he was seriously sorry.

Well, guess what? He's sorry now.

But, then again, every author who's in the middle of a book promotion campaign should also be sorry that we've lost one more book publicity venue.


Monday, April 09, 2007

Racism: The Newest Self-Promotion Techique?

By now, you've undoubtedly heard that Don Imus has apologized for a racist remark he uttered on the national radio airwaves. It strikes me that this is the first time I've heard people discussing Don Imus in a long, long time.

How many people were talking about Mel Gibson's movie before his drunk driving arrest -- an incident that didn't kill anyone, fortunately, but that revealed (in case we needed further confirmation) Gibson's uncharitable feelings toward Jews? And how many people even remembered Michael Richards except when they were watching "Seinfeld" reruns until his crazy, racist rant in a nightclub?

As a book publicist, I wonder whether these (and other) celebrities are somehow being incented to make hateful, social unacceptable remarks in public. Don Imus, Mel Gibson, and even Michael Richards stand to make a whole lot more money when people are talking about them.

Would the same tactic work for an author who's embarking on a book promotion campaign? Could saying things you know others don't want to hear be your ticket to having the book promotion ride of a lifetime?

Maybe, but I'd say this to any author who's even thinking of traversing that path: count me out. I won't participate in that brand of promotion, and I won't be a part of spreading bad karma. And, thankfully, I don't know of any book publicists who would.