Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Does this make you appreciate books?

In 2002, the National Endowment for the Arts found that fewer than half of adults surveyed read for pleasure (presumably, some of those adults still read because they must), and that number had declined since 1987. Quick math check: that was about five years ago. Right?

Okay. So now the owner of a Missouri-based independent bookstore has pondered the problem and come up with a solution. He'll burn his books. That'll teach 'em to love books!

I'm serious. Here's the Associated Press article about Tom Wayne, owner of Prospero's Books who'd rather see books destroyed than wait for a good home.

Here's the thing. I'm a book publicist who conducts book promotion campaigns to encourage people to read books. I love books. I love words. I love the people who write them. I love the companies that publish them. I love the people who read them. I love everything there is to love about books.

But this book publicist's quirk is: I don't love books enough to burn them. And I don't love books enough to understand, or to try to defend, anyone who thinks burning books is a way to pay homage to books.

Forgive me, Tom Wayne, but what you're doing strikes me as destructive. I hope you don't get a permit that would allow you to burn tens of thousands of additional books.

As a matter of fact, I fervently hope that you lose the privilege of being able to legally light a match.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The book promotion dream -- and the book promotion nightmare.

Here's the book promotion dream.

You'll schedule an interview for yourself (or your book publicist will schedule an interview) on a national radio show that reaches tens of thousands -- or maybe even millions -- of people, and many of them will rush out, or click online, to buy your book.

That's the book promotion dream.

Now here's the book promotion nightmare.

That interview will be scheduled on a show that airs exclusively via the XM Satellite Radio network during the time period when, due to a technical glitch of some sort, the network is partially down, and you don't know exactly how many subscribers will still be able to listen to the show, but you know it isn't the number that you were expecting. And there goes that opportunity to sell books -- up in high-tech smoke.

Of course, glitches happen in media outlets that don't rely on satellite technology. So, if your national radio interview is scheduled on a more traditional show, keep up your guard. Anyything can happen and, in the world of book promotion, it often does. Breaking news blows your topic off the host's top shelf and forces the producer to reschedule (or not to reschedule, as the case may be). And, as we approach yet another holiday weekend, remember that, even if the interview proceeds as scheduled, timing matters, too. There are fewer people listening to the radio during long holiday weekends, so bear that in mind as you're scheduling interviews. There's nothing like scheduling that national radio interview and then looking at your calendar and noticing that you've locked yourself in for a time when there just won't be the usual number of listeners.

There you have it. The book promotion dream (scheduling a national radio show) and the book promotion nightmare (having the timing of that national radio show, because of a high-tech failure or just bad timing) dash your hopes of selling thousands of books.

To authors whose interviews have aired on the XM Satellite Radio network in the past couple of days, or will air before the technical issue is resolved, my sympathies. Know that you're not alone. This time, you've lived the book promotion nightmare. Next time, you're entitled to enjoy the book promotion dream.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Dr. Phil for Promotion?

I'll be brutally honest with you. I'm a rabid "Brady Bunch" fan. It's not an intellectual choice. It's a primal problem -- a gene with which I was born that somehow predisposed me to love, love, love anything to do with that show. I've suffered through reruns since the show ended, I've watched all the movies, and -- I swear to you -- I even suffered through that darned variety show of theirs. And, yes, I own a copy of Barry Williams' book, Growing Up Brady, and have read it several times.

Look, we all have our issues.

All of this is to explain why, when I watched a promo for tomorrow's episode of "Dr. Phil" that featured a sobbing Maureen McCormick, I sat up and paid close attention. Three o'clock tomorrow, Eastern Time. Dr. Phil. Maureen McCormick. I'm there (or my DVD recorder is, anyway). I will watch anything that has to do with The Brady Bunch. I won't even try to defend myself. I know. I know! But I can't help it.

To put this into a more professional context, I'm wondering what's going on here. (Yes, I want to know -- I desperately want to know -- what's upsetting Marcia Brady so, but that's a whole other issue.) The little cynical other that resides in me (and who, evidently, didn't watch enough "Brady Bunch" episodes) wonders: what's in this for Maureen? Surely, the woman isn't in such dire financial straits that she can't afford to see a therapist if she needs one. I mean, surely, she could borrow the money from one of her siblings ... but there I go again. Never mind. What I'm trying to say is, what's Maureen McCormick doing on tmorrow's "Dr. Phil?" Is she looking to the big doctor for help the way an actual, you know, person would? Or is she promotin' a project, and perhaps she saw (or her publicist saw) the "Dr. Phil" show as a way to get some quick national media attention for it?

See? This is why all of us, and not just refugees from the planet Seventies, should wish every day of our lives that Mr. Brady were still among us. He, and he alone, could resolve all of our problems in 30 minutes (less, if you subtract the time that the commercials took). Mrs. Brady? Alice? Not even close. Sam the Butcher? Forget about it. Mr. Brady was the original Dr. Phil, and doggone it, his methodology worked. His kids turned out fine. His dog and cat probably turned out fine, too, although we can't be sure since Fluff wasn't seen after the pilot episode and we lost track of Tiger sometimes after Jan realized she wasn't allergic to him but, rather, to the dog shampoo he was using, but...now where was I? Oh, yes.

Robert Reed, we miss you. We really, really miss you. Especially when we consider the fact that, if you were here now, we probably wouldn't have to watch "Dr. Phil" tomorrow. Which we will, for strictly professional reasons. We have to know: are celebrities (and former celebrities) using the "Dr. Phil" show to plug their projects? Is "Dr. Phil" becoming another way to enhance celebrity, and sell more movie tickets? Is it more than just a way for unknown nonfiction authors to get some book promotion? Is "Dr. Phil" becoming...a platform for B-celebrities? Stay tuned....

A few minutes with...book lovers at the New York book fair

If you watched "60 Minutes" last night, then you were treated to an Andy Rooney segment that was unusually poignant -- for those of us who love books, anyway. Rooney's segment was about the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. Where was Rooney's cynicism? He left it at home, for this segment. Instead, he seemed genuinely humbled to be in the presence of books and book-loving people, and he capped with a comment about how -- I'm paraphrasing -- the Book Fair made him believe there's still hope for our civilazation, after all.

Sure, there was a little bit of promotion in the segment -- promotion for an amazing annual event -- but, more importantly, it was a lovefest. Rooney, the crotchedy journalist, has loved books along. And we, who write, publish, and promote books, have loved them all along, too. What's not to love about this "60 Minutes" segment? You can watch it yourself by clicking here.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Does book promotion make a bestselling book?

Does a successful book promotion campaign lead to a bestseller? Sometimes...but, more typically, a book becomes a bestseller by accident. So says a recent New York Times article, "The Greatest Mystery: Making a Best Seller."

We all know that booksellers become bestsellers for a combination of reasons: great distribution, awesome writing, super cover, and terrific word-of-mouth. To this list, the New York Times adds another component: the stars' alignment.

The frustration is that, you can do everything right, and still not earn enough money to pay your expenses/meet your advance -- even with the best book promotion campaign in the world. The flip side of that is, if creating a bestseller is at least partly a matter of luck, then that stroke of luck can happen to anyone.

Yes. It can happen to you.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Blame the publicist, part II.

Paris Hilton doesn't blame her publicist anymore, you'll be glad to know. Okay, I was being polite. You probably don't care. But I offer this article as comic relief and because I brought up the subject of Paris Hilton's woes yesterday. I guess that will teach me, huh?

By the way, I do have some advice for Paris Hilton's publicist: quit. Why would you want to promote this woman when there are so many worthier candidates for media attention -- and yours?

Monday, May 07, 2007

A tough and ugly way to get publicity.

You can get publicity the easy way -- by writing a newsworthy book, for example. Or you can promote yourself the tough way -- by doing something horrible, showing no remorse, and scoring 45 days in prison. I particularly love the way she blames her publicist for "getting her into this mess." And her publicist did that...how? I read Hilton's whining accusation, and I still can't make any sense of her theory about why this whole mess has anything at all to do with her now-former publicist. Maybe you can make sense out of it -- click here if you'd like to try.

I guess, if you're interested in book promotion, either technique would work. But I don't recommend the route that Paris Hilton took. I just don't. (And I wish she could be sentenced to an additional 45 days just on the basis of her reaction -- or the lack thereof -- to the sentence.)