Friday, June 15, 2007

Book promotion or overexposure?

Do book excerpts in newspapers and magazines whet the public's appetite for a book, or does it discourage people from buying the book because they've already heard its message?

That's the question posed by the United Kingdom's Press Gazette. In a recent article called "U.S. newspapers thinking twice about book extracts," the columnist postulates: "There is a growing fear that some readers might feel they have had their fill and never bother to buy the book." Perhaps publishers should turn their attention away from excerpts and toward broadcast media interviews, the article goes on to suggest.

Well, I would agree and disagree with that strategy. I agree that book excerpts might deter people from actually buying the book, but I worry that advance broadcast publicity can do the same.

While it's true that book excerpts (which are amazingly hard to score, by the way, unless you're a known author or writing about a newsworthy topic) may "spill all the secrets" and leave readers with no reason to buy a copy of the book, broadcast media interviews have the same potential drawback. If potential book buyers already know what the author has to say -- and if potential book buyers have already read it or, have heard the author say it -- then perhaps those potential book buyers are going to be investing their book buying dollars elsewhere. Why not buy a book that you haven't already dipped into, rather than get a longer, more drawn-out version of the book you've already had a chance to get a snapshot of? Attention spans being what they are, maybe too many book buyers only skim the book, anyway, or flip through the book to get the gist of it. Why offer readers a snapshot of the book via an excerpt, or a television or radio interview, if a snapshot of the book is likely to satisfy the readers' underwhelming appetite for that topic?

There's also the problem of book buyers' short memories and desire to hold onto hard-earned cash. We all have a lot on our minds. What are the odds that someone who's really, really interested in buying a book in June will remember to buy that book when it's published in September? Slim. What are the chances that someone will preorder a book in June, and pay for it in June, knowing that the book won't ship until September? Slimmer.

So, as a book publicist, I prefer to have my clients hold onto their book's main messages until the book is available. That means holding off on interviews related to the book's core messages until the book is available, and the book promotion campaign can begin in earnest.

However, there are some things an author can do ahead of time that don't present a risk of overexposing a book before it's available. They include creating a Web site for the book, and focusing on creating online buzz for that Web site; building an online community so that people visit that Web site again and again (and stick around on that Web site for a long period of time during each visit); and using promotional techniques such as bylined article placement campaigns that will bring visitors to that Web site. All of that can be done before the book's publication date without taking a chance that you'll "shoot your wad" too soon or turn off potential buyers for your book by giving them all the information they want without asking them to pay for it.

So, if you're on a limited book promotion budget and can't afford to approach the major publications about excerpting your book, don't feel guilty. The book promotion strategy you can't afford may be counterproductive, anyway. Focus on doing what you can to bring visitors -- and potential future book buyers -- to your Web site for now, and begin the book promotion campaign when your book is available and can benefit from media attention.

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