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.