Monday, December 29, 2008

A new book promotion rule.

I've just invented a new rule for book promotion. Actually, it's a new rule for promoting anything: books, movies, fast-food restaurants, any other food products, or even charitable organizations. The rule for promotion is: you have to be alive, or I don't want to see or hear you.

I squirmed a few years ago when I saw an animated version of Colonel Sanders pitching fried chicken. (Not that I'm an authority on the subject, but it seemed to me that the formerly Caucasian chicken man had turned into an African American animated version of himself, which made the whole thing seem even creepier to me.) But now something even more egregious has come along. John Lennon has been resurrected to endorse the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organization. You can see the PSA on YouTube.

Yes, I know that Yoko said it was okay for her late husband to endorse a worthy cause like OLPC, even though John wasn't here. So the pitch is legal. Worrisome, but legal.

As a book publicist, here's my new number one book promotion rule: I'll only take on book publicity projects with a living author who can speak to the media. Media interviews could certainly be handled by digitally-remastered authors. But, somehow, I'd feel more comfortable with book promotion projections that were backed by living, breathing authors who are here with us now.

Sorry, Yoko. I respected your husband, too, and I love his music as much as everyone else in the world. But I don't want to see, or hear, John Lennon showing his support for an organization or product that didn't even exist in his lifetime. Fair enough?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Book promotion during the holiday season?

If you're like most people, you've probably been wondering if it's worth your time to conduct a book promotion campaign during the holiday season. Even I needed a reminder that time spent on book promotion was a worthwhile investment -- even if it does seem as though so many members of the media have taken this week off, and are currently thinking more about mincemeat than about lining up interviews.

Happily, though, I did get that reminder. Yesterday, I gamely sent out an op-ed piece that a new client had written. It was time-sensitive, and I blasted the op-ed piece out to all of my weekly and daily newspaper contacts and hoped for the best.

I had a few takers, including one publisher of a community newspaper who wrote me to say (and this is an exact quote): "This looks like a good op-ed. Please e-mail to me an author photo and a book cover at your earliest if possible! I have very little for this week's newspaper...."

Naturally, I rushed him the author photo and book cover, and I congratulated myself on continuing my book promotion efforts even during a week when you wouldn't expect anyone to be at the other end of pitches. And, of course, I congratulated my author on trusting that, even though the holiday season may not be the optimal time for digging up book publicity opportunities, it's a time when many other book publicists are on vacation...which creates a gap that's just waiting to be filled by the rest of us.

Onward! I'm working on book promotion efforts until Santa Claws himself slides down my chimney and tells me to unplug my computer and take a break.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Who needs actual newspapers for book promotion?

This really happened. A few years ago, I scored an interview for one of my clients with the New York Times. The Times reporter was nice enough to send me a link to the article which I promptly forwarded to the client.

His reaction? It was just what you'd expect -- maybe -- if you had no pride in your work. He clicked on the link, called me, and said, "So...did this article only make it onto the Web site, or is it the actual newspaper?"

How book promotion times have changed.

You've probably seen the story by now, or at least you've heard the news. The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News -- two different newspapers, apparently owned by the same company -- have been forced to save money by changing their subscription model. Henceforth, subscribers to the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News will receive their newspapers three days a week. The other four days of the week, they can read their newspapers online, provided the subscribers have a broadband connection.

What does that mean for authors and publishers who routinely pitch newspaper editors as part of their book promotion campaigns? One of the obvious points is this: If a newspaper mentions your book, whether it's an online or "actual" newspaper, take the mention and smile. Take-away number two? Keep pitching newspapers, because it will always be nice to have visibility in a newspaper -- whatever form that newspaper takes -- but broaden your book promotion campaign so that you're also seeking publicity opportunities in other media outlets.

Newspapers may be the first industry to enjoy a healing economy when the recession finally ends. Or newspapers may be as scarce as white tigers in a couple of years. In any case, book publicists, and authors and publishers who conduct book publicity campaigns, shouldn't count on newspaper exposure as the core of their book promotion campaigns. The times are changing in the world of newspapers, and the times need to change in the world of those who conduct book promotion campaigns, too -- or we'll be left with no plan when it comes time to promote books.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Book promotion campaigns face new challenge - part 2

Yesterday, I heard rumors that the Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, might be filing for bankruptcy protection. Now, as someone famous once said, here's the rest of the story. The challenge for those who conduct book promotion campaigns is greater than just walking gingerly around the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times until they get their financial affairs in order again. Unfortunately for those of us who conduct book promotion campaigns, the Tribune Co. also owns the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant, and WGN out of Chicago (the TV superstation as well as the 50,000-watt radio station).

In other words, the Tribune Co.'s problems affect everyone who is conducting, or will be conducting, a book promotion campaign in the near future. Good lick to us book publicists. And good luck to the Tribune Co.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Book promotion campaigns face new challenge

If your book promotion campaign revolves around book reviews in the traditional media, you'll be facing an increasing challenge. Major market newspapers have already begun checking in with their financial woes. We know that the Christian Science Monitor is only publishing a "real" newspaper once a week now, and is solely publishing online the rest of the time. We've heard about cutbacks at major newspapers all around the country. Now we can add the financial troubles of two more newspapers to the list: the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.

According to an Associated Press story that I just read on, the parent company of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times -- Tribune Co. -- may be planning to file for bankruptcy-court protection. Here we are, book publicists, publishers, authors, and others who are in the midst of book promotion campaigns, asking newspapers to review their books. And there are the newspaper publishers, telling us that they just can't afford the editorial space we're asking them to provide.

No one can predict how deep the recession will get or how profoundly it will affect the publishing industry. Even without the recession, no one can predict from one moment to the next the ways in which the publishing industry will evolve, and the ways in which book promotion efforts will need to change. But we can say, with certainty, that online book promotion efforts will grow increasingly more important.

Editorial space on the Web is virtually free and unlimited opportunities exist for gaining online visibility. On the other hand, real-world newspapers (and, of course, magazines) are fighting for the opportunity to publish every single page now, and our book promotion needs don't fit their business plan at the moment (unless we're willing to pay for advertising, which is a whole other discussion).

The broadcast media is there, and radio and television shows will have airtime for authors for the foreseeable future. But, if the print media was at the core of your book promotion campaign plan, this would be a good time to re-think your approach to book promotion.

Book promotion opportunities still exist, and they always will, no matter what happens with regard to the economy. But a shift toward online book promotion strategies makes sense now, and it will almost certainly make an increasing amount of sense as we move forward.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Snubbing Oprah

Remember the name of the author who snubbed Oprah when his book was chosen as an Oprah's Book Club selection, and he refused to allow a special book club edition go to press, and then he tried to change his mind except that it was too late because once you say no to Oprah, you've burned your bridges, and he never got another opportunity like that again as long as he lived? Neither do I, but there was such an author, may his career rest in peace.

The lesson here is: Don't snub Oprah. How unfortunate for the soon-to-be sorry former vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, since she apparently just walked down Snubbery Road by refusing to grant Oprah Winfrey an interview with her. See's "The Scoop" article for details.

Palin has received more publicity in the past few months than anyone else on the planet, so she doesn't necessarily need advice from this book publicist. However, if she wants advice from this book publicist, then here it is: Get on Oprah Winfrey's good side, and stay there, if at all possible. Yes, we know she supported Barrack Obama instead of John McCain. We get the fact that you were disappointed and hurt and chagrined and bewildered by that. Now it's time to get over it and move on.

Oprah Winfrey is one of the most influential women in the world. For publicity's sake, Sarah (if not for pity's sake), you really ought to sit on Oprah's couch and chat with her for an hour or so. You might learn something.

And what you learn might just help you launch your own successful nationally syndicated talevision talk show one day in the near future.

Think about it, Sarah.

Just think about it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Blogs are book promotion magic.

Blogs are book promotion magic. That's my mantra, and I'm serious. Every author should blog. I tell it to everyone I run into: blog, blog, blog! Trust me! Blog! You'll drive traffic to your book web site, and you'll raise the visibility of your book online.

As often as I've advised authors to blog, I've fielded the question, "How?" Depending on how well I know the questioner, I'll either 1) stop what I'm doing and walk the person through places online where he or she can research the ins-and-outs of setting up a blog 2) refer the person to a search engine and a way to frame the query to turn up targeted, helpful responses or 3) advise the person to check in with his/her web site designer who gets paid to field such questions.

That's how I handle the question of "how to blog" if the question is a technical one. But if, as so often happens, the would-be blogger is just staring at a blank screen and having a bad moment or two about how to get started blogging, then here's an article that can help him or her to get past "bloggers' block." It's's "The 11 lamest blogs on the Internet," and here's how it will help. Once you see how low the blogging-bar has been set by hacks, you'll realize that -- as a real writer -- you could blog more appealingly than that even if you were in a coma. That article is fun, though, and I think you'll enjoy it. After you finish reading it, start that blog! Please! Thank you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Some things don't require promotion -- and your credit card information is one of those things.

Some things don't require promotion -- and your credit card information is one of those things.

Call me a paranoid book publicist, if you'd like, but I want to pass along something that just happened. Put it in this context: Last year, right around this time, my credit card (one that I used to keep in my wallet at all times) was stolen. No real harm was done, since I discovered the problem within a week and was able to successfully dispute the $1,000 worth of charges the criminal had run up on my card (all the purchases were made in person in local stores, by the way, that did not require a buyer's signature or identification).

So that's the back story. Now here's the story.

This morning, I received two unsolicited emails from a major national chain of home improvement stores (not the one with the massive orange buildings) providing me with my password information, "that I'd requested." Um, no, I didn't request my password -- nor, by the way, do I recall ever signing up to use this site. However, I must have, because the password was one that I actually sometimes used, and it was one that no one could arbitrarily figure out.

So I called the phone number that was provided in the email to request that, to guard my security and privacy, they delete my existing account from their database. The customer service representative proceeded to ask me a lot of personal questions -- including my password. I refused to give it to her, obviously, because to do so might have potentially given her access to my credit card information. And how did I even know that I was actually calling he store that I was supposed to be calling (although it all sounded very legitimate when I made the call and got what appeared to be the store's voice mail system).

I was so uncomfortable that, once I hung up (without providing any sensitive information beyond my name), I hacked into my account and changed my password.

I'm also passing along this story as a reminder that this is the season for criminals to have a field day with people's identity information, credit cards, wallets, and more. Hold onto your belongings tightly in stores that are crawling with shoppers (and, hopefully, also with security personnel), and shop online only at stores that you know and trust.

A bargain is only a bargain if you come away from the transaction with your identity and personal belongings intact. And even something as innocuous as an email that comes from a major national chain of stores can constitute a risk if that store's security protocols are sloppy -- or nonexistent -- and their customer service representatives have been trained to do little more than perpetuate the problem.

This book publicist is giving thanks that she's as paranoid as she is and for the lesson she learned last year, right about this time. Who knows? I little bit of paranoia might actually keep identity thieves and credit card information swipers away this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt passes...but don't take it personally.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has just passed on all publishing manuscripts ... but don't take it personally. It's strictly an economic decision. While HMH will focus on publishing (and, presumably, promoting and selling) books that are already in their "very robust pipeline," the executive editors have orders to decline all new manuscripts until further notice.

So says a November 24 article in Publishers Weekly which starkly paints the bad news: This will be a "not-so-merry holiday season for publishers."

Well, okay. Times are tough. But that doesn't mean authors have to sit on their butts and lament the fact that no one will buy their books, or that their publishers don't have the budget to promote the books they've already sold.

Authors can self-publish, and it's not so hard to do. Books, Web sites, and listservs devoted to self-publishing abound. Services like LightningSource and CreateSpace make it possible to get a book into some, or even all, of the traditional distribution channels far more quickly than Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, on its best day, could.

Also, for books that are already in that "very robust pipeline," it's possible to promote a book even if the publisher allocates little of its budget toward the cause. Authors can embark on a self-directed book promotion campaign by contacting media outlets themselves or hiring a book promotion specialist to help.

Publishing and selling books doesn't depend on such major houses as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt anymore. HMH has admitted it. It's time for authors to accept it and move on. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has problems ... but that doesn't mean the world of publishing books has come to an end. On the contrary ... a whole new world of possibilities is opening for us all.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Don't read today's "Boston Herald."

If you love reading -- and I doubt you'd be reading a blog about book promoting if you didn't -- then I'd advise you to steer clear of today's edition of the Boston Herald. It's the bearer of two bad-news items.

First, the Herald reveals the chilling news that Cambridge, Massachusetts' Out-of-Town News is in deep financial trouble and may be forced to close.

If you've ever been to Harvard Square, then you know the Out of Town News stand. It's the first thing you notice when you emerge from the subway's Red Line and the place where you probably indulged your curiosity about every imaginable newspaper and magazine, from all around the world, as you waited for a friend or just relaxed before your next engagement. A Harvard Square devoid of the Out of Town News stand would be like ... well, like a Downtown Crossing lacking a Jordan Marsh and a Filene's. Which, granted, has already happened so, presumably, the Out of Town News stand could succumb to the competition from the Internet. But -- what a terrible loss that would be for all of us.

And another reason to avoid opening the Boston Herald this morning is that their reporter, Christine McConville, asks the question, "Will Someone Step Up to Buy the Boston Globe?" I'm not sure we have to worry about Boston's becoming a one-newspaper city just yet (and it isn't as though the Herald, which is Boston's number two newspaper, doesn't have its axe to grind), but still, it's disheartening to see anyone raise the possibility that the New England Media Group, which is owned by the parent company of the New York Times, is in dire straits.

The economic news of the past few months has been horrible for all of us. But doesn't it sometimes seem as though those of us who love books and newspapers and magazines are dealing with a dual problem -- that we're staring at the dominance of the Internet at the same time as we're watching the slowing down of the economy?

Anyway, don't open up today's Boston Herald -- and don't log onto their Web site, either. You heard it from this book publicist first.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Maybe Rupert is right, but....

Rupert Murdoch has just declared that newspapers are alive and well, and rumors of their death have been greatly exaggerated. That, according to an Associated Press article that describes Murdoch as a "global media magnate."

Presumably, Murdoch has interests in other media outlets besides newspapers, so he can afford to be objective. The Associated Press, too, sells its stories to media outlets beyond newspapers, so perhaps Rupert is right. Perhaps book publicists and others who are conducting book promotion campaigns can pitch away to newspapers, as always, and pretend that these are the good old days when newspapers mattered, and when the Christian Science Monitor didn't even have its own Web site, and when the Los Angeles Times and other major dailies hadn't even thought about cutting down on the number of book reviews they published.

Hey, this book publicist had some good newspaper-related luck recently. For one pitch, last week, I was able to report back to a client that the New York Times, the New York Daily News, the New York Metro, and the Chicago Tribune were going to cover the story. (Actually, it wasn't only a question of reporting that the newspapers were covering the story. Three of those four publications requested an interview with the author.) I'm a believer. Newspapers are alive and well, and they're relevant. So...I agree with Rupert, and I'm delighted to see that the Associated Press is spreading the word that, for the foreseeable future, traditional newspapers matter and can still do a book promotion campaign a world of good.

In fact, newspaper publicity can even give book promotion campaigns a greater boost than before. Now that just about every newspaper has an online presence, most newspaper stories (and, by extension, the experts featured in those stories) receive online visibility. So a news story automatically becomes part of an online book promotion campaign. No author would turn down the opportunity to appear in the New York Times -- particularly, when the New York Times will get you some attention on its site as well as in print and bring extra readers to you (and, hopefully, to your book).

The one hitch in my faith in Rupert Murdoch's optimism (and the Associated Press's gleeful reporting of the same) is an email that I received this morning from the Chicago Tribune. "Want more jumble?" the ad's caption wants to know. Apparently, Chicago Tribune's readers (I assume that I'm considered a Trib "reader" because I regularly pitch stories to them) can receive 10 percent off the retail value of various puzzle-related products (a couple of board games and a calendar, if I'm reading the ad correctly).

Okay, then. The Chicago Tribune is selling some stuff this holiday season to raise some cash. I find that a little bit scary. But, as I said, okay. Just because the Chicago Tribune is offering 10 percent off their toys doesn't necessarily mean the publication is facing rough economic times. It could mean...well, it could also mean that the editors of the the Jumble and wanted to share it with their readers. Yeah. That must be it.

Oh, well. I'm still delighted that my client is getting a pop in the Chicago Tribune for her book, and I'm thrilled that the owner of many newspapers around the world have validated newspapers as worthy media outlets -- at least, in the short term., the Chicago Tribune is selling board games. Tomorrow? Well, let me just say this. If, tomorrow, I should happen to find an unsolicited email from the New York Times, I will be truly cautious about clicking on it. Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Too much promotion, perhaps?

Sometimes, viral marketing opportunities happen out of the blue ... and I wonder whether, sometimes, the recipients of all that publicity can receive too much promotion.

For example, this morning, someone sent me an email full of political cartoons. The first featured a link to a Web site that looks a lot like the New York Times' site -- but isn't. Whoever put together the "joke" used what appears to me to be the New York Times' logo and style.

In fact, I can't help but wonder whether the creators of the parody site intended to fly under the New York Times' radar. If so, that's probably not happening. If I received an email linking to the parody site, then I imagine thousands of people received it.

And I wouldn't be surprised if some of those people are lawyers who'd be interested in pursuing the legalities of using a publication's logo and style. I'm assuming that it was done, in this case, as a joke and without the Times' permission but, of course, I don't know for sure.

Regardless, I wonder if this will turn out to be one of those cases where too much promotion, and too much viral marketing, is a bad thing. We shall see....

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Proofread book promotion materials.

Proofread book promotion materials. All book publicists, and everyone who promotes a book, does that automatically. Media kits are proofread from top to bottom, multiple times, before you stuff them into Jiffy bags with books and send them on their way. Media kits that are riddled with typos lose credibility (just as books would, if they were similarly afflicted), and they're likely to end up in the trash. We don't want that, so we take the time and make every effort to prevent that from happening.

However, the Internet is far less forgiving than any other medium. Paradoxically, we tend to be far more casual about proofreading when we use the Web to disseminate our book promotion materials.

So much of the time, we're sending out email pitches, and you know the problem with email. It's so immediate that we devalue it, and we're so quick to hit "send" that we often don't take the time to proofread each message before it goes out. Plus, we can be cocky. I know I can be cocky. I was practically born with a keyboard extending from my fingertips, and my accuracy has always been decent ... so I can send off email pitches with impunity after giving them a casual once-over most of the time. Ah, but it's the other times that are the problems. I know, from experience, that producers and editors hold onto my email pitches. Sometimes, media decision makers respond to my emails months, or even years, after I've sent them a particular pitch. Can you imagine finding a typographical error in an email that you sent 18 months ago, and that a reporter has held onto all that time? Not good.

Similarly, it's so easy to publish materials online that we think almost nothing of letting press releases and even blog entries "go live" after giving them the most perfunctory double-check. But ... no one is perfect, and you don't know "awful" until you've found a typo you created memorialized -- forever -- all over the Web.

Typos don't help your credibility, and they don't add credibility to your book promotion campaign. So learn from a book publicist who's been there. Proofread. Make the time. Use a dictionary; don't rely on your spell-checker.

Once Google finds your typo, your typo takes on a life of its own. Google believes (and, consequently, people who use Google believe) that you're uncaring, illiterate, lazy ... and you can't prove differently.

Try telling Google that you've found the typo, and you've fixed it. Impossible. On the Internet, metaphorically speaking, your book is always in its first printing, because that first printing is always archived and available. Typos are forever, and so is remorse.

So take the time to proofread before you publish book promotion materials and blog entries. It's worth the time you put into it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book promotion tip

Here's a book promotion tip: If you want to sell a book, then just become president of the United States.

You don't want the job? Well, I don't, either. But the book promotion strategy is working out very well for President-Elect Barack Obama. According to the Los Angeles Times, we'll be seeing at least nine Obama-related books in the next few months. The LA Times quotes Dermot McEvoy, a senior editor at Publishers Weekly, as saying that the election was "the biggest thing for publishing since Harry Potter."

However, the fairy dust isn't sprinkled on all presidents in equal measures. Witness George W. Bush's failure to announce a book publishing deal. His wife, Laura, may beat him to the punch. See an Associated Press article that is running that says Laura's people have been in touch with at least three publishers about selling them her memoir.

There's a lesson in here somewhere. Maybe becoming president of the United States is worth it for the book promotion value alone ... or maybe just being a likeable soul is what does the trick. Hmmmm....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Blog promotion is similar to book promotion

Yesterday, Media Bistro published an interesting article called "Only Two Percent of Bloggers Can Make a Living." It cited Technorati's annual State of the Blogosphere report that found only 2 percent of bloggers earn enough money through blogging to quit their day jobs. The other 98 percent of bloggers certainly reap other rewards through blogging, but what 100 percent of bloggers have in common is what 100 percent of authors have in common: without promotion, there are few rewards.

Book promotion is necessary for people to find out about your book. Without media attention, potential readers won't know about your book. TV and radio show interviews, and newspaper and magazine articles, all help your book promotion effort, and few authors would argue that book promotion is a luxury. Authors know that book promotion is an integral part of their efforts to reach potential readers and, ultimately, to sell their books.

It's the same with blog promotion. You can have the best blog, and you can update it daily, and you can provide information that's vital to thousands of people. But unless you treat blog promotion as you would book promotion, few people will ever benefit from your words. You have to let the media know about your blog, and you have to let the Web know you're out there ... and you have to convince people that your blog is worth the time and energy to subscribe, or at least to peek at occasionally.

Blog promotion is another marketing project. But, if you're in the midst of a book promotion campaign, then you already know what to do. You know the elements of a blog promotion campaign. Use your book promotion skills to publicize your blog, and you'll find your readership growing.

I'm not saying that you will be -- or even that you should be -- part of that 2% of bloggers who quit their day jobs and make a living through their blogging. But why not be part of the 98% of bloggers who reap the benefits of blogging, and who understand that their book promotion skills cross over into the world of blog promotion? You're already blogging. Now it's up to you to make blogging worth your while.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Book promotion means web site promotion

Book promotion means, in part, web site promotion. Driving traffic to your web site, and selling them on you, and proving your expertise, can be as important as that big media hit. I'm not dismissing the importance of traditional media exposure. TV and radio show appearances, and newspaper and magazine interviews are important elements of a book publicity campaign. But no book promotion campaign is complete without a focused effort on bringing visitors to your web site (and/or promoting your blog).

Arvinder Singh has written an article called Most Cost-Effective Way To Publicize Your Website that offers tips on using bylined article placements to promote your web site -- which, again, can lead to long-term book selling opportunities.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Book promotion in a down economy

Yesterday, my 20-something-year-old niece gemailed me to ask where she can find free ebooks online. My niece was looking for something to read, and she didn't want to pay for it.

Well, okay, that's good news and bad news. My niece is part of the growing group of consumers who are low on funds and who consider books to be a luxury item. That's the bad news. The good news is that my niece wanted to read a book! That's not something I take for granted. You'd think that she'd have picked up the gene to become a book junkie from one relative or another. Alas -- apparently, it doesn't work that way.

Anyway, I thought of the Gutenberg Project. I wanted to double-check the link (which, by the way, is right here), so I went to the Gutenberg Project site.

I hadn't visited the site in a long while, and perhaps you haven't visited the site in awhile as well. If that's the case, then I'm delighted to report that the site is growing and evolving. The Gutenberg Project's catalogue has grown, and it has added audio books to its offerings.

In short, the Gutenberg Project is promoting books, and reading promotion is book promotion. Sure, those of us in the publishing industry want people to buy books, now has become a way to promote reading. The price is right. So what's not to love about it? Book promotion is book promotion, and Gutenberg Project is promoting books by promoting reading, and that's good for us all.

Similarly, Publishers Weekly Daily just announced that Daily Lit has just begun sending free samples of selected books to subscribers via e-mail and RSS feed. If you're familiar with Shareware, then you already understand the concept. Books are free to try out (or sample). If you like what you see, you can buy an electronic version of the book. As the Daily Lit site says, you can "get what you want[,] when you want it." In fact, you can customize the frequency, time, and length of your book samples.

I'm about to sign up for Daily Lit myself, and I plan to go back and take a closer look at Gutenberg Project this weekend and see what looks good there. Free books? I'm there. Book promotion? Again, yes -- any sites that offer free books are promoting books and promoting reading, and my thanks to everyone who offers the gift of books to me -- to my niece -- and to all of us.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Yet another Associated Press story caught my eye.

Yet another Associated Press story caught my eye. It seems that a goodly number of noteworthy writers (Toni Morrison, Jonathan Safran Foer, Ayelet Waldman, and others) consider President-Elect Obama to be "a peer, a thinker, a man of words."

Finally ... a president who is a book person.

I'm good with that.

It's been a long, long time.

The irony of book sales.

Few of us would turn down media attention. Publicity helps sell books, is what we believe, and it's what we know.

Look at Tina Fey. Her "Saturday Night Live" impersonation of Sarah Palin goes viral, and a publisher hands her five million dollars (or, at least, that's the latest figure I've read) to write a book on -- well, something. That's how it works: you get the media's attention, and then you sell books. One plus one equals two. Fey's publisher believes it. Book publicists believe it. Every author and publisher I've ever worked with believes it.

But there's an exception to every rule, and here's an example of how too much exposure -- if it's exactly the wrong type of exposure -- can jinx book sales even before you put your fingers to the keyboard to write your book. It's the case of soon-to-be former president George W. Bush.

According to an Associated Press article I found in the International Herald Tribune, Bush's unpopularity will make it nearly impossible for him to get a decent price for a memoir. The publishing pundits quoted in the article would advise Bush to wait until all the bad publicity he's received over the past eight years fades away before he even thinks about pitching a book.

Not to worry, is my reaction to the story. George W. Bush probably has more on his mind right now than selling a book....

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Why can't I get book reviews?

An author emailed me yesterday to complain that his self-published book has been discriminated against by reviewers. "Ive been trying for months to get my latest novel reviewed," was the gist of his message, "and, so far, I've had no luck. Can you help me?"

As a book promotion specialist, I'd love to be able to say, "Sure, I can. Sign this contract, and you'll have the book reviews you're seeking in no time." But, as you probably know, it doesn't work that way. Rather than take on a client who would surely be disappointed in the results of a book promotion campaign that focused on garnering book reviews, I sent the author an email that said:

...Unfortunately, only a few authors have ever had the good fortune to be able to count on reviews for their books. Now, with the ease of self-publishing (there are so many more authors than ever before) and the rising editorial costs (every newspaper and magazine you might mention is focusing on survival, and book reviews are often the first place they can make cuts), that number has decreased exponentially. Stephen King may be able to count on a review in Publishers Weekly. The rest of the world? Not at all, and authors shouldn't take it personally, because book reviews aren't garnered by books that "deserve" them. They're garnered just a few "regulars," and an occasional truly lucky soul, and that's the way that it works now.

I've been a book publicist for nearly 20 years, and I've never focused on reviews as a way of promoting books. I'm glad of that, because those book publicists who do focus on garnering book reviews are figuratively up a creek without a paddle right now. I focus on getting media interviews for authors who have some expertise in the areas about which they write. For example, if you're a former pilot, then I might pitch you as an aviation expert to radio and television shows, and to newspapers and magazines. It's a tricky approach for fiction, but it's a way to get press and airtime.

If you must seek book reviews, then the thing to try would be to approach the top Amazon reviewers. They're lay people, not literary gurus, but you can approach them. It can be a frustrating process, even though Amazon provides contact information for many of them. Because they're so influential, and they're the "only game in town," everyone approaches them ... and getting them to review a book is getting to be as challenging as getting Booklist to look at a book. Still, it's another avenue to pursue. A final possibility is to pay for reviews. Although that approach violates most of what they taught us in media classes, way back when, paid book reviews have become mainstream, if not exactly something about which authors (the one in the know, anyway) would boast.

I wish the news were better on the book review front, and I wish I had a magic cure for the challenge you face. But I would suggest you find avenues for promoting your work (having a web site is an excellent start, and disseminating press releases would be another) that would be far more fruitful than focusing on book reviews. Don't take a lack of reviews to be a statement of your book's worth. Probably less than one percent of all books published, in any way, will enjoy reviews. As the Los Angeles Times folds its stand-alone book section, the Christian Science Monitor decreases its daily publication to weekly publication (and continues to publish daily only online), you can see that the problem doesn't lie with your book or with you. It's just the reality of book publishing, and while no one enjoys it, it can provide an opportunity to try other, exciting media straegies.

Good luck, and who knows? Maybe I'll be hearing or seeing you in the media one of these days....

By way of reply, I received an email from author from the email that made it clear he was grateful for my thoughts but would continue to pursue book reviews. I told him to bear in mind that most monthly publications required ARCs several months before books' publication dates. I haven't heard back from that author but, I have a feeling, he's not taking "no" for an answer....

Friday, October 31, 2008

Blogging for Book Promotion

I've been something of an evangelist lately. I have been telling book promotion clients, other authors and publishers, and other book publicists that the single best thing they could do to enhance their books' visibility and to improve their Google rankings is to blog.

They already know that every book needs a Web site, and everyone who's trying to establish credibility and build brand needs an online presence. That's a done deal. But, frequently, I enounter resistance when I tell people that they need a blog, too, if they're serious about book promotion.

I can understand that. "To blog" is the silliest sounding phrase in the English language, and it doesn't appear in any of the Marketing 101 textbooks anyone used in school. Blogging for book promotion is a new concept, and its value is difficult to quantify. My saying that it produces miracles doesn't help, because even though I can cite half a dozen examples, everyone seems to think that those were anomalies. Those viral marketing opportunities happened accidentally, and they can't be reproduced on demand. Therefore, they're not worth pursuing.

Yet I do insist that no book promotion (or any self promotion) campaign is complete without a blog. I can't prove to you that it will be worth your while. You'll have to take that on faith. Then you can prove it to yourself.

Search engines love blogs. One search engine, Google, provides a free tool for creating and hosting a blog. It's called Blogger, and you can't beat the price. Spend 30 minutes fooling around with Blogger (once you've set up a Gmail account for yourself), and you'll be able to set up a credible blog that can be the cornerstone of your book promotion campaign.

Argue with me, if you'd like. Tell me about that $30,000-per-month book publicist you hired who's going to make you rich and famous. But why not give blogging a try as well? What do you have to lose? Blogging could be the making of your book promotion campaign. Blogging might bring the media to you, and it might bring you the readers who wouldn't find you in any other way.

So the evangelist in me says: blog. Blog for book promotion. I think you'll be thrilled with the results. And I don't get paid a dime to say so.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Are shock jocks a necessary evil of book promotion campaigns?

Is taking abuse from shock jocks a necessary evil of book promotion campaigns?

We know that Don Imus sells a lot of books. Does that mean that book publicists have to try to get their clients on his radio show?

This book publicist doesn't think so. Unless an author has a burning desire to appear on one of the shock jocks' radio shows, sorry, but I don't pitch the story to those folks. I won't subject my clients to abuse from Stern, Imus, Limbaugh, or any of the other people who make their living by conducting abrasive, bombastic, hurtful interviews.

Somehow, I thought the BBC had transcended the problem. Alas, here's a story that proves the problem of on-air jerks and their antics has traveled to the other side of the Atlantic.

Apparently, Russell Brand -- a BBC shock jock -- resigned after more than 18,000 listeners complained to the BBC about his harrassment of a 78-year-old actor by the name of Andrew Sachs. Brand and a "fellow performer" were both suspended by the BBC for the "prank." I only regret the fact that Brand left his job before the BBC could terminate him.

Sure ... British authors have just lost a book promotion opportunity. But I think that's a small price to pay for ridding the airwaves of a classless act. Now, if only Brand's U.S. counterparts who leave our airwaves ... you know who I mean ... would stay off our airwaves permanently. Alas ....

I hope British radio consumers have better luck with keeping Brand off their radios.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Keeping Up With Changes to Keep Book Promotion Opportunities Coming.

Authors and publishers who ignore changes in the media do so at their own peril. It's not particularly enjoyable to watch newspapers' book review sections shrink or disappear altogether, and it's sad to see national and local television (not to mention radio) shows fizzle. And it's especially difficult to watch prestigious newspapers morph into something altogether new ... but to deny those changes, or to hope it won't affect any other newspapers, is to jeopardize book promotion campaigns and the possibility of garnering as much book publicity opportunities now as you did in the "old days."

The Christian Science Monitor, which was a nationally-distributed daily newspaper, has announced its plan to become a weekly print newspaper and to update its online version on a daily basis. That will mean decreasing its operating costs substantially, and it will also mean that book publicists others conducting book promotion campaigns who ignored the online editors at the Monitor will now be pitching them ... or they'll essentially lose the opportunity to get any visibility for their books in that media outlet. Here's the Christian Science Monitor's statement about how the paper will shift from a "print to web-based strategy" in April of 2009.

Scary ... but thought-provoking. And certainly proof that all book publicists have to keep up with media changes if they want to keep their book promotion campaigns strong.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The telephone reigns supreme for book promotion and all other communication needs.

Despite the fact that we can now instantly email missives and pictures to people on other continents, there's still no replacing the telephone. Which is why this weekend was a tough one for this book publicist.

I'd heard the weather forecast. The pundits were predicting a thunderstorm. I backed up my data, and I unplugged my computer and external hard drives and modem and router. But -- well, you've guessed the rest of it by now. I failed to unplug one of my phone lines, and that phone line was slammed by a thunderbolt (or so my theory goes).

After I'd spent two days (Saturday and Sunday, for those of you who can appreciate the irony of the story) plugging and unplugging and replugging in devices, cords, adaptors, and what-have-you into the troubled phone line, and after buying $50 worth of new stuff to replace old stuff that I suspected of malfunctioning but couldn't prove had malfunctioned until I'd bought the new stuff -- which didn't prove anything, anyway, but it gave me something to fiddle around with during the two beautiful days that will likely mark the last two glorious weekend days of the year), I finally gave up and called the phone company this morning.

Monday is a back-to-work day for this book promotion specialist, so I was hoping the call would be quick and painless. That wasn't to be. A voice mail system prevented me from speaking to an actual person until I began exhibiting signs of clinical idiocy/stupidity and failed to answer enough vocal prompts to keep the voice mail system cranking out irrelevant questions ... at which point, I got an actual person on the phone who had none of the information I'd just spent 10 minute passing along to the voice mail system. But, anyway, both the voice mail prompt and the actual person who finally dispatched a technician to my office warned me that, because I had no service maintenance contract, it would cost me $100 to have the phone line repaired except in the unlikely event that the phone line problem was the phone company's problem (apparently, an outdoor line problem is still something for which the phone company will take responsibility whereas anything else -- such as smashing important indoor phone outlets in an attempt to get things working again after a system problem is something for which the phone company will not take responsibility). The customer service representative who called to confirm my appointment (which, of course, was loosely scheduled for sometime this week) repeated that this visit would probably cost me $100 if, indeed, I still wanted to go through with this visit.

All I'm asking is: What choice did I have? I have two phone lines, both of which I need to conduct my book promotion campaigns. I can email and fax and snail-mail and even send singing telegrams until I'm blue in the face -- but, if I absolutely, positively have to communicate with somebody who's not within earshot, there's no substitute for picking up the phone and making a call. Nor, by the way, is there a replacement for being able to receive phone calls from the media, authors, publishers, and others who need to call book publicists.

In short, my book promotion efforts require two phone lines. My sanity requires two phone lines. My effectiveness at book publicity presumes that I have two phone lines and that they both work, all the time.

There's an upshot to the story, and that's this. The telephone technician came out (yay!), did his tests, and has determined that the phone line problem is an outside issue that is the phone company's responsibility (yay again!), and he can fix it -- he hopes -- by "climbing a few poles" and locating the wire that got zapped in the storm (again, that's my theory -- the tech can only confirm that there's a wire somewhere that's spoiling to break, and that's what's been causing the problem).

So, as a book publicist who's had only one working phone line for two and a half days, and who wrecked a beautiful weekend by trying to fix the problem herself, I have a bit of hard-earned advice. And, strangely enough, I feel as though I'm paraphrasing the old "People's Court" television show to convey it, but so be it. I loved that old show, anyway. If you have a phone line problem, don't take matters into your own hands, and don't waste your time crawling around on the floor subjecting every outlet and wire in your path to potential harm. You take it to the phone company and let them deal with the issue.

They won't like it one bit. But, then again, you're not conducting a book promotion campaign without a working phone line or two -- so don't hesitate to call on the phone company for help when you need it.

You pay them enough to defend your one phone call per decade to them.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A new national television show?

A new national television show is always an occasion for celebration when you're in the midst of a book promotion campaign (or when you're about to launch a book publicity campaign). So how neat would it be if there were a new national television show? I've been fantasizing about the "Sarah Palin Show" ever since I saw her acceptance speech -- who gives better television than Sarah, unless it's her accidental (and sometimes reluctant) twin, Tina Fey? -- and appreciated her charisma and stage presence. Plus, Sarah will need to do something constructive with her time after the election is over, and I can't see her fading back into the Alaskan wildlife and languishing in obscurity. Can you?

So I was delighted to see a Hollywood Reporter (via article that "reveals" the predictable fact that Sarah's "people" are trying to come up with a new vehicle for her, and they've been talking about the possibility of finding a national television talk show for her to host. Hey! I'm there! Well, maybe I'm not there as a viewer, exactly, but I'm there as a book publicist who will be pitching guest suggestions to the producers.

And, on a related matter, have you seen Ron Howard's video endorsement of Barack Obama? It's worth a click if you're an "Andy Griffith Show" and "Happy Days" fan (one sort of naturally goes with the other), or if you're just interested in seeing what another Hollywood insider has to say about politics. Howard must feel strongly about this. The man removed his baseball cap and his shirt to make his point!

Anyway, here's to Sarah Palin's new national television show. Long, and soon, may it air.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Time to read Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio's work.

Talk about a book promotion opportunity: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio's work is the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in literature. Time to commit the name to long-term memory, if not actually learn how to properly pronounce it.

I'll admit to feeling some disappointment. If one of my clients couldn't win the 2008 Nobel Prize for literature, I was hoping the award would go to Philip Roth -- or another American. According to this article, the last American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature was Toni Morrison, and that was back in 1993.

Come on, American novelists. What are you waiting for? Keep on writing, and keep on publishing, and keep on promoting -- and win that Nobel Prize for us! Your fellow U.S. citizens are counting on you.

Not that there's anything wrong with the French. I'm just saying....

Monday, October 06, 2008

Does author in search of book sales need book promotion services?

Here's an email that I received recently from an author:

This is my recent book [here, the author inserted the URL for his new title]. What can you do to make it sell better?

My response to him (and to other authors and publishers who approach me with the same question ) is:

Although I don't get involved in book sales, you might be interested in the book promotion services that I offer. If you haven't already visited the "services" page of my site to get a sense of the traditional and online book publicity services that I offer, I'd encourage you to do so. I'd be glad to provide a customized book promotion plan upon request, so let me know if you'd potentially be interested in what I offer. Although book promotion is tangentially related to book sales, it is not the same thing, and there's no guarantee that even the most successful book promotion campaign (which is designed to build the author's brand and raise the visibility of the book) will result in increased book sales. Although it often works that way, I wanted to draw the distinction for you between the two, because you may be seeking a book distributor rather than a book publicity firm. Let me know if you'd like more information about any of my services, once you've reviewed my offerings.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Citizens' Power of the Press

The World Wide Web has given us all the power of the press, in a sense. It's given us all the power to publish press releases online, to point media consumers (and potential book buyers) toward news stories via social networking sites, to blog our way to fame and fortune, to enter articles about ourselves in communal online encyclopedias, and even to become citizen journalists at offshoots of such major news organizations as Turner Broadcasting. That's been a huge boon for those of us who are involved in book promotion campaigns, because it's meant that any author, publisher, or book publicist can generate book publicity by flexing that power of the press and using it to do good.

Unfortunately, it's also possible to abuse the citizens' power of the press, as evidenced by the fool (soon to be imprisoned, I hope) who posted an unfounded "news" item about Steve Jobs' supposedly failing health on and sent Apples' stock prices plummeting. Jobs is fine, and Apples' stock prices will recover, but the damage to free-for-all news sites such as has been done. Who will trust the "news" reporters they see posted online by citizen journalists after this event (which you can read about here)? How will you know whether the citizen journalists are sharing news stories or perpetrating a hoax? And, if you suspect the Net is filled with misinformation -- given the fact that we're all living with information overload and too little time on our hands -- why will we even bother going to such sites as and Wikipedia to sort through the real news, the potentially real news, the suspiciously difficult-to-believe news, and the clearly ridiculous reporting.

In the case of this incident, a citizen journalist has caused real people actual harm. And he or she has also harmed everyone who uses the citizens' power of the press for book promotion, or to become part of the newsmaking universe for any other reason. It's distressing, and I hope this individual -- and any others who think it's amusing to use the citizens' power of the press to hurt others -- is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Joining this creep in a very long jail sentence, I'm glad to anticipate, will be O.J. Simpson. Sometimes, the legal system really does work, despite rumors and evidence to the contrary. As a sidebar: I'm glad that Fred Goldman, and not Simpson and Judith Regan, will benefit from any increase in book sales for which this long-awaited conviction is responsible.

Goodbye, O.J. And, let's hope, goodbye to everyone who would even think about misusing the potent newsmaking tools that are now in all citizens' hands.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Book promotion value of Tina Fey's new project.

There's a lot that I don't understand about politics. But could somebody please explain why the bidding for Tina Fey's new book project is now up to six million dollars? Here's the New York Observer's article on the subject.

Tina has yet to write a book proposal, by the way. Her literary agent, Richard Abate, asked for five million dollars, and -- reportedly -- at least one publisher upped that figure by one million dollars.

Okay, I'll admit that I haven't seen Tina's show, "30 Rock." I have it on the authority of a 22-year-old niece that the show is "amazing." So maybe the show is sensational enough to warrant an equally sensational advance on an as-yet-unwritten book by someone who isn't even an author.

But my hunch is that the seven-figure offer isn't stemming from the "awesome" job Tina is doing on "30 Rock" but, rather, her "Saturday Night Live" impersonation of Sarah Palin. Let's go with my theory, for just a minute. If publishers are enchanted by the fact that Tina's impression of Sarah has been spread, virally, via the Web for the last two weeks, I understand that.

There's just one thing I don't understand. When was the last time you saw Martin Short, as Ed Grimely, bopping around his apartment to express his undying admiration over "Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajack? And when was the last time you thought of Eddie Murphy's spookily accurate rendering of "Mister Robinson" (a play on Mr. Rogers, right down to the sweater and sneakers)? Not recently, I'd suppose...and certainly not recently enough for a publisher to presume that, just because Ed Grimely and Mr. Robinson once captivated Americans, either Martin or Eddie's book would be a media sensation.

Hey, we all love to laugh, and satire is a fun and safe outlet for us, especially on a weekend. Tina Fey is funny, and who knows? Her impression of Sarah Palin may already have affected the outcome of the next presidential election. That's huge. it big enough to warrant a 7 million dollar advance on an unwritten book? Is Tina's impression of Sarah going to be grabbing headlines after the election is over and, perhaps, long forgotten (particularly, if "her candidate" doesn't win the election)?

I'm sure that any competent book publicist could promote a book written by Tina Fey in a big way. But...could any book publicist out there promote a book written by Tina Fey (and published in, perhaps, 18 or 24 months) in a big enough way to warrant this kind of book deal?

It hardly seems likely. I have faith that publishers know what they're doing, most of the time, but...perhaps, this once, someone is getting just a tad carried away. If it were up to me, and I were trying to gauge the book promotion value of Tina's forthcoming book, I'd 1) wait for her to write that book, and see how it turns out and 2) I'd see who wins the presidential election. Three: I'd see whether the public's interest in seeing the Tina's "Sarah" impression remains unchanged as the real Sarah (hopefully) gains a bit more experience in handling media interviews and four: I'd see whether Tina can truly keep up the pace of working on two national television shows simultaneously for very much longer.

But that's just me, and what do I know? Perhaps Tina Fey's new book will be worth every penny of the six million dollars that are being talked about. Maybe the bidding will even increase another million or two before the auction is through, and maybe the book will, in fact, earn back its advance in two months.

Anything is possible. But, if I were a betting woman, I wouldn't bet on the long-term book promotion value of this particular book project.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Give the media what it needs.

Book promotion tip #1: Give the media what it needs. Usually, what the producer of a radio show (presuming the producer of the radio show has scheduled a phone interview with an author) needs is: the author's phone number (and, perhaps, a backup number), a media kit, and a copy of the book. That's simple enough, unless you're counting on the publisher to send out copies of the book.

Today, I got an early morning phone call from a radio show producer saying that he had a phone interview scheduled with one of my clients, and -- he'd just checked -- he had no copy of the book. We were fortunate in that he still agreed to do the interview on the strength of the media kit (which he was able to download from the author's Web site). But other proudcers would have resheduled or cancelled the interview.

Since the producers' failure to receive a book on time reflects poorly on me, I'm ultimately responsible for getting books out -- even when all I can do is request that publishers fulfill book requests. Most publishers are well meaning and, because they benefit from book promotion opportunities as much as (or more than) their authors, are anxious to get books out as soon as they're requested. But the best thing to do is stay in control of book requests by having the publisher send you enough books to take care of the requests your book promotion campaign will generate -- ahead of time. I wish I'd done that in this case. Oh, well. Live and learn.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Paul Newman brings book promotion reality home.

It's morbid, but true. A fool-proof way to getting media coverage of your book is to do what Paul Newman did: live a heroic life, win the admiration of billions of people, and then pass away suddenly (well, suddenly for those of us who couldn't bring ourselves to believe that cancer would ever dare to mess with such a beloved, strong, and unutterably generous person). Do all those things, and your books, too, will win the book promotion that Newman's books are receiving.

Here's a Los Angeles Times article about the books that Newman either wrote, or that revolve around him. You bet: book sales are poised to soar, economically difficult times notwithstanding.

Full disclosure: This book publicist just snagged a vintage copy of Newman's Own Cookbook. Okay. I'm human. I loved the man, and I've bought his products to support his causes whenever I could (and I'm gratified to learn that Newman's charitable foundation will continue, even though the man now lives on only on film and in the hearts and memoriess of those who loved him). Here's an Asssociatd Press story that promises Newman's Own legacy will continue, and another story from on the same topic -- so I'd say we can have faith that Paul Newman's legacy will endure. I hope we can all celebrate Newman's life by trying to follow his example of unselfishness and compassion.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Brief History of Oprah's Book Club

If your book is an Oprah's Book Club selection, you will be rich and famous, and your book will be successful. Whatever book promotion you've received before Oprah chooses you will be beside the point, and whatever book promotion you garner afterwards will be irrelevant. Oprah's Book Club will be the focal point of your book's visibility, and it will be the reason why readers know who you are. offers a brief history of Oprah's Book Club written by Kate Pickert here. If that article doesn't convince you to get a copy of your book off to the producers of "Oprah," nothing will. For information about how to contact the producers of "Oprah" (or any national television show, for that matter), read my article, "May I Have Your Contact Information for the 'Oprah' Show?" by clicking here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Are you an Amazon addict?

In his blog, Andrew Crofts writes about Paranoia on the Amazon Roller Coaster. I've seen that condition, many times, in authors who are in the midst of book promotion campaigns.

The way it usually works is that an author who gets a book publicity media hit runs to the computer after a live radio interview to check his/her Amazon rank. If the rank hasn't changed, I get an email dripping with frustration. "The radio interview didn't sell any books," says the author. "What else can we do to promote my book?"

In the spirit of full disclosure, I"m not exactly sure how Amazon's ranking system works. I've heard rumors, but I don't know the facts. To the extent that Amazon's rankings reflect book promotion-related media hits, the relationship is not instantenous, nor is it permanent. I know that. The rest, as far as I can tell, is information that's more closely guarded that the Hope Diamond -- and perhaps rightfully so, since authors and publishers can drive themselves crazy by staring at those numbers, hour after hour, and trying to figure out how to change them for the better, and then how to maintain their rankings.

I always tell authors that Amazon rankings are probably a fine measure of something. The problem is, since we don't know what Amazon rankings measure, exactly, it doesn't seem to be a good investment of one's energy to focus them.

Focus on the book promotion campaign and on delivering the messages you want to convey, is what I tell authors. Get the word out. Let potential book buyers see your expertise for themselves. Woo them. Let them come to rely on you and respect your credility. Over the long haul, this focus on your mesaging and your brand usually help sell your book.

Check out Amazon's rankings, once in a while -- but not every hour, on the hour, and certainly not after every media hit when you're conducting a book promotion campaign. Checking out Amazon's numbers all the time when you're in the middle of a book promotion campaign is like weighing yourself constantly when you're on a diet. You'll drive yourself crazy, and you won't accomplish anything positive. So stop obsessing about the numbers, and remember the point of a book promotion campaign: to gain as much visibility for your book, and for you, as possible, and let people come to the conclusion -- over the long haul -- that they want to buy your book.

It doesn't always happen right away. But, if your book promotion campaign goes well, then it will happen. Have faith. And stop making yourself nuts with those elusive Amazon numbers.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Would NPR Help Your Book Promotion Efforts?

Would an appearance on National Public Radio help your book promotion campaign efforts? Every author wants to appear on such NPR shows as "All Things Considered," because that type of media hit is the making of any book promotion campaign. But how can you get past the gatekeepers at NPR?

Well, in truth, you can't. You can't slink your way past an NPR producer, because NPR producers hold all the power. You can't convince them to cover a topic that's not appropriate for them, because they receive too many pitches from too many authors and publishers to need on-air cnotent. You'll never find a less "hungry" crowd than NPR producers.

But, if you'd like to give NPR your best shot, then listen to a podcast with Carol Klinger, a booker for "All Things Considered," as she explains how she finds guests for her show, and the best ways to pitch her. Thanks, Carol, for letting us in on your secrets!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Book promotion...for altruistic reasons.

Here's the scenario: Professor R. Preston McAfee of Cal Tech is lucky enough to be featured as the author of Introduction to Economic Analysis in the New York Times -- and he doesn't stand to make a whole lot of money on the media hit. He could have. Dr. McAfee's textbook is used at enough prestigious colleges around the country that he could have received a $100,000 advance on the book from a major publisher. But he chose instead to offer his book available online, for free, to students who needed it in order to protest the skyrocketing costs of textbooks. For students who want printed versions of the textbook, they can buy one online from Lulu or Flat World for between $11 and $59.95 (I'm going to take a quick guess here that most of the revenue would accrue to the publisher as printing costs rather than provide a profit to the professor).

It turns out that Professor McAfee isn't alone in enjoying the book promotion opportunity that the Times article, "Don’t Buy That Textbook, Download It Free," provided on Sunday. Engineering professor Richard G. Baraniuk of Rice University founded a company called Connexions to allow instructors to make their textbooks and information available for free online, too. Connexions uses Creative Commons license to allow students and their instructors to interact so that students can ask questions about the information in their textbooks -- and they can receive answers.

Ordinarily, an article in the New York Times reflects one of the best imaginable book promotion opportunities for authors. In this case, the Times' article provides an opportunity for giving instructors -- and their grateful students, as well. Spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks? Why not save your money instead...and, hopefully, use it to do something good for the next person in need.

Friday, September 12, 2008

When book promotion successses makes readers unhappy.

There are times, and seasons, when a book gets too much media coverage, or when it gets media coverage for all the wrong reasons. That's when book promotion makes readers unhappy -- and when book promotion can blow up in the author's (or the publisher's) metaphorical face.

Two cases in point. First, Lynn Spears' new book about her daughter, Brittney. Once "delayed indefinitely" (at least, according to a People magazine article, which cited the fact that a younger teenage daughter had become pregnant), Spears' book is now getting so much publicity that I can't get away from it. Everywhere I click, every page that I flip, and every station that I tune into seems to be providing another book promotion opportunity for Lynn Spears. Do we need that? Not me...I was already convinced that I didn't need to hear Lynn Spears' ideas about parenting before the media became saturated with "news" about the book.

Second case: Stephenie Meyer's new novel, Midnight Sun, that was apparently supposed to be the last book in the strangely popular Twilight series. It seems that Meyer sent out a rough draft of Midnight Sun to a few people in her inner circle, and one of those "trusted" friends posted it online without permission. Meyer was unhappy enough to cancel the book's publication, according to virtually every media source that covers books including this one (in case you care to read the story again. I'll admit it. I bought a copy of the first novel in the series because I wanted to see what all the hype was about before Meyer's unpublished novel received all this publicity. Got to say: I didn't make it through the book. Maybe it was the vampires, or maybe it was the dubious characterizations and plotting -- but I gave up on it with about 30 or 40 pages to go (which is never a good sign -- especially when the someone who gives up on it is an avid reader of Young Adult novels). Anyway, Meyer may publish the novel eventually, and will all that book promoton help sales? I think it will. Sadly, I really do think it will.

So there you have it. Two books that I don't want to read, and two smashing book promotion campaigns that I wish hadn't happened.

Call me selfish, but I'd rather see book promotion opportunities go to authors whose works I respect. Oh, well.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Need promotion? Write a book.

It seems obvious to me: if you need some media attention for your company, write a book and use it as a media hook. Then again, I'm a book publicist, so I see what may not be apparent to everyone who's trying to promote a company or disseminate a message. Authors have instant credibility. If you want to promote yourself, and you have a book, great. The media will listen. If you want to promote yourself, and you lack the platform that a book provides, then good luck.

Book promotion is easy. (So says the book publicist.) Self-promotion is trickier.

Need a book? Len Stein of wrote an excellent article on the topic. Click here to read it.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Keep an eye out for book promotion opportunities

National media opportunities come, and national media opportunities go. Every new national TV show that hits the airwaves represents anoher book promotion opportunity, so stay on top of what's airing ... and what isn't.

I just read about a new television personality who wants to be the biggest thing since Oprah (here's the article). And who knows? She might just succeed. Her name is Wendy Williams, and her show has been test-marketed in just a few cities so far: New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Detroit. But, in 2009, her television show will be seen nationally.

So, while you might not make it onto the Oprah Winfrey Show, here's another book promotion opportunity for you: the Wendy Williams Show. Hey, I'll pitch her producers on behalf of my clients. This book publicist is about to do her research now and get the names, and contact information, for those producers right now!

Can your opinion buy you a book promotion opportunity?

Can your opinion buy you a book promotion opportunity? Yes, if it appears in a major daily newspaper's op-ed section.

Here's a case in point: Wendy Grolnick and Kathy Seal's cowrote an op-ed piece called "Pay to Learn Shortchanges Kids." The Los Angeles Times published the article in today's edition. The byline credits Grolnick and Seal as the coauthors of the book, Pressured Parents, Stressed-out Kids: Dealing With Competition While Raising a Successful Child.

Granted, the Los Angeles Times requires exclusivity for editorials they print. But, according to Cision Media Source, the daily circulation of the paper is 773,884. That provides quite an opportunity for book publicity! To reach 773,884 readers, it's just fine to give one of the top U.S. daily newspapers the exclusive right to print your opinion piece.

Congratulations to my clients, Wendy and Kathy! It took two days from the time we pitched the op-ed piece to the LA Times before it appeared in print. Not bad at all!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

One question before I hire a book publicist...

An author visited my site last night and was impressed by this book publicist's list of services. He just had one question before he asked me for a book promotion proposal: Do you take any responsibility for attaining any actual sales volumes for books?

No. As I told him, I'm a book publicist, not a salesperson. Book promotion is only tangentally related to book sales. Selling books is the publisher's job, not the book publicist's job.

I might have said that when book promotion campaigns are successful, and when the stars line up (that is, when you have top-notch distribution and a high-quality book), then media hits can drive traffic to book-selling venues which may result in book sales. And I might have added that, without a book promotion campaign, your book will undoubtedly languish in obscurity, unsold and -- in these days of P.O.D. -- perhaps unprinted.

But that would have served no purpose. An author who thinks that a book promotion campaign is a turnkey solution for selling books would be better off not hiring a book publicist. And an author who expects a book publicist to produce increased book sales would be difficult, if not impossible, to I'll take a pass on this project. This book publicist likes to please her clients, and she can only control what she can control.

This book promotion project would be a lose/lose proposition.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Books benefit from strange publicity opportunity

Did you read about how Angels and Demons (by Dan Brown) and White Oleander (by Janet Finch) recently scored a book promotion opportunity? Well, here's a link to the story.

It seems that Heidi Dalibor borrowed the books from the Grafton Library and never returned them. She was notified, via mail, that she's have to either pay the library a $30 fine or appear in court. Sadly, Heidi was working that day in what was certainly an important job and was unable to tear herself away to make her court appearance. The next day, the police arrested her at home. (She must have a very, very important job at home, too, because she was too busy to put shoes on her feet to accompany the police to the station when they arrested her.)

Ultimately, Heidi's mother helpfully brought $201 to the police station to spring her daughter from prison. That included the $30 she owed in library fees and the $131 she owed in court costs. Heidi gleefully landed an appearance on NBC's "Today Show" to assure her adoring public that she'd learned a valuable lesson: she won't be borrowing books from the library anymore. Also, she endorsed both Angels and Demons and White Oleander as "good books."

Well, let's hope they were good books. She paid $201 for them. Plus, she lost all those precious hours of work time while she stewed in prison -- and in the green room -- thinking about where she'd gone wrong in life.

Congratulations to Dan Brown and Janet Finch. They didn't need the book promotion opportunity, or the endorsement, but they received both. Gee. Maybe Heidi Dalibor will start her own book club now.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A book promotion break for Epicenter Press

Kaylene Johnson's biography of Palin, Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment on Its Ear (the lucky publisher is Epicenter Press, and the pub date was April 2008) broke into Amazon's Top 25 list within hours of the big announcement.

I heard a news report this morning that said the publisher is going back to press for 50,000 more copies immediately. That is probably a good idea.

One individual from the U.K. who posted a used copy of the book on Amazon is asking $105.55 for it.

Epicenter Press is an independent publisher, and they couldn't have planned on this book promotion opportunity. Good for them! I wonder what percentage of the proceeds they plan to pass along to John McCain.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Guest Book Promotion Column by Sara Dobie of Sylvan Dell Publishing

Don’t Be a Couch Potato….
By Sara Dobie (see her byline at the bottom of the article)

Publicity for Your New Release

Guess what? You’re a published author. Sitting on your couch, it’s hard to believe. Publishing is what happens to other people—people who wear black, smoke cigarettes and talk about Kerouac. It doesn’t happen to people like YOU, who have day jobs, families, and car loans. Obviously, you’re excited. You can already see yourself on the cover of People magazine, Pulitzer in hand. You pat yourself on the back—job well done. You can finally relax and wait to become a millionaire. Right?


Your work has just begun, and it’s the work of “publicity.”

If there is no publicity, no one knows your name. If no one knows your name, no one knows your book. If no one knows your book, it doesn’t sell, and it dies on the shelves faster than you can say “backlist.” So as an author, what can you do to beat the competition? And no, you should not start harassing managers at Barnes and Noble.

1) The Review

Getting your book reviewed is mainly in the hands of your publisher. However, there are plenty of things that you, as an author, can do to assist in the process and make it more effective. Publishers know about the big dogs. They know Publishers Weekly, the New York Times, the LA Times, etc. However, they don’t know the specialists in your field. If your book is about birds, your publisher isn’t going to know the most famous ornithologist who just has to endorse your book. So think—what contacts do you have? Which of these contacts could be used to the advantage of your book? Pass this on to your publisher, and they will thank you for it! If you are willing to help your publisher, it will pay off. They will be much more willing to focus on you, because you’ve done your research. You have the names and organizations; all your publisher has to do is send the emails. Think alumni associations, your local media contacts, state reading associations and national topic-specific magazines that would want to know about your book. The opportunities are endless, and it will keep you ahead of the pack.

2) What’s your pitch?

In other words, what are you selling? Is your book about a new diet that promises Michael Phelps abs? What about a children’s book that can teach kids about ADD? Can you explain the entire theme/mission/importance of your book in five words or less? You need to, because that’s about as much time you’ll have to impress the random Oprah intern who just happens to give you a call. The real question is, can you sell yourself?

Let’s face it—in the media and in stores, no one is booking your novel. They are booking you. If you are lacking in passion for your product, they’ll know, and your book will suffer. You have to be willing to go out there and get those interviews. Get those events. I suggest selling yourself as a package. Any author can just sit there and sign a book. What about an author who can use her book to teach kids about bullies? What about a different author who can show math teachers a better way to interest students in fractions? You have to make bookstores believe you have something to offer. Make them believe you are the one doing the favor, as opposed to vice versa. You are the main attraction. People will come to see you because you are worthy of seeing. If you don’t think so, who will?

3) The Launch

I cannot emphasize how important your book launch is. I have said it over and over and over to authors all over the country. Some believe me, and some don’t. Who do you suppose has the better book sales? If you said the ones who don’t believe me, I’m glad I’m not your publicist.

Okay, in the publishing world, there is a “publication date.” This is when your book is available for purchase to the public. Your launch date should be scheduled around this time. A specific scheduled event should be referred to as your “launch date,” in fact, because a definite date makes it tangible to the media, meaning more likely to be covered. The media likes tangible events, as opposed to vague announcements, as in “People can buy my book now! Cool, huh?” No. They don’t care. They care, however, when you have a cluster of events coming up where people can actually meet you.

What does a cluster entail? I’m talking fifteen to twenty scheduled events, clustered around a two-week period, with your launch right at the beginning. I realize you probably don’t have fifteen to twenty individual bookstores in your hometown. It helps to travel, making it more of an official Author Tour. If your funds require you to stay close to home, no problem! Start with bookstores. Now, what about gift shops and specialty stores whose clientele would relate to your book? What about libraries? If your book is about astronomy, what about planetariums or museums? If it’s about salt marshes, what about national parks? The opportunities are endless. You just have to be ready to work. Events sell books. Yes, authors are artists, and your books do mean a lot to you. However, a book—no matter how good it is—dies without sales. Get out there and schedule events. It’s the way to turn your book into your career.

Don’t mean to be pushy….

The publishing industry is cutthroat. If you’re not careful, your book is old news before you’ve even unwrapped your complimentary copies. You have to retain the passion you had while writing your book through the entire process. Do not let yourself think that once your book is on the shelf, you’re done. You cannot sit back and collect royalty checks. Work with your publisher. Give your input, and use your contacts to encourage word of mouth. Believe in yourself, and bookstores will believe in you, too. Finally, always keep those events coming. Stay in the public eye, and your book will, as well. It feels good to be recognized for your work, but it won’t happen until you get off the couch and show ‘em what you got.

Sara Dobie is the Public Relations Coordinator for Sylvan Dell Publishing in South Carolina. Learn more about Sara and Sylvan Dell Publishing at

Book Promotion the Hard Way

When I heard about Dave Freeman's untimely death, I hadn't heard of Freeman -- and I barely had heard of his book, 100 Things To Do Before You Die. My second thought, after I slogged through the horror I felt at the way the 47-year-old author died -- he fell at home and hit his head and just, somehow, didn't make it -- was that this incident was going to sell a lot of books. What better book promotion opportunity could there be than the author's death? Book promotion opportunities, finally, are news items, and this was a big one. It was ironic, heart-wrenching, and unacceptable -- and, of course, every media outlet in the world gobbled it up. Here's an example of just one article about the Freeman's death that opens with the title of his book.

What I didn't realize, until later, was that Freeman's death wasn't only a horror show combined with a book promotion opportunity. It was also a chance to promote a movie -- in this case, "The Bucket List," that was apparently inspired by Freeman's work. This Reuter's article, published by, talks about how Freeman's death has inspired people to create their own "bucket lists" -- just like in the movie. Had I heard of the movie before Freeman's death? Vaguely -- but only in the sense that I hear about other movies with strong lead actors that I probably wouldn't schlep to a theater to see but would probably, eventually, put into my Netflix queue.

Book promotion and movie promotion -- Freeman's freak accident (at least, I hope it was a freak accident -- I think it was a freak accident, because people in their forties typically don't die in their homes because they slip and fall, do they?) was a two-fer. Book sales and movie ticket sales (or DVD sales, if the movie has moved on from theaters, at this point) are positioned to soar.

Book promotion and movie promotion opportunities aren't worth dying for, but this one is worth learning from. What makes a promotion opportunity? A news event. An attention-getting action. An unexpected happening.

Create one, if you can. But don't do it by dying.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book Promotion Tool

The following is not only a book promotion tool (although you can use it to snag some book reviews), but it's also a valuable information source for publishers and authors: Publishing Poynters Marketplace by Dan Poynter. It's a free newsletter, and you can see the September issue online here.

For publishers and authors who are interested in finding readers to review their books on either Amazon or Barnes and Noble's site, Poynter provides a free classifieds section where industry professionals can list their titles. Free book promotion? Sounds like a deal to this book publicist!

Thank you to Dan Poynter!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Three book promotion successes in one day!

Yesterday was an exciting day for this book publicist. I received three emails from an editor at a major magazine acknowledging the upcoming publication of three articles -- written by three of my authors -- each of which will carry my authors' bylines and refer readers back to their book Web sites. Good for the editor who received content for her magazine. Good for my clients, each of whom received visibility in a national magazine. And good for this book publicist -- that's three more book promotion opportunities to show off about, and all in one day!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A media marriage made in heaven -- for promoters.

The two satellite radio networks, XM Satellite and Sirius, have finally merged. The name of the new network will be Sirius XM Radio Inc., and the total number of subscribers will 18.5 million. Here's the story.

For this book publicist, that's a media marriage made in heaven. XM Satellite and Sirius radio shows were always relatively easy bookings. Of course, there are no easy bookings, but some media outlets are more approachable than others, and both XM Satellite and Sirius have both been notably open to guest suggestions and even, perhaps, "hungry" for experts to fill their airtime. So how cool is it that the listening audiences of XM Satellite and Sirius will double (I presume, based on my assumption that subscribers of either former network will now be able to hear shows on both networks -- which, naturally, is the new network).

See? This is what happens when book publicists have a cup of coffee in the morning and then blog. Okay. Time to book some interviews....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Steve Wasserman isn't happy, and neither am I.

Steve Wasserman, a former editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review, isn't happy. According to a July 21 article in Publisher Weekly's online edition, the Los Angeles Times is cutting out its standalone book review section. Two book review editors will lose their jobs, and countless of publishers and authors will lose yet another opportunity to have their books reviewed by a credible daily newspaper.

As a book publicist whose clients' works range from mainstream to self-published, I've never relied solely on book reviews. I've always sought book promotion opportunities from a wide range of broadcast, print, and online media outlets. And, these days, the reviewers with whom I've having the most success connecting are Amazon's top reviewers -- lay people, if you will, who have become top authorities on "what's hot and what's not" in the literary world.

Okay. Times change, and the media must change, too.

Top daily newspapers have their business considerations, just as authors and publishers must watch their own bottom lines. If standalone book review sections aren't producing profits, then they must be sacrificed, along with the editors who were the lifeblood of those standalone book review sections and the authors and publishers who relied upon those standalone book review sections for book publicity.

I understand that this is all about money and not a statement about the worthiness of book reviews or a statement that literature doesn't matter anymore. I understand that.

But that doesn't make me any happier about the whole thing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Choose book promotion opportunities with caution.

Choose book promotion opportunities with caution. This is new advice and, coming from a book publicist, it's counter-intuitive advice. You'd think that a book publicist would want authors and publishers to take advantage of every book promotion opportunity that comes their way, and to err on the side of doing any interview that might win some exposure for the book, wouldn't you?

Well, this just in. Some media personalities have such objectionable messages to disseminate that you don't want to accept their interview invitations. In short, you don't have to deal with jerks.

Case in point: Radio show host Michael Savage said, on the air, that 99% of children who are labeled "autistic" are actually undisciplined brats. Read the Associated Press's story about it here, via If a more ignorant statement than that has been uttered about any child, I don't want to know about it. Does Savage believe the nonsense he spouted, or did he just say those things to get attention? In either case, no author, no matter how worthy the book he or she is promoting, should feel the need to appear as a guest that's hosted by people who say objectionable things on the air for any reason.

Don't feel guilty for turning down a book promotion opportunity if you feel that accepting that opportunity would force you to compromise yourself. Most book promotion opportunities are worthwhile, and they can even be wonderful. But if it doesn't feel good to you, then don't do it. That is this book publicist's advice of the day.

Monday, July 21, 2008

When Hannah Montana is old news.

When was the first time you heard the phrase "Miley Ray Cyrus?" For those of us who don't have kids who are glued to the Disney Channel, and who begged for Hannah Montana merchandise or concert tickets, the answer might well be "within the year" (or, specifically, when a magazine published some "artistic" photos of her with her father that some people found troubling).

Anyway, Miley Ray Cyrus was going to be the next...well, whomever teenage singers and actors are hoping to grow up to be these days.

And now, according to a Baltimore Sun article, Miley is, like, so over. Her popularity is dwindling as other tween crowd pleasers, such as the Jonas Brothers, push her right out of the media and out of our collective consciousness.

Miley, of course, enjoyed her 15 minutes of fame. She sold lots of merchandise and concert tickets, (hopefully) saved at least some of the salary that Disney paid her, and (again, hopefully) will be enjoying royalty checks from her CDs and acting career for many years to come.

Some authors believe that if they enjoy even 5 minutes of airtime on a national television show, their lives will be changed forever. Their books will become bestsellers, and when their stay on the bestseller lists is over, they will continue to be strong sellers forever. Their careers will be made, and their futures will be assured.

That's the fantasy, but just one look at Miley Ray Cyrus and other "It" celebrities of short duration can tell you that it isn't enough. Success isn't a one-time event that happens when the producers of a national media outlet pluck you out of the crowd and ask you to appear as a guest, or as an expert, on a show or in a publication. Success is what happens when you work on achieving it, and then maintaining it, throughout your career.

Success is what happens when you get lucky and stay lucky...and, to stay lucky, you have to work at staying lucky.