Monday, April 28, 2008

Who's competing for the media's attention?

You're trying to promote your book. Who's competing for the media's attention? Just about everyone, according to an article in the New York Times' Sunday Book Review called "You’re an Author? Me Too!" Columnist Rachel Donadio points out that, while fewer Americans are reading, many more of us are publishing books.

Are you seeking book promotion opportunities? So is every other author. And so is every other publisher.

Are you seeking endorsements for your book? So is every other author. And so is every other publisher.

In fact, columnist Brandon Griggs of the Salt Lake City Tribune points out that everyone is seeking a blurb for his or her book, and even well-meaning blurbers (that is, those who genuinely enjoy a book and want to support it, as opposed to those authors who are just seeking promotional opportunities for their own books) tend to look like, well, "blurb whores" if they endorse more than fifty books.

What are authors to do if their book promotion opportunities are diminishing because of the crowded field of competition? Work harder. Seek out online book promotion opportunities as well as the traditional venues. And make book promotion a part of your job and your mission.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Book Promotion Is Tough. Poetry Promotion Is Tougher.

If book promotion is tough, then promoting poetry books is the toughest book promotion challenge of all. So how would you get people -- many of whom aren't "into" poetry -- to attend a poetry festival?

The organizers of the Newburyport (Massachusetts) Poetry Festival had a brilliant book promotion idea. Using the Book Crossing model, they had volunteers distribute 25 copies of books written by poets participating in the festival. The idea was that people would find the books, browse through them, get hooked, and tell their friends about the festival -- and they'd pick up new fans and festival attendees.

I'll bet it worked, too.

For more information about the challenge of bringing people to the Newburyport Poetry Festival, click here. If you can bring readers to poetry, then you can bring readers to any type of book. Way to go, Newburyport, for thinking outside the book promotion box!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Web-based TV show for novelists and poets

I may have just seen the future of book promotion, and if so, then it is TitlePage TV. It wasn't easy to run across; I did, because I was paying attention to the April 22 PaperCuts blog (which is a New York Times book blog). Once I got past the baffling book multimedia show for a book by Sloane Crosley called, I Was Told There'd Be Cake (don't get me wrong -- it was a wonderfully-produced show, but I was at a loss to figure out its message), I gleefully found the TitlePage TV show (hosted by editor and novelist Daniel Menaker).

Way to go, Daniel! Your show looks as nice as anything you might see on broadcast TV, and I'll bet its attracting more prospective guests than you have the time to interview.

Web-based TV shows about books. This may well be the future of book promotion -- or, at least, one sizeable chunk of it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

YouTubing for Book Promotion

Are you using as part of your book promotion campaign? You probably should be, if some recent stats are correct. Last Wednesday, an organization called comScore Inc. released this surprising (to this book publicist, anyway) factoid: This year, 66% more people than last year are viewing online videos. You can read the Associated Press article on MSNBC here. Even television network executives, who acknowledge that they're losing viewers to the Internet, are trying to bring their content online.

That's probably good news for authors and publishers who are currently contemplating book promotion campaigns and for book publicists. Rather than pitching television shows and hoping the producer picks your book to feature, or your author to interview, you can create a multimedia book trailer, post it on YouTube (which is where most viewers go to indulge their online video-watching habit) and on your own Web site.

There are a couple of caveats.

First, you'll have to bring viewers to your online video. When you do a traditional TV show, you'll automatically have viewers; those TV shows are on the air because they've built up their audience base. With your own book video, you'll have to find viewers yourself. That means an effective book promotion campaign, these days, includes a video promotion campaign component (and a book Web site promotion campaign), too.

Second, your book's multimedia show has to be professionally conceptualized and executed. The production values must be top-notch. They don't necessarily have to include video components, which can really jack up the cost (and, ironically, lower the quality) of multimedia shows for books. But they do have to leave PowerPoint presentations in the dust, and -- as talented as your college-age nephew might be -- this is a project for production professionals, not relatives and students. The multimedia show is a reflection on your book, so if you can't afford a first-rate production, then put the idea on hold until you can.

When your multimedia book show is built, and viewers are watching it on YouTube (and on your Web site), you might ask: Who needs "Oprah?" Why should I bother to pitch traditional national TV shows when I now have my own book multimedia show online? Well, for now, we all need "Oprah" (and other tradtional book promotion opportunities).

Next year...who knows?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Agree to disagree

A client recently was interviewed by a Christian radio show. After the interview, he called to request that, in the future, I refrain from booking him on Christian radio shows. When I asked why, he said, "Well, the hosts disagree with my book's thesis, so there's no point in talking with them."

Well, I disagree. Every radio interview, on any type of radio station, is a book promotion opportunity. And nearly every host who disagrees with you provides you with an opportunity to make your case. (Those who don't provide you with an opportunity to make your case present a particular challenge, but there are ways to rise to that challenge, too.)

Book promotion opportunities aren't easy to come by. If they were, then book publicists would be out of business. As a book publicist, I work hard to schedule each and every interview, and the last thing I want is to screen potential interviewers to make sure their perspective is identical to my client's point of view before finalizing the interview.

I can appreciate a client's wish to attract interviews from media outlets that he or she respects the most (particularly, from those venues that are on his or her media "wish list"). And I can understand a client's desire to say, in advance of the book promotion campaign, "I'll do an interview that comes up except A, B, and C" (where A, B, and C are radio talk show hosts who make their living beating up or mocking or humiliating guests just for the sport of it). I'm very comfortable, for example, with the client who says, "Don't bother to pitch Howard Stern, because I wouldn't consider doing his show."

But I don't appreciate it when clients sabotage their own book promotion potential by restricting the pool of interviewers to "known, safe" quantities. No book publicist can predict what will happen during an interview; therefore, no interviewer is perfectly "safe." Anyone can disagree with a client, for any reason, and it shouldn't be the end of the world.

But limiting the media outlets that might help you promote your book can very well be the end of your book promotion campaign.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A vulgar way to get book promotion opportunities.

Here's a vulgar way to get book promotion opportunities. Although I'm willing to share it, I don't advocate it either as a book publicist or as a human being. That said, here's how to get more book publicity opportunities than you can handle: get involved with O.J. Simpson, and then offer your "exclusive" perspective into the man's psyche.

That's just what "a key figure in the O.J. Simpson case" did, according to an Associated Press article that's making the rounds. The O.J. Simpson case in question, interestingly enough, isn't the O.J. Simpson case. It's the other O.J. Simpson case -- you know, the one that involves sports memorabilia, a hotel room, possible kidnapping, and (potentially) at least one gun. And the "key figure" who has something to do with the case -- it ain't O.J., and I couldn't quite get myself to commit the name of the person it was to long-term memory -- is cashing in on his, um, proud association with O.J. Simpson here in our world. He wrote a book, he had it published, and now he's promoting it.

Somewhere, I'll bet a book publicist (or book publicists) are cringing at the thought of what they've involved themselves in. I hope the publisher is cringing, too.

As for me, I'm not exactly proud of myself for adding this blog to the book promotion this "key figure" is receiving for his O.J. Simpson-related title. But I'll defend myself, partially, by reminding you that I never mentioned the name of the author's book.

I'll conclude by saying this. If you don't always get as many book promotion opportunities you deserve, at least you can be thankful that you haven't stooped to the level of some authors, who right about certain vulgar topics, to get the book promotion that you do receive. It's a trade-off, I suppose, but I'd never promote a book related to O.J. Simpson -- and I'm glad that, as an independent book promotion specialist, that choice is mine to make.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Are these books even worth promoting?

HarperCollins is launching an imprint which will be led by Robert S Miller, founder of Hyperion. A new imprint, you say. Wow! Great!

Well, not so much. The new HarperCollins imprint, the name of which hasn't yet been announced (or this book publicist has missed it), has two drawbacks. First, it doesn't pay an advance to authors (or the advance is so small that it may as well not exist, since it won't cover the author's time in preparing the book and waiting for it to pay royalties). Also -- and this is the biggie -- the books will be nonreturnable.

I've just read a Guardian Weekly article that quotes Miller as saying that he'll have to figure out a way to get booksellers to buy his books on a nonreturnable basis. Yes. And right after he figures that out, he can end world hunger, get the U.S. troops out of Iraq, and cure AIDS.

I'll sit here and wait.

The new HarperCollins imprint begs the question: Are the books they publish even going to be books, given the fact that -- unless Miller pulls a rabbit out of a hat that has long proven itself hostile to bunnies -- bookstores won't even entertain the idea of carrying them? Worse, since the books are nonreturnable, most bookstores won't even know how to order the books and will, mostly likely, turn customers away. Even an appearance on "Oprah" couldn't turn a book that probably won't be ordered by bookstores into a success.

I just hope that, before authors sign on with the new HarperCollins imprint do their homework and determine whether they can live with its drawbacks. With changes occurring in the publishing industry, the homework never ends.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Being a book publicist is no joke.

Being a book publicist is no joke, and book promotion isn't a joke, either. So when a client approached me about sending out a press release parody on her behalf for April Fool's Day, I declined.

The press release would have contained how-to tips that were "funny," because they represented ideas that were diametrically opposed to the author's "real" how-to tips. I declined to send out such a press release on the grounds that it was irresponsible.

The author in question isn't irresponsible. She's been offering the media her how-to tips for years, and the media loves them and rewards her for being the expert in her field by providing her with tons of high-profile interview opportunities on a regular basis. But, in this case, I believe the author was misguided.

An author can have fun during her book promotion campaign. I hope book publicity is fun. I want it to be fun.

But an author, like book publicists, has to guard her credibility. All she has to offer the media, finally, is her credibility -- just as all book pubicists have to offer the media, finally, is the trust they've earned over the years they've spent nurturing relationiships. It would be a very bad call, in my judgment, to throw away that credibility and trust for the privilege of being able to chortle "April Fool!" when someone believes a press release (and, perhaps, is ready to schedule an interview that revolves around a press release) that contains false information.

That is why this book publicist declined to play an April Fool's Day joke on the media. I think it's a very bad idea, and as a book promotion professional, I choose to associate myself with only very good ideas. Onward....