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.