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.