Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Book promotion mistake: torturing your message

Don't get me wrong. One of the most effective ways to garner book promotion opportunities is to tie your book (and blog, seminars, multimedia book shows, podcasts, and other informational offerings) into the headlines. As a book publicist, it's part of my job to keep an eye on news stories and current events, and to suggest ways to tie your messages into the news.

But a common mistake this book publicist sees is: taking it too far.

If there's a presidential election coming up, suddenly, every author is trying to find a presidential election media angle. Sometimes, it works, but when you have to put your message through torturous machinations ("as a nutritionist, I can talk about how Hillary Clinton's diet has probably changed during the campaign based on how her clothes seem to be fitting her" or "as a real estate professional, I'd suggest waiting until the Democratic party has nominated its candidate before putting your home on the market") to justify a pitch.

I've had two clients, already, ask me to craft a pitch to the media that would run something like, "here's some fashion advice for Barak, Hillary, and John" and "here are the five verbal mistakes that the presidential candidates must avoid."

Now put yourself in the shoes of a producer or editor. Every publicist who approaches you, and every author and publisher who pitches you, has an election-related media angle. Every one of them wants to advise presidential candidates. And you've been running dozens of election stories each week, and you've spoken with hundreds of experts who are tying their messages into the election. You've heard thousands of election-related news hooks, and at this point, you have election story ideas all over your desk, your floor, your email box, and your voice mail. You're drowning in election stories.

Which would appeal to you more: yet another election-related news hook, or an unrelated story idea?

The answer is that, when coverage of a particular news event (today, it's the presidential election, but soon it will be another story -- a celebrity's demise, another O. J. Simpson trial, a natural disaster, or what-have-you) reaches the saturation point, then the media welcomes -- in fact, the media demands -- other story pitches.

Be bold. When other authors, publishers, and book publicists are offering advice to presidential candidates or Britney Spears or O. J. Simpson, try offering a more hard-hitting news angle. Conversely, when the news is filled with natural disasters, crime, and morbid economic predictioins, try pitching a light feature story idea. Instead of torturing your message to fit the news story of the day, offer your expertise in ways that the media will find refreshing.

Producers and editors, too, need a break from politics (and the recession, and O.J., and the Olympics, and...). During those times -- when the media is weighing itself down with the same-old, same-old news hooks -- try offering them something, and I think you'll see the book promotion opportunities you've been seeking.