Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reassuring book promotion thought for the day.

Do you sometimes feel apprehensive about your ability to handle book promotion interviews with finesse? That happens to a lot of authors -- even veterans of book promotion campaigns -- and that's why I'm pleased to offer a reassuring thought for the day. Here it is.

No matter what you do, and no matter what you say, and no matter what you forget to say -- you could never blow an interview as badly as Hulk Hogan did. In case you missed it, Hogan told a Rolling Stone magazine interviewer (in the context of venting his feelings about his ex-wife who's currently dating a much younger man)that he can "totally understand O.J." Did he stop there? No. In fact, he explained that he was capable of doing that which O.J. Simpson was accused.

Check out the CNN story, if you haven't seen it, and take heart. Unless you have scrambled eggs for a brain or mashed potatoes for morality, you could never mess up a book promotion opportunity as badly as that. In fact, Hulk Hogan has set the bar so low that, from now on, no interview we see or hear read could ever seem as incompetent, unworthy, or inappropriate as before.

Hulk Hogan has given us all a new reason to feel confident in our ability to do a reasonably acceptable interview. Now the challenge is to do an even better interview than you did last time . . . and that confidence and ability will come with practice.

Decency? Unfortunately, that probably can't be learned by those of us who have left our formative years behind. Sorry, Hogan, but no amount of media training can ever change the fact that you don't deserve to talk to another reporter . . . unless, perhaps, it's a court reporter.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Befriend Amazon.

There's been plenty of buzz recently about a glitch (or, perhaps, something far more purposeful and sinister than a glitch) in Amazon's ranking system. (If you want to catch up on the story, click on the New York Times story here.) There's been a copyright battle brewing between the Authors Guild and Amazon over the Kindle 2's "text-to-speech" functionality. (For more on that story, click directly on the Authors Guild Web site.)

But, although beating up Amazon for its myriad controversial choices (or glitches) may seem like a fun and productive sport for publishing industry professionals, I have a hunch we'd all be better served to get to know Amazon a little bit better and learn how to work with it. Specifically, tap into Amazon's book promotion opportunities.

There's a whole world of book promotion potential of Amazon that lies beneath the bookseller's surface. I wish I could say that, ardent book publicist that I am, I found out about Amazon's book publicity opportunities by clicking around the site and uncovering hidden treasures for authors and publishers buried beneath Amazon's surface . . . but the truth is that I read a lot, and most of what I uncovered regarding Amazon's hidden book promotion opportunities, I found via a wonderful book by Brent Sampson called Sell Your Book on Amazon: Top-Secret Tips Guaranteed to Increase Sales for Print-on-Demand and Self-Publishing Writers. I'm not shilling for Sampson (in fact, I don't know him and, except for the fact that I bought a copy of his book, I haven't done business with him). But I'd like to see every author (yes, even mainstream authors can benefit from understanding the book publicity potential of Amazon) pick up a copy of his book.

Amazon's offerings and -- you'll know this if you've tried to work with Amazon using any guides you've come across -- its URLs are constantly changing. So I read everything I come across regarding Amazon's book promotion opportunities so that I can keep up with the available features. (Obviously, I try to keep up-to-date with Barnes and Noble's online book promotion offerings to which, while less robust than Amazon's, are still worth checking out. For example, have you checked out Barnes and Noble's new Blogging Booksellers feature?)

Amazon isn't perfect, and we can all take issue with something about its functionality, vision, style, and the like. (I'm tempted to say that Amazon is only human, but it isn't, and I think that's the point here.) But, anyway, why not take a look at the other side of the story? Why not explore the ambitious and evolving infrastructure that Amazon has built to help authors and publishers gain online visibility for their books? (Yes, of course, I know that helping authors and publishers promote its books through Amazon benefits Amazon as well as authors and publishers, but we're not beating up on Amazon right now, remember?). Just tap into one or two of its book promotion opportunities that so many authors and publishers tend to miss (such as its Wiki that will accept all entries from authors and publishers, at this time), for starters, and see where it leads.

It's big, controversial, powerful, and I know the temptation is to spurn any corporation that boasts those attributes. But Amazon offers so many benefits for authors and publishers . . . so why not befriend Amazon, and see whether its book promotion opportunities can do some good for your book sales?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Book promotion is mandatory.

Book promotion campaigns are mandatory for authors, and shyness is not an option. As a traditionally published author, you owe your publisher your presence on the book promotion trail, and "I'm too busy," "I have a headache," or "I don't like to do interviews" will not be accepted as excuses for your lack of participation.

That's what Dear Abby says, anyway, and -- as a book publicist with a healthy sense of self-preservation and self-interest -- who am I to argue?

One other thing. Who knew that the Dear Abby column was still around? The newspaper to which I subscribe hasn't carried the column for years.

Oh, well.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Return to Book Promotion Mountain

Publishers Weekly recently covered an odd item that I thought I'd share. But first: a riddle. What's (arguably) the best book promotion opportunity imaginable? Answer: a movie.

If a movie based on a book actually makes it into theaters -- which, of course, is a long, long way from selling rights to a film company -- then millions of film-goers learn about your book and, potentially, become book buyers. Right?

Right. Except when the book's publisher goes belly-up before the movie's release, and the book is out of print.

Believe it or not, that's what happened with Disney's new movie, "Race to Witch Mountain." You may remember Paris Hilton's aunt, Kim Richards, who played a child named Tia in the vintage (well, 1970s) movie "Escape to Witch Mountain" and its sequels. That Witch Mountain series was based on a book (unbeknownst to me until now -- and, yes, shame on me for missing this!) called Escape to Witch Mountain that was written by Alexander Key and was published by Westminster Press in 1968. Westminster Press, alas, is no longer among the publishers of this world, and the book was out of print -- groan! -- when Disney released "Race to Witch Mountain."

So here comes the best book promotion opportunity imaginable . . . and the book that could reap the substantially rewards is out of print.

Enter Sourcebooks which bought the rights to the book, Escape to Witch Mountain, and will launch a paperback version of the book at the same time as Disney releases its "Race to Witch Mountain" DVD. No one knows (or, at least, the folks at PW don't know) when that will be.

But . . . at least the book that inspired the movies will be back in print, and at least Sourcebooks and readers -- and, I hope, either Alexander Rey himself or his estate (I couldn't turn up any biographical information on Mr. Rey during a quick online search, although it looks as though another of his books, The Forgotten Door, was published as recently as 1988) -- can benefit from the return of the Witch Mountain fervor.

Ah, 1970s-era Disney movies. Kim Richards, Ike Eisenmann, Eddie Albert, Bill Bixby, Jodie Foster, Don Knotts . . . don't get me going on film nostalgia this Friday morning. Just don't.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Book promotion is your responsibility

A client recently called to let me know that a radio interview hadn't gone well. "The host wasn't prepared, and he didn't ask me the right questions at all. I thought you'd want to make a note of that so you won't approach him again to book other clients on his show," she told me.

Well, I was sorry to hear that the interview hadn't gone well. I'm sure the host and the producer were similarly sorry the interview hadn't gone well; it's their show, and they're the ones who count on guests to help their shows go well so their ratings can go well, and paydays can continue to go well, too.

Book promotion is a team sport, and interviews are always easier when the interviewer does a good job. But, finally, whether or not the interview goes reasonably well is the interviewee's responsibility.

Interviewers are human, and that means they have their good days and their bad days. They have their days of being prepared, and they have their days of being unprepared, and they have their days of being focused, and they have their days of being distracted. There are kind interviewers and aggressive interviews and quiet interviewers and shy interviewers and combative interviewers and bright interviewers . . . and there are interviewers who are as stupid as rocks. There are interviewers in good health and interviewers with migraines and interviewers who suffer from chemical dependencies . . . and, whatever type of interviewer you run into, the interview itself is still your responsibility.

Find out as much about the interviewer as you can ahead of time by checking Google and the media outlet's web site. See, in general, what you might expect. If the interviewer's style is aggressive and argumentative (or if his/her philosophy is on the opposite ends of the spectrum from yours), then come prepared for some challenging, hard-hitting (or maybe even downright silly) questions. Conversely, if the interviewer's style is entertaining and light, then get set for a good time . . . and so forth. If your interview segment is a couple of minutes long, be concise and have sound bites ready. If your on-air time will be allow you much longer than that, then be prepared to elaborate and have the information you might need available to you.

Because you never know exactly what interviewers might want to talk about, know ahead of time what you want to convey. Which messages would provide the best book promotion opportunities for you? Create those messages, and practice delivering them. Then, whether or not the interviewer asks you the "right" questions, bridge back to your message points. Be ready to bridge back to your message points if the interviewer's questions are absurd, off-target, hostile, or just plain uninformed. Say something like, "That's an interesting point . . . and I'd also like to mention that . . . [here's where you slip in one of your messages].

Once you've become comfortable taking responsibility for your interviews, you'll find that your book promotion campaign will be a better experience for you. You'll feel empowered to get an interview back on track when it goes awry, and you'll be able to prevent the interviewer from having complete control over whether or not your interview goes well.

Book promotion is a team sport, as I've said, but you're the person who's promoting your book. Therefore, ultimately, book promotion is your responsibility. Don't let it scare you . . . in this context, responsibility is a good thing, and when you come to an interview prepared to deliver your messages, you'll enjoy the book promotion far more than if you creep to the microphone fearfully and having no idea of what you might expert . . . and how the interviewer might try to derail your book promotion campaign.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Could Amazon someday make major publishers superfluous?

Could Amazon someday make major publishers superfluous? Amazon probably would like to offer the perfect publication and delivery system for books (I want a Kindle, as soon as a few of the current kinks -- big and small -- are worked out). And Amazon has already revolutionized the book publishing industry.

Amazon offers distribution for nearly all books in print. That means that, even if Barnes and Noble/Borders/independent bricks-and-mortar bookstores don't carry a book, media consumers can still buy it ... which, by extension, means that a book promotion campaign can be a worthwhile investment. That was not the case B.A. (Before Amazon), when an author who sought book promotion opportunities but whose book was difficult to purchase could not benefit from media visibility. I remember those days well, because as a book publicist with integrity, I used to turn down the opportunity to represent self-published books just for that reason.

With the advent of Amazon, media consumers could suddenly buy books online as soon as they saw, or heard about, or read about the author ... so book promotion opportunities could become sales opportunities, too. And that was true whether your book was published by a mainstream publishing house or whether you had your own, as-yet-unknown imprint (or were working with an obscure, specialized book publishing house).

So Amazon has already affected book promotion, and it has changed our book-buying habits, and it probably holds the key to our future reading rituals. But could Amazon ever make major publishers superfluous? We know that authors who self-publish their work can use BookSurge (or not) and national book promotion campaigns to get their books in front of the masses. But would bestselling authors ever jump ship from major houses to Amazon's publishing and delivery systems? Would authors earn more money if they did? What about the other side of it -- what would authors sacrifice if they forfeited the prestigious imprints on their books and published directly through Amazon?

Check out this article, "Why the Lack of a Jeff Bezos Dooms Mainstream Publishing," in Dear Author for an interesting take on why Amazon might, eventually, render mainstream publishing houses just so much extra baggage for the most successful authors (it goes without saying that, for most authors, mainstream publishing was never an option).

As the article points out, mainstream publishers are cowering in the corner, bemoaning poor book sales and lamenting the fact that "no one is reading anymore." At the same time, Amazon's Jeff Bezos is essentially experimenting with different ideas every minute, and finding success with enough of them to be truly excited about the future of publishing. Given those two distinct camps -- the chest-beating, traditional publishers and the future-facing Amazon -- isn't it apparent that, one day, Amazon could make major publishers superfluous?

Could be. And, if that happens -- harsh though this may sound -- I'd have to say that major publishers deserve what they get. If you're not growing and changing, then your stagnating ... and nothing good has ever come from standing still, in publishing or in any other industry.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Barnes and Noble's latest book promotion opportunity

Barnes and Noble is smart and innovative, and both attributes will serve book promotion-savvy authors very well. For example, according to a Publishers Weekly article by Lynn Andriani, has launched a new "Blogging Booksellers" feature on its site. Bookstore bloggers in nine cities will create video blogs about the books they recommend and about bookstore events that, undoubtedly, feature some of the same books.

How's this for a book promotion opportunity? Go to, and click on the "Barnes and Noble Studio" tab. Then click on "Meet the Blogging Booksellers." Locate the Barnes and Noble store closest to you (using the map and the "Select a Location" drop-down list to pinpoint the store near you). Click on the blogger's Barnes and Noble profile to pull up the blogger's full name and position, and then call up the local store to pitch your book to the blogger.

It could net you visibility on the Web site. You couldn't beat that for a book promotion opportunity! And, if it doesn't work out, that's okay. There's always the next event, or the next book, to pitch!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Book promotion limits?

Are there limits to the extent to which you'll go in order to garner book promotion opportunities? I hope so! An example of an out-of-bounds book promotion maneuver (in the opinion of this humble book publicist, anyway) is playing an April Fool's prank on the media.

Editors, producers, and reporters might choose, on their own, to observe the rite of foolishness on April first. But authors, publishers, and book publicists don't have to feed into that nonsense in the name of book promotion.

Forgive my grumpiness, but I just read this article on called "A nod and a link: April Fools' Day pranks abound in the news." Some journalists might have found it amusing to cover a spaghetti tree pest back in 1957. But I'll be honest with you: if I'm watching, reading, listening to, or clicking on a newscast, I don't want to filter the news through my reality filter (which isn't to say that I take every word uttered by all the media, all the time, at face value, of course). I want to trust that the newscast has at least tried to get its facts straight and has the good sense to not play games with media consumers on the first day of April.

It's not that some of my clients haven't thought that it was worth pitching a "joke" to producers and editors in honor of April Fool's Day. It's just that, as a book publicist whose reputation matters to me (and who values the integrity of her clients, as well), I don't think it's appropriate to play games with the media under any pretext whatsoever.

It's not worth scoring book promotion if you have to play an April Fool's Day prank to do it.

And, no, I don't think April Fool's Day pranks are very funny. Alas.