Tuesday, June 30, 2009

CNN makes a book publicist's job tough.

CNN makes a book publicist's job tougher (and her day just a little bit rougher) than it has to be sometimes. Okay, other news organizations do it, too, but this time I have evidence that CNN is making this book publicist's job difficult.

One of the things a book publicist must do is convince the media to run a story as newsworthy or entertaining. A highly successful book promotion campaign usually involves a sure-fire news hook located somewhere in the author's life...preferably, somewhere reasonably close to the book he or she is promoting. A good book publicist has a better-than-average ability to predict which news hooks the media might go for.

Which is why one of today's top stories from CNN.com gave this particular book publicist a headache. Strange, puffy clouds were seen over New York City after a thunderstorm? A couple of people spotted Michael Jackson's face in the clouds? A meteorologist, when questioned, didn't deny that someone with a very keen imagination might be able to turn the puffy clouds into Michael Jackson's image? And that's news?

Well, okay. I can sort of see it. I mean, this is the first day in what seems like a month that someone famous, or formerly famous, hasn't unexpectedly met his or her maker. And, now that Michael Jackson's children are in the legal (if temporary) custody of their paternal grandmother, and autopsy results aren't expected back for several weeks, there isn't a front-burner Jackson story available. So I can understand how news organizations might be unable to resist the temptation to fill the glaring gap with -- a story about nothing.

But dang. For a book publicist like me, the world of book promotion gets a little bit harder every time one of our story pitches is brushed aside to make room for a non-story like strange (or not-so-strange, depending on your perspective) cloud formations over New York City.

Why isn't Hollywood Politicos, Then and Now by Greg R. Rabidoux (which talks about celebrities who seriously involve themselves in politics) on the front page of CNN.com today? Well, partly because New York City had a thunderstorm. In the summertime. And then there were clouds.

Gee whiz. This book publicist is getting a headache. And yet...book promotion is a fairly fun game, if you don't mind having one of your great pitches brushed aside, once in awhile, for no apparent reason other than the fact that, strangely, even non-news about recently deceased celebrities tend to trump everything else in a newsroom.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Here's why we still need newspapers.

Here's why we still need newspapers. Yesterday, I received the news via the Internet. I knew about Farrah Fawcett's death and Michael Jackson's demise (and the rumors of his demise) as soon as the major and minor news outlets broke the story. I got the news alerts. I found the full articles on the Web sites. I received the tweets. I even turned on my actual television set which is a rare feat for the news gatherer in me these days. I listened to the radio coverage (well, actually, to listeners' responses) to the stories all night.

But still...seeing the news and hearing the news and clicking on the news is one thing. Getting this morning's newspapers, and seeing the news on paper, in print, was something else.

It wasn't until I saw this morning's newspapers that I knew, for certain, that Farrah Fawcett had gone to her reward and Michael Jackson had gone to...well, his plastic surgeon in the sky, or whatever it was that he was aiming for (personally, I'm hoping that both Farrah and Michael graced the new-and-improved heavenly "Tonight Show" starring Johnny and Ed with their presence last night, because that would have been an unbeatable lineup, but maybe that would be rushing things just a bit).

Anyway, the news wasn't proven to be news to me until I held it in my hand and saw it in print and turned the pages for myself. Which is why we still need newspapers.

Or, in any case, it's why I still need newspapers. Maybe some media consumers have moved on. Me? Not so much.

Not yet.

I still want my newspapers in the morning, even when the news is as horrible as it was this morning.

And I think -- and trust -- that pitching stories to newspapers will be a part of book promotion campaigns for a long while to come, as long as there are enough people who feel the way that I do.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Here's how the Internet really affects book promotion.

Some days, the Internet overwhelms me. Its offerings become just so much background noise, and I can't wait to click away from Twitter, Facebook, and other Web 2.0 offerings so I can get back to work.

At other times, I appreciate the democracy of the Internet and, particularly, its chief benefit for those of us who care about book promotion opportunities: if the traditional media outlets are finding your book underwhelming, and they're not offering to interview you, then who care? You can broadcast your own interview online directly to your target audience, and given that, who needs an interview opportunity on someone else's traditional media outlet to promote a book?

A Publishers Weekly article of yesterday talks about a three-channel online network called "From the Publisher’s Office" that Penguin has just launched.

It will provide instant book promotion opportunities for Penguin’s authors. Also, because of the Penguin name, the site presumably will attract a huge audience. Penguin won't have to work hard to bring visitors to "From the Publisher's Office."

For the rest of us, developing Web 2.0 book promotion opportunities will be a bit more challenging. First, budget will be a factor. Even now, when publishing companies are feeling the economic (and technological) pinch, I presume it's still easier for Penguin to come up with a couple hundred thousand grand for Web site development than it would be for most of my clients. Second, whereas Penguin as a built-in Web 2.0 audience, most independent publishers and authors will have to work on bringing their targeted readers to their online offerings.

The latter can be done -- that's what book publicists and social networking experts are for (and many book publicists are quickly become social networking experts as well -- those who are behind the curve will quickly have to catch up, or I'm not sure what they'll be doing to earn their keep in the months ahead). The former -- raising the funds to develop Web 2.0 offerings -- can be trickier. But then again, there are already out-of-the-box solutions (BlogRadio comes to mind, and there are many others), and there will likely be many more of those to come. Using someone else's platform and, in essence, tapping into someone else's audience is an imperfect solution, but it is a solution...in the same way that print-on-demand publishing isn't quite going to eclipse getting a publishing contract from Penguin, although it can come close.

The opportunity to use the Internet -- and, specifically, Web 2.0 -- to create book promotion coverage is already there. Down the road, most of the barriers to entry will be lifted, and the benefits of participating in online book promotion campaigns will be evident to us all.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Web site creation to launch book promotion campaigns.

Launching a Web site, in advance of a book's publication, is an excellent way to get your book promotion campaign started. The order of play is:

1. Find, and snag, a URL for your book's Web site.
2. Build your Web site. Ideally, you would hire an established Web design firm that specializes in creating authors' book sites instead of your 22-year-old nephew. AuthorBytes is a top choice that many of my clients have worked with.
3. If you must do the latter (see #2, above) because of budgetary constraints, at least have your designer look at book sites that have been professionally designed for inspiration and direction. A good starting point is to make a list of books in your genre and see the Web sites associated with those titles -- or go to the specialty Web design firms who focus on authors' books and look at their portfolios.
4. Once your site goes live, announce it via a friendly email to your personal contacts -- and, more formally, via a press release to the media and online press release banks.
5. Upload your initial press release, and all future press releases, to your Web site.
6. Keep adding content to your site. An easy way to do that is to make sure you include a blog as part of your initial Web site. The more content your site has, the more likely that your site will be found by your target audience and by the media -- thus, you've begun your book promotion campaign as soon as the media can easily find your site in Google and other search engines.

Starting your book promotion campaign really is as easy as creating and launching your book's Web site. For more thoughts on the topic, click here.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Angie beats Oprah?

If Angelina Jolie is now a more powerful media personality than Oprah Winfrey, perhaps we should all shift our book promotion strategy. Perhaps now it's time to get Angelina Jolie -- and not Oprah Winfrey -- to feature our books in her internationally-respected book club and on her top-rated TV talk show, and maybe it's time to let Angie put her famed book club's imprint on our books and hope that she finds us worthy of granting us an opportunity to promote our books in front of our target audience.

Perhaps Oprah Winfrey is old news for authors and publishers who want to turn their books into instant bestsellers . Perhaps Angelina Jolie's support is what authors and publishers should now be seeking for their books.

Or...maybe not.

And please don't let the fact that I'm not an Angelina Jolie fan influence your opinion about how to proceed now that the stunning news about how Angelina's popularity has overtaken Oprah Winfrey's has hit the news. Seriously. It's all about grabbing Angie's attention now. Send your books to...well...just send your books to wherever in the world Angelina Jolie happens to be shopping for potential additions to her family these days. And good luck with that.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

And then there are those who want no book promotion at all.

Most of us eagerly grab all the book promotion opportunities we can get. And then there are those who want no book promotion at all.

Check out this Associated Press (via the Guardian) article about J.D. Salinger's latest lawsuit.

Salinger is currently trying to block an author from publishing a sequel to Catcher in the Rye. It looks as though John David California (which is the writer's pen name, anyway) will not be able to share 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye with the Holden Caulfield-loving universe.

My hunch is that, while John David California is probably feeling a bit intimidated by the lawsuit, he's undoubtedly tickled by the attention Salinger is paying to his work. What better book promotion opportunity could their be than an attempt by a literary legend to legally prevent you from publishing your work?

Ah, Salinger. Must be nice to know that your book has reached the status of "classic" and that there's nothing further that you have to do -- your book will live just as long as people have books, ebook readers, or chips that can read text surgically implanted into their brains -- or whatever the next big book delivery system turns out to be.

Salinger. Salinger. How must it feel to turn down Steven Spielberg and Harvey Weinstein's offer to turn your book into a film? Mere mortals can only speculate.

Sometimes, authors who don't need or want book promotion opportunities leave me speechless. And humbled.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Go, Google, go!

Go, Google, go! Work out deals with publishers to sell digital versions of their books, and make them compatible with as many devices as possible. We knew Amazon (or Sony, for that matter) wouldn't have the exclusive right to sell ebooks. The more companies that jump into this space, the better, from the consumer's perspective -- and I'm a consumer as much as a book publicist.

I'm lusting after an electronic device that will let me read as many digital books and periodicals as I want, as comfortably as I'd like. Yes, I know: the old-fashioned technology (the book, the magazine, and the newspaper) still works, and those tried-and-true gadgets never ran out of batteries or experienced crashes. But, then again, who has all the shelf space she wants to hold every coveted book and periodical? Who has the budget to purchase them all at retails (or even at Amazon) prices? Who feels like carrying them in briefcases or suitcases -- or even in a beach bag (sorry, but suntan lotion, my wallet, and my keys still have to come first).

So I'd very much like to add an ebook reader to my array of choices, but I've been reluctant to do so before "the dust settles." And, when the dust settles, I know it will settle because all of Amazon (and Sony's) competitors will have trotted out their offerings, and will either blow away the current devices or educated consumers about how it should have been done all along.

What all of this has to do with book promotion is anybody's guess. Someday, I imagine book publicist's will be emailing digital copies of books, rather than hard copies, to the media. But which format? For which devices? And when will this all come to pass?

I don't know, but I think Google's entry into the fray has brought the ebook revolution another step closer.