Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This book publicist wants her newspapers!

Rumors of newspapers' death have been greatly exaggerated. Daniel Lyons penned a Newsweek column, "Techtonic Shifts," in which he gloats about the demise of newspapers. Lyons would like to see newspapers die quickly so that we can all get our information online, and he boasts that he's already cancelled two of his newspaper subscriptions.

Well, Lyons may be right about one thing. Newspapers do appear to be on a downward spiral. More of us seem to be catching breaking news through the broadcast or online media, and an increasing number of people are using handheld devices to carry around with them all the information they'll need throughout the day. The role of newspapers is changing, and it would be impossible to deny that.

But a changing role doesn't necessarily mean death. The emergence of television didn't mean the death of radio. The coming of television didn't mean the death of film. Media find different niches as new media emerge, but that doesn't mean they become irrelevant or inconsequential. It just means their roles change, and we rely on them for different reasons.

I'm a huge fan of slowly reading the Sunday newspapers over a cup of coffee and breakfast. And, when I say "Sunday newspapers," I do mean the paper goods. I want to turn the physical pages, and I want to pull out the actual sections, and I want to clip actual articles. I've incorporated Sunday newspaper-reading into my Sunday ritual, and I would be bereft without that ritual. Sorry, but hauling my breakfast in front of a computer monitor, or laying my food out beside a hand-held gadget, just won't fill that void. This book publicist wants her newspapers!

I'll get some type of e-reader, eventually, and I do look forward to reading certain types of information on this gadget. But I don't think my e-reader, whatever type it turns out to be, will threaten my newspaper subscriptions. The price of my newspaper subscriptions might threaten my newspaper subscriptions -- that's a whole separate issue -- but, as long as newspaper subscriptions are affordable, I can justify them. And want them. And expect to continue them...and, certainly, do not expect to see the opportunity to enjoy them die just because pundits such as Lyons say they must.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sometimes, any book publicity can be too much book publicity.

They say that all book promotion is good book promotion, and I used to believe that, but here's a story that's changed my mind. Raise your hand if you wanted to know that John Phillips (founder of the Mamas and the Papas, who sang so lightheartedly and harmoniously about how "California dreamin' was becoming a reality" back in the sixties) raped his drug-addled daughter, Mackenzie Phillips, and that rape eventually devolved into a "consensual relationship."

Mackenzie is all over the media -- Oprah, People, CNN, and much more -- airing unspeakably horrible stories about her father, her own arrest for possession of heroin at an airport, and the like. All of those media appearances are the Holy Grail for authors, publishers, and book publicists. I mean, who doesn't see an appearance on "Oprah" as the greatest book promotion opportunity of all time?

But my original question was: do you really want to know that John Phillips daughter, who played the elder fictional daughter on a Norman Lear sit-com called "One Day at a Time," has lived a nightmarish life? Do you honestly want to see the details of that nightmare?

I suspect that, for many of us, some nightmares are best left unexamined, and Mackenzie's media blitz may be an example of wasted book promotion opportunities. I'm a huge fan of the Mamas and the Papas, and I don't think I missed an episode of any series Norman Lear ever produced, but Mackenzie's story (true or not) is not on the list of those I'd want to read. I have to believe I'm not alone.

No one's denying a former child star the right to catharsis, and I hope Mackenzie is on the road to recovery and health. But buy her book? I don't think that's going to happen for me. I don't even feel moved to mention the title of it here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Amazon has recently implemented a policy change that may or may not affect all of us in the publishing industry. I can't quite figure out what policy Amazon is changing, however, and I've been scratching my head over this for two days. I've now read three articles on the subject (here's one article from LibraryThing itself), and I'm no wiser than I was before.

Here's the part that I think I understand. LibraryThing is moving book-buying links to all booksellers besides Amazon from its main pages to subsidiary pages. It's doing that, if I understand correctly, because Amazon will no longer share information with any subsidiaries that have links to booksellers other than Amazon on their home pages.

Here's the part that puzzles me, as a book publicist. All of my clients, it would be fair to say, have web sites (authors and publishers should know, at this point, that book web sites are an integral part of any book promotion campaign). And most of them -- not all of them, but most of them -- work with multiple booksellers and link to them on their web sites. What does Amazon want from these authors? Does Amazon want these authors to only provide book-buying links to Amazon on their sites? Well, yes, I'm sure they want that. But does Amazon's policy change mean that authors will be penalized if they include book-buying links to, say, Borders and BN.com on their sites?

At first blush, I'd say that authors' web sites will not be affected by Amazon's policy change. I say that because an author doesn't have to be an Amazon affiliate in order to have a book-buying link to Amazon on his or her web site. Authors can put generic links to Amazon on the home pages of their web sites (or, for that matter, on subsidiary pages), and then they'll be flying under Amazon's radar -- I think. However, I don't know for sure. I don't know for sure that authors would be penalized by Amazon for having book-buying links to booksellers other than Amazon on their home pages if they catch Amazon's attention -- say, by having a bestselling book.

I can't make sense of Amazon's policy change, and I'm wondering whether anyone can. Is Amazon acting like a toddler who needs to test his/her limits, or is it actually setting sensible policy rules? That probably remains to be seen.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Scary stuff.

When the Wall Street Journal publishes an article called "Booksellers See Savior in 'Symbol,'" that's scary stuff. Why do booksellers need a savior, wonders this book publicist? Have booksellers so hurt by the recession and the evolution to ebooks that they'll only survive if one book sells phenomenally well?

Typically, I'd say that the article's headline is hyperbolic, but typically, the Wall Street Journal is one of the publications that's not guilty of exaggeration.

The WSJ is arguing that, because of all the book publicity that Dan Brown's latest work has already received, and will continue to receive, that it's poised to sell well enough through the holiday season to keep booksellers on track. Really? Dan Brown is that important to the survival of the bookselling industry?

Hmm...that is scary stuff, indeed. No single book (or publisher, by the way) should have life-and-death power over booksellers. Also, it goes without saying that no single book, publisher, or author should have that might control over the future of the publishing industry. The publishing industry is made up of too many authors, publishers, books, book publicists, editors, designers, marketers, distributors, wholesalers, and booksellers -- and readers -- to let one particular project determine the future of the whole world of books. At least, that's what I've always believed and experienced. Perhaps the Wall Street Journal is onto something...but -- with all due respect -- I hope that, just this once, it's wrong.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Love book promotion, but hate to stuff envelopes?

Do you love the results of your book promotion campaigns, but hate stuffing envelopes and working out the logistics of mass mailings to the media to promote your book? Then you'll be delighted to read yet another article that says ebooks are making steady inroads in the industry and predicts that, by the year 2014, 20% of all books will be ebooks.

Book publicists, and those who conduct book publicity campaigns, will be delighted about that evolution to digital books if it actually comes to pass. How cool and easy will it be for book publicists to beam an ebook at a producer, editor, producer, or hosts who requests a copy of the book? How great will be when, instead of spending hours stuffing envelopes and lugging them to the post office, book publicists can send out emails to the media saying "click here to download the book?" Count this book publicist in! If it's quicker and less expensive, and gets great results, every book publicist should be excited about the opportunity to upgrade to ebooks -- at least, for promotional copies.

Sounds to me as though the only losers are postal service employees and those who work for those companies that specialize in overnight delivery of packages. It would be unspeakable to see jobs lost and an industry that's already hurting lose yet another source of revenue.

So I'm sending my good wishes out to workers at the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, and Fedex...while sincerely hoping that, somehow, ebooks can do good without doing harm. If that's possible...then this book publicist is on the side of progress.

Friday, September 11, 2009

David Letterman Show may be a liability for Seinfeld

Jessica Seinfeld has been cleared of plagiarism charges leveled against her by Missy Chase Lapine, a cookbook author. Turns out, Seinfeld didn't need anyone's help to figure out how to sneak carrots into spaghetti sauce, or whatever it is that she endorses in her cookbook, Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food.

So Jessica Seinfeld has been vindicated, but her husband, the inimitable Jerry ("Master of the Domain") Seinfeld, sort of wrecked everything by making a comment about Lapine (he figured out how to compare her to Lee Harvey Oswald, apparently) on the Letterman show. Now the family Seinfeld could be in for another lawsuit -- this one, because Jerry turned what could have been a book promotion (for his wife's book, but still) on David Letterman's show into an opportunity to further ruffle the feathers of Ms. Lapine.

Those of us who followed Jerry's sitcom knows how this story is likely to end: four old friends, sitting in a jail cell, bickering with one another while simultaneously figuring out how to sneak some veggies into the prison food.

Ah, Jerry. Jerry, Jerry, Jerry. Leave it to you to turn a book promotion opportunity into a potential fiasco. What are we going to do with you, my friend?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Blogs are alive and well as part of book promotion campaigns.

You want people to know about your book Web site, so you need to drive traffic to your book Web site. It's part of your book promotion strategy.

That's why blogging has been part of your book promotion strategy for so long. You blog, and -- assuming your blog lives on the Web site for your book -- visitors (and potential book buyers) come to your site.

But with the rise of social networking venues such as Twitter and Facebook, has blogging become irrelevant to a publicity campaign? No, according to the pundits at Webpronews. In fact, the writer Chris Crum cited the case of Alice.com which sells household goods directly to consumers and bypasses retailers as an example of a site whose traffic comes primarily through the word-of-mouth created by bloggers.

Granted, Alice.com isn't a book Web site, and household goods don't include books. However, the principle still applies: blogging creates buzz, and creating buzz is the goal of every book publicity campaign.

So if you're tempted to switch from blogging to micro-blogging, wait awhile. The time may come when distilling your messages to 140 characters is the only way to go ... but that time isn't here yet.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Death by brain tumor is a lousy way to get book publicity opportunities.

Death by brain tumor is a lousy way to get book publicity opportunities. But it is one way to do it.

You may have heard by now that the first print run for Senator Ted Kennedy's posthumous memoir is -- are you sitting down? -- 1.5 million copies. That's not a typo. Hachette Book Group actually is printing 1.5 million copies of a memoir.

I found that memoir in the news three times this morning without even trying -- once in the newspaper I was reading with my coffee (the Boston Herald), once in the online version of the Washington Post, and once on MediaBistro. If I'd spent 3 minutes proactively looking for mentions of True Compass, I would probably have found 20 of them.

And do you want to hear the strangest prediction? I'll bet those 1.5 million copies of Ted's memoir will sell. They'll sell not only because of all the book promotion the memoir will receive, but they will sell because of the respect we have for the senator. They will sell because of the grief we feel because of his passing. Finally, they will sell because who in the world doesn't want to know what Ted Kennedy has to say about JFK's assassination, and how it really felt to lose two brothers to those maniacs?