Monday, February 22, 2010

How this book publicist's week started.

This blog could also be titled: How to turn a very nice book promotion campaign accomplishment sour.

So here's how this book publicist's week started. I had to apologize to a media contact for a former client's actions.

What happened was this. Over the weekend, I received an email from a radio show host sending me a link to a lovely book review he'd graciously written and which was published on his station's web site. Because I considered the book review to be a result of a book promotion campaign that I conducted (even though the book promotion campaign ended a few months ago), I forwarded the radio show host's email to the author without first removing the radio show host's contact information. It never occurred to me that there was a reason to strip out the contact information, and there is a practical reason for including it, since I often have clients who are gracious enough to send media folks thank-you notes for providing them with book publicity opportunities.

Wouldn't you know that, this morning, the author carbon copied me on an email he's sent to the radio show host that critiqued the book review and requested a revision? I was mortified -- now I was obligated to email the radio show host, apologize for passing along his contact information to an ungrateful author, and assure him that none of my clients would be contacting him directly in the future.

And all of that happened to this book publicist before 8:00 on Monday morning. Can I start this week over again, please? Book promotion is supposed to be fun! What happened here?

Friday, February 19, 2010

From the NYT bestseller list to jail.

Have you heard about Kevin Trudeau's book, The Weight Loss Cure? Trudeau, whom describes as a "TV pitchman," is the author of Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About, Debt Cures: "They" Don't Want You to Know About, and The Weight Loss Cure: "They" Don't Want You to Know About. His books have been on the New York Times bestseller list. But because Trudeau's integrity has been called into question, and because he seems to have found himself in a conflict with Judge Robert Gettleman (it seems that Trudeau stands accused of writing an unhelpful book and then rallying his readers to flood the judge's inbox with emails that support Trudeau and his diet book), Trudeau may be headed to jail.

Trudeau may serve a prison sentence and incur a huge fine as a consequence of his actions, but there's one positive thing this book publicist would say about him. If authors and publishers need any extra incentive to always conduct book promotion campaigns with integrity, and to always make honesty the first priority of a book publicity effort, then Trudeau is it.

Kevin Trudeau had achieved the dream of every author and every publisher.

And now he'll pay for it.

And he more than deserves to pay for it, according to the reports I've seen.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Did someone say "51-city book tour?"!!!!

Yes, we all enjoy book publicity, and we all appreciate the value of hard work and guerilla book promotion and dedicated self-promotion.

But -- wow! According to the Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Skloot arranged a 51-city book tour to promote her bestselling nonfiction book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

A 51-city book tour? That averages out to (yes, even this mathematically-challenged book publicist can figure it out) more than one book publicity stop per U.S. state!

It took Rebecca Skloot ten years to publish her book, and all of her hard work and effort paid off. Clearly, all the hard work and effort (and time and money) she's putting into her book publicity campaign is paying off, too.

But...a 51-city book tour? That's the most amazing book promotion effort I've heard of in recent times! I'm glad to see it's paying off for Skloot and for her publisher.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

No book promotion in a blizzard.

I'm postponing a few book promotion activities that I had scheduled for today due to a major snowstorm that's shutting down much of the Eastern seaboard. My clients had a choice about whether to move forward with our book publicity efforts today or postpone them until next week. My advice was to postpone them.

Here's my reasoning. The media will be covering the snowstorm. Even if the blizzard turns out to be a dud, the media will be covering the fact that it's a dud, and the fact that it's a dud will be breaking news. In the even that the snowstorm is as serious as it's supposed to be, the media will be focused on little but that all day today, and probably much of tomorrow, too. Besides which, many members of the media probably will not commute to work in a major snowstorm, and those who do report to the office will rush to complete their urgent tasks so they can go home early.

Thus, this book publicist is treating the snowstorm as if it were a catastrophic breaking news story. Since I'm not now representing an expert on how to survive in life-threatening emergencies, I'll take a break from pitching the media until the snowstorm winds down and cleanup is well underway.

But next will be onto book promotion again! In the meantime, there's plenty of strategizing to be done. Book publicity campaigns and media pitches don't conceptualize themselves.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

How many books will I sell if I invest $10,000 in a book promotion campaign?

An author emailed me today to ask a very reasonable question:

How many books will I sell if I invest $10,000 in a book promotion campaign?

I wish I had a reasonable, pithy response. Unfortunately, the best that I could do was to send him the following reply:

It's very hard to equate dollars spent on book promotion with book sales. Here are the challenges inherent in even taking a guess.

First, the results of PR efforts are, to some extent (although not wholly) unpredictable. I can make predictions (based on my twenty years of experience as a book publicist) about how the media might respond to my pitches (note, though, that I take on only book promotion projects that I feel show a great deal of promise). However, I can't know for certain how the media will respond until the media does (or doesn't) respond. While I work with the media and know have a very respectful sense of how they think and what they want -- the producers/hosts and editors/writers with whom I'm in touch make their own decisions about which books and authors to feature. I can nudge them, and I can influence them, but I can't control them. The fact that I've booked other clients on media outlet A is no guarantee that I can book any other particular client on media outlet A. My media contacts make their booking/featuring decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Second, as a book publicist, it's my job to conceptualize and execute creative, professional book promotion campaigns. Simply put, I pitch stories and articles to the media, and I communicate the results of my efforts to authors, and sometimes, to their publishers. Neither authors nor publishers (nor self-published authors) would have any reason to report their book sales to me. As that's sensitive information, I never ask for it. And I haven't yet had a client who has volunteered it. Frankly, I consider that private business, and I don't want to know it.

Even if I did know how many books a client sold, I'd be unable to take credit for those sales, much as I might want to (particularly if the book were a bestseller). Some successful authors I've represented have had more irons in the fire than a book promotion campaign, and those other activities have helped the cause of book sales. Also, to be fair, nearly all of my clients have received -- and count on receiving -- benefits from their book promotion campaign that transcend book sales. A successful book promotion campaign gives authors an opportunity to build their brand, gain credibility for themselves as experts, disseminate their messages, find speaking engagement opportunities that will pay (or reasons to increase their fees for speaking engagements based on their high media visibility), and so forth.

In short, I can't offer you a scientific formula for deciding how much money to spend on a book promotion campaign. I can, and will, offer up two thoughts, though. First, if you invest nothing in promoting your book, readers are unlikely to find it. There's just too much competition out there for shrinking book-buying budgets to fail to promote a book and expect positive results. To give your book a fighting chance to succeed, you must gain media visibility for it. Second, book publicity is a risky investment. Sometimes, an author's investment pays off in book sales (etc.), and sometimes, it does not. Never invest more money in book promotion than you can afford to lose.

Finally, I've had the great fun recently of promoting my own self-published novelty cookbook, "101 Recipes for Microwave Mug Cakes." While I will not divulge sale figures, I can tell you that -- with an appearance on Harpo Productions' "The Rachael Ray Show," a mention on CNET and on, and a steady stream of placements and interviews and reviews on radio, in newspapers, on blogs, and elsewhere on the Net (you can click here,, to see an overview of my book promotion campaign to date), I've been delighted with the results of my book promotion and self promotion efforts. I've been tickled to find proof of concept. Book promotion can work very well, and help you achieve your goals (of selling books and beyond) if your efforts are meaningful and creative and sustained.

If I were willing to give you a ballpark guess in answer to your question of "how many book sales would a $10,000 investment in book promotion buy me," I'd feel disingenuous, and I just can't compromise my integrity to give you less-than-honest response. Therefore, as counterintuitive as it may seem, I think I help you best by declining to "fudge" an answer to your question.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Web sites are key components of book promotion.

Book web sites are key components of book publicity campaigns. That's why they have to be done well.

Designing a book web site well does not mean integrating as many Flash components and as much eye candy as possible. On the contrary: anything that distracts the web site's visitors will ensure that visitors keep their visits short. Just as importantly, the very bad design elements that turn off visitors are also likely to turn off search engines. So keep it simple, and do your visitors (and would-be book buyers and media decision-makers) and search engine a favor.

I came across an example of a bad web design choice this morning while scanning the news online (which is the first of my book promotion tasks every day as I seek ways to tie clients' books and expertise into what's happening in the world). While I was checking out's headlines, I was faced with a choice between reading about the CIA's certainty that Al-Qaida will attack the U.S. within a few months or checking out why a Newsweek writer believes Meryl Streep is overrated as an actress.

I chose to read the latter -- or, at least, I tried to read the latter. Unfortunately, the web page featured a black background with a white typeface. Really bad idea. Now, as I look at a white background with a black typeface, I'm seeing horizontal black stripes across the page.

That's unnecessary, and the web site designer should have known better than to create something cute rather than functional. The takeaway? Make sure your book web site designer focuses on readability and search engine optimization. That will work, and you'll have a web site that's an asset to your book promotion campaign. Anything else is just indefensible.