Thursday, August 18, 2011

How to blow a book promotion opportunity.

How can you blow a book promotion opportunity? Let's look to Christine O'Donnell for inspiration. O'Donnell, who is promoting her book, Troublemaker, walked off the set of "Piers Morgan Tonight" during a live interview.

Piers Morgan, in case you've missed it, is the TV talk show host who has succeeded Larry King in his old CNN time slot. Morgan hasn't yet attained the status that King enjoyed, in this book publicist's opinion; he hasn't earned it yet. Still, an interview with Piers Morgan represents an important book promotion opportunity, and it's one that every author would feel very lucky to score.

O'Donnell, apparently, wasn't "every author." Rather than feel grateful for the international exposure "Piers Morgan Tonight" offered, she decided that Morgan's questions weren't headed in the right direction ... and she removed her microphone and walked off the set.

If Christine O'Donnell thinks she will go from behaving like a spoiled brat on the set of "Piers Morgan Tonight" to accepting her choice of subsequent book publicity venues, she's mistaken. Book promotion opportunities were hers for the taking -- as long as she graciously accepted them and played the good sport when things didn't go exactly the way she hoped they would.

Instead, Christine O'Donnell had a tantrum in front of the TV cameras.

That was unwise. It also could have been easily avoided if Christine O'Donnell understood why she was invited to appear as a guest on "Piers Morgan Tonight." What O'Donnell believed she was doing on "Piers Morgan Tonight" was showcasing her book.

Well, no. Book promotion opportunities may have the effect of letting authors showcase their books. But no author is invited to appear as a guest on any media outlet to sell books. Authors are invited to appear as a guest on a media outlet to entertain and inform the audience. The interview, at all times, is controlled by the host, not by the author.

The author is fortunate to have each book promotion opportunity. And whether the author in question is Christine O'Donnell or Jane Doe, the author's gratitude should transcend any tendency to feel slighted, irritated, or unappreciated.

Christine O'Donnell was not supposed to let Piers Morgan get her dander up, and she was not supposed to behave like a prima donna, and she was not supposed to disregard her commitment to Piers Morgan's audience (not to mention to his network and its sponsors) when she didn't get her own way.

That was a mistake, and it's one for which Christine O'Donnell's book promotion campaign will suffer.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Let the News Work for Your Book Promotion Campaign

If you’re waiting for a slow news day to pitch your story ideas to the media, you’ll probably have a long wait. In fact, you might never succeed in shouting down the major events of the day, and you might find yourself waiting forever to find a lull in the news so that you can launch the book promotion campaign you’ve envisioned.

There’s always something happening: crime, war, politics, money, sickness, or a combination of all those things. These front-burner events will take priority over any other story ideas you offer producers and journalists, and they should. These are the news stories that affect people’s lives, and you can’t fight their impact. These are the news stories that affect people’s lives, and you can’t fight their impact. Instead, you can take advantage of new stories and their relationship to the messages you want to convey, and you can use them to get the top media placements you seek.

Here are five ways to let the news work for you so that today’s headlines can become your immediate media placements:

Scout for opportunities. Make a habit of checking news outlets for stories that you can address as a professional, or as someone who has researched (or experienced) the subject matter. Ask your friends, relatives, associates, and publicist to do the same. You’re seeking news stories to which you can add expert advice, missing information, or an alternative perspective. Is everyone in the media discussing the stock market’s volatility? Then this might be a good time to pitch your knowledge of the long-term dangers of stress, ways to teach children about investments, or how delaying retirement can benefit your health. In other words, if you can tie your wisdom (or your novel’s themes) into hot news stories, then you can use all of the book promotion strategies at your disposal to pitch the media while the event is still unfolding – and while media decision-makers still need to find fresh ways to report it. You might discover news hooks you had never envisioned while you were writing your book or planning a promotional campaign, but those time-sensitive news angles are usually the ones that get the best media response of all.

Be creative, but realistic. Sometimes, news stories jump out at you as obvious opportunities for contributing your voice and experience. At other times, it takes a bit more imagination to connect your expertise to the news. That can work in your favor. If all professional landscapers thought about sharing their advice about how to clean up after hurricanes at once, then you’d have far more competition to worry about. But, while it helps your cause to find clever connections that others miss, it could harm your relationship with the media – perhaps permanently -- if your pitches are wildly and consistently off the mark.

Be concise and professional. Because most time-sensitive pitches are online pitches (how many journalists and producers do you know who actually pick up their telephones anymore?), you’ll probably email, text, instant message, or tweet your pitches to the media. Make every word count. Be succinct, and offer hyperlinks (no unsolicited file attachments!) to help media decision-makers find relevant information easily. At the same time, be sure to proofread your pitches before you send them. If you compromise spelling, grammar, or accuracy in favor of speed, then you give journalists and producers a reason to question your communication skills, and you never want to do that.

Make yourself available, or wait until next time. The media has just released the surprising results of a medical study, but they don’t know the whole story. You’ve let all the health editors in your database know that you have something important to add, but you’re committed to seeing patients, and you can’t do interviews until next month. That may be too late. When a news story is breaking, and you're tempted to pitch the media, first ask yourself whether you really can make yourself available for a quick round of publicity opportunities. If you can, go for it. Otherwise, hold onto those media pitches for another time and another news story. Don’t offer media decision-makers something they want – in this case, yourself – and can’t have.

Be confident. Modesty is admirable, but if you want the media to take you seriously, this isn't the time for humility and hesitation. Your job is to convince media decision-makers that you’re the go-to person for a particular news story, and you can do that only if you believe it yourself, and if you convey authority, self-assurance, and credibility with each pitch.

Finally, persistence can work in your favor. If you’re disappointed with the media’s response to your initial pitch, then try again another time with a different news hook. The media’s silence isn’t an indication that your pitches are unwelcome. It only means the timing wasn't right or that another expert came along with a more appealing angle. Keep trying, and who knows? The next unfolding news story could provide you with just the hook you need to score an appearance on a major media outlet. And, with luck, it might even happen before the day is through.

Stacey J. Miller is a book promotion specialist and founder of S. J. Miller Communications. Visit her at

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Why Authors Hate Social Networking

Why Authors Hate Social Networking
And How to Promote Books Online, Anyway

Publishers, faced with shrinking book promotion budgets, are more excited than ever about telling authors to promote their own books online. By online book promotion, publishers often mean social networking. They use the phrases interchangeably. The reason publishers are particularly excited about online book promotion is that, in their opinion, they don’t have to get involved in it. They can simply suggest that authors engage in online book promotion, and then step back and wait to see the results. It’s good for the publisher’s budget and easy on their resources, and it keeps authors busy.

Authors, on the other hand, may have mixed feelings about online book promotion. It’s hard to say “no” when your publisher tells you social networking can be good for book sales. On the other hand, social networking can be a huge time sink and present some vaguely disturbing possibilities. Once authors have opened the gates to social networking, it can be hard to close them again. Do authors really want to spend hours each week communicating with (and fending off luncheon requests from) play group friends, buddies from the old neighborhood, relatives with vaguely familiar surnames, or colleagues from forgettable jobs?

Becoming active on any of the social networks is like leaving your door cracked open in the summertime. It’s tempting to enjoy the fresh air and a pleasant breeze, but you also could be letting the creepy crawlies through the door. Authors know this which is why so many of them instinctively and wholeheartedly resist social networking.

But just because the former playground bully lies in wait, hoping for redemption, on the social networks is no reason for authors to avoid online book promotion opportunities altogether. There are innovative ways and effective ways to create online buzz for books. Here are four ways to begin:

Launch a contest. A giveaway is easy to host, and all authors have to do is provide winners with copies of their books. There are web sites that will help spread the word about contests. Each giveaway winner is a source of word-of-mouth promotion, and anyone who signs up to win but doesn’t is a potential book buyer.

Connect with bloggers. Ask bloggers to review books. Most of them will be glad for the opportunity, and each online mention of a book is another search engine optimization gem.

Draft articles. Offer information that relates to a book (yes, even a novel) in the form of an article. Many blogs and web sites accept simultaneous submissions, so the process of seeing an article published online should proceed quickly. Submit articles to newspapers and magazines, too. Most of them have web sites as well as print publications.

Comment on news stories. Many news sites invite readers to submit feedback, and these posts are published instantly. Set up a Google alert to find news stories related to specific topics, and write a mini op-ed for each. Posts can include the names of authors’ books.

For authors who like the idea of creating online buzz but lack the time or the contacts, book publicists who are on the cutting edge of online book promotion can help. They’ll have ideas of their own, and authors can offload the time-insensitive, research-related parts of the job to them.

The good news is that online book promotion campaigns require far less startup time – and can even be far more effective, in the long run -- than traditional book promotion campaigns. So for authors who won’t be forced or “guilted” into social networking, there are still opportunities for online book promotion now, and there are more cropping up every day as technology evolves.