Archive for July, 2006

Some Keys to Promotion

July 5, 2006

Author 101 Book PublicityI’m continuing to give some glimpses into Bestselling Book Publicity by Rick Frishman and Robyn Freedman Spizman.  Since these authors have worked for years in book promotion, they know firsthand the fears and concerns from authors about this aspect of publishing. Many years ago I visited Rick’s Planned Television Arts office in New York City where they run some high-profile author promotion. In general, I’ve found writers are shy and introverted so the whole concept of getting out in front with your book sounds threatening and contrary to our normal personality. I completely understand and it’s not something that comes natural.

Frishman and Spizman say, “After authoring and promoting many books, we’re here to testify that the writing is the hard part; it’s slow, solitary, exacting work. It’s constant writing, rewriting, checking, rechecking, editing, and re-editing deep into the night until your mind is mush and your fingers feel like linguini as they bounce off all the wrong keys. Writing a book requires intense concentration, dedication, and discipline. Plus, when you reread it in the morning, it often makes no sense. After you’ve written your book, the real fun begins—if you let it…The key to successful book publicity is approaching it positively with excitement—to open up and expand that creativity that you may have suppressed or never even knew you had. Turn the work that lies ahead into an enjoyable, creative experience, to eliminate the drudgery and increase your chances of doing a fabulous job.”  The right attitude in approaching promotion is one key.

Also you have to make your book distinct from others in the market.  Before you wrote the book, remember your book proposal?  I hope as a part of that process, you detailed the competition and distinctions of your book. It’s a great place to turn and recall the distinctions of your book for the overall marketplace.  It’s another key emphasized in Bestselling Book Publicity. These authors say, “Publicity works best when you distinguish yourself and your book and show others why it’s so special and a must read. It’s the perfect opportunity to be creative; your only limits are those you impose on yourself. Unfortunately, many of us have been sold the bill of goods that publicizing our efforts or ourselves is crass, undignified, and not what respectable people do—which is just plain wrong. According to that thinking, we should sit back and wait for the world to recognize and applaud us; do nothing but let nature take its course. However, doing nada doesn’t sell books! So take control! Start by changing your attitude and your approach. Adjust your thinking; become positive, optimistic, and active. Commit to vigorously promoting your book and yourself. If you want to sell books, it’s a must!”

Finally, these authors address something a weakness in authors which I see on a regular basis.  In particular, fiction authors don’t believe they need to promote their books. As a fiction acquisitions editor, you’d be surprised what people answer when I ask how they are going to promote their book. Many of these authors believe they can forget about this process because they’ve simply told a great story (which is always key).  Frishman and Spizman say, “Some authors mistakenly think that it’s unnecessary to promote books of fiction. They believe that once their novels, short stories, and poetry are published, literary acclaim, huge book sales, and big advances for subsequent books will automatically follow. Sorry to say, they’re wrong—very wrong. The market for fiction is densely crowded, and the competition for readers is fierce. Without publicity, first-rate fiction can get lost in the crowd, languish, and not sell; it happens every day. Lack of sales can hurt authors’ careers because when publishers make their acquisition decisions, they consider how the authors’ prior books sold. So, as you read this book, keep in mind that the information will be beneficial to both fiction and nonfiction books.”

I hope you can see some of the truth for any author that rings in the pages of this title.

Another Promotion Idea Factory

July 4, 2006

Not another one, I groaned to myself as I pulled this book out of the envelope. I’ve got a number of how-to books on my shelf (which I’ve read) about publicity and book promotion. I can empathize with M.J. Rose last week who was a panelist last week at ThrillerFest in a workshop called Buzz Your Thriller. She told about reading Jacqueline Deval’s great book, Publicize Your Book. M.J. told the audience, “It’s like a Bible for publicity. After reading that book, I was so depressed.” Why? Because as M.J. said, you can’t let yourself get frustrated reading this information. “You can’t do everything J.A. Konrath says to do in your blog.” J.A. Konrath was also at ThrillerFest (I didn’t connect with him) but he was also at the event. If you don’t know, J.A. Konrath is in the middle of a two-month book tour where he’s determined to reach 500 bookstores this summer. Now that’s a lot of bookstores. I’m afraid I fall into the category like M.J. Rose who admitted she isn’t that outgoing to meet and greet that many bookstore personnel then the people that come for the signing. No matter what it’s an interesting strategy. To some degree you may find these promotion books frustrating but keep in mind this simple fact: you can’t do everything but you can do something.

Author 101 Book PublicityOK, back to my groaning with this new how-to book called Bestselling Book Publicity by Rick Frishman and Robyn Freedman Spizman which is part of the Author 101 series (don’t get confused because each of these books say “Author 101” in huge letters but the name of the book is something else—and this one has a green cover). I know Rick and Robyn wrote this book to fit into their series of how-to books and Rick is a true expert in this area of promotion because is the president of Planned Television Arts, which is one of the top PR firms in the country. I read this book and it has terrific content. I plan to highlight some of it during the next entry or two on the Writing Life. Here’s a key aspect of book promotion from their introduction, “In order for people to read your book, they must first hear about it, learn that it exists. If they never hear about it, all the amazing information you’ve compiled, all the new ideas you explained, and all of the poetic descriptions you composed will never penetrate their minds. If readers don’t know about your book, your words won’t have a voice.” They continue to talk about the fierce competition for our attention as readers. Then say, “Every author—from the most noted, perennial bestseller to the complete novice—needs to publicize his or her book. Even if your publisher’s in-house team is promoting your title full steam, you also must promote. It can be the difference between its being widely read and not read at all.”

How’s that for a dose or reality?

Here’s the key reason all of us can learn something from this new book, “To publicize your book, you can employ an endless assortment of tactics, the options are virtually unlimited—a bottomless pit. No single formula, guaranteed method, or foolproof recipe can make every book succeed; however, many approaches do work. As professional publicists and authors, we’ve used those approaches. They have succeeded for our clients and us big-time. Now, we want to teach them to you in this book…When we agreed to write this book, we fully understood that we couldn’t cover all of the bases; that it would be impossible to teach you every book-publicity tactic that has ever worked. You see, unlike baseball, publicity doesn’t have just four bases, it has thousands of them, and publicists—a remarkably inventive group—keep devising more every day.”

Welcome to another promotion idea factory. Bestselling Book Publicity contains some great insight and I’ll be back to highlight some of it.

Chick Lit Sans Four-Letter Words

July 3, 2006

The Devil Wears Prada -- StreepThis weekend my wife and I watched The Devil Wears Prada, one of the more anticipated movies of the summer—at least heavily promoted.  It’s the story of Andrea Sachs  (Anne Hathaway), a young journalist who has the chance to be the second assistant for Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) of Runway Magazine. The problem is that Andy Sachs has no background in the fashion world or sense of personal style in her own dress.  Editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly is a much revered figure in the fashion world but essentially the boss from hell.  Andy’s challenge is to fit into this unusual environment and not only adapt but thrive.  The film has many light-hearted and fun moments as Andy attempts to learn about fashion and gain her own place in this different world.

The Devil Wears PradaThe movie is based on the New York Times best-selling The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger.  It’s likely many fans of the book will bemoan the movie and the different elements eliminated or not told in the film. Movies can only capture something like 10% of the contents from the book so it’s a common theme in these rare situations where a book has been made into a movie. Only a small number of published books ever become movies.  Yes, they make a large splash when it happens but it is rare in light of the many books published each year.

I am not the target audience for The Devil Wears Prada which falls into the chick lit category. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m not interested in reading a bunch of four letter words. The advantage you have with the movie over the book is this area of “rough language.” If you wonder what I’m talking about, then go to the book link and click on search inside this book—then look at the cab driver conversation on the second page about halfway down the page.  You will see the F-word repeated several times in this paragraph. Not to be snooty but I’m not interested in reading this type of material—even if it is funny and bestselling. The movie carries out the same fascinating characters and the setting of the fashion industry sans the four-letter words of the book.

Andy’s transformation in the movie was intriguing to me.  Initially she knew nothing about fashion yet because she wanted to fit into the culture, she changed her life. It’s the same sort of movement, many of us have to make when it comes to the publishing world. Initially we start and know no one and very little about the expectations of the editor for our work. Through trial and error, reading about publishing and personal mentors, we learn how to meet the expectations of the editor for our magazine articles or our book proposals.  Our material becomes geared for a particular audience or market instead of something we just crank into our computers for our own amusement. Instead we are writing for a specific type of reader.  I found Andy’s experience symbolic of the journey.

Focus on the Positive

July 1, 2006

M.J. RoseIf you read any of the statistical news about publishing, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and maybe even depressed. M.J. Rose at ThrillerFest gave a couple of them saying, “There were over 3,000 mystery and suspense novels published each year.” And in the next breath she said, “And review sources have shrunk by 50% over the last five years.”  As an author, you sit and look at your single book or several books and wonder, How in the world I can cut through the haze?  You won’t unless you proactively do something to work on reaching your market. If you leave it all up to the publisher, you will regret it.  First, you have to write a terrific book which is well-crafted and aimed at a particular audience. This basic ingredient has to be there. Unfortunately there are a number of great books which never sell many copies and soon fade out of print.

After M.J. Rose began  to spiral everyone in the room toward depression with her statistics, she turned the mood with, “You can’t do everything. You have to find your thing and focus on what you can do to market your book.” During the Buzz Your Book workshop, M.J. encouraged, “Think of out of the box marketing. You have written a novel where your key characters are breast-feeding truck drivers.  There are blogs and websites for anything with hundreds of thousands of readers. You have to do some deep searching to find your particular interest.”  Then M.J. told a personal story. She had a Maltese puppy which died and she joined a listserve for people who had lost dogs (there must be one). This list had over 1,500 people on the list. She participated in the list but said nothing about being an author or her books. Instead she developed a relationship with these people about a common interest—the loss of a dog.

Each of M.J.’s emails include her signature which has a link to her website. “Even my emails to my father include my signature,” M.J. told us, “Every email has this information.”  After several weeks, someone on the list asked M.J., “What in the world is The Venus Fix which is on your emails?” She said, “Oh, that’s a novel that I wrote called The Venus Fix.” Overnight Amazon.com sold 400 copies of her book. She had built the relationship and her friends purchased her book. It’s a lesson that anyone can apply to their own book promotion.

I had a personal application from this story for Book Proposals That Sell.  Several weeks ago I joined a large writer’s listserve (supposedly over 7,000 on the list).  I’ve been trying to participate but most of the emails (and massive amounts of emails) are worthless responses (“You go girl.” or “Good going, John.”).  I’ve been deleting tons of emails without opening them and considered dropping out of the group (or at least going on digest version). 

Then I remembered the group moderator has been encouraging people to send emails with substance (read content). On my website for this book, I’ve got two brief excerpts. I pasted an excerpt into the email and sent it to the list. It gives people a taste of the book. For now I’ve decided to continue using my delete key and remain an active part of this list. You never know what could happen from that small effort. Here’s my point, I’ve not given up but I continue to make the effort. You can do the same.  I love the African Proverb that I heard this week connected with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”