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Promote A Book – Is a Book a Book if it’s Never Read?
Why choosing a book publicist to promote a book is key to delivering your message
The tree stands majestically in the forest providing shelter for the birds, food for the giraffe and oxygen for everyone else. The day arrives when a storm knocks the tree down. As it teeters on the brink of seeing the earth rise up to meet it, it thinks (you didn’t know trees could think? Did you not see the Lord of the Ring trilogy… I digress), “I wonder if anyone will hear me fall.” The old, “If a tree falls and no one is around to hear it, does it make noise?” question! Right now you are probably asking, “What does any of this have to do with my interest to promote a book or find a book publicist?”
Well I ask you, if an author wants to promote a book that they have written and it never gets read, is it a book?
One can argue that it is physically (or digitally) written; hence the book exists and thus I should be able to promote my book. However, if you ask the author who toiled many a day and night, doing research, planning a plot or sequence, creating characters and pouring his or her heart and passion into a work that SCREAMS to deliver a message… he or she would probably say, “No.” It can seem like that and often one loses hope, because every effort to promote a book has brought little result.
What if it’s not that your effort to promote a book has no hope, but rather that you’ve read too many “so called online book marketing experts” regurgitating the same old methods that worked 25 years ago, but not today? You’ve tried it all, book signings (if you can get anyone to let you do one), blogging (which few people read because they did not know you), social media (where over 370,000 published authors are trying to promote a book and are vying for the attention and wallet of the same people you are), to sending out press releases like they were charity slips to the local pantry, but getting no bites (no pun intended). So what else is there to help you to promote a book? A book publicist!
Oh, I know, you’re thinking that you already did that with your publisher. Well, not to sound like a know-it-all, but there is a difference between a book publiSHER and a book publiCIST. A publisher’s job is to print books. While some publishers have outlets for selling books to those who want to buy them (book stores for example), how will the book store know to order the book if it knows nothing about it or does not perceive that there is a demand for it? This is not the way to promote a book; that is if you want the book to be read.
A book publicist, on the other hand, promotes and markets books with methods that are current and get results, and they already have established relationships to create the interest. They are in the business to promote a book and they have the exact knowledge to know what to do when you say, “Help! How do I promote my book?”
So, what is current you ask? A great question!
A good book publicist will get you on talk radio, TV news and shows, in newspapers, magazines and online publications to help you to properly promote a book. You see, people are tired of commercials and they avoid them like a bad rash. Trying to promote a book on a commercial of any sort can be a big dead end street. They TiVO or DVR their shows, use pop-up blockers in their browsers, skim radio stations and ignore billboards… unless they know the product, company or author! You see, with SO MUCH advertising happening with people trying to promote a book and thousands of other products and services, people filter out the noise. However, they selectively CHOOSE what they WILL pay attention to. What helps this filtering process? Public relations, which a good book publicist engages in with they are going to promote a book!
By being on radio and TV, you are no longer part of the dreaded commercials trying to promote a book and the thousands of other products and services out there. You are in between the commercials, where people are paying attention to their favorite shows. When that happens, you get to engage the audience, deliver your message and give them a chance to get to know you. After all, while the book is what you want to sell as you want to promote a book, nevertheless, you are the product! However, that’s a topic for another article.
Now, you are probably thinking, “That’s got to be expensive! And, what if they don’t get me the exposure I want and need to promote a book? I will lose all that money.” You know you’re thinking it, so let’s get it on the table.
As a wise person once said (I cannot remember who), “Bad advertising is expensive; good advertising cost nothing.” The implied message is that if it’s done badly and does not work (which happens more often than not) then the money was wasted. However, good advertising costs nothing because it will generate sales and pay for itself. Good advertising will allow you to promote a book or for that matter any product or service that you have to offer.
While PR (public relations) is not advertising (different art, but needed more than advertising—read The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR by Al Ries) the same concept applies. The exposure and credibility that PR delivers will pay dividends with the public. But then that brings up the question, “How do I know if it’s going to be GOOD PR?” You really don’t, until it’s been done. However, you DO have the ability to make sure you DON’T lose your investment. How so? Use a pay-for-performance PR agency to promote a book.
A pay-for-performance PR agency charges only for the PR it delivers; hence if you don’t get on radio or TV as you try to promote a book, you don’t pay for it. Most agencies like this will have you escrow the money for a guaranteed amount of interviews and as they deliver, they get paid per interview. If they don’t deliver all of them, you get the remainder back.
While this sounds fair (and it is) not all agencies that claim to be able to promote a book are created equal. So make sure that you do your homework. See how long they have been in business, get testimonials, Google them to see what you find… do your due diligence. When you find the right agency and book publicist, make the choice to make sure that you get your message delivered. After all, you wrote the book. Don’t let your efforts to promote a book be just your thoughts falling down in a forest of paper; make sure others are around to hear your message loud and clear.
Promote A Book: The Media Wants Your Expertise, Not Your Book
It’s amazing what books mean to people. As a child, I HATED books. Books to me meant homework, boring, waste of time. It would have been a waste of your time to try to promote a book to me when I was a kid!
As I grew older, I found that a book can be many things: an escape, a consoler, a teacher, and a reference… among other things. Now for whatever subjects for which someone that is trying to promote a book, I realize that one thing that is always present is a message. Even in works of fiction the author has a message.
For example, in The Last Jihad, the last effort to promote a book by Joel C. Rosenberg, it was a political thriller that had a message about getting right with God and the political mess in the Middle East. While one reads the book, this does not leap out of the pages, but rather it subliminally permeates your thoughts as the protagonist goes from being a selfish to a benevolent hero.
After reading the book—which was a fantastic read—I learned that what qualified Joel to write and successfully promote his book the entire Last Jihad Series, was that he was a consultant to Congress during the Reagan administration, was a communications advisor to many high-profile leaders (including Benjamin Netanyahu) and an eschatological scholar—among many other hats he wears. So he is an expert on foreign affairs, the Bible, the Middle East and end-time prophecy. What better person to promote a book on the subject of Jihad! Because of this expertise, Joel is qualified to speak on multiple topics that would be ripe for the news and media and has earned him millions as a best-selling author.
So if you are asking right now, “How do I promote my book”, I need to ask you, “What is your expertise on the book that you want to write or have written”? What were the passion, experience, research and knowledge that added substance to the book for which you desire publicity? You see, this expertise will open the door to the media, giving you the exposure, credibility and publicity that will deliver your message and promote a book on the subjects near and dear to your heart.
Understand that according to Erik Qualman, author of the book Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), 24 of the top 25 newspapers are experiencing circulation decline. The New York Times let go of 1,500 people last year. They are not the only organizations that have had to downsize, so if you are trying to promote a book, getting the publicity you seek for your book is becoming an obstacle course far more difficult to navigate. So in order to break through, you need to be able to offer THEM something. What is that? Content!
The media need one thing to make them happy and successful: quality content for its consumers. Regardless if you are trying to promote a book or not, the news is constantly looking for people with expertise to speak on the hot topics of the day. So whatever subject that you’ve written for the book publicity for which you are seeking, tap into the expertise that fueled it and that is what you use to pitch yourself to the media.
Okay, so you figured out your expertise, but you may be wondering, “How do you pitch it to the media to promote my book? First thing you need to do is be on top of the news. You need to know what is going on in the world, in the United States and in your local community. When news happens that you can add valuable commentary on, you need to reach out and let them know you can help. If you can truly help people in the United States and in your local community, you won’t have to wonder “How do I promote my book?”; people will promote your book for you!
I know, you’re thinking, how do I know HOW to reach out to them and WHO to reach out to? Well, that is a bit more complex. You see a media book promotion pitch or a book marketing plan has to be written in a way that would anticipate their need and provide content that would provide a solution. Remember the layoffs mentioned previously? They don’t have a lot of time to prep stuff for prime-time, so the easier you make it for them, the more successful you’ll be as a book publicist.
This is why a good PR agency or PR agent is valuable to help when you want to market a book. You see a good PR agency and book publicist will know how to package your message and expertise; how to structure it for media producer’s and host’s consumption, and they already have the relationships and channels in place to break through and get their attention. And, when news is happening, it’s usually a very short cycle. So you want to make sure that you’re not wasting your time trying to figure it all out at a moment’s notice. No! You want it being delivered now, so as to beat the other expert to the punch.
So clarify your expertise, stay on tip of the news and get some PR. After all, if you want to promote a book you need to remember that you all ready wrote the book, so make sure the world knows about it!
What To Do If You Want to Be ON the News To Promote A Book
It’s an amazing thing how many people do not understand the POWER of PR to advertise book, nor how it works. Often I get calls from entrepreneurs, corporations, authors and individuals who believe that if one pays enough money, they can get on any TV or talk radio show they want to promote a book. Well, you may have the money, but money doesn’t buy access to the news to advertise book s.
Ask yourself, “If anyone could buy access to the news, which is supposed to be an unbiased aggregator of information, would one call it news or advertising?” Now, sure, there are some shows that are strictly paid advertising forums and thus an easy to advertise book s, but the listeners of those show know this and they take what they hear with a grain of salt. They know you’re trying to sell them something. Once again, that is not PR; that is advertising to promote a book.
No wonder press releases and requests from many companies, authors, etc, go unheeded by the media, because they do not exist to help you sell anything. They exist to provide valuable information to their public. So if you lead with what seems like all the talking points and sales hot buttons for your company, you won’t get anywhere. So how do you get on the news? You have to know what’s going on IN the news!
Now that may not make a whole lot of sense at first read, but if you understand the dynamics of PR, staying on top of the news is solid gold. How so? Let’s take a look.
PR, or public relations, is about getting your public aware of your message and you, and coming to trust you so that when they need to make a buying decision on whatever you have to offer, hopefully they will choose you as you advertise book s.
Think about it as a book promoter you are trying to promote a book. Have you ever listened to your favorite talk radio show or TV show and heard a guest speak intelligently on matters that were important to you? As a matter of fact, they did such a good job that they made an impression on you. Lets say that their services would actually help you to advertise book s. Even though they could help you as a book promoter, you may or may not have gone out and purchased their product or service right away. You may not have even gone to their website right away. However, because they were presented as an expert by a host you know and trust, you probably noted that.
Suddenly, you see him or her again on another show, hear him or her on the radio, read an article where he or she is quoted in a newspaper, magazine or online publication; now you are starting to trust them more and are curious about his or her book, product or service. You think, “It looks like these people can help me to advertise book s”, so you may go to their web site and do some research. Three months later, as a book promoter you need what they have to offer, so you call or send an e-mail message requesting information.
Now, even though you are a book promoter, trying to advertise book s and the company provides services to help you promote a book, what are the chances that you would have requested information from someone you didn’t know and did not trust when it came time to make a buying decision? Probably zero!
That is the function of PR. But, how do you get on the news if the news is not interested in your book, product or service? An even better question!
I will answer your question with a question… several as a matter of fact. Let’s say you wrote a book and now you want to become a book promoter. If you are a serious author, you probably did some research for your book, right? Would you say you have some or extensive experience on the topic of your book? Would it be fair to assume that you have multiple years of experience? Would you say that because of this experience, you probably can speak on many topics knowledgeably and provide supporting information? If so, that is what we call an “expert.”
The media is always looking for experts whom they can quote, interview and/or have as guest commentators on news and talk shows. But no matter how badly you want to promote a book, if you’re not aware of what is happening on the news, how are you going to contribute? If you’re not aware of what’s happening in the news, how will you even KNOW to pitch yourself as a book promoter to a host or producer when an opportunity arises where you can be the “go to” expert on how to promote a book?
From many years of experience in the PR industry, I can attest that if you position yourself as an expert who wrote a book and not as an author or inventor or CEO, your chances for landing that media appearance to promote a book versus promoting a business or a product, increases astronomically.
So read your daily, go to your favorite news web site, create some RSS (really simple syndication) feeds by other book promoter s that will inform you about events on the news that you can speak to, and stay informed. If you want to promote a book you need to remember; knowledge is not power, APPLIED knowledge is power. Learn this valuable lesson and your efforts as a book promoter trying to advertise book s will put you in the green!
Promote A Book – Are You Positioned For Maximum Growth?
Positioning… it’s a good word. It has enough syllables to sound important and when it comes to marketing and when you want to promote a book, it gives off a connotation that things are being done right. However, many people do not know what it is or what it means? It’s like branding; many believe that branding is packaging and a logo. And while packaging and a logo both play a part in helping one to brand and position, it does neither in it of itself.
Al Ries and Jack Trout, in their book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk (HarperBusiness, 1994) speak about the laws that would create one’s positioning: law #2, the Law of Category and law #7 the Law of the Ladder. I think that looking at these two will help to explain positioning well and will be critical to understand if you are planning to promote a book.
To respect intellectual property rights, I state first that the two examples I will use, Avis and Amazon, are the examples expressed by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their books. After all, Jim Rohn, noted public speaker and business philosopher, once said, “If it’s been said well, don’t try to re-state it; just give credit where credit is due.” So I give credit to Jim, Al and Jack!
Positioning, quite simply, is the “position” from where you will market your company and to promote a book. So, obviously being number one at what you do is the ultimate position, but that belongs to only one company. And, as Al and Jack said, “It always comes down to a two-horse race, #1 and #2; everyone else is a ‘me-too’ company.” With that said, let’s jump to law number seven, The Law of the Ladder to start.
In the law of the ladder, one must market from the rung on the ladder you are on. This is true if you are trying to promote a book, service or product. Since everyone likes to THINK they are THAT GOOD and aspire to be number one, often that is how they try to position themselves. In doing so, since the public is NOT dumb and they know who REALLY is number one, they dismiss you as a wannabe me-too company or author. In the Avis example, Avis tried for many years to close the gap between themselves and Budget Rent-A-Car, who is number one. Since the public knew Budget was number one, it never took Avis seriously enough for any significant growth to occur. However, when Avis realized that they were positioning themselves improperly and changed their positioning by changing their slogan to, “No. 2… We Try Harder,” they managed to close the gap.
But what if you’re not number two? What if you are just starting to promote a book and you are wondering “How can I promote my book?” Well these are great questions! After all, just like number one, the coveted position of number 2 only goes to one company as well. This is where the law of category comes in. If you can’t be number one (or number two), create a new category where you CAN be number one! That is what Amazon did. Amazon knew they could not overtake Barnes & Noble or Borders, who were entrenched as one and two, so they created the new category of “online bookstore.” This branded them and positioned them. They positioned themselves as the best bargain in books, online. People knew that their JIT (just in time) model meant a lower price, but you had to wait on shipping. Today, if you have an e-book reader, satisfaction is immediate (which Amazon pioneered as well). These points should not go unnoticed if you are trying to promote a book regardless if it is an e-book are the old fashion hard copy book.
Okay, so we know what positioning is, but how do we do it? How do I promote a book with the tens of thousands of other authors competing to promote a book as well? Another set of great questions (you are so full of questions)!
The best vehicle for this is Public Relations (PR). Why PR, you ask (again with the questions… keep them coming)? Well, I will answer your question with a question of my own. Would you rather be sold or would you rather have a conversation where you learn about a topic of interest and make your OWN decision on whether or not it is for you? If you were not the person trying to promote a book, but instead are looking to buy a book, do you want to make your own choice of book or do you want someone to make it for you?
If you chose making your own decision (I imagine that most of you want to make your own choices), then I would bet that you are a channel surfer/DVR/TiVo person who skips commercials. I will bet further that you are a web browser, pop-up ad blocker user and you would do anything in your power to be able to have the purveyors of SPAM (not the lunch meat, while you may want to do that to them too… just kidding) locked up and kept within a mile of any computer (or refrigerator). Guess what? You are not alone. So if that is how most people view advertising, how do you intend to get your message through to your public as you go about trying to promote a book, service or product?
What if (here’s a crazy idea) during your attempts to promote a book you were able to be invited, as a guest, into someone’s home and have someone who is trusted and respected by the inhabitants of the home, pat you on the back, call you an expert, and imply to those residents that you are likeable and trustworthy… that they should listen to you? What would that be worth to your company, book, product or service? That is what PR does through the power of the media. It is hands down the most effective way to promote a book; especially if you are an unknown or relatively new author.
While people may not like commercials, banner ads, pop-ups and SPAM, they LOVE their favorite talk show. Whether it’s Oprah trying to promote a new book or author, Montel Williams, Rush Limbaugh, Neal Boortz, Alan Colmes or any other talk show host. When they are listening, THEY ARE LISTENING! Whatever these hosts may say carries weight with the listener, so when he or she says, “And today, joining us is (fill in your name) noted expert on (fill in your topic) and the author of the book (if you have a book)…” the audience comes to respect, like and trust you.
Plus, instead of 30 seconds to one minute on a TV or radio commercial (will most likely get TiVo’d and skipped), you get 5 to 20 minutes (depending on the medium) to be able to really discuss your message and promote a book, service or product. And, at the prices for one-minute commercials, it costs a fraction for a full comprehensive interview with the implied endorsement and attentive audience.
Finally, as Al Ries, in his book, The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, states: “…advertising does not brand [or position], PR does; advertising supports the brand.” Then you will realize that you will be killing to birds with one stone (metaphorically speaking of course… no offense to the environmentalist or PETA reader). So save money, get positioned, be heard and liked, and get known as you try to promote a book, service or product. Start casting your stone!
To Promote A Book, Remember YOU’re the Product
You’ve been thinking about writing a book for some time now. The idea is toying with your mind to promote a book and you have it all mapped out in your head, but you have to find the time to put it on paper (or virtual paper with your favorite word processor). Finally, the gumption hits you and you finish your book (WHEW!). You think to yourself, “Boy am I going to make a difference with this message! Everyone is going to want to read this book.” You immediately start thinking, “How do I promote a book?”
One year later, your book is stacked high in your office, garage and bedroom. You’ve reread it 27 times and gave away 233 copies to church members, friends and family, but you’re not making any sales. You’ve followed all the author self-help advice you can find on how to promote a book and have sent (unsolicited) books to radio shows, TV shows, newspapers and online bloggers to generate interest. You’ve e-mailed and faxed enough press releases to fill a three-drawer filing cabinet. You think to yourself, “If I can only get on Oprah, BOY will I have it made!” The phone’s not ringing and your e-mail inbox set up for your book is empty (except for all the Viagra and dating sites SPAM). What’s wrong?
You need to remember when you promote a book that “You Are the Product…The Book Is Just The Message
“Why do authors like Dan Brown, Stephen King, Joel C Rosenberg, Suze Orman and others get all the press as soon as they release a book, and I can’t even get a phone call?” you think to yourself. The answer is simple… those authors know how to promote a book and are established brands. What do I mean by that? The author is the product, so no matter what book they write, they will get the press. They have done their job promoting themselves first and learned that once they have properly promoted themselves; it is easy to then promote a book on just about any subject that they want to promote.
Stop and think about it. If a book were written that was titled Live Free of Debt and Enjoy the Life You Were Meant to Enjoy, by Joe Shmuckatelly. Would you rush out and buy it? However, if it were written by Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey, who are established experts on finances and debt management, who know how to not only promote a book, but have done an excellent job promoting themselves, would you want to buy the book then? So, if that is how you choose a book, what makes you think the public will choose any differently? You need to become known, get some exposure and awareness and have the public see YOU as an expert with a message before you try to promote a book so that interest is attracted to your book as a result. Quite simply, you are the product, not your book! So what is the answer?
PR (Public Relations) is the answer to first promoting yourself BEFORE you ever try to promote a book.
Many don’t understand PR. The belief is that PR is a process of sending press releases to everyone in media to open the door to interview requests. While this used to be a viability in the past, it has become less and less so today. Why? Well, consider the changing media landscape and the number of authors trying to breach it as they try to promote a book on their subjects and interests.
The Field is Full
With close to 400,000 books published last year, there are many authors who are trying to get the same attention you’re vying for to promote a book that they have written. That’s a lot of press releases, unsolicited books and e-mails to mine through. Who has the time and the staff to do that? Also, with so many authors to choose from, typically only the known entities are the ones that get noticed immediately.
Due to this, many GOOD books get ignored and not read. However, there are NEW authors breaking through. How are they doing it? They realized that they needed help to promote a book and as a result, they hired a savvy book publicist who understood the true role of PR and how to employ it. What do they know that we don’t? The changing rules of media.
The Rules To Promote A Book Have Changed
The Internet changed the game! With so many options for news online, many have become less dependent on a daily paper. This has caused the newspapers to adjust and restructure. Did you know that the New York Times let go of over 1,500 employees by the end of 2010? Other papers have followed suit. If there are fewer people to run the operation and they are receiving over 500 press releases daily, who is reading them? No one!
Radio and TV have become very dynamic as well, due to the Internet and the demand for content. So production has become very selective. Many producers and hosts have PR sources that regularly promote a book or an author with them and that they’ve come to trust and rely on to provide content and guests to fill their daily news needs. With news happening at the speed of life, if the news release (pitch) is not from a source they know will not waste their time and provide it in a format that requires minimal effort on their part, they will just ignore it.
So how do you get past the gatekeepers when you need to promote a book? Hire a PR firm that can get you to the producers and hosts, so that they WILL look at your release and decide if you fill a need with what is happening in the news.
Once that door has been opened, you are on your way! Imagine being able to speak to 10s of thousands to over a million people, for 5 to 20 minutes (depending on the venue) and receiving an implied endorsement from a host they know, respect and trust. What would that do for your credibility? Imagine being quoted on radio, TV and in print, as an expert on your topic for the book you want to promote who also happens to be an author with a book titled (fill in the blank). The opportunities that can come from this are more than just possible book sales. Let me count the ways…
- Speaking Engagements: The more you are in the news, the more you will become known. Many companies choose speakers for conventions, training sessions, etc, from experts they’ve seen or heard in media. This can also lead to “natural” ways to promote a book with the resultant increase in book sales.
- Consulting: Not only do companies choose speakers, but if they have a need they also choose consultants. This has caused many an author to have consulting businesses that also lead to more book sales.
- Contributing News Expert: After you’ve been on TV and radio long enough, many TV and radio shows have their favorite guest experts that become regular contributors whenever it comes to the topic of their expertise.
- Editorialist/Blogger: The same can be said for print media (both online and offline). Many an author has become a columnist or blogger for established news agencies.
- Your Own Radio Show: Finally, many an author (Dave Ramsey comes to mind) have launched their own radio show careers, because of the following generated through their PR efforts to promote a book as well as themselves.
Many authors think, “Well, that might happen for a non-fiction, self-help or specialty skilled type book; but what about a fiction author? That won’t work to promote a book for fiction.” Au contraire (trying a little French lingo), ever hear of Tom Clancy (author of Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and the creator of the John Ryan character and series)? A former insurance salesman turned author who is considered now a military security expert. How about Joel C Rosenberg (author of The Last Jihad series and the new The 12th Imam) who is considered a national security and eschatology (end-times studies) expert?
So get with a reputable book publicist/PR firm and start the process in your efforts to promote a book. Oh, and by the way, once you start the process, do not stop it! It takes thousands of pounds of pressure to get a locomotive moving, but once it has momentum, it takes very little effort and energy to keep it moving and have it pick up speed. Once you have the publicity, if you stop, it WILL go away.
So make the commitment, decide to make it, and start your campaign to promote a book. After all, you already wrote the book! In the words of Jim Rohn, “When they close the book on your life, whether you won or lost, let it be at least said that you were in the game.” I invite you to the challenge of success!