Power Book Publicity Tips for October 2008

Here is our latest Power Publicity Tips newsletter. In this issue:

  • Article: Baseball and the Art of Book Publicity
  • October’s Top Five Publicity Tips
  • Article: Fiction Promotion: How to Get Real Broadcast Publicity for Your Make-Believe Book


A few brief company notes:

We’ve reached our 500th client! Tiffanie DiDonato represents this milestone for TCI-Smith Publicity. You may have heard of Tiffanie DiDonato. On Monday, October 13, a terrific piece aired about her on Good Morning America, and in a few weeks, another story will air on Inside Edition.  On top of this, a full feature will be running in London’s Daily Mirror … with a circulation of 2.5 million. You can read about her and see the story on Good Morning America story here: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/OnCall/story?id=6016900&page=1

On another positive note, TCI Smith Publicity client Bill Losey http://www.myretirementsuccess.com/pages/inthemedia.asp is “on fire.”  Thanks to the efforts of publicist extraordinaire Erin MacDonald-Birnbaum, Bil—among many, many other placements—was featured in US News & World Report, has become a regular columnists for AARP magazine, and a regular commentator on CNBC! A great example of the power of publicity!

As always, we invite you to forward this newsletter to anyone interested in this crazy world of book publicity. Please drop me a line for feedback and article suggestions for future Power Publicity Tips.


Sandy Diaz
Vice President Sales & Marketing
TCI-Smith Publicity
856.489.8654 ext 301

October 2008

Baseball and the Art of Book Publicity

by Dan Smith


If you’ve spoken to many book publicists, you may have heard some analogies between baseball and book promotion. I probably use them everyday when speaking with clients or prospective clients, because they make key points succinctly and in an understandable manner.

Here is the analogy distilled to its simplest form: Publicity is like baseball because both involve small hits, medium hits, big hits, and huge hits. (Think singles, doubles, triples and home runs). If you try to “swing for the fences” every time, you’ll strike out the vast majority of the time.  The smaller “hits” – singles (i.e. local radio interviews), doubles (regional print publications, local TV), and triples (syndicated radio interviews, regional TV, large newspapers, etc.) often provide as successful promotion as one of the home runs (national TV, national magazines) can.

I’ve grown to dislike Oprah (well, not really, but you’ll see what I mean). She has in many ways retarded the growth of authors and publishers in terms of fully understanding publicity. She is the obsession of many, many authors. I’ve had people offer me $20,000 to place them on Oprah. I had a client who wanted to mail himself in a box via UPS to one of her producers (I’m not kidding). Another author wanted to pay me to camp outside her home in Santa Barbara and catch her while she was leaving for work. I have fielded probably 300 calls over the years from authors who clearly made the point that all they were interested in, period, was getting on Oprah.

Oprah is the grand slam of publicity, or so many authors think. The odds of an author hitting the Oprah grand slam are miniscule; not even statistically significant. When some asks me if I get them on Oprah, I usually say flat out, “No, it’s doubtful, the competition is unbelievable, but, we of course will try, because that’s the only way you have a chance.”

The odds of hitting other grand slams–national daytime TV talk shows, and the Good Morning America types are absolutely better, but again, they should be targeted but all other media–of any size–should be vigorously pursued and valued.

So, the “Big O” has changed the playing field. What I’d like authors to know is that if a successful book campaign is analyzed, book sales and valuable exposure typically result from persistent, steady coverage in all types of media. A grand slam can change the trajectory of a campaign and cause huge jumps in book sales, but only focusing on the “biggies” is a recipe–the vast majority of the time–for publicity failure.

Pete Rose set the record for most hits and is legendary as a champion, and he hit only 160 home runs over 24 seasons. My firm has had clients who’ve enjoyed very successful, long campaigns with no true home runs. You see the point, I’m sure.

So, I suggest authors relish the small hits–do as many radio interviews as you can, regardless of where they are. Do an interview with your tiny hometown newspaper. Get a mention of your book in a tiny special interest trade magazine with a circulation of 500. Get a mention in your college alumni publication. Take it all; do it all; relish it all; and stick with it.

Do indeed try for the homeruns–you have to–but don’t swing so hard you end up striking out and never get on base.


This Issue’s Top 5 Power Publicity Tips

1. Patience is a Publicity Virtue. A book promotion campaign is not an overnight process by any means; it is more marathon than sprint. Media response time to pitches can vary from one day to three months, it takes time for an editor or reviewer to read a book, and the field is so crowded with so many books coming out each day, pitching and re-pitching takes more time.

2. Don’t Sweat Bad Interviews or Reviews. Put simply, if you’re getting a lot of attention for your book, not every interview or review/article is going to be positive. This is the nature of publicity.  When a bad interview happens, shake it off. The same goes for articles or reviews: You love your book, but it is impossible that EVERY one else will.

3. Don’t Obsess About Amazon.com. Too many times we’ve seen clients complete an interview then go to Amazon, refresh the screen 50 times for 5 hours, and wait for their ranking to rise. You will drive yourself crazy doing this. Publicity isn’t based on one interview or print article. You can and usually will get a bump on Amazon after an interview or print coverage, but the real increases in book sales happen in a cumulative way, over time.

4. Enjoy the Ride. No book campaign maintains momentum forever. Enjoy every interview or article written about you; take it all in and remember the wonderful feelings you get seeing your “name in lights.” It’s a fact of publicity that it won’t last forever. Enjoy the ride and have fun!

5. Don’t be Afraid to be Controversial. Controversy in publicity is usually golden. The best radio or TV interviews are the ones which turn into civil, yet heated verbal boxing matches. If someone takes a shot at you, ‘lock and load’ and professionally and calmly fire back!

Fictional Promotion…



by Dan Smith

Talk to any book publicist, and you’ll hear the same thing:  Getting broadcast publicity for a self-published or mid-list novel is at best challenging, and often nearly impossible. Unless your last name is Clancy, King or Rowling, chances are slim a radio or TV program is going to want you on the air to talk about your book. The reason is simple: Good interviews are usually based on real-life topics, and fiction–by its very nature–is creation by imagination, not real life.

If getting on the air to promote your novel is important to you, however, there is a way to make it happen. In many cases, it’s actually rather simple. But a word of caution: To do it, you’ll have to set aside your desire to talk about your book, and think like both a publicist and a producer. In other words, you’ll have to “play the game” that is broadcast publicity, and become a savvy self-promoter.


3 Steps for the Publicity Hungry Novelist

1. Forget about your book. Yes, you read that line correctly. The book, alas, is not what will get you interviews. In fact, it could keep you from getting on the air if you don’t play the game.

To get interviews, you must present producers with topics or show ideas based on your experience, knowledge or credentials, or on real-life themes in your book. Remember: No one wants to interview a book; they want to interview a person.

For non-fiction authors, it’s relatively easy to extract helpful information or engaging topics from a book, and use the same expertise, which enabled them to write the book to become a great talk show guest.

For novelists, however, literary creativity and an active imagination usually don’t add up to engaging interviews. But, most novelists base their stories on real-life experiences, sometimes without even knowing they did. That’s why you should forget about your book, and think about what caused you to write on a specific subject, include certain characters or use certain locales. Then, look at your own personal history, work experiences and personal adventures.

Secondly, look at themes in your book–the storyline, setting, characters. What is the basis or “topic” of the book? Does it involve controversial characters or interesting themes? What kind of research did you complete to accurately write the story and add depth to characters?

What you’ll find, most likely, is that there is a “topic” in your novel, whether from your own personal experiences or the story itself.  Almost every work of fiction is based upon something “real.” Discover what it is.

2. Go angling. Based on what you came up with from Step 1, find an interesting angle.

Let’s say, for example, you wrote a novel about senior citizens who move out of a retirement center and into a private home together.  Perhaps you came up with the idea after caring for your own parent, and seeing problems with senior care.

You did a little research for your story, and discovered that very few seniors live together like many younger people do, and a little more research made you realize that there are really not many reasons why this is so.

You’ve discovered a topic: “Senior Group Living.” To jump-start your publicity campaign, you start a “movement” to launch awareness of senior group living. Now, you have something the media might find interesting. The market for this topic wouldn’t just be older people, but also Baby Boomers and anyone who cares for an older parent.

You’ve turned fiction into reality.

Give ‘em what they want.  Based on your idea of “senior group living,” you now need to develop a news release to get producers interested.

Think about what you hear on the radio or see on TV when the host announces what will be coming after a break. Things such as “After the break, find out why shacking up may not be just for young people any more.”  That line is designed to keep you tuned into a program, and that’s exactly the type of effect your trying to achieve with a news release … getting the producer interested.

3. Important:  Don’t write a press release the way you want to present it, but the way producers want to see it. Mastering this concept can make a world of difference.

Using the above example, you might try a question headline:

“Out of the Retirement Community and into Homes: Is Senior Group Living the Next Big Craze?”

Or, something controversial:

“Selling Grandma Short? The Cold, Hard Truth About Senior Citizen Living Options”

Perhaps you have a website to promote your book. Why not conduct a survey of seniors which assesses their preferences for living options?  You might find that a very high percentage would be interested in living in private homes together. Since the media loves statistics and surveys, you might have created an excellent angle for print exposure:

“Survey Finds That 95% of Senior Citizens Would Prefer Living in Private Homes With Other Seniors.”

After you have the headline, the rest is relatively easy. Write a short, snappy one page release in typical “inverted pyramid” journalism style. Lay out the problem, give an example, and then introduce the solution or the angle of your release. Include 4 or 5 bullet points which can serve as talking points for producers and hosts, trying to make it so that that each bulleted item could stand on its own as a headline.  Use the last paragraph to summarize your credentials and promote your book.

In three steps, you’ve turned what appeared to be a potentially impossible book to use as a means of getting on radio or TV, into a viable and interesting topic. If you can get the release into the right hands at shows, you’ll likely get calls for interviews, and opportunities to promote your book. Even if the topic is only tangentially related to your book, you will be introduced as “Joe Jones, the author of the novel ______,” and hosts (at least the good ones) will give you plugs for the book.

Case Study in Successful Fictional Promotion

A self-published client, Peter DeVico came to our firm for book publicity support of his novel, From the Brooklyn Side, a classic “Mafia” story in the Goodfellas style. A first-time author, he had no name recognition and limited distribution–so getting the word out was essential.

After in-depth discussion, we learned DeVico had a near encyclopedic knowledge of the Mafia, its history and operation. The Sopranos was hot, so we decided to position DeVico as a Mafia expert, and developed a short release titled:

“From Buckwheats Hits and Empty Suits to Vigs and Little Joes:

Give Your Audience the Ultimate Mafia Trivia and Lingo Quiz.”

DeVico went on to do more than 50 radio interviews and was featured in the New York Times. Fiction to reality!

A few last tips:

●      Refer to your novel as a “book” in the press release. Some producers are turned off by novelist-guests, and even if they call and discover it’s a novel when they speak to you, you’re still in a great position to sell them on the topic anyway.

●      Don’t compare yourself to well-known authors. Create your own identity. Trying too hard to build yourself up often isn’t as effective as presenting yourself professionally.

●      Develop a catch-phrase for yourself. If you refer to yourself as an “expert” in something, people will begin to refer to you as that when you’re introduced. In book promotion, the bashful perish and the confident prevail!

●      Learn the soft sell. Producers and hosts hate nothing more than a guest who refers to their book every other sentence. Let the interview come to you, and let the host do his or her job.

●      Never say never. Do every interview you can, regardless of wattage or location. Talk shows will drive book sales, but it will not happen overnight. Be patient, persistent … and have fun!