Baseball and the Art of Book Marketing

If you’ve spoken to many publicists, you may have heard some analogies between baseball and book marketing. 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.

When the old “Oprah” show was on, it in many ways retarded the growth of authors and publishers in terms of fully understanding book marketing. She was the obsession of many, many authors. I 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 book marketing, 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” changed the playing field. What I’d like authors to know is that if a successful book marketing 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 book marketing 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 in your book marketing–you have to–but don’t swing so hard you end up striking out and never get on base.