Connecting with Reading Groups

The World Wide Web is a powerful tool for helping authors reach out to large numbers of readers. GOOGLE has an extensive list of reading groups, chat forums and blogs, and is a great place to find links to readers of various niches and genres. Includes www.bookclubfun.com, with tips for starting your own book club or reading group, and ReadingGroupGuides.com, with 1460 examples of reading group book guides. Bibliophile magazines such as PAGES (www.ireadpages.com) are also great resources for staying in touch with booklovers' trends and habits.

Google's Directory of Reading Groups

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Feature

Building the Buzz: New Book Helps Savvy Authors through the Perfect (Publicity) Storm

Includes the Ten Things You Can Do if your Book's Not Getting Media Attention
We are a society running on overdrive. We’re overworked, underpaid, out of time, running late, and trying to catch up. There’s the book reviewer that can’t quite fit that clever new book into this month’s issue. There’s the publicist who’s juggling fifteen clients’ books and didn’t follow-up… What’s an undiscovered author to do?

Longtime book publicity specialist Lissa Warren has some answers in her new book, The Savvy Author's Guide to Book Publicity. Sharing some of the industry insider secrets and techniques she learned while working in high-profile publicity departments at David R. Godine, Houghton Mifflin, and Perseus Publishing, Lissa spells out book promotion methods that should improve your results whether you’re working with a publicist, without a publicist, and when the publicist you’ve hired isn’t getting results!

The Savvy Author's Guide covers all aspects of book publicity: how to write and present press material, targeting the right media, following up effectively, and hiring people that can help you succeed. She’s worked with all kinds of authors -– the enterprising, the shy, the expert and the novice. Whichever of these you are, following good, proven advice, and working really hard will get you and your book more media attention. Of course, a little bit of luck helps, too!

“I think that Americans are becoming somewhat immune to advertising, and that publishing companies are noticing this and putting their promotional dollars elsewhere,” says Warren. “People aren’t ‘sold to’ as easily as they used to be, so book review sections are shrinking because advertising dollars are down. That makes it necessary for newspaper and magazine publishers to cut pages.”

“The reduced number of review pages makes it harder than ever to get reviews, which means every good –- or bad -– review a book receives has more impact. It also means that more books are being ‘paired’ with other books, so the reviews are getting shorter. Unfortunately these reviews are merely descriptive and therefore aren’t ‘blurbable.’ That makes it harder to get blurbs for books, because you don’t have pull quotes.”

Warren’s book’s subtitle: A Comprehensive Resource – From Building the Buzz to Pitching the Press, helps explain that she’s about much more than sending a publicity kit to reviewers and hoping for the best.

“Luckily, the Web provides new and unique venues at a time when traditional ones are shrinking or being done away with altogether. It makes it easier for publicists and authors to identify shows and publications that might cover a particular book, and to find the right producer or editor to contact. In short, it’s changing everything about how publicity is done.”

Thank goodness there’s some positive news. We asked Ms. Warren for a few more positive tips on book publicity from the self-publisher’s point of view:

What are some things that can help self-publishers get a book review?

The most important things are to have a professional-looking book (an attention-grabbing cover, no typos in the flap copy, etc.) and a solid press kit (including a press release that makes the book SOUND interesting; it's not enough for the press release to just SAY the book is interesting). Also, keep in mind that many publications have long lead-times. That means they're assigning books 3-4 months before pub-date. If you don't have a galley or bound manuscript to send them at that time, you're probably going to miss your window of opportunity -- so focus your efforts elsewhere.

What's the best way to exploit the few reviews I may get?

If the entire review is good, paste it up nicely on a blank piece of paper (don't forget to include the name of the publication and the date) and include it in the press kit. Also, try to get the text electronically so that you can use it in your e-mail follow-up with other reviewers, radio and TV producers, etc. If the review is mixed, extract a favorable sentence or two -- or even just an adjective or two if that's all you can find -- and add it to the top of your press release.

Besides OPRAH and other prime time TV shows, what are the best kinds of publicity?

Nothing sells books like NPR (National Public Radio). Their listeners are smart, and they spend their money on books. Some NPR shows are nationally syndicated (which means one interview may go to several hundred markets). Other shows are on local affiliate stations -- but they still reach thousands and thousands of people.

What are some forms of publicity that are easy to get but still have some impact?

Shows on local cable TV affiliates are definitely worth trying. For example, here in the Boston area, there's a great show called "Books & Authors." Each interview is a half hour -- which is a really large amount of air-time for a book interview. And they're always happy to have on local authors. That's true of similar shows in other markets. Another one that comes to mind is "Connie Martinson Talks Books" in Los Angeles.

What are the advantages of a book tour, and does the savvy author have to go on the road to promote? Can a cyber-tour conducted from home suffice?

In all honesty, a road tour doesn't always make sense for a book that's published by a major press, much less for a self-published book. They're expensive, they're exhausting, and if your tour contains events (as opposed to just media), attendance is hard to predict. Instead, I'd recommend piggybacking media and events on travel that you're already doing for business or pleasure. As for a cyber-tour, I do think they can be a valuable means of promotion for certain types of books, but they're most effective when they coincide with other kinds of promotion (radio and TV interviews, reviews and profile pieces in newspapers and magazines, etc.). Alone, their impact isn't as dramatic. Ten Things to Do If Your Book’s Not Getting Media Attention, from The Savvy Author’s Guide to Book Publicity, by Lissa Warren

When I'm working on a book and it just isn't getting coverage, there are certain steps I take, and certain steps I ask my authors to take. Here are ten of them:

1. Honestly assess your book's media potential.

Has it been done before? Is there lots of competition? While you're at it, assess your own media potential. Are you regarded as an expert in your field? If yours is a science book, are you a scientist? If yours is a book about medicine, are you a doctor? If yours is a business book, are you a CEO at a big corporation? If not, you're likely to find it hard to get interviews. A writer does not an expert make-unless, of course, it's a book about writing. Could you be overexposed? Could your topic be overexposed? If you've written a book about dot-coms or Enron, or a book about boys or mean girls, you're bound to find it a bit of a tough go. But remember, media isn't the only way to make people notice your book.

2. Write an op-ed tied to your book.

When it runs, send it out to all of the broadcast media you've been targeting.

3. Try to get interviewed for something other than your book.

Not having any luck getting the media to talk with you about your title? See if you can interest them in speaking with you about another topic. For example, if your book focuses on how to lose weight, see if you can get your local paper to do a piece about your award-winning sugar-cookies. Tell them about the irony so that they give a nod to your book. Or if your book is about your memories of high school football but it's baseball season, try to get a sports radio station to have you on to talk about the joys of high school athletics in general. They'll probably still mention the book in your intro.

4. Go read the newspaper or listen to NPR.

Try to find current events to which you can gear your pitch. If your book is about job-interview techniques and the latest unemployment figures just came out (and have risen), you've got a new hook. If your book is a guide to Atlanta and it's about to be named a top-ten city, call up USA Today's "Destinations & Diversions" section and ask whether they want to interview you for a sidebar to run alongside the rankings.

5. Look for other books on the same topic as yours.

Two books equal a trend, and reporters love to do trend pieces. For example, in the spring of 2002, we published a book called Linked: The New Science of Networks. Around the same time, Norton published another book about networks, Nexus. By calling this to the attention of science reporters, we were able to get more coverage than we could have gotten with our book alone. Another example: In June of 2002, The New York Times ran a big piece about perimenopause that included a bunch of books on the subject along with info on various estrogen supplements.

6. Take a long, hard look at your press material.

Is it too hypey? Does it seem outdated in the light of current events? If it's skewed heavily to one section of your book, could you redo it to skew to another section in which the media might take more interest? It's also important to get someone else's take on your press material. While it's true that no one knows your book-or you-the way you do, it's important to get feedback that provides outside perspective.

7. Assess whether you're targeting the right kind of media.

Are you going for media that's too highbrow (or lowbrow) for your book? Are you wasting time trying to get reviews in major-market papers? (If your book is self-help, health, parenting, new-age, or very technical, the answer is probably "yes"; but don't lose heart-those kind of books are great for off-the-book-page coverage.) Are you focusing on long-lead time magazines after your book is already out? (If so, it's probably too late for them; go for the weekly mags instead.) Be honest with yourself: Do you have the right "sound" for radio? The right "look" for TV?

8. Look for new media outlets to approach, especially in your city.

For instance, have you exhausted the following local affiliates: NPR, CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, FOX? Have you tried the alumni magazine for your college and your grad school? Have you tried your hometown paper for a "local boy makes good" article? Have you tried all the magazines to which you subscribe? To get more ideas, have you gone to a newsstand? Have you approached the websites you surf on a regular basis? What about the drive-time shows on your local FM (and AM) stations? (To find them, just go to Google.com and type in the name of your city with the word "radio" next to it.)

9. Evaluate the way you're approaching the media.

Are your emails not getting answered? Try phoning the media instead. Are your phone messages being ignored? Try emailing or faxing.

10. Determine whether you're using all your ammo.

Are you including quotes from your reviews and copies of other coverage? Are they presented in an impressive way (in a folder or in color)? Does your bio list the shows you've done and the groups for which you've spoken? If you're touring, does it clearly state the venues where you're speaking so that each city's media know there's a local hook?

* * * * *

Any one of these ten steps can help you save your book -- can help you get it the attention it deserves. Like all of the tips in The Savvy Author's Guide to Book Publicity, they're meant to encourage you to think like “the pros.” But the most important thing is to keep a positive attitude. You are, after all, a published author; you've already accomplished what very few have done. Good luck as you embark on this journey. May it be meaningful, and fun.

* * * * *

Lissa Warren is Senior Director of Publicity at Da Capo Press, a member of the Perseus Book Group. An experienced promoter of both fiction and non-fiction, she speaks frequently at forums on author publicity.

The Savvy Author's Guide to Book Publicity: A Comprehensive Resource – From Building the Buzz to Pitching the Press
ISBN: 0-7867-1275-9; $14.00; 253 pgs.
Published by Carroll & Graf and available at Amazon.com.


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