Monday, November 24, 2008

Market Your Ass Off

Someone asked a question the other day that went something like this: When a contract is signed and edits are completed, does the publisher place the book on its Web site and is the author allowed to post his or her book on his own site? This got me to thinking maybe there are others out there who don’t understand the importance of marketing. Hopefully, the answer to this writer’s question will be of value to others.

Note: In the following, I will refer to both fiction and non-fiction works as books. I refer to them as books, because that’s what they are—books, as in bookstore, a place where books are sold.Yes, I know that a novel is fiction and book is used to designate nonfiction. I also know that the word "book" is used as catch all terminology for both fiction and nonfiction.

As far as what a publisher does to market books, that would be a question you should ask your publisher. However, generally, if the publisher has a Web site, they would put their entire list there and, in the case of very small publishers, might even sell the book from their Internet site. But that doesn't mean an author SHOULD depend solely on his publisher to market his or her book(s). Each author should also have a Web site, a blog and should, whenever possible, promote his/her books on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace along with links to any and every site possible. A writer must use all avenues open to him to do whatever he can to make sure that his book is in as many readers' hands as possible. A writing career is built on making readers aware of who you are and what you write. If you don’t do this, you are just another name among the hundreds of thousands of names of people who have offered their literary wares. It’s imperative that you, literally, make a name for yourself.

Never pass up an opportunity to market your product. The reasoning behind this is that an author, as the book's creator, is a celebrity in the eye of his/her readers. Most readers don't know, or care, who published their favorite book. Publisher promotion is never as effective as an author’s, thus most publishers depend on the writer to promote his or her own books. It's imperative and an author's duty to market his or her books to any and everyone possible. The Internet is there for the taking and it reaches more people than just about any other communication device ever known to man. Take complete advantage of this wonderful marketing tool. Study marketing techniques. Learn from what has succeeded and what has failed. Be a marketing guru.

If the author fails to do this--to do his or her own marketing--there is a good possibility that his book, especially a first book, will fail. And if it does, there’s a good chance it will be the end of any writing career the author had anticipated. Publishers are never anxious to waste money on authors whose books have failed. If a book flops, it's usually because the author did little or nothing to promote his or her book. So get out there and sell those books. You’ll profit from it.

14 comments:

Dennis said...

Wonderful post. A well-planned, clearly-written (realistic) promotion plan -- what the author will do -- should be a part of every proposal, shouldn't it?

It seems that this would go a long way with a potential publisher.

Dennis

Ann Victor said...

Your post does a great job on pointing out how important marketing is.

I think, though, that because the value of marketing is quite difficult to quantify (for e.g. how does one get exact stats on the ratio of marketing expenses to increase in number of readers), particularly in the early days of establishing a brand, people may hesitate to commit fully to a marketing plan.

I see marketing costs as a short-term sacrifice for a long term gain. When I'm published I'll be happy to have my (future) agent negotiate a deal where the net earnings for my first few books are plowed back into establishing myself as an author-brand. And I'll still do as much of my own marketing as I can.

Thanks again for remindning me just how important marketing is!

Scott Jensen said...

Nice post.

I have been corresponding with a non-fiction author lately and she gave me "the" key to her marketing success. She encouraged me to tell this to others so I know she won't mind me repeating it here.

When you write non-fiction, you will almost assuredly have to interview people and include quotes from them in your book. These people will likely be either experts and/or leaders in their field. They will belong to professional associations and likely corporations or universities. Find out to what they belong and see if you can get their mailing list. Get your interviewee to help you get the lists. Then send a teaser postcard to its membership/employees about the fact that one of their members is quoted in your book (give their name and titles), what your book is about, and that your book is for sale at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-A-Million, Amazon.com, or wherever it is for sale.

She started doing this with her third book and she said "sales went through the roof and took out a passing airliner" with the first postcard sent out. She then went back and did the same with all those she interviewed for that book and sales went further up. "Knocking out orbiting satellites." She then went back to her two previous books and did the same and they bounced back to life. Now she makes this part of the deal when interviewing anyone. She tells them of the need for it and that she won't quote from them unless she can get these mailing lists. If they won't help, she says finding another expert/leader is absolutely the easiest thing on the face of the Earth to do. They are benefiting from being quoted as it helps them further establish their "expertdom" in their field so they have a good incentive to help you. Oh, and she found that interviewing CEOs produced the best results as their employees practically race each other to get the books in which their bosses are quoted. The employees will put the books on their work desks and everyone will be talking about it over the water cooler. She also told me of a friend of hers that writes religious books and she did the same thing with the ministers she interviewed and says they're even better than CEOs as far as response rate. Her friend now only interviews ministers of very large churches for this reason.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Hi Ann,

With as many writers as there are seeking representation and publication, I would say that marketing one's name should begin well before publication. Becoming known to the reading community can only enhance a writer's ability to later become published. The key is name recognition because name equals potential readers. If one, for instance, has a blog that gets several hundred hits a day, those hits are potential readers. If these potential readers are aware that the blogger is also writer that is. How do readers know you have a blog? You write about it and link to it on social networks. Many writers are already aware of this and are using these techniques every day, so if a person decides to do this, they'll have to bring something special to the table. Humor, personality, and a general helping spirit helps. Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

Beyond the web presence, would you say it's worth it for a first time author to invest in real advertising? Let's say you're willing to spend $1,000 of the advance money on ads...a 1" square black and white print ad in the LA Times for 1 day is about $450....would it be worth it to place one of these on the book's release day in the LA Times, and 1 in the NY Times? Or would you just be pissing into the wind?

Would the money be better spent on radio ads? Ads on the side of public busses in NY and LA? Google ads for keywords associated with your book?

What's the best way, in your opinion, for an author to spend $1,000 on marketing, assuming the web presence has already been established?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Anonymous, in my humble opinion, throwing money at getting noticed isn't the way to go, unless you're sure that what you spend is going to directly impact readers. What you need to ask yourself is where do readers generally hang out?

Many hang out on the internet, but beyond that don't they hang out in libraries--and at bookstores? Librarians are a writer's best friend and you can call lots of them for a thou.

An interesting question is: Are book signings that effective anymore? Possibly, but how many cities can you afford to travel to for $1000--possibly one large one. Yes you can do local many ones, but I think talks at your local library or wherever you can get readers to listen to you are more effective. Learn to speak and promote your book at the same time. What to talk about--just about anything will do. But I'll bet if you let your mind wonder, you can come up with a subject that directly relates to your book.

How about writer's conferences? How about public radio?

How many bookstores can you visit in a day and how many readers can you impact? Not many. So what's the most affective way to spread the word that you've got a great book? There's your challenge. I'd eliminate the newspaper ad idea right off though. It's been proven by publishers that a full page ad in the New York Times doesn't sell enough books to make it worthwhile-cost vs. return from sales.

Your best marketing tool, and the cheapest, is that huge 20 pound, massive computer you carry around at the top of your neck. Use it and you'll sell huge numbers of books. Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

Wylie,

Anon from the prev. post here. Thanks for the advice.

I agree that the newspaper ad won't attract enough readers to make it pay for itself; the strategy there, especially with the LA times, is to let the film industry know there's a new book out with great film potential. Still also a longshot.

Melissa said...

Think about what makes you want to read a book. I've never bought a book because I saw an ad in the paper. Generally it's word of mouth or reviews. Get people to read it and review it on Goodreads, Facebook, Amazon, or another site like that. I would say if you had $1000 to spend, invest it in copies of your book (or ARCs if your publisher is willing) and send them out to bookstores and libraries.

Dennis said...

The postcard idea is excellent -- as is a newsletter, which can be sent via e-mail. There are so many templates now that design shouldn't be an issue, and the content...well, writers write, right?

It seems that starting a blog and leaving sincere comments (with subtle link in signature) on other related blogs would be a pleasant and inexpensive way to spend marketing time. An e-Newsletter can then be offered as a free PDF download from the writer's blog.

In regard to content, while people crave that "something for nothing," adding humor to the e-Newsletter is usually the most effective way to create a bit of viral marketing.

There are tons of effective ways to market, and many of the best are absolutely free, other than time.

Scott Jensen said...

And let us not forget radio talk shows. They are ALWAYS starving for new guests to interview. When I released my white paper "P2P Revolution" free over the net, I got on several and one of the nationals. Heck, I've been on radio talk shows over letters-to-the-editor I've written to newspapers. A non-fiction book would give you even more creditability to get on these shows. All radio talk shows these days have websites. Go to them and there will be a contact email address to which you send in a pitch. In fact, many will have a separate email address for just this purpose.

As I have appeared on a lot of radio talk shows and, being a marketer by trade, gotten tons of clients on such shows and advised them how to make the best of it, here's the pointers for becoming a great radio talk show guest.

1) NEVER use a cellphone or portable phone to do the interview over. Always use a land line. Many shows will even demand you only use a land line. Land lines give better sound quality and there's no fear that a battery will die halfway through the interview.

2) Do the interview in a quiet room in your house. Turn off everything that makes noise. ESPECIALLY the radio show you're about to be on since that can cause fingernails-on-blackboard feedback noise. Do not let anyone ... not even your beloved spouse ... be in the room with you. Turn off all fans. If you have central air, shut it down for the interview period. Put the dog and cat out in the yard. If your dog is a barker, have a friend take it over to their house.

3) Relax. Nothing is worse that a nervous motormouth guest. This is not a race. Choose your words carefully. LAUGH at the host's jokes!!! Just before you appear on their show, take some deep slow breaths and calm down your heart rate.

4) Don't over pitch your book. Hosts HATE people that are constantly pitching their book/company/whatever. Realize that the host will tell their listeners your credentials before and at the end of the interview. Your chief credential being your book. Having said this, casually work into your chat phrases like "Well, I did cover that in my book. In a nutshell, here's the main thing about that. You see..." Each time you use phrases like that, you tease the listeners to get and read your book.

5) TELL ALL!!! Never ever say anything like "I don't want to give away too much from my book." or other such nonsense. Give it all away. The more you give away, the more reason the listeners will want to get your book. Listeners will rightly assume your book has even more good information in it that that little five/fifteen/hour interview could ever possibly give. Tell all your book's secrets. All of its gems.

6) Have a sense of humor. If you can tell a joke or make the host laugh in some way, you're gold as far as that show is concerned. Nothing gets you an invitation back like being a guest that can make the host laugh. And the best humor is self-depreciating humor. Yup, humor at your own expense. Look at the greatest comedians. Their best jokes make fun of themselves.

7) If the host attacks you, don't return fire. Calmly point out something that is in your favor. Do not ... let me repeat that ... do NOT ever get into a shouting match with the host. Even if the host is a shock jock. Let them rant. You keep a cool head. And don't take it personal. One radio talk show host tried to roast me alive on his show and I calmly disfused all of his attacks. After the show, the show's producer was thrilled with my performance and gave me an open invitation to return. Then the host hopped on for a second and thanked me for being on. Only seconds before he was yelling at me and now he was very friendly. The point is to realize that talk radio is first and foremost show biz. Don't take anything said personally.

8) Keep on target. If the host wanders off on some bizarre trail, let him. It is HIS show. However, whenever possible, bring the talk back to your book's topic. Study Ronald Reagan for how a master does this.

9) After appearing on the show, send the producer and the host snail mail letters thanking them for having you on and offer to be on their no-show list of guests. Each talk show has a no-show list. This is a list of guests they can call at a moment's notice to fill in for a guest that ... you guessed it ... doesn't show. Give all you telephone numbers and volunteer for their no-show list. One show had me on twenty times in three months and only the first one was a scheduled interview. All the rest were fill-ins.

10) When you think up a new spin for your book, pitch the talk shows again. You can appear on a talk show again and again for the same book IF you can think of a new angle (a new conversational point) for the host to talk to you about in regards to your book. Pitch, pitch, pitch.

Good luck!

Ann Victor said...

Yes, I think you're correct in saying that just blogging or marketing isn't enough these days. There needs to be an extra fillip to make it stand out from all the rest.

And it is amazing how well social networks work - since I've started joining in (rather than just lurking) my blog hits have tripled!

Thanks again for the tips in this post!

Ann Victor said...

P.S. While I do agree with the need for the writer's personality to shine through (after all, it's that unique voice that makes one author/blogger different from another) I'm not sure that it can be defined, e.g. humorous. What happens if you don't have a naturally comic voice? Does that mean you're doomed as a blogger and as an author?

Scott Jensen said...

And then there's TV talk shows. Contrary to what you might think, they are not merely radio talk shows with a visual. They are very different and come in a variety of flavors. But before I talk about the different flavors, here's some tips for getting and appearing on them if you’re a non-fiction writer. And before I give tips on how to get on them, first tips on how to appear on them. You'll understand the order after you read the following.

1) Bring a mint-condition copy of your book in a bubble-wrap envelope. Yes, even though you sent one with your pitch letter you must bring one with you to the studio. NEVER assume they'll keep the book copy you sent in your pitch letter ... or that it won't go missing when your air date finally come around ... or that some college intern didn't stupidly rest her dripping coffee mug on it. Bring a copy with you.

2) Props are 24-carat gold on TV! If you can bring a prop of something talked about in your book, DO SO!!! Show it to the producer when you arrive. She might nix the idea but odds are it will spring an even broader smile on her face. This might result in you doing a standing interview than a sitting one. That's great. Viewers prefer standing interviews to sitting ones.

3) Bring a blank brand-new-still-in-its-shrink-wrap VHS tape with you. When you meet the producer, ask if you can have the control room record your interview on it. Most control rooms have such capability. They might say they cannot, but it is worth asking. A studio-made copy will be better than any copy your friends and family will be able to make. However, don’t depend on them doing this very nice thing for you. Have your friends and family video tape your appearance. And don’t have all the copies made at your house. If power goes out at your house, you will scream, cry, and mash your teeth when you later find this out. Get as many of your friends and family recording your appearance as possible everywhere. You can then view all the copies and select the best for your past-appearances tape. Your past-appearances tape is more important than your book. It will show producers how you perform on camera. It will be required to get on any first-tier TV talk shows. It will get your pitch letter seriously considered. But more on this later.

4) NEVER wear anything striped! There's a reason why you will never see striped clothes (that does mean ties too!) or even flannel on TV. It messes with the cameras. The cameras cannot make up their minds what part of the striped shirt and/or tie to present. Because they cannot, they will alternate between ... hmmm ... I won't get technical here. Just trust me. Don't wear anything striped. The producer will be very upset if that's all you bring with you to wear. Some producers keep a spare shirt to put on guests for just such emergencies.

5) Bring three complete sets of clothes with you. That means three differently-colored shirts/blouses, three differently-colored pants/skirts, three differently-colored ties (never bring scarves), three differently-colored socks (unless you're wearing a skirt then bring none), and three differently-colored shoes. And by "differently-colored" I do not mean different shades of blue. You can also bring dresses but don't just bring dresses. The goal is variety. Bring them all in a hanging travel bag. When you first meet the producer, tell them that you brought the clothes and ask which she thinks would do best on her show. Wear what you think will look best to the studio as she might not care (or is just too overworked to spare the energy) and just say "What you're wearing is fine." However, most producers will want to select and will know what looks best on their set and what will go best with what the host is wearing that day. The higher the tier of a show, the more they’ll do this. Let her mix and match. Do not ever tell her, "That shirt doesn't go with those pants." She knows best. Trust her. Oh, and bringing these clothes will impress the producer that you're a pro.

6) You will have make-up put on you. Some shows might ask you if you want any make-up. If they ask, say "Yes, please." If you want to know how important make-up is to your TV appearance, go to YouTube.com and watch the debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Those that listened to the debate over radio thought Nixon clearly won it. Those that watched it on TV thought Kennedy clearly won it. Kennedy wore make-up, Nixon didn't. You're going to be on TV. Wear make-up. Yes, even if you're a guy. This has NOTHING to do with being gay. They will not make you look like a clown. They are trying to make sure that the lights don't shine off your oily skin, especially your nose. Also, the make-up will help soak up some of your nervous sweat.

7) You will likely be put into what's called a "green room" before you appear on the show. Very few "green rooms" are actually green. They are called that in the industry by tradition. This is simply a holding place for you, the guest. It will be located right off the set. They will put you into it and bring you out when it is your time. Do NOT leave the green room. If you have to go to the bathroom, do so before being put into it. Sit in the room and do not pace. Yes, you're nervous. That's expected. But while pacing might calm you down, it will work up your sweat and heart rate. Sit and take slow deep breaths. In and out. However, don't be silent. Talk out loud ever so often. Not yell, just talk. You'll find flem in your throat. Talking will make you aware of it so you can cough it away. Very likely at least the audio of the show will be piped into the green room, if not a live feed from the cameras. Still talk ever so often. There might be other guests in the green room with you. Ignore them. They will likely ignore you. Talk even though they’re there. If doing so seems odd to you, say “One. Two. Three. Just keeping the vocal cords warm.” They’ll understand. Just try to calm yourself down and keep the flem out of your throat.

8) Your comfort is meaningless. They might hook you up with a wireless microphone. It might feel uncomfortable. Suck it up. Ignore how it makes you feel and do NOT whine. This is your big chance to shine on TV and make your book a bestseller. Remember that. Endure all for that. If you're a woman, the male sound tech might put his hands down your blouse to hook a microphone to your bra (so its weight doesn’t sag your blouse and make it look bad) and run a wire under your blouse to your back. Do not react. He isn't copping a feel. He's doing his job. Suck it up. The microphone transmitter might be clipped to the back of your pants and stuffed between your butt cheeks. Do not adjust it. Suck it up. The chair might be uncomfortable. Suck it up. It might surprise you how close you're seated to your host. Things appear different on camera than they do in real life. Do not lean away from the host. Ignore him violating your personal space. Suck it up. They are doing all these things to make your interview look good on TV. They know what they’re doing. Let them do what they do best. You’re the amateur. They’re the pros. Let them manipulate you like a lump of clay. It is for your best interests that they do.

9) Do NOT look at the camera. Only talk to the host. Ignore EVERYONE else on the set. People might be moving around behind the cameras. You will hear noises. Ignore it all. Focus on your host and only your host. Act as if you two are at your grandmother's on Sunday with your whole family watching you two while you have a very polite conversation.

10) Smile, smile, smile. I do not care if your teeth are crooked or stained. The camera doesn't pick that up. The ONLY reason why you should not be smiling is if you are missing your front teeth. And if you're missing your front teeth, get new ones put in before going on TV. Only if you're talking about something that shouldn't be smiled about (rape, funerals, and such) should you not be smiling. A smile will make your host and his viewers like you. Smile, smile, smile.

11) Let your host physically handle all things. Don't you pick up anything unless the host gives it to you. Your heart will be pounding like a jackhammer against your chest. Because of this, your hands will shake. If you're also nervous, your hands will shake even more. Anything you will then pick up will shake like a statue during major earthquake. Simply point to stuff that you brought with you to the studio that some gofer laid on the table before you and the host. Let your seasoned host pick up and manipulate stuff. This is just another day at the office for him. He might even be stifling a yawn inside. You yourself will probably be stifling a scream inside. *LOL* And if your host does give you something to hold, use both of your hands to hold it. Using both hands will prevent the item from shaking.

12) This is not radio. Keep your answers short and to the point. Go beyond "yes" and "no", but do not think this is the time for a long-winded speech. Think soundbites. If you're lucky, your TV interview will last five minutes. It might last less than three. Make every word count.

13) This is like radio as far as you plugging your book. Allude to it but don't be a barker for it. Your host will hold up a copy of your book for the camera to see or they will cut away to a camera shot of it. This will likely be done at the start and end of your interview. The only thing you have to do at this time is smile.

14) When the interview is over, do not move until told to do so. Many TV newscasts keep the camera rolling as they break away to commercials. The host might talk to you. Talk back. Both of your mikes will be turned off but directors like to show you two chatting away. It makes your interview seem less mechanical and the host and you more like regular human beings. Smile at this time. Even if you talked about rape during your interview, it is okay to smile now since viewers cannot hear what you're saying.

Now on how to get onto TV talk shows.

A) More important than your book is your past-appearances tape. Actually these days, you send both a VHS video tape and a DVD disk of your past appearances. Right now you might be saying, “But I have never been on TV.” This is where your local cable TV access channel comes to your rescue.

Flip through your cable TV channels and you'll come across this channel. It is required by law of cable TV providers. Each cable TV provider has to provide a little studio for local residents who want to produce their own TV show. Nearly every single one of these shows is a talk show and will be thrilled to have you on their show. Oh, and they're horrible. Absolutely horrible. They define the word "amateur" in all its most negative aspects from the host to their best buddy operating the cheap-ass camera. There's thankfully no editing (which I assure you would only make them worse) so they're all done live. If that wasn't bad enough, their viewership is literally measured in single digits. Now you might be thinking, "Then why appear on them?"

Have you ever been on TV before? If the answer to that is "no", these shows are great places to get your sea legs. You might be surprised how you actually come across on TV. Previously I gave tips on how to make a good TV talk show appearance, but to you that will still just be theory. These cable TV access programs give you real-life practice. Video tape your appearances and watch them. Yes, I know you will cringe when you do. That's good. Better to cringe over how you came across on one of these programs than over your performance when you're on Larry King Live.

And, as previously mentioned, there is another great benefit to appearing on these shows. It enables you to get on TV and thus able to assemble a "past appearances" video tape. A past-appearances video tape is the best way to get on the other TV talk shows. It is worth paying a professional to edit this tape for you. He’ll put in markers and title pages. He might even able to improve the quality of the copy both visual and audio. Just be sure to get one made by someone that knows what they are. Ask prospective editors to see past-appearances tapes they’ve made for others. If they say they don’t have any “on hand right now”, they probably have never made one so move onto the next editor. Have them make as many copies as talk shows you want to pitch next. Not how many you are going to eventually pitch over you entire publicity campaign but only those you are going to send out in the next series of pitch letters. The reason for such limited numbers is because after each time you appear on TV, you will want your editor to incorporate that new footage. An experienced editor will know this. If an editor recommends more copies, educate him on this point and he'll smile. He's smiling because you just told him he's going to get more future business. Have them make both VHS and DVD copies. You’ll need to send both these days.

Oh, and don't ask for the tape and DVD back. Do not include a self-addressed stamped envelope to get them back. This makes you look a cheap amateur and puts demands on the producer. The producer might give them back to you when you come to the studio, but that rarely happens. Just consider them gone forever when you mail them and view it as a business expense. The producers will very rarely keep them but simply trash them. If the environmentalist in you gets upset about this reality, go plant a tree but never ask for them back.

B) Write up your pitch letter. It must be only one side of one page. It should be short and concise. Pitch three of your talking points first (and only three) then your credentials. A “talking point” is simply what you and the host can talk about. List them in separate brief paragraphs. And tell why each talking point will be of interest to their viewers. “87% of adults worry over their health insurance coverage at least once a month.” And when you say stuff like that be sure to give the source. A respected source. Not Reader’s Digest. And realize that they will likely only pick one to talk about on the show. And it is in each of these talking-point paragraphs that you are to mention any props you can bring. As mentioned previously, props are king. They alone can get you on talk shows. Talk show hosts love props. It gives their hands something to do. Viewers love props since interviews are then more than just two talking heads.

As for your credentials, keep them short. This is not a job you’re applying for. Your credential will be chiefly your book but you need to provide more. And that “more” is the most impressive credential you use on the back inside flap of your book jacket for why you can write the book that you wrote. That’s ONE additional credential. The host will probably only mention your book, but if he mentions anything else it will only and always only be one more credential and your best one. And if you have a professional-looking website that is directly related to your book and/or the before-mentioned credential, include its URL in this paragraph as well.

The last part of your pitch letter should list what talk shows you have already done. Keep this to at most two sentences and refer them to your past-appearances tape at the end of this paragraph.

Actually the very last part of your pitch letter is your signature (always done with a blue pen and never a black one) and your contact information underneath it. Be sure to put down all your telephone numbers. Cellphone, land line, office, and spouse's number. Identify each so they know what/who they're calling. Also list your email address BUT be sure it is a respectable one. No "Kissy_Rainbows@lovers.com". The order of this information should be:

Cellphone number
Home land line telephone number
Office telephone number
Spouse's cellphone number
Email address
Snail mail address

As for the physical letter itself, in the pitch envelope (which will have bubble-wrap built into it), you then include your past-appearances VHS tape and DVD (both in cases for their protection … cardboard for the VHS and jewel case for the DVD) and a copy of your book. You are not expecting them to read your book. The reason why you’re sending your book is so they can look at its book jacket and get a feel for it. Visuals are the most important thing in TV Land and everything else comes second. You might even get on their talk show simply because the producer thought, “Hmmm. Cool book jacket.” Yes, I’m serious. Things like that happen all the time.

C) Work your way up to the big leagues. Sorry, but the odds of your first TV talk show being Oprah, Larry King Live, Late Show with David Letterman, and other first-tier talk shows are very poor. You need to pay your dues first. Don’t complain. This is good for you. The more TV appearances you do, the better you’ll get at giving them. After all, don’t you want to be the best you can be when appearing on The O’Reilly Factor so you can pitch your book the best way you can? That will only come from doing it. Start at the bottom and work your way up. With each appearance, redo your past-appearances tape/DVD … but only if your most recent appearance was actually an improvement over previous ones. Most recent is important but even more important is quality.

As for the talk show tiers…

We have already talked about cable TV access, but I would recommend you first appear on talk radio. Radio will help you refine what you say. Get that securely under your belt before worrying about how you look when you say it. Include audio clips of your best radio appearances in your past-appearances tape/DVD … ESPECIALLY if the only TV appearances were on cable TV access. Eventually after you have appeared on three or more TV talk shows (cable access ones don’t count), do completely away with the radio audio clips as TV producers really only want to see how you do on TV.

Up from cable TV access channel is your local TV stations and their local newscasts. Your local TV stations likely have a morning and/or early afternoon newscast where in the later part of it they interview local people and visiting celebrities/experts. Now the thing you should know is that these local newscast shows are great advertising for your book. Getting on them is really easy. Pretty much the only thing you have to do is write to their station's news director, tell him that you will be swinging through their area on such-and-such a date, and ask if they would like you to appear on one of their news shows. You might be pleasantly surprised to be asked by him if you would appear on all of them on that day.

And these local newscasts have their own hierarchy. Start off with rural TV stations and work your way up to LA, NYC, and Chicago. Yes, even if you live in one of those cities, start out in the boondocks first. Once you are doing those three major cities, you’re ready for the cable and broadcast network shows. Then work up their hierarchy. Even within their own networks are hierarchies. Try to work your way up each since if you bypass a tier, you might not be able to move back down. The reason why is that lower tier shows don’t want to have over-exposed people on their shows. What this means is that once you’ve done Oprah (or as high as you could go), you need to sit down and think of new talking points to pitch to all the shows again. Start over from the bottom and work you way back up. The top tier will please your ego, but your goal should not be to get on just the highest tier ones but the most. The more talk shows you appear on, the more publicity you will generate for your book and the more book sales you will generate.

By the way, you can appear on Oprah and top-tier talk shows again by simply teaming up with another author(s) to present a panel to appear on their show. Just pick a topic that all of you are authorities on and pitch it to the talk shows. Realize that other authors that wrote about the same topic as you did are not competition but comrades. They can help you get back onto shows. If you can get them on your panel, they (if they have any brains) will return the favor in the future. If they don’t, remember that and never do them the favor again. And when you assemble your panel, start off first with authors that your publisher has in his stable. Your publisher will love you for doing this. Now if your agent wants you to first use authors in her stable before looking at the publisher’s stable, do so. Your agent is more important than your publisher … though never tell a publisher this. ;-)

Good luck!

Dennis said...

Hi Ann. Of course, you're right...and humor (as I hear ALL the time, ha) is subjective anyway.

The point is that humor really is a difference-maker -- most people rate a sense of humor high on the list of desireable traits in a partner -- and even authors without a natural comic voice can put a creative spin on an old joke.

As opposed to "humorous," maybe a better goal is writing that entertains. This captures (and keeps) the reader's attention, and as long as the author doesn't try to be too clever, this also establishes a voice readers will like and trust.

Peace,

Dennis