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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Publicity – Giving Your Book the Help it Needs – Part 1

I recently received an email from Book publicist and PR guru Milton Kahn and I was so impressed with his pitch and the fact that he knew I had written two novels that I invited him to post a two-part series on the importance of book publicity. He was nice enough to share his invaluable information with us. - Anthony S. Policastro

By Milton Kahn

In today's highly competitive literary marketplace publishers and authors are finding that it takes more than reviews and book signings to make a book successful. The reality of publishing today, even among the mainstream, big-name houses, is that unless you are one of their heavy-hitters you are going to have to promote your book largely on your own time and with your own money. While hiring an experienced, knowledgeable publicist does not guarantee success, it can go a long way toward separating your book from the rest of the pack. A successful public relations and promotions campaign does more than simply sell books for an author; in addition to increasing sales, a well executed campaign can also serve to institutionalize the author's name, which leads to bigger and better publishing deals.

To give you an idea of how the publishing industry has grown, in 1975 there were approximately 3,000 publishers throughout the United States. According to my friend Patricia Schroeder, President and Chief Officer of the Association of American Publishers, Inc., today there are well over 200,000 publishers in the United States made up of large, medium and small publishing companies as well as vanity press houses. These publishers produce over a million books a year, many of which are competing for the same media attention.

Though publishers and authors can certainly contact the media on their own, including sending galleys to publications such as Publishers Weekly for reviews – and even mount aggressive book-signing campaigns, there is a very limited amount of meaningful exposure that an individual writer can secure without the resources and contacts of an established publicist. A solid national public relations campaign targeting all of the key media in television, cable, radio, newspapers, magazines and wire services is the most important factor in determining the success of a novel.

Once you have decided to engage a professional publicist, the next step is finding one who is right for you. Beware of any publicist who offers guarantees. Ask for references and contact authors they have represented. A good publicist will work with you to find issues in both your book and your personal life that will make you a saleable interview to the media. Interesting background elements about the author are often what open the door to interviews.

Issues touched on in a book that relate to history or current events are another positive element in getting media exposure. An example is my campaign for former head writer of the CBS series "Murder She Wrote", Thomas Sawyer, for his first mystery novel "The Sixteenth Man". In his novel Sawyer had developed a theory about the Kennedy assassination which was highly controversial and intriguing. As a result of this particular issue I was able secure countless television, cable, and radio interviews throughout the country as well as articles and mentions in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to Liz Smith's nationally syndicated column.

While everyone dreams of getting on major television shows such as Oprah, a variety of key radio shows is really critical to building a successful national publicity campaign for a book because it allows the author a much greater block of time to promote his or her book. As an example, a show such as the Jim Bohanan Show, which is syndicated by Westwood One, reaches over 5 million listeners every weekday night, with authors getting approximately one hour on the air. Talk show hosts such as Richard Neer, Michael Smerconish, and Jerry Doyle, are incredibly effective interviewers who give the author a great deal of time to talk about his or her book as opposed to a show such as Good Morning America in which the author will most likely get two or three minutes.

Be sure to visit Milton Kahn's website for more information.

Milton Kahn, President and CEO of Milton Kahn Associates, which is based in Santa Barbara CA is considered to be one of the premiere book publicists in America. Among the honors that Kahn has received number Publicist of the Year by the Book Publicists of Southern California.