A book publicist’s lament

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

A Book Publicist’s Lament

So many authors are in a rush to publish their books. The production process has become so quick and easy that a book can go from the word processor to Amazon in a matter of weeks. That means the first time an author thinks about calling in a book publicist might be days before the book is available for sale online.

While that provides quick — if not instant — gratification for authors who want to see their words reach book buyers as soon as possible, the mad dash from the computer to the bookshelf does require the sacrifice of long lead-time book publicity opportunities.

By the time a book has been published (that is, by the time the book is available for purchase online), you’ve lost the opportunity to snare most traditional book reviews. Old school book reviewers (who still matter), require at least three months’ lead time. And they ask that you send them galleys instead of finished copies of the book.

So calling in a book publicist just before the book’s publication date means that you’re trading the possibility of traditional book reviews for the possibility of early book sales. But here’s the paradox. How many book sales can you reasonably expect if you don’t let your potential readers know that your book is going to be published?

That’s why, despite the fact that traditional book reviewers should probably have changed their submission requirements long ago, when the technological changes in book publishing shortened the book production schedule so much, it’s still impossible for book publicists (and for authors who are conducting book publicity campaigns) to bypass the rules and garner traditional book reviews without having at least three months’ lead time.

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Book Publicity by Reading Rainbow!

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

Kids’ books are about to receive an old-but-new book publicity opportunity by Reading Rainbow host, LeVar Burton.

The wonderful LeVar Burton has long been a champion of children’s books, and children’s literacy (he was hosting episodes of “Reading Rainbow” even during his Star Trek: The Next Generation days!), but now he’s an innovator, too. Burton is bringing “Reading Rainbow” to kids, classrooms, and homes via a new app. Those who can pay a monthly subscription fee will have all-you-can-eat access to kids’ books that are part of the program. Disadvantaged kids will have access to the kids’ books, too. Along with being a great book publicity opportunity for the children’s books in the program, it’s also a wonderful chance to turn a new generation of kids onto the joys of reading … now and, I hope, for the rest of their lives.

Obviously, this book publicist isn’t the only book lover who’s crazy about LeVar Burton’s new project. A recent Kickstarter campaign, launched by Burton, “burst the seams, broke the dam and went through the roof” according to a CNN article. Burton met his goal within 11 hours of the campaign’s launch!

As a book publicist who frequently promotes children’s books, I am eagerly looking forward to the Web version of Reading Rainbow’s tablet app. And, as a children’s book fan and addict (yes — my Kindle is filled with books penned by current and classic children’s books and young adult novels, too), I can’t wait to support the “Reading Rainbow” project and catch up on some of the great children’s books I may have missed. Thank you, LeVar Burton, for the good work you’re doing. I know that all of “your” kids will thank you, too!

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Book Publicity Cheating!!!

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

I’m absolutely appalled by what Penguin Young Readers is trying to get away with!!! *tongue firmly planted in cheek*

First, and seriously, congratulations to fans of Roald Dahl’s wonderful book, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year. As every book lover knows, Dahl’s classic children’s book inspired the also-classic Gene Wilder movie, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” (The book also inspired a second and more recent “Willy Wonka” movie, not starring Gene Wilder, that I’d prefer not to discuss as well as some candy that, similarly, will not be part of this discussion.

Anyway, the anniversary of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory‘s publication is a wonderful opportunity to score some book publicity opportunities for the book which, hopefully, will lead to an increase in interest in the book…and a surge in book sales. Book promotion is easy when you’re Roald Dahl, everyone loves your work, and most of your readers credit you with changing the way they look at the world.

That said, this book publicist has a major complaint about the sweepstakes Penguin Young Readers is running so book sales will spike even more. No, this book publicist has no problem with the sweepstakes, per se. The sweepstakes are a very cool concept — particularly since, as you know, a good part of the Charlie & The Chocolate Factory story involves a group of sweepstakes winners. No, I have no complaints about the sweepstakes. What I must complain about are the sweepstakes prizes. According to MediaBistro (whose fault this whole book publicity travesty is not), “Five young readers will win a trip to New York City and a VIP experience at Dylan’s Candy Bar. In addition, winners will get a year’s supply of chocolate, a library of Dahl books and tickets to see Matilda the Musical.”

A year’s supply of chocolate? Really? That’s what I call book publicity cheating!!!!

As everyone who loves Roald Dahl’s wonderful book, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory knows, the character who won the sweepstakes in the story won — not a year’s supply of chocolate, but a lifetime supply of chocolate!

Give me a break, Penguin Young Readers. If you want this book publicist to feel great about the book promotion campaign you’re launching for Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, then get it right! Give your sweepstakes winners what they deserve! Give them the chocolate, Penguin. Please! Give them all the chocolate they deserve to go along with their terrific literary taste!

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One kid’s book publishing dream

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

In the midst of all the controversy and drama between Amazon and Hatchette, let’s not forget that CreateSpace (which is the self-publishing arm of Amazon) does something that the traditional New York publishing industry could never do. It lets kids make their book publishing dreams come true.

As a book publicist, I’m always scanning the news and trade media for examples of book promotion successes, and I came across one this morning. A ten-year-old Chicago-based boy, Jake Mayer, was featured on the CBS (Chicago) web site because he is writing his second novel which is a sequel to an Amazon category bestseller that he wrote! His first novel, A Tale of Friends, Enemies and Minecraft, has sold more than 14,000 copies on Amazon in only one year. That would be a wonderful feat for an adult, but the fact that a pre-teenager (and, to be fair about it, his family and teachers) made it happen both astonishes and thrills me.

According to the CBS article, A Tale of Friends, Enemies and Minecraft began its life as a school assignment. Jake’s father imagined that, once the book was published, it would sell fewer than a dozen copies.

Mr. Mayer was wrong in his projection of book sales, but that seems to be the only thing he was wrong about. He is raising a young man who is an inspiration to all kids, and to everyone who wants to write and publish a book.

Amazon, despite its quirks and shortcomings, has made it possible for Jake Mayer to become a successful novelist at age ten.

This book publicist appreciates the fact that book promotion opportunities have come Jake’s way. He’s earned them!

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A Book Publicist’s Take on Negative Book Reviews

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

Book publicists who snare book reviews for authors always want to give novelists and experts what they want: positive, affirmative book reviews. We want authors to feel good about their books, and all book publicists have worked with authors whose egos have been shattered by criticism of their writing. It’s particularly hard for book publicists to read negative book reviews since, as book publicists, we take on only projects in which we strongly believe. That means a negative book review doesn’t only reflect poorly on the author. It also is a statement about a book publicist’s judgment, and a book publicist’s reputation is only as good as the last book he or she promoted…so negative book reviews affect a book publicist’s bottom line, too.

So I must say, with just a tad of schadenfreude, that this book publicist was a bit relieved to read an article in BuzzFeed Books called “30 Writers Other Writers Loved To Hate.” This Buzzfeed article quotes William Faulkner’s scathing criticism of Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway; memorializes Ernest Hemingway’s disdain for William Faulkner (well, at least it was mutual!); and documents George Bernard Shaw’s distaste for none other than — are you ready for this? — William Shakespeare!

Of course, Twain, Hemingway, Faulkner, Shakespeare, and the 26 other writers who were slammed by their peers (if not their contemporaries) in the BuzzFeed piece are long past caring about negative book reviews. And if they weren’t, I would hope their support networks (inclusive of their book publicists) would tell them that critics — whether they’re fellow authors, Amazon shoppers, or professional literary reviewers — always have an agenda.

So, next time you find a negative review of your book on Amazon (or, for that matter, in Publishers Weekly), remember that you’re in pretty good company. If Hemingway, Faulkner, and Mark Twain persevered through criticism of their work, so can you. You’re tougher than you think!

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Don’t Frustrate This Book Publicist or Yourself!

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

Don’t frustrate this book publicist or yourself! If you’re seeking traditional book reviews for your novel, then approach book publicists between four and six months before your book’s publication date.

A new novelist just approached this frustrated book publicist to let her know about her upcoming novel. It will be published at the end of July, the author told me with great excitement. And could I work with her to get magazines and newspapers to review her book?

Well, I could have worked with her to get magazines and newspapers to review her book if she’d approached me four to six months ago. Now all I can offer this novelist is my sympathy and other options for promoting her book — none of which are the book reviews she’s been dreaming of and imagining she could garner. And, this, because she didn’t know her book promotion strategy of garnering book reviews for her novel required more lead time than what she had in mind.

So, yes, I’m a frustrated book publicist at the moment. I now have to get back to a hopeful, hard-working novelist and tell her that, because she thought about garnering traditional book reviews just about the time the book was slated to be published, that plan just isn’t going to work out for her. Next time she publishes a novel, she will know the drill, and she will reach out to book publicists in plenty of time. But, for now, the novelist just can’t get what she wants, and that’s not what this book publicist wants to tell her.

I really, really wish I could start my day over again.

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How to Maximize a Book Promotion Opportunity

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

Four Ways to Deal With Confrontational Interviewers

A few authors seek publicity in any way they can grab it. Recently, a highly successful comedian stormed off the set during a nationally-televised interview during her book promotion campaign.

The story went viral, and it deserved to, because it was so unusual. Most authors appreciate interview opportunities, and they don’t try to create drama during those interviews. In fact, when they come across hosts whose style is confrontational, most authors see that as their worst nightmare. They hope to make it through their entire book publicity campaign without ever encountering conflict during an interview. Yet, because there’s a built-in audience for highly dramatic interviews, it’s likely that, sooner or later, every author will run into an interviewer whose style is confrontational.

Some of the most popular radio show hosts — Howard Stern, Don Imus, Rush Limbaugh, and others — have built antagonism into the act. Confrontation is their shtick. It’s entertaining to their listeners, and they expect their guests to be good sports about the insults rendered because of the publicity value of the interview.

It’s easy to avoid the brand name radio show hosts whose styles are belligerent and insulting if you’d rather not engage in combat to sell your book. But what happens when authors are ambushed by an interviewer who is trying to be the next famous cut-throat interviewer? Do authors have to grit their teeth and take the abuse? Or should they follow the lead of that comedian and walk away in the middle of the interview? Here are four ways to handle a confrontational interviewer, if you encounter one:

Expect the Unexpected. When you’ve scheduled a book promotion interview, or when your book publicist has scheduled one for you, get as much information about the interviewer as you can. Your book publicist will be able to help by giving you some information about the interviewer, but don’t stop there. Get the correct spelling of the interviewer’s name, and look up that name online. If the interviewer hosts a radio show, check out the radio show, too (and don’t forget to research the radio station, or network, that airs the show). You can get a sense of that person’s interviewing style by reading his or her bio, and listening to (or watching or reading) past interviews. With that research behind you, know that the interviewer can still unpleasantly surprise you. So come to every interview prepared for anything, and don’t let yourself be shocked when an interview turns ugly. Confrontational interviewers (or congenial interviewers who are just having a bad day) are out there, so expect to meet at least one or two of them during your book promotion campaign. It happens.

Prepare Yourself. If you do your homework, then you’ll be far less vulnerable to a hostile interviewer’s attack. Before you begin your series of book publicity interviews, assess your weaknesses, and work on making yourself bulletproof. If you’ve skated close to the line of exaggerating claims, then back up. If you’ve overstated your credentials, correct that. If you have any vulnerabilities in your background or in your book, find them before an interviewer does — and deal with those issues positively, honestly, and immediately. It’s your job to ensure that hostile interviewers don’t have a leg to stand on when they try to attack you!

Stay Calm. You know the old saying: It takes two to tango. If you refuse to argue with a confrontational interviewer, and you politely answer (or decline to answer) disrespectful questions, then the interviewer will soon realize you’re not a great target for his or her unpleasantness. The interviewer, in that case, will likely back off as quickly as most bullies do when you don’t engage them. If, however, you lose your cool, then you’re just feeding into the interviewer’s nonsense and letting yourself become part of the show. Hold onto your temper, and take deep, calming breaths. You’ll be a hero if you gracefully continue the conversation, even after the interviewer has demonstrated unkindness and hostility. Don’t walk off the set or hang up the phone in anger. Let your dignity and grace bring the interview to a successful conclusion, and make sure your blood pressure doesn’t hit the ceiling in the meantime.

Don’t Take It Personally. When you run into an interviewer who attacks you, don’t let it hurt your feelings. The interviewer doesn’t dislike you. He or she is an entertainer who is out for ratings or readers, and you’ve volunteered to be part of the act. Since this isn’t a personal attack, there’s no need to get defensive or angry. Just continue to convey the information, and focus on your message points. Change the subject, if you can, and move forward without getting emotionally involved. There will be other interviews to focus on soon enough. Just get to the end of this interview without questioning your worth or losing your confidence.

Finally, the best way to deal with a confrontational interviewer is to “just say no.” It doesn’t matter how high the interviewer’s profile is, or how massive the audience or readership. Being abused, or treated disrespectfully, is not mandatory for your book promotion success. If you know, before you commit to the interview, that you risk dealing with an unpleasant person, then don’t accept the invitation. There will be other opportunities during your book publicity campaign, and those congenial interviewers are worth waiting for!

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How to Blow a Book Promotion Opportunity

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

Would you like to see a great example of how to blow a book promotion opportunity? I give you Joan Rivers who walked out on an interview with CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield while promoting her latest book. What was Joan River’s new title, again? It seems to have flown clear out of this book publicist’s head. Sorry about that, Joan Rivers.

And you know what? If Joan’s arrogance and belligerence were a book publicity stunt, then — because I don’t think combative behavior is ever defensible or attactive — I hope it fails, miserably, in the book sales department.

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E-book Novelist Claire Davon on the Art of Writing

Writing isn’t as easy as eBook novelist, Claire Davon, makes it look. Here’s what Claire has to say about her writing habits. (Note that Claire’s e-Books will have special pricing on Amazon for the next few days as part of her book promotion and book marketing campaign. Click here to find out more.)

By Claire Davon

Art is hard to consistently write for this romance and action/adventure novelist!

Writing can be frustrating. Some days, the words come to me like drops of water in a parched desert; other times, they are the desert. They shift and pile randomly, frustrating my attempts to make them into something cohesive. Just like the desert, they will briefly rise up, caught on the wind, only to settle down again, flat and uninteresting. My feet sink into that sand and get caught, and no attempt to pluck them out and put them right makes a difference.

There are days when the characters saunter into my consciousness, tapping on the inside of my skull with a new revelation — a new plot point that I would never have considered. The character smugly looks at me as if to say, “But, of course, this is what happens next. It is what must happen next!”

Then there are those times when no amount of fussing over the story gives me a satisfactory conclusion to a chapter. My plot obstinately refuses to work, and that is that.

To me, writing is very much a progression of fits and starts. Those days when I have that moment of clarity, when a plot point I’ve been gnawing on like a bone suddenly just falls into place, are glorious. The days prior to that eureka moment, when the Gordian knot will not be sliced, are some of the most frustrating in the world. I’ll write it out, knowing it doesn’t work, and then it will begin to play in my head until it becomes clear. The way I write is such that, if I have an idea (even if it doesn’t seem to fit the story), it has to go down on paper, or I can’t move onto the next.

That’s the beauty of the creative process. My story, Beginning Time, started as a dream and, years later, became much more. From a fully-remembered dream about a subway disaster, grey mist, and being plucked out of danger by the man of your dreams (literally), it became an apocalyptic time travel story that I hope will be the first in a series.

It didn’t start out as a time travel story, but that’s where it is. I had to roll with the plot and, when the characters spoke, I had to listen. I’ve found that it’s no good to argue with them; doing so only slows down the story. Originally I had some odd elements of large sorting containers, zombie like survivors, and our heroine having powers over the sorting. It didn’t work. I knew it didn’t work, and I put the story down until it shook me slightly and told me so.

When a plot slows down, when a character doesn t seem to work, when an element stands out as wrong, it behooves me to listen. That means there’s something organically wrong with what I’m trying to create.

On the other hand, sometimes, I just have to slog through. I write every day. On those days when inspiration is scant, I write, anyway. It may be no good, but there may be nuggets in there that either can be used later or (more likely) aren’t nearly as bad as I have imagined them to be. Sometimes, the demons of “you suck” surface and tell me that I am the worst writer EVER, and that I should just give up and never lose my day job. Listening to those demons has stopped me in the past, but I ignore them now. All I can do is write, and be the best at my craft that I can be.

So I say to you: art is hard, but write, anyway. Write when the story seems flaccid and uninspired. Write when the story fights you. Write until the plot and characters wake up and come to life. It will happen. It happens to me every time. It happened with Sense of Adventure, one of my contemporary romances that won a contest in 2007 and then got summarily rejected by the romance publishing houses. I was indignant. Couldn’t the foolish publishers see the greatness of my work? Then I sighed, and put it (and all my other stories) away, sure of my abject failure as a writer. Years later, when I revisited it, I had to admit that there were story elements that needed tightening and a strange traditional mindset in a story that needed to be set free. Sometimes, you have to be ruthless in the final draft, losing cherished scenes and other elements that you toiled over. In this story, it was an entire chapter set in South Orange, New Jersey that was excised, although I am happy to admit I learned a great deal about the city in the process.

Just write every day. Each day is an accumulation of words, and soon those words become chapters, and finally, books. You will be amazed at what happens when you discipline yourself to a small commitment of time. Of course, that small commitment quickly takes over your idle time; drive time (I drive on a California freeway five days a week to commute to my day job) is a particular favorite of mine to work through niggling ideas. Just write. What you can accomplish when you do will astound you. It did me. I set small, modest daily goals and, within six months, I had revised one book, finished a novella, and was almost done with a full length paranormal.

Just write. You will be amazed at the results.

For more information about Claire Davon, visit her website.

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Tony Horwitz’s Book Publicity Tale of Woe

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

Author Tony Horwitz is disgruntled with the world of ebook publishing and his prospects of earning a living wage as a full-time author. With a small advance, he relied on his ebook publisher’s book promotion machine…and, when that book promotion machine stalled, Horwitz found himself in the unenviable position of having to make potential book buyers aware of his book himself.

Besides which, Horwitz’s publisher dropped the ball (it’s complicated), and then Amazon (it’s even more complicated but, this time, Hatchette doesn’t seem directly to be involved) dropped the ebook.

But there is good book publicity-related news for Tony Horwitz and his ebook. First, his ebook is back on Amazon again. Second, the op-ed that Hortitz wrote describing his book promotion woes was published in the New York Times. You can read it here.

Good for Tony Horwitz. The New York Times is a whole lot of lemonade to squeeze out of a lemon.

Tony, I love how you turned your foray into ebook publishing and ebook promotion from a tale of woe into a tale of wow. Keep up the great work! And enjoy the fact that the New York Times was nice enough to include the title of your ebook (“Boom“) approximately — by my conservative estimate — about ten times. Way to go!!!

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