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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Bad Book Publicity?

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

They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and I’d interpret that to mean there’s no such thing as bad book publicity, either.

Sometimes, I would agree with that. Usually, I would say that even a lukewarm book review is better than no book review at all, or a combative interviewer is far kinder than the interviewer who chooses to ignore you completely.

But, after seeing the book publicity opportunities recently garnered by Gary L. Stewart, author of the new book, The Most Dangerous Animal of All: Searching for My Father…and Finding the Zodiac Killer, this book publicist has to wonder about that.

Stewart, as you might know (if you’ve read or seen interviews such as the one he did with CNN’s Erin Burnett), believes his father was the Zodiac Killer. He has spent more than a decade believing he is the son of a serial killer.

Now, with every book publicity opportunity that he accepts, he has to share the information that he believes his father is the Zodiac Killer with the world. His book publicity campaign is, in essence, an attempt to teach the public to associate the Zodiac Killer with his book and with his name.

So, the more Gary L. Stewart’s book publicity campaign succeeds, the more Gary L. Stewart, and his family members, lose.

Therefore, I have come around to thinking that, for some people, there might, indeed be such a thing as bad book publicity. Gary L. Stewart is one of the authors for whom too much of a good thing is probably a pretty bad thing after all.

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This is something authors should not do for book publicity!

Disowning their own books generally is not something authors do for book publicity…but the io9 10 Great Authors Who Disowned Their Own Books list should make an author who’s in the midst of a book promotion campaign stop and think. Sure, every author finds it natural to say, “My book is important, and that’s why I’m working so hard to enhance its book discovery potential.” But what happens when authors specifically ask readers to not buy their books? How does that work out for them?

Consider the case of Stephen King’s asking that his book, Rage, be taken out of print (because he felt it had the potential to inspire school shootings). There’s a case where Mr. King was likely right — that particular book was not an asset to our civilization — and, yet, his desire to see the book eliminated probably inspired as many book sales as the best book publicity campaign might have. (“Oh, yes, I’ve heard of Rage,” book buyers probably all said when they heard King’s opinion of his book. “I’ll bet I can find a copy now at that online secondhand book shop or the auction site! I’ll go for it! And, who knows…if it’s out of print, maybe this second-hand edition will someday be pretty valuable!”

So if you ever find yourself in the position of wanting to disown your book, just remember this. If you tell readers, “Please don’t buy my book,” then you’ll probably send sales of that book soaring. That’s not the way this book publicist recommends promoting your book…and that’s not why this book publicist recommends a book publicity campaign…but, strangely, the tactic probably does increase awareness of books!

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Backflip for book promotion?

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

Would you do a backflip for book promotion?

Book publicists frequently hear from authors who say, “I want a viral book marketing campaign. Do you orchestrate viral book marketing campaigns?” This honest book publicist always responds, “Not on purpose. By definition, you can’t orchestrate a viral marketing campaign. Viral marketing campaigns are regular marketing campaigns that go viral. You can set up all the right conditions so that your book marketing campaign has a chance to go viral. You can integrate whimsy, humor, or controversy into the campaign, come up with catchy sound bites, and tap into pop culture events that everyone seems to be discussing at the water cooler. But, no, I can’t guarantee you a viral book marketing campaign. I can only guarantee you a creative book marketing campaign. How does that sound?” Authors who are determined to pay a book publicist to orchestrate a viral book marketing campaign simply make additional phone calls until they find a book publicist who disingenuously promises to do the impossible, and to force a book promotion campaign to go viral.

Authors and publishers: you can’t make a book marketing campaign go viral. If you could, though, a book marketing campaign would look something like this. Note that, if this college graduate’s blackflip had gone the way he’d intended for it to (in other words, if the blackflip had gone as planned), there’d be no video of his blackflip going viral online right now, and CNN certainly wouldn’t have picked it up.

So the question is: would you — metaphorically speaking — do a blackflip for book promotion? This particular book publicist doesn’t recommend it! No amount of author publicity is worth the pain of that thud! But she’s glad the college graduate didn’t hurt himself. Onward and upward!

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Why we don’t hear more about eBook promotion.

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

Why don’t we hear more about eBook promotion? According to Futurebook, a digital blog from The Bookseller, the media still are reluctant to take eBooks seriously. And this book publicist, too, has noticed that few authors make the round of broadcast media shows as part of their book publicity campaigns. Traditional book review outlets, too, seem to be taking a wait-and-see attitude about eBooks. It’s as if traditional book reviewers are taking a wait-and-see attitude. If eBooks really catch, on then traditional book reviewers might start to take them seriously.

Of course, the number of readers who have successfully resisted eBooks is diminishes all the time, and those of us who have gone over to the Dark Side (and switched our allegiance from “real” books to eBooks) are rarely tempted to look back. So what’s a book publicist, or an eBook author, to do when they want to find eBook promotion opportunities and they can’t find them in the usual places that were so friendly to traditional authors who needed media visibility for their traditional books?

Fortunately, eBooks have spawned their own eBook promotion opportunities. One of the book publicity tricks I’ve developed is to pitch the eBook (if it’s available along with a traditional book) to the venues for eBook promotion that do not consider traditional books. A book publicist, and an eBook author, has to promote an eBook differently from the way he or she would promote a traditional book…to a great extent. But some things never change. Now that eBooks are so popular, there are ways to promote eBooks that are emerging all the time. Find a book publicist who can help you take leverage those eBook promotion opportunities so you won’t be left behind…and you won’t be left wondering how, on Earth, you can get the traditional book publicity venues to take your eBook seriously!

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