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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Book Publicity for…What Kind of Books?

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

Since the book publishing world is changing all the time, I rarely comment on the technological revolution that’s taking place all around us. It’s enough to say that indie books (or self-published books, or whatever you’d prefer to call books that are not traditionally published and distributed) have lost their stigma, and all of the book publicity opportunities that are available to authors of traditionally published books are now on the table for indie authors, too.

But I did want to comment on a technological marvel called Blurb. Blurb will make it easy for any author, anywhere, to create and publish picture books using its proprietary (free) software or a plug-in to your existing Adobe In-Design software. Once your book is published, you can choose to distribute it via Amazon, Samsung, and other online book selling and book sharing platforms.

So, in the future, will book publicists be promoting travelogues that authors created, and then published, in real time as they travel around the globe? And will author publicists be promoting the cookbook that grandmothers create as they’re preparing Thanksgiving dinner for the family?

This book publicist can’t see a downside of Blurb, and she can’t see any limitations on what the future holds for the publishing industry, either. Wow! What kind of books can you imagine publishing? The possibilities are endless.

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The Challenge of Author Radio Interviews

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

The challenges of author radio interviews are legion (and legendary), but so are their benefits for book publicity campaigns…and that’s why we put up with them. Sometimes, it seems that scheduling the radio interview requires even less effort than making them happen.

Radio producers (this book publicist will go on record as saying) are usually bright, well-meaning professionals. But they’re overloaded with work responsibilities, and sometimes they multi-task…and important things slip through the cracks.

Okay. I’m making excuses for them. Here’s the truth. Sometimes, radio producers book a radio interview to take place by telephone, and they forget to write it on the calendar. Thus, when the time comes for the author to receive that phone call from the radio show, it doesn’t happen. Or, perhaps, the author radio interview is preempted by a news event…but the radio producer fails to let the book publicist know. Or perhaps the radio producer typed the author’s phone number incorrectly, or failed to save the author’s phone number (but is too embarrassed to let the book publicist know). Or, sometimes, there’s just no reason at all why the call doesn’t come through to the author who’s waiting for the radio show to call. It’s just that, for one reason or another, it doesn’t come through.

So many authors — even book publicity veterans — feel that, if the scheduled radio interview doesn’t take place, it’s an act of the gods, and they drop the whole thing. Sometimes, they don’t even let their book publicist know! They just sigh and get on with their day.

But if the radio interview was worth scheduling, then it’s worth pursuing. So here’s what to do before the radio show mishap occurs: get the radio show’s studio line to use as your backup line. Do this when you’re booking the radio show. The producer will ask for your contact number; you ask for the studio’s line and let the producer know you’ll use that as your backup line in the event that wires get crossed, and the call doesn’t come through.

The radio producer will appreciate your professionalism, your book publicist will be grateful you saved the day…and you’ll be grateful to have salvaged a book publicity opportunity that you otherwise could have let slip away!

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Don’t Make Your Book Publicist Play Guessing Games

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

Don’t make your book publicist play guessing games when you embark on a book promotion partnership with her. Tell her what you need, when you need it. Your silence can sabotage your chances to let your target readership know about your book. Don’t let that happen! Be straightforward with your book publicist, and get the response you deserve … or walk away from that book publicity firm and find one that can better help you succeed.

When you’re promoting your book, it’s great to have a book publicist on your side. You likely chose one in the right way and with the best intentions. After conducting a chemistry check with the book publicist, you decided the working relationship felt right. Your book publicist’s references checked out. Your book publicist seemed intelligent enough, and she cared about your book, and she supported your mission and the messages you wanted to disseminate.

So you ought to defer to your book publicist and offload all responsibility for your book publicity campaign on her, right?


You know more about your book and your area of expertise than your book publicist could learn in a month of Sundays. Share information with your book publicist — don’t expect her to read your mind or to figure things out for herself. Again: don’t make your book publicist play guessing games.

Your book publicist may notice that an upcoming event, or a breaking news story, ties into your subject matter, and she may see that as a news hook. She may be on top of pitching the media all of the time when she should.

On the other hand, she may not. And, if she doesn’t, then make her aware of the available news hook, and make sure she’s adjusting your book publicity campaign to accommodate the publicity opportunity. In other words, make sure she doesn’t blow it for you!

When you see the news hook, make sure she sees it, too. And don’t hesitate. While you’re silently waiting and hoping your book publicist “gets it,” your competitors are probably finding ways to get their names in front of the media.

If your book publicist truly can’t see the value of a news hook, or she insists on sticking to the book publicity plan (as she conceptualized it before you knew the news hook would present itself), then you may want to reevaluate the effectiveness of your working relationship with your book publicist.

It’s wonderful to partner with your book publicist, and to trust your book publicist to have creative ideas that can form the core of your book publicity campaign. But your book publicist also has to stay open to your idea and respectful of the insights you bring as the subject matter expert. So be comfortable sitting in the director’s chair with your book publicity campaign when the situation calls for it. If your book publicist doesn’t see the PR opportunities, then make sure she’s responsive to the news hooks when you find them for her … and don’t let book publicity opportunities pass you by because you’re too polite to ask for what you need from your book publicist!

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Book Publicity’s True Cost

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

How much should you expect to pay for your book publicity campaign? There are several variables involved, so it’s tough to predict exactly how much you’ll have to spend to promote your book. The cost will vary from one author to another, and it will depend on the specifics of your book publicity campaign. But here are the costs to consider when you’re planning your author publicity budget:

Hiring a Book Publicist. If you’ve hired a book publicist, then your book publicist’s fee is part of the cost of promoting your book. But the cost of a book publicist’s services vary and depend upon the size and scope of your book publicity campaign. You’re not “stuck” with a single cost. Shop around, and find a book publicist who can conduct the author publicity campaign you want to happen … and, once you’ve done a chemistry check (you have to like your book publicist!) and established her credentials (by checking references and asking about her track record), be sure you’re staying within your author publicity campaign budget. Hiring a book publicist is only one of the costs of promoting your book.

Travel. These days, an author publicity campaign seldom includes a multi-city book tour. Technology has come too far, and budgets tend to be tight. Fortunately, there are other ways to promote your book in various major metro areas including pitching phone and Skype interviews, and conducting a virtual blog tour (most book publicists routinely set up virtual blog tours for authors — and, if you’re considering a book publicist who doesn’t know what a virtual blog tour is, then run in the opposite direction as quickly as possible!). But there’s still the possibility that a major media outlet in another city will invite you to be an in-studio guest, and you’ll probably want to accept the offer if the opportunity sounds right for you. That will most likely mean paying your own way, and paying all of the costs associated with your trip (food, lodging, taxis, and the like). That said, travel costs are a nice expense to have. It means you’ve been invited to appear as a guest on a major media outlet. Who doesn’t want that?

Book Web Site. You could have your neighbor’s 11-year-old design your book web site, or you could have your middle school-aged nephew do it, or you do it yourself at one of those web site building sites … but resist the temptation. Your web site often is your first opportunity to be seen by your potential readers and the media. Use that opportunity wisely by investing in a professionally-designed web site by a firm that specializes in creating book web sites.

Free Books. You know those books you’re giving away to the media, bloggers, and readers for free as part of your book publicity campaign? Well, those books are free for the recipients, but they won’t be free for you. You’ll have to purchase them. So factor the cost of those “free” books into the price of your author publicity campaign. And then add extra books just in case your book publicity campaign takes off, and you get far more book requests that you expected. As a side note, you might be able to talk some media decision makers into accepting a copy of your eBook instead of a hard copy of your book. And the day may come when it’s not such a tough sell. But, for now, count on most producers, hosts, editors, and reporters wanting you to send them a copy of what they still consider to be the “real” book. Don’t screen too carefully. The most expensive books are the ones you don’t send because you’re counting pennies too closely, and you turn away a book request from someone who would have given your book a plug.

Postage. And, speaking of sending the media decision makers your book, you have to pay for that, too. Postage costs can vary, too, but make sure to use a mailing vendor and method that provides tracking. You can’t guarantee that the producer, host, editor, or reporter will actually open your package, but you can ensure that he or she received it if you send it via one of the major delivery services. The best idea, as far as this book publicist is concerned, is to use the United States Postal Service’s Priority service. Use the USPS’s Priority packaging, which is free and looks impressive. And not only will you get free tracking with that, but you’ll be able to predict that the book will arrive at its destination in no more than three business days. What a deal!

Does size (of your author publicity budget) really matter? It is, in the sense that you want to spend enough to promote your book effectively and professionally. Certainly you don’t want to conduct a book publicity campaign on such a thin shoestring that your sneakers fall off you’re feet while you’re walking. On the other hand, author publicity isn’t an exact science. You can’t say, with any certainly, that you invest X in your book promotion campaign, you’ll earn Y in return. Book promotion always contains an element of uncertainty. You don’t know what you’ll receive for your investment of money, effort, and time. Will you land a guest spot on a national television show? Will you get a book review in a major daily newspaper? Will you get a chance to join a panel discussion on NPR? No one knows, and because book promotion involves gambling, it’s a good idea to stay within your comfort zone when you plan your book publicity campaign.

Spend thoughtfully, but do spend. Only you can decide how much your book publicity campaign will cost you. Don’t invest more than you can afford, but remember that the most expensive book publicity campaign is the one you don’t conduct at all. The lost potential book sales just can’t be worth the money you may have saved.

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eBook Publishing to Spread the Word

Ebook publishing can be a quick and effective way to disseminate your message.

This morning, a friend let me know that her nonprofit organization had raised $30,000 to provide ten K9 vests to police departments in one year. What a wonderful accomplishment! In congratulating her, I asked my friend whether she would consider writing an eBook about the importance of providing police departments with K9 vests. It would be an honor for me to then conduct an eBook promotion campaign for her nonprofit as long as she’s willing to approve media materials and act as a spokesperson for the organization. It’s easy enough to learn about eBook publishing, I promised her, and I’d handle her eBook’s editing, and the conversion of her Word or PDF file to Kindle’s mobi format (and to Barnes and Noble’s Nook format, too, if she were interested in even wider eBook distribution).

I made the offer automatically because I spontaneously realized that eBook publishing isn’t only for traditional authors anymore. Ebook publishing is now available to everyone who has something to say, and needs a platform to delivery that message.

If my friend wants to become an author, I can make it easy to achieve that goal. I’m already offering coaching for eBook Publishing and eBook promotion services to authors. Why not encourage a friend to tap into my expertise to help outfit as many service dogs with K9 vests as possible? The only thing this book publicist cares more about than family, cooking, friends, and books…is our four-legged companions. I hope we can use eBook publishing to help as many of them as possible!

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Book Discovery and Your Alumni Network

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

Whether your book marketing project involves ebook promotion or traditional book publicity, there’s one strategy you’ll want to employ. That’s tapping into your alumni network. Your college alumni network or even your high school alumni network can be persuaded to help you in your book discovery efforts even more easily than the media can. That’s reasonable when you consider the fact that your book marketing successes reflect favorably upon your college, university, or high school. Your positive book publicity is the schools’ positive publicity, and when you’re acting as a publicist for an author — yourself — you’re also acting as a publicist for your alma mater.

For example, as a proud Emerson College alumna (class of 1981, thank you very much!)< I was please to note a wonderful item on Emerson College’s web site this morning.

An Associate Professor at Emerson College (in Boston, Massachusetts), Megan Marshall won a 2014 Pulitzer Prize for her biography, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Emerson College let its alumni network know about the professor’s win, and now each member of that network will tell potential book buyers. (Some of us will even blog about it and post a link to the article and the book!) Emerson College looks good, Emerson College’s alumni network feels good, and Megan Marshall enjoys even more book publicity for her already widely-recognized (and deservedly so) book.

You don’t have to win a Pulitzer Prize to persuade your alumni network to put its publicity efforts to work for you. Your book marketing wins are their PR successes, as well. So let your alumni network know about your eBook or your traditional book, and let the book marketing payoffs begin!

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