Expert tips on promoting your book; bloggers unite against abuse
Published: September 18, 2007
|Q&A with Sandra Beckwith|
Sandra Beckwith, an award-winning former publicist, has written two publicity books and teaches the "Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz" publicity e-course for authors.
What is the most common mistake you believe authors make when it comes to understanding book promotion?
Authors tend to think of book promotion in terms of the book launch, when it's new, instead of thinking of the book's long-term publicity potential. I try to help them see that they are experts on the topic of their book, even when it's a novel, and that they can use that expert status to keep their book's title in the news long, long after the book launch.
If you had one tip to offer new authors, what would it be?
If you do absolutely nothing else, make sure that you at least have a professional-looking Web site that helps the media and others find you and your book. It should show, rather than tell, that your book's content is useful and valuable. As a journalist, I am constantly frustrated by my inability to contact authors I want to interview as expert resources. They are impossible to find online, and their publishers don't always respond to interview requests.
Do you have a case history from a workshop attendee that really excites you--as in someone who took your advice to heart and did really well with a book?
One of my most recent students, Candy Harrington, really worked hard in the course. By the end of the four-week period, she had created a very detailed, week-by-week publicity plan and several media relations tools for her book, 101 Accessible Vacations: Vacation Ideas for Wheelers and Slow Walkers, which came out in September. She was so well-prepared for that book launch, and was so enthusiastic about putting time into publicizing that book, that I'm certain it will get much more media attention than it would have otherwise.
Isn't it true that most authors, unless they are a brand name, end up doing a lot of the promotion for their titles, regardless of who published their book?
Absolutely. The burden is on the author to build book buzz. I always recommend that those going the traditional publishing route find out as soon as possible what their publisher plans to do to support the book, so that the author can then create a plan that fills the gaps. Those who are self-published are starting from scratch, but it's doable.
What is the greatest challenge facing a first-time author aiming at increasing his or her sales?
The competition for attention, especially with so many celebrities now writing books. The secret to success is in identifying a specific target customer niche--those people who for whatever reason are most likely to buy your book--and aiming your initial efforts at them. Start small, then expand outward. The advantage new authors have today over years past is the proliferation of exciting online media opportunities, whether we're talking about traditional media or citizen journalists.
Related links from Sandra Beckwith
Build Book Buzz
Book Publicity Workshops
|Blog Catalog community will focus on abuse Sept. 27|
When Antony Berkman acquired Blog Catalog in February 2007, the community had a lot of potential. "It was a simple blog directory listing site," he says. As president, Berkman spearheaded a number of changes. "We changed the design and underlying programming, removed questionable blog content like porn and spam, added social media applications, and set out to offer a sense of community." The discussion boards are a resource for any writer, with free exchanges of information about "money-tizing" your site, statistics tracking and hot content topics. Berkman says the site is now the fastest-growing social blog directory on the Web. And that's one reason his passion for altruism will be center stage on Sept. 27. The Blog Catalog community will blog on a single issue: abuse.
Asked why organizers selected such a broad topic, Berkman said, "To a large extent, our efforts in launching and recognizing bloggers for participating in social awareness campaigns has been an experiment." He says the community has already blogged uniformly about single issues. One campaign focused on the organization Donors Choose, dedicated to providing students in need with resources that public schools often lack. Another campaign focused on organ donations. "After the first campaign, members told us they would prefer topics that did not isolate the beneficiary to one country." After the second, he says members wanted more input into the choice of topics. "Through discussion, it became the very broad topic of abuse." He says after the Sept. 27 campaign ends, "We'll learn from it, adapt it, and continue to make the concept of blogger-driven social awareness campaigns even better." Berkman says he wants to find a way to "have the best of both worlds--broad social awareness based on blogger input--and then add a direct beneficiary."
Berkman really believes in the power of the blogosphere. He says, "Blogging can have a public good component." He says many social networks have received a ton of media attention. "But none were offering any guidance to bloggers in terms of doing good. ... We wanted to do something more by asking bloggers to create positive change by using the Internet." He says bloggers benefited more than 1,000 students with the Donors Choose campaign. "You read all this bad stuff about blogging, but every day some are out there trying to do good. I think we should celebrate them--I celebrate them every day."
Berkman says as Blog Catalog continues to grow, he hopes to encourage a new social media-awareness campaign every other month. "Social media can do as much good as it can critique people for doing bad, can't it?"
Meanwhile, he and Blog Catalog staff are putting final touches on the Sept. 27 "Bloggers Against Abuse" campaign. Issues like the environment, rights for women, protecting the elderly, child labor and mental health are a few of the topics members will write about. Berkman says there's a potential for 1,500 bloggers to participate, according to current estimates. And of course, Blog Catalog must focus on day-to-day management as well. "We hand approve all members who apply to become part of Blog Catalog," he says.
--Sept. 18, 2007
My next column takes a look at sites that pay writers for content.
Sandra Beckwith photo by Cialone Photography