Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille!

Everyone knows free publicity is invaluable when it's time to promote a book. Magazine and newspaper writers get interviewed occasionally as all the media mix together. There's radio, TV, the internet, newspapers, magazines. And parties! And forums!

So how ready are you for your close-up? (My apologies for botching the classic line written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, from the fabulous movie, "Sunset Boulevard.")

I spent a few years in public relations and have become something of a student of promotion. In the book I co-authored, "The FabJob Guide to Become a Party Planner" (FabJob Publishing, 2006) I spent the lion's share of my effort on how to promote a fledgling business.

Additionally, I once spent time in radio and TV while dreaming of a broadcast career like Oprah's, so I spent some time learning how to interview, and have hosted some of television's most lacklustre interviews on record, as my friend and former producer Susan Baker can attest;)

A book, or a writing career, is a business. No matter how much we DON'T like sales and promotions, the publishers are less and less taking the lead on publicity. Take advantage of every shred of help offered, naturally -- but also take responsibility for your own work's success.

That means being ready to answer questions in such a way that your book sounds fascinating, you sound interesting, and both are worth reading.

Here's a few tips on being ready to be interviewed:

  1. Talk in sentence form. Have a little story. Be ready with point form outlines that can lead you to paragraphs. Practice on your sister, your mom, your dog.
  2. If it's an audio interview, and you want people to like you (this can be helpful), put a smile on your face. It will show in your voice, and make you sound warmer. If your material is serious, there's no need to be jolly, of course.
  3. If you're asked questions about facts, give the listener added value by telling what's important about that, or what you love about that, or why that's terrible, or challenging, or surprising, or relevant, or why people should care about that.
  4. But don't go on and on and on. Make what you say count, so if they want more, they can ask for more. Look for cues that it's someone else's turn to talk. This can be particularly important in casual conversation.
  5. Remember what else you want to promote -- your blog, the stores that have your book, where to find your columns on line, the papers you write for.
  6. Make a picture of you available (put some effort into this, but a pic taken by a friend will d0 - natural light helps with amateur photography, so take it outdoors if you need to.)
  7. Have a scanned JPG, low and high resolution both, available of your book cover.
  8. If you're going to be on TV, don't wear white. Be impeccably groomed. Avoid nervous or unconscious gestures. (Get a friend to do a mock interview and tape it -- find your Achilles heel.)
  9. Study other peoples' interviews, so you can see what looks/sounds good and what doesn't. Feel free to use them for practice.
  10. Work on a press release, and have it available to tuck in sample books or online and in MS Word format for emailing. With permission of my friend, author Cheryl Moeller, I'll share a before-and-after of one with you soon.
  11. Put links to your work/website in the signature of your email. Unbelievable how many people have checked mine out.
  12. And that thing about we all stand on the shoulders of giants? I believe it, so remember to thank the giant! Be grateful, out loud, to those who got you where they are.
  13. Read something from the Writing Porch list of book promotion books. See the link here: http://writingporch.blogspot.com/2008/06/which-publisher-offers-best-publicity.html
  14. Have a cocktail blurb available at any moment: this is two or three sentences about you, your book, your work, in a nutshell.
Here's mine.
The Writing Porch's J. Louise Larson is a Texas-based writer whose work has appeared in major magazines and newspapers. She is the author of The FabJob Guide to Party Planning. She is the editor of The Ennis Journal and a contributor to The Waxahachie Daily Light.

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