Book Publicity News

Monday, August 29, 2005

Bad reviews, media mistakes and other media mishaps:

Dealing with the media can be very frustrating at times. Take today, for example, when I called various NPR producers of very high-brow, intellectual shows. "If you don't have anyone from New Orleans, I can't talk to you." Click.

The hurricane preempted all the news media today, and monopolized producers' time all over the country, but fortunately, I did get responses to my pitches from some producers, so the day wasn't a complete exercise in futility. I was grateful I didn't have any authors scheduled for a morning show today who would end up sitting in the green room as the hurricane coverage preempted their interviews. That happened to an author of mine many years ago when a blizzard was deemed more important than his book, and the morning show never did reschedule his interview.

Last week, my delight in seeing a google-alert in my in-box when I returned from a three-day getaway, was quickly soured after I read the trend story in The Washington Post that featured two of the books I was promoting.

One book received a glowing review, while the other was slammed. I felt like the parent of the twin Olympic star gymnasts when one twin won a medal and the other didn't.

But what was worse is that the reviewer didn't even get the setting right of the book she panned. It makes one wonder if she even read the book.

When you read newspapers or listen to the news, you'd like to think that the information you are receiving is accurate. But I can't tell you how many times the media gets it wrong. Like the time Angela Henry, author of the debut novel, The Company You Keep, was quoted in a newspaper trend story, only she was called Angela Harvey. And her book was not mentioned. So there was no way anyone would ever be able google her, find out about her book, and purchase it. The excitement of getting interviewed by a major national newspaper turned into disappointment, and worse -- lost sales --when the story ran.

Or the time I got Angela's local newspaper to run a profile story right before her August 13th booksigning. Only August 13th came and went and there was no story, even though Angela was interviewed. When I called the editor, he said the story was going to run in several weeks. I replied that I thought the story was running to tie-in with Angela's booksigning.

The editor said that he had no idea Angela was doing a booksigning. This, after I verbally pitched him, telling him the date, time and place of the signing, followed up with an e-mail pitch listing the event, followed up with an enclosed handwritten note attached to the press materials with the booksigning information. If this was not enough, Angela, of course, told the reporter of the upcoming event.

When the author whose book got panned in The Washington Post said she wished that I hadn't even told her about the review, I said, the good news is you were reviewed in The Washington Post. And when your next book comes out, we can tell everyone that you were reviewed in The Washington Post.

You can turn almost anything to your advantage with a positive spin. So even bad publicity is better than no publicity. I know some of you out there will disagree, but think about this. A cookbook I recently promoted was criticized by a major newspaper because the recipes were confusing, or contained omissions. The author was quite upset. But what he failed to grasp is that the critic also said he was passionate about his subject and that the book contained beautiful food photography -- which is not only a selling point for those interested in the subject matter of the book -- but more importantly, can be used as a cover quote if the book goes back to press, or on his next book's jacket.

The worst thing that ever happened to an author was getting a booking on Oprah. How could that be bad? you're thinking. When the producer sits you in the audience, and Oprah never once addresses you. And the camera never once veers your way. I don't know if the author ever said he was on Oprah. But he sure could have honestly said he was invited by Oprah to be a guest on her show.

Publicity, like anything else in life, has risks along with rewards. But if you don't take the risk, you'll never experience the high of seeing your picture in the paper alongside a fabulous profile, getting that good review from another critic, being in the spotlight for a 3-minute television segment, or being interviewed on the radio. And let's face it. Besides selling books, getting great media coverage is exciting. It's the icing on the cake. And as one of my authors recently said, "I want the icing."


  • At 6:48 AM, Blogger Devon Ellington said…

    Learning how to make lemonade out of lemons is, I think, the most important pubiicity lesson there is.

    Thanks for sharing those anecdotes.

    Sorry one of your "children" was slammed -- who knows? Maybe that book will end up doing better than the other one.

    Often, when I read a negative review, I am more likely to seek the book out, because I disagree with so many of the current reviewers.

  • At 11:07 AM, Blogger Nancy said…

    Ugh... Just hearing these stories makes me want to puke!!


  • At 12:32 PM, Blogger LaShaunda said…

    Even bad reviews can sell a book. I know I look for a book if someone slams it. I'm one of those who likes to see for myself.

    My website was mentioned in Essence magazine. My name was never mentioned, but you better believe I told everybody and their mother Shades Of Romance was mentioned in Essence magazine. That will probably be as close as I'll get to Essence LOL!

  • At 9:21 AM, Blogger Webs said…

    It's unforgiveable for the nespaper to call Angela Henry "Angela Harvey", but I don't think it's valid to complain about the lack of mention of the book. It's not editorial's job to sell the book. If the book title would lend authority to the piece, it would be in the text. If it's tangential, the words are better spent elsewhere.

  • At 9:54 AM, Blogger Susan Schwartzman said…

    In this particular case the newspaper did a round-up of about a dozen books. The authors of those books were quoted and the titles of their books were all mentioned -- except Angela's.

    Angela was the only author who was quoted in the piece whose book was not mentioned. That along with the misspelling of her name was unfortunate for her. More than unfortunate. She lost book sales as well, which is why I pitched her to that reporter in the first place.


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