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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Creating A Media-Friendly Book

Usually when a publisher or author hires a book publicity firm to promote a book, the publicist strategizes with them to figure out the best way to promote the book.  At the book publicity firm that I market for, MEDIA CONNECT, angles are explored, backgrounds are examined, and the media landscape is studies for related trends, news, or scheduled events that could be linked to the book.  Sometimes things change as news cycles come and go and what was a book was yesterday is now just a noose.

But what if publicists could influence the editorial content of a book before it’s published and promoted?  What if the book could be enhanced or altered so that its integrity remains intact, but its ability to attract media attention is increased?

So few authors—an even publishers—consult a publicist far in advance of publication for the sole purpose of doing a PR audit of the manuscript.  To do so requires great forethought and planning, something most authors aren’t aware of and something most publishers are too rushed to consider.

Still, I ponder the idea.  Can you imagine how much better a book would sell if it was packaged for the media?

There may not be an exact formula for making a book promotable. Some things can’t be altered such as the author’s credentials, who the publisher is, or the overall theme of the book.  But anything from a book’s title, length, use of photos, language, revelations, etc are up for grabs.

Consider creating a PR laboratory, where you can genetically alter a book’s DNA, where you can cut here, add there, or change this—and you have a media-friendly book.

There are challenges to this, for sure.  Let’s see:

1.       You need enough time to give it a cosmetic makeover.

2.      There needs to still be something of quality as a base to work with.

3.      You need a smart editor to team with a savvy publicist to make sure the book is still quantity read while addressing the media’s needs.

4.      You have to know what the media wants and how to feed it to them.

There’s also a dilemma attached to such a process.  An author is very proud and protective of her work.  She wouldn’t want some stranger suddenly rewriting her creation.  It seems less genuine, less authentic, less creative to suddenly throw in things to a book just to placate the media or commercial demand.  But if you can live with the changes you’ll have a much more marketable book.  So if one were to engage the services of a PR consultant, what would he or she be told?

First, it depends if it’s a novel or non-fiction.  There’s a huge difference in what can be done to each type of book. 

Second, it also depends on the genre you write in and the existing competition out there.

Third, it depends on how much media coverage has already taken place on your subject matter.

Fourth, it depends on what limitations or opportunities you have for making changes to the book.

Fifth, it depends on the type of media you plan to approach.  The needs and nuances vary greatly
amongst television, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and radio shows.

Sixth, it depends on the amount of money and time you can dedicate to promoting your book.

Authors don’t want to create a factory book where it’s peppered with promotable topics just for the sake of media attention.  They don’t write books based on experience, creativity and passion—and then just sell out.  But let’s face it, if you want to write a book people will read and buy, you’ll have to compromise.  Consult a publicist before you publish and promote your book.  You may find that a few changes will go a long the way to getting media attention and sales.


Interview With Author Diane Wyshogrod

  1. Diane, what is your new book about? In this book, I invite you to join me as I explore my mother’s extraordinary past life: her idyllic childhood, her life under occupation in war-time Poland, particularly her experiences of being hidden by sympathetic Polish Christians in the cellar of their tiny home, and her return to life and to the world after the war, living in New York and Jerusalem. I brought to this quest every facet of my own identity – clinical psychologist, writer, mother, and daughter – and in investigating my mother’s life, I learned much about my own. It’s a story that will resonate with anyone seeking to connect with a parent’s past. 

  1. Why should people read it? This book is for anyone who has a mother – and who’s been curious about what made that person who she is. And it’s for anyone who is a mother, or a father, and who wishes their child was curious about them – as people, not just the guardians of homework and cleaning up your room. And it’s about the universal dance that we engage in – wanting to know, and not wanting to know, about those closest to us, and about ourselves, exploring how love and pain, struggle and strength get transmitted from generation to generation, delving into the legacy we’ve received, and what we will pass on to future generations.  In this book, I invite you into my exploration of my family, my world. And then, I hope it’ll make you want to go and have a good heart-to-heart talk with your mom. Or your dad. 

  1. What inspired you to write it? This book was inspired by love, and by desperation.  On the personal level, it had to do with loving my mother, and fearing that if I didn’t interview her and preserve her life story, nobody else would. I didn’t actually want to do it. I was afraid to do it. But I was more afraid not to. First, because of its importance to me and my family. But then I realized that this is more than a record of one person’s story. This one story is also an indelible part of an entire people’s history, and part of the tortured tapestry of world history. And as such, its truth is vital. There are too many Holocaust deniers out there saying that the deliberate, premeditated, systematic annihilation of six million Jews did not occur. This book proudly takes its place in the pantheon of other Holocaust testimonies to refute that evil claim, for all time. It stands as testimony to the shining power of faith and love, and to the stubborn belief in the ability of those to rise above the darkness.   

  1. What do you love about writing? I love the way I can start out, having no clear idea – sometimes, even no idea at all  – of what I am going to say, beyond thinking that I ought to be writing. I start scribbling or typing away, and, if I’m lucky, something humbling and inspiring occurs: the clutter in my mind starts to clear, and a truth starts to emerge. That’s when I might discover what was in there all along, waiting to come out and inform me.  And the next phase of the process, one I love, is when I get to take all those words, and hone them, crafting them, over and over, like a sculptor, chiseling it just so, as best I can, until it finally says just what needs to be said. 

  1. What advice do you have for writers looking to breakthrough? 
  • Love to write. 
  • Be stubborn.
  • Believe in your story. And in yourself. Find a friend or mentor who can remind you about this belief, if your confidence wavers. 
  • If you get off track, don’t despair. (Or write about that, too.) And then, dust yourself off, and get back on track.   
  • Don’t let people scare you off by telling you how hard / impractical / impossible / etc. this is. Maybe it is. Do it anyway. 
  • Read great, inspiring books about writing.
  • Read – and reread – memoirs that inspire you.   
  • And write. Write. Rewrite. Rewrite. Again and again. With pen. With crayon. With computer. Find your own rhythm, find what schedule works best for you, and write.
  • Get yourself the right kind of support:  a good bunch of friends, people you can trust, people who can relate to what you are doing. At best, they’ll also love to write. They may even be able to relate to your topic. Find a good writing teacher or mentor.
  • Find a writing group you feel comfortable with, people you can trust to tell you the truth about your writing, gently, and with love, who are as committed as you are to shaping it so that it’s the best, the truest, it can be. And, like the song says (more or less): “once you have found [these people], never let [them] go.”
  • And, once the writing’s over, and the book’s ready to be born:  either love marketing and sales, or find someone who does, who can teach you to enjoy everything necessary to bring your story to the public, where it deserves to be.
  • Did I say: “Write!”?

  1. Where do you see book publishing heading?  I should start this by saying that I now own a Kindle. It’s a relatively recent acquisition and one I still consider miraculous:  I can read about a book, search for it on Kindle, and 5 minutes later, it’s in my hands – even from halfway around the world. To have hundreds of books at my fingertips – tucked away in a gadget weighing only a few ounces—that’s magic.  And yet, there’s nothing like another kind of magic: the pure sensory pleasure of opening a brand new book for the first time, being careful not to crack the binding. Or, conversely, of holding an old book in my hands, smoothing the age-softened pages with my fingertips, wondering about the mystery of its previous readers as I decipher their softly penciled names on the frontispiece or what they found so compelling within its pages that they had to underline them. 

And there’s nothing like that moment when I step over the threshold of my local public library, when I see, smell, touch the magic of books, of words in all their forms, free for the taking, by anyone and everyone, in what I consider Benjamin Franklin’s crowning achievement. In particular, I remember the awe that struck me one day as I visited my local branch, the St. Agnes branch on Amsterdam Avenue and 81st Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and watched people from all walks of life using all facets of the library – reading the newspaper and periodicals, borrowing music and movies, using the computer – in addition to checking out books of all description, passports to discovery and mystery and wonder. And best of all, this source of information was open and available to all. True democracy. Because not everyone owns a Kindle, or a computer, or can afford to buy a new book, even a secondhand one. But everyone, at least in America, can visit the library, can have access to the whole world, and can take it home in the form of a book. 

So I honor and appreciate what gadgets like the Kindle can do, and the instant resources they bring to our fingertips and our lives. But for me, there’s still nothing quite like a book. And the libraries that house and shelter them. It’s up to the publishers – and readers like me, like you, reading this – to make sure that books – and libraries – continue to be a living, essential part of our lives. I hope that never changes.          

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s leading book publicity firm. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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