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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Book PR Lessons From Comedian Paul Reiser

I attended a comedy concert the other day.  My wife and I enjoyed an evening with one-time television star, Paul Reiser.  Yes, the Mad About You guy.  No, Helen Hunt was not there.

Yes, I too wondered what I should expect from a guy who was last seen on TV in 1999.  He’s done some other things since then, including a role in a movie, but essentially, he had disappeared   Few under 40 would register much with his name if asked.

But he was surprisingly funny and fluid and very much himself, talking about what he knows best – married life.  Everyone has a shtick (their thing).  Seinfeld discusses the little things and nothing at all.  Others zero in on being losers (Louis CK), expressing dark views on life (Woody Allen), being political (Jon Stewart) or zeroing in on singular aspects of life (Amy Schumer focuses on dating and body image).  Few comedians tell jokes about everything – and become stars.  It seems comedians get pigeon-holed – the intellect, the immature, the one who plays a tough guy, the one who filters everything through race, the one who focuses on family dysfunction, etc.

What happened to the renaissance comedian, the person who can be topical and political as well as personal and self-deprecating and a blend of intellectual curiosity mixed with buffoonery?  When do the silly antics of Mall Cop meet with the intelligent and dark sarcasm of Lewis Black? 

Just as actors get typecast and many writers stick to one genre, comedians seem to perform within a limited range of topics.  I guess to stick out and be noticed, you need to be very good at something, and few are good at more than one thing, and many are afraid to deviate from what works.  But writers, at least in their promotional efforts, need to experiment.

When promoting a book you can’t just stick to what you know, what you like, or what you’re good at.  You need to diversify your PR portfolio, in hopes of capturing new readers and growing your following.

Some authors only dwell on social media – and do little else.  Others abhor the digital whoring and do anything but click their lives away.  But few really mix it up, blending speaking appearances with blogging, media tours with tweeting, and telemarketing organizations with holding contests.

You want your book publicity to mirror Chris Rock or Billy Crystal.  Rock can curse or keep it clean.  He can go black or he can discuss relationships, politics, random thoughts or most topics.  Crystal can do impressions or be himself.  He can tell stories or jab with a one-liner.  They both know that when they increase their range of jokes they have a better chance of growing beyond their base.  Book promoters need to do the same thing.

Certainly, one should build from a strength and always look to score the fastest and easiest way first.  If you find something like doing radio interviews or webinars or book signings is selling books and building your brand, keep doing it. But the numbers well can dry up before you find another drinking source.  Get out there and see what other means and methods prove to be fruitful.

If Paul Reiser wanted to talk about something other than how challenging marriage can be, he’d probably still be funny.  So much material is around him that he can seize upon.  To tell jokes about terrorists, bad coffee, celebrities, and movies may not be his thing, but he could probably offer good insights on other aspects of life.  He did discuss aging a little bit on stage, in part, playing up to the older audience, and in part because it reflects what the 58-year-old is confronting personally.  The best comedians joke about what they know best.

Speaking of typecasting and limited range, I wish someone could help Sofia Vergara, the voluptuous mom on Modern Family.  The former Spanish soap star and mode has bombed on the big screen.  She has taken crappy roles in bad movies, including her newest one, Hot Pursuit

She plays off the same lopsided perception that has been put upon her – a big-breasted, hot Latina who is hot blooded and can’t speak English well.  Every joke and on screen interaction plays off of this unfortunate perception.  I think she’s capable of more – but the more she sets herself in these roles the harder it is to change perceptions.

Most book PR is done the way Sofia acts – but it lacks any kind of range and only firms up a limited fan base.  It gets her somewhere, but not as far as she could go.

Start your day tomorrow with an altered approach.  Look closely at what you spend your time doing to promote yourself and book – and then change the formula.  Look at how much media you pursue.  How many of the big four do you participate in – radio, TV, print and online?  How much social media do you actively engage in – and how many of the key sites do you have a presence in – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram?  How often do you speak – and where?  How many mailings do you do – to whom – and how often?  How much networking do you do – online and in person?  Have you tried teaming up with another author or organization in a creative way?  

The options are endless and the opportunities are out there.  Don’t limit your PR the way most comedians limit their acts.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the hird-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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