Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Recalling The Rush Of Getting A Media Booking

Anyone who has promoted a book gets a rush of excitement when they convince someone in the news media to cover their book. Whether it’s a book review or an interview, whether it’s a big or small outlet, and whether the coverage is favorable are important considerations but all of it is secondary to the high you get when learning someone said yes to your solicitation.

I recall with fondness, my first job. I was hired as an assistant to the publisher for a small press. They released about 25 new books a season.  This was in 1989.  No Internet, no e-mail, no Amazon, no e-books.  You called the media. You sent real mail. You faxed. Cable TV was the hot medium back then.  Superstores like Barnes and Noble were just beginning to challenge independent book stores.  Some 45,000 new titles were released back then, a mere fraction of what’s produced today.

But the competition to get media exposure was fierce nevertheless. Books needed good PR to sell then, just as they need it today. I promoted non-fiction, tabloidy books such as Who Shot RFK?, Is Elvis Alive? The Squad, How In-Laws Relate,  and Hollywood’s Unsolved Mysteries.  I recall garnering 150-180 radio interviews for some of these books.  That’s unheard of today.  But whether it was the 10th or 70th interview scheduled, each and every time I got the go-ahead from a radio producer, I felt a jolt of excitement come over me the way a stock broker must do a jig every time he sees a rise in his portfolio.  In fact, it was addictive.  I needed to get those media bookings so I could validate my professional worth.  I felt like I could promote warmed up soup, a dead bird, a rusty pipe or anything.  The formula was simple:  call, call, call.  Be confident, assertive, smile, and talk about the author as if he or she invented air.

One must be determined in order to succeed in PR. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of victory and of accomplishment when you get a media booking, so keep at it. It’s a wonderful feeling we should each experience often – and forever.

Interview With Author Gerard Helferich
He is the author of: Stone of Kings (December 2011); High Cotton; Humboldt's Cosmos. For more information, please consult: His newest book was just featured by The Wall Street Journal this past weekend.

  1. Gerard, what is your new book, Stone of Kings, about? It’s about the 400-year search for the lost jade mines of the Maya. To ancient peoples such as the Maya, Olmecs, and Aztecs, jade was the most valuable substance in their world, used to adorn kings, cure disease, and perform sacred rituals. But the Spanish were interested mainly in silver and gold, and within fifty years of the Conquest, the location of the ancient jade mines had been forgotten. Centuries later, when archaeologists uncovered fabulous carved jades in the ancient American cities, no one had a clue where the raw stone had come from. Some people guessed China, and others even said the Lost Continent of Atlantis. But it wasn’t until the late 1950s that the mystery started to unravel, and important discoveries are still being made today. So Stone of Kings is a mix of history, popular science, and armchair travel, a real-life detective story about the search for these ancient jade sources.

  1. It’s not your first book. What have you learned from the publishing process so far? My previous books were published in 2004 and 2007, and I would say the biggest change this time around is the importance of web marketing. It used to be that print reviews and TV and radio interviews drove the process, but now for most books electronic media--Facebook, Twitter, e-mail blasts, blogging—have become very important. Not only are these cost-effective ways to promote books, there just aren’t as many print outlets publishing book reviews as there used to be.

  1. Why do you love being a writer? For one thing, it’s a great life, working independently from home. Also, I write research-based narrative nonfiction, and I love learning about things--how jade is carved, for instance, or how cotton is grown--and then presenting that information in a way that is engaging for other non-experts. But for me the greatest pleasure is in the craft, the process of constructing a sentence, then a paragraph, a chapter, and a book--finding the right word, the right rhythm, the right detail to make the story come alive. Each project is unique, and there’s always a new challenge, a new way to stretch and improve.

  1. Where do you see the book industry heading? E-books, e-books, e-books. There are still people out there who say they love the smell and feel of a printed book too much ever to read an e-book, and that’s fine. But to more and more readers, the ease of delivery and storage and the generally lower cost trump these more traditional attitudes. Publishers and booksellers are still trying to find their way around the new business model, but as a writer, I’m excited about the way that e-books are expanding the market for the written word. And however it’s delivered, ink on paper or pixels on a screen, the word still comes first.

  1. What advice do you have for other writers? My words to live by come from Peter De Vries, who said, “I write when I’m inspired, and see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.” Some days will find you more productive than others at that hour, but there’s no substitute for time spent at your desk. To some people that may sound like iron discipline, but if you love what you’re doing, it’s not a test of will at all--you look forward to your hours at the keyboard. Especially if you consider writing a kind of meditation, a chance to put other concerns out of your mind and immerse yourself in another world for a while. (In that way, writing’s not unlike reading, but even more absorbing.)

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 third-person.

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