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Friday, April 26, 2019

Why Authors Need Publicists To Lie To Them



“Please be honest,” the voice pleads through the phone.

“What do you think of my book?”

This is the closest thing to a woman asking her boyfriend, lover, spouse, “Do these pants make me look fat?”

How does one answer either question?

When potential clients ask me what I think of their book I always cringe.  If I love it, will they believe me when I say so – and if it’s mediocre and I need to dance artfully around a negative critique, can I live with myself?

I’m in no-man’s land, that place where one can’t be fully honest without hurting someone’s feelings, losing business, or not being believed.  What’s a book promoter to do?

I embrace as much honesty as I can afford.  I am a pay-to-say guy in an industry littered with those who practice the art of bullshitting.  Authors see me not only as a coach, strategist, and advisor — but as a therapist.  There are limitations to what I can, should, or would do or say to a client, but when it comes to the dreaded question borne of insecurity by the writer, What do you think of my book?, I look to say something that we can both live with.

If it’s great, I will say so.  If it’s awful, I wouldn’t embarrass myself by offering to work on it.  When the book is just ordinary, as statistically most fall on this spectrum, I can neither gush over it nor be dismissive.  I have to find the right amount of praise and express optimism that’s not fully there – while making sure I don’t overpromise.  I set expectations and only offer to do what I think is achievable and targeted.  Many times I offer certain guarantees or deliverables and so if I vow to deliver, I will deliver – even if I told a white lie about my view of their book.

You can’t blame me for disclosing this.  The truth is everyone has to do this in their jobs, at home, and in their interactions with the world - unless they enjoy having no friends, poverty, and zero love life.

I will not voluntarily gush over a book unless I feel it, but when confronted and directly asked by the potential client what I think about their book, I realize that I’m no different than an escort.  I’m there to make someone feel good, to give them what they want.  It’s only words, right?  Oh, the inner torment that consumes me every time that cringe-worthy question is asked!

What’s even more interesting is many of the authors preface their question with a statement like, “I know you can’t really tell me, but…’ or they’ll acknowledge we are in a business relationship that might not yield brutal honesty and yet they still ask.

How fragile our writers are, looking for love, support, confirmation, and legitimacy from anyone, anywhere — even from their book publicity whore.

Thirty-five years ago, I saw a powerful off-broadway play about a man who didn’t think his family loved him.  He paid actors to be his son, daughter, and wife – to act like them but to also shower him with love, praise, and encouragement.  At some point he wanted to believe them but kept remembering who was writing the checks.  The thing is, his fake family did grow to care and love him, but he couldn’t love himself.  

Authors don’t need an outsider to validate them – they know in their heart if they have a really good book.  But that won’t stop them from asking.  And I won’t stop answering with the answer they need to hear.



“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
--Lao Tzu

“All endings are also beginnings.  We just don’t know it at the time.”
--Mitch Albom

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

--Joseph Campbell


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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