Thanks to author Barbara Barnett for today’s column!
I had the best of the best among agents in Katharine Sands—and the best publisher for Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. in ECW Press. ECW assigned a responsive and enthusiastic publicist for the book (who was also the developing editor for it). So now what? Sit back, relax and wait for release date? No way; no how! One of the first things I learned post manuscript phase, while I awaited the galleys to come back from the printer was that a large part of any successful book publicity effort would require my own tireless efforts in addition to everyone else out there promoting my book.
My agent advised me early on to be proactive in promoting the book—not to rely only on my publishers resources. Six months before the book came out, I created a website and planned to start promoting Chasing Zebras as soon as it became available for pre-order on Amazon.com. Twitter, Facebook, my website and my WordPress blog, as well as my House feature at Blogcritics became essential tools in my book marketing arsenal. Katharine put my name and the book out there wherever she spoke at book and writers conferences, and just chatting with friends who were House fans.
I did my first podcast in July 2010 with Jennifer Wilkov’s Your Book is Your Hook on the Women’s Radio Network. I was terrified the entire 20 minutes of the interview, but it went reasonably well, and I was primed for more of this! My ECW publicist arranged a radio interview and sent out dozens of books to media outlets, hoping for a notice or a review. But that is needle in a haystack territory.
Eventually I realized that despite 1100+ Twitter followers, nearly 1100 Facebook fans, and 15,000 to 20,000 page views per week at Blogcritics, if I wanted my book to take on a life of its own eventually, I really needed to hire an outside publicist.
In October, about six weeks after the book’s launch, I hired a local (Chicago area) book publicity firm.
They sent out more books, made dozens of phone calls and email follow ups, organized book signings and a few personal appearances. But the most important thing they did for me was to get me on TV!
Chasing Zebras is an “Unofficial” guide to the hit series. It’s neither sanctioned by Fox (which airs the show) nor NBC/Universal, which produces it. I would not have thought of contacting Fox Affiliates or the Network and ask them to let me plug Chasing Zebras, although it would seem a natural fit. Only goes to show you what I know!
Despite my initial reservations, my publicist (O’Connor Communications) believed that Fox affiliates would enjoy having me on to talk about the show, that night’s upcoming episode—and at the same time, promote the book. And this is why you hire publicists!
They contacted Fox affiliates all across the country, and I had invitations to do live, in studio interviews at numerous stations. I could have, if I’d had the time and an endless flow of travel funds, traveled from East Coast to West dropping in for five-minutes chats at a dozen Fox stations.
Instead, I concentrated on the Great Lakes area, and appeared on Fox Chicago, Detroit, and Milwaukee live. In addition, the Fox Madison, Wisconsin affiliate taped a February sweeps House special report for its prime-time evening news, featuring my book and blog! How many books did those short appearances sell? I don’t know, but I do know that my some of my regular readers YouTube-ed them, reaching an average of more than 1,000 views on each one! There’s an intangible benefit in this sort of publicity that goes beyond number of books sold.
Publicists are expensive. Often very expensive, and you may not get a dollar for dollar payback in royalties. However, they have contacts and reach beyond what we, as authors, can access. It’s something I’ve learned to consider as an investment. Every interview, every clipping, every review, goes into my file—ready and waiting for my next book project’s pitch, where it can make or break my next book deal!
You can buy Chasing Zebras at all online and most local and retail booksellers.
About the author
Barbara Barnett is Co-Executive Editor of Blogcritics, an Internet magazine of pop culture, politics and more owned by Technorati Media. Always a pop-culture geek, Barbara was raised on a steady diet of TV (and TV dinners), but she always found her way to TV’s antiheroes and misunderstood champions, whether on TV, in the movies or in literature.
Barnett’s regular column, “Welcome to the End of the Thought Process: An Introspective Look at House, M.D.” features insightful episode commentaries and interviews with the House cast and creative team. It is the place for intelligent discussion of the hit television series starring Hugh Laurie.
Barbara has had an eclectic career. With an undergraduate degree in biology and minors in chemistry and English, she pursued a PhD in Public Policy Analysis after spending a few years working in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Her first professional writing gig was with a food industry trade magazine, and although it wasn’t exactly like writing for The New Yorker, it completely hooked her on the profession of writing.
She also writes lots of other things, including technology (from a non-geek perspective), the movies, politics and all things Jewish. Based in the north shore suburbs of Chicago, Barnett is married with two brilliant children and a dog. Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. is her first (commercial) book. She hopes it’s not her last.
Visit Barbara’s website at www.barbarabarnett.com.0