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Paying for Book Reviews – Is it worth it?

Paying for book reviews - costs compared to normal book publicity

Discussion of the new program to charge $149 for book reviews at Publishers Weekly. One person asked “Is it worth it?”

I write lots of news releases and send them out to lots of media and one of the primary goals for each and every one of my book author clients is to get their book reviewed.

I personally think that paying for reviews is just one way to achieve the goal of reaching and persuading people in a given target audience. I am seeing more and more media now say that they are charging for reviews. This is happening in many categories of media we deal with regularly. There are real reasons why this is happening and there are important tactics that those of us who promote books must pay close attention to.

To me the media are best viewed as publishers who make their living from writing, or using other people’s writing, to create something people will pay for. They only have two income streams for the most part, subscribers and advertising. To date, the core content that people who pay require of them, is usually a cost to the publisher. They have either employees, or they use freelance writers, and must pay for articles, or reviews. They create publications that they sell to buying audiences. That’s how they make their money.

Hence certain requirements exist when you want to be featured in a publication. The first is that you make sure you create something that matches or exceeds the quality or needs of the target audience, and the defined character of the media you wish to be in; and 2. That you then persuade that media that the audience in fact will be interested in what you created and 3. That you make it easy for the publisher to do their job, which is write something favorable that triggers sales.

Now for people who wish to get book reviews in library and publishing industry journals, the book review is helpful to getting the book before librarians and booksellers. So a book review in certain media has value.

More and more of these media are charging because they see the time and effort needed as a significant issue. It takes people, time, and physical space to manage a book review program that receives hundreds of books a week from authors and publishers all over the world. So the costs and manpower to do this is considerable. It is no wonder that media have decided to place a price on the process, to cover and defer these costs, and yet make no promises whatsoever on whether the review conducted will be helpful to an author or a publisher at all. I mean if you want to truly control the message that gets placed before a target audience, these media have a clearly identified process for doing that. It’s called advertising.

On the other hand, if what you seek instead is a bona fide objective review then you are forced to use methods of persuasion like sending news releases, books for review and media kits that contain the information needed to make a really favorable impression on media professionals, demonstrate to them that lots of people will be interested in the book, why, and what value it will have, and that even writing their review or story is easy with the extra materials you can make available to them to do their job (and defray their publishing time, effort, and costs).

This is what you need to really think about these days when presenting a review proposal to media.

To me, $149 for a review is a little high. Not only that, if all you do is send a book and wait for a review, then you are missing the opportunity to influence and control the outcome. That’s what you do when you work with a publicist.

If an author or a publisher invests $500 in an outreach effort, it is not unusual for me to see them get 20 to 60 requests (or more) for review copies as a result of their effort. One average, one can expect 50 percent of the requests to actually result in a review. So that means that the cost per review averages from $10 to $50 per review achieved. Follow up will improve the media response and performance.

Other publicists will cost more than this to achieve the same thing. You pay for the time, effort, technology and expertise and this is the business of strategic communication and persuasion.

However, book reviews may not be the only outcome or consequence from pitching to media.

The same PR outreach effort and $500 cost also triggers interviews and feature stories and even requests for speaking engagements. The actual outcome depends on the author, the topic, what we give to the media to share with the audience, the prior media coverage of the same topic or genre, the specific media targeted, and in many cases most importantly, the bottom line quality of the book. The value of this coverage is very hard to place a real value on. A single placement on FOX News, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, or MSNBC may result in hundreds or thousands of book sales and it may not. A single well conducted interview on NPR may launch a best seller. It also may not. Then again, a single well written and galvanizing story in the middle of nowhere but to a captive dedicated audience may also sell a great number of books. But then again, it may not.

The quality of the book and how it fits in the scheme of things is very important. But sometimes that doesn’t matter to the media. The content of the message is what matters the most. Timely content with high value to the audience gets the best coverage regardless of whether the book is fresh and new or old and musty. I’ve gotten many an author great publicity opportunities that failed to ripen into coverage because the book quality, content, and timeliness falls short of delivering the quality needed to validate the needs of the media for their audience. That is the challenge with many a self-published author and publisher.

Go beyond the book!

What do you place into a news release?

If you want to improve your publicity go beyond the book. You don’t have to just write about the book. You don’t even have to quote from the book.

In fact, to get great publicity you really need to put the book down and simply do what you are best at.

Tell me new stories.

Give me news that I’ve never heard before.

Educate me.

Entertain me.

Make me smile. Make me laugh. Make me hungry. Make me cry. Make me afraid. Make me experience something inside. Make me angry. make me sad.

Help me.

Advise me with superb insight that makes people turn their heads and listen and realize that you are handing them a gift.

Take the mystery out of a new problem that wasn’t on everyone’s radar screen when you wrote the book.

Dazzle me with new material and fresh photos.

Make me want to do something different.

Make me so interested in you I go home and look you up and even try to call you and make an appointment to see you.

Book marketing – face to face up close and personal

Book marketing case study of book marketing success by a self published author

NYT Randy Kearse story
I love this. Here’s a story that illustrates one of my primary rules for getting publicity.

Take a look at The NY Times July 9, 2010 feature story about self published author Randy Kearse selling over 14,000 books by himself on the subways of New York City

This story illustrates The DPAA+H Rule. The story captures the five essential elements of a great human interest feature story:

It’s DRAMATIC and PERSONAL

It tells a story about a real person who seeks ACHIEVEMENT IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY

Finally it adds in an element of HUMOR.

It’s all here and this story shows how it can be done.

This story illustrates another of my key concepts – The Miracle of the Microcosm.

Randy has developed an experience based communication script that captures his magic words that turn people on and get sufficient numbers of people to take action. They buy his books.

He has a specific goal and knows that he must present to enough people to hit his goal each day.

He has developed and documented a systematic repeatable process for achieving a known level of financial success each day.

The article talks about Randy in ways that make him very likeable and very approachable. Several of his books are also mentioned along the way and he is positioned as being a very helpful dedicated and innovative individual who seeks to achieve financial success while he does his best helping others.

This is a beautiful example of the best publicity one can get.

Congratulations to Randy Kearse.

Landslide PR Success Story – Get out there and help the people you can help the most

Lessons learned from a landslide PR success for a self published author

I can’t take 100 percent credit for delivering this landslide of publicity, because all I did was provide guidance, counsel and help along the way. What I did was just one of the many things the author did that helped set the situation up so that it could happen. It took several months of consistent, dedicated, concerted team effort for this to happen. Lots of faith, blood, sweat and tears, several people, and then of course, karma and luck.

About six months ago, I started working with a Houston based new self published author D. Ivan Young on his book Break Up, Don’t Break Down.

When the book first came out he did a lot of social media marketing and sought to do a bunch of radio talk shows. He did quite a few blog talk radio shows for the first month. Then I transmitted a news release outreach and he got about 30 book review requests, several additional blog radio interviews and some prime media interviews around the nation.

Then last week he was called and interviewed for a story by an AP reporter who was doing independent research for a story about a particularly viscious and very well reported celebrity breakup about two of the people on “The Bachelor” one of the prime time reality TV shows. He had searched on Google and found Derek and his website, his book and links to his recent media coverage and interviews. The reporter called and got an expert quote from the author, the only book author quoted in the article.

The article came out in the Associated Press on July 4. It then showed up in over 1,000 media overnight.

If you do a Google Search in quotes like this:

“D Ivan Young” and “The Bachelor”

http://www.google.com/search?q=%22D%20Ivan%20Young%22%20and%20%22The%20Bachelor%22&hl=en&ned=us&tab=nw

On July 6, it revealed 1,010 stories – although this will go up and down from here out.

The Google News Search a few minutes later on the same words in quotes shows the link to the AP story and the New York Daily News story and 768 similar stories. This will fade away over the next few weeks.

A grand slam homerun as regards publicity for him and his book. He is quoted saying some remarkably intelligent things about relationships (I’m talking about a guy talking about relationships here, really a regular guy talking about relationships!) and his book is named.

All I could do is say something banal and boring and maybe sing a bar from that song by Neil Sedaka over forty years ago, that breaking up is hard to do.

Duh.

Lessons learned:

Get out there and help the people you can help the most.

Get media experience doing interviews (all types of interviews) and be sincere, authentic, energetic, expert, and knowledgeable about your subject.

Be prepared – because you never know who is going to call.

Persist! Don’t ever give up.

Congratulations to D. Ivan Young.

Book Publicity for Fiction Writers

22 Questions for Fiction Writers to Answer and Use to Get More Book Publicity

One core set of quality content that’s entertaining, educational and sheds light on your personality and the unique things you bring to your writing and the value it has for people all make for a good recipe for author success with the media.

What can you talk about that’s interesting and invites people to learn more about you and your book?

1. Describe your book in 50 words or less:

2. How did your book come about?

3. Can you tell us about the story and a bit about the main characters?

4. What has been your experience with (the subject of your book)

5. How does it relate to what happens in your story?

6. What are some of the rules or prejudices you’d like to see changed about (your subject)?

7. How did you do your background research?

8. Where do you research information for your books?

9. How has the community responded to your work?

10. How did your work on this get started? Where do your characters come from?

11. What can you say about (aspect of writing) and what it plays in your work?

12. What do you find to be most exciting about (name the issue)?

13. How did you get your start in writing? What, if anything, lit the “spark” to get you started and keep you motivated?

14. What are you currently working on?

15. What are your favorite and least favorite things about being a writer?

16. What do you do in your spare time, when you aren’t writing?

17. What was the last book you read and would you recommend it?

18. How have the books you’ve read influenced the books you write?

19. What do you do when you’re having writer’s block to “shake” it off?

20. Have you ever had to overcome real tragedy or hardship in your life?

21. What makes a good (type of book, e.g., thriller?)

22. What do you enjoy more, writing or discovering other people’s work?

If you write 50 to 100 word answers to these questions you can then offer them to media as a news release, feature story content about your book, an email questionnaire for bloggers, interview article, and Q & A’s for a radio or TV talk shopw interview.