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The Blood, Sweat and Tears for Getting Publicity

I’m a publicist who works with lots of authors. I don’t view getting publicity for them different. I treat them the same. The best publicity for sales is galvanizing feature story and interviews. They should have both human interest and be educational. Book reviews sell far fewer books.

This comes from information I give to my clients It was developed to educate them and help them get into the right state of mind to do effective publicity campaign work. The title is:

The Blood, Sweat and Tears for Getting Publicity

To me, getting publicity is like making candy – it’s a tasty recipe backed by art and science, psychology, and specific tactics that come into play. It’s a persuasive communications process that one has to go through. It has a very narrow set of requirements that many people simply do not understand.

The blood sweat and tears of getting publicity is always in the writing of the news release. It contains your pitch. The news release is the crucial document that you create and transmit to media. Then you watch and wait to see what happens. It’s a very important document. Your pitch is basically a proposal. A publishing proposal.

When it’s successful, it can be real magic, like lightning in a bottle.

Phenomenal things can really happen. Careers and fortunes can be created. Millions of people can potentially see your message and be influenced by your writing and thinking.

But if it’s not, very little will happen, in fact, it can be a painful economic and pride felt loss.

The hardest part that I find is that people don’t realize that getting publicity is not like marketing.

When you market, you try to persuade tosell product or services.

When you seek publicity you are talking to a publisher or a producer and asking them to publish what you wrote, or write about what you say or do.

When you write a news release you are in effect you are communicating a very specific message:

‘esteemed and honored fellow publisher (or producer or host), please give me
space in your publication (or on your show).’

This distinctive purpose of this message is one of the most difficult things I have to teach and get people to understand when I work with clients. Many an otherwise brilliant and successful author, marketer and promoter has great difficulty with this concept. Basically they write an ad and expect
media to publish it. They are terribly surprised and hurt when it gets rejected. In fact, their failure at this point often times results in them ceasing the whole writing and creative or business development process. How tragic to come so far and then stop over the failure to be successful at
this point.

So heed the words of this publicist, and I truly believe if you grok this deeply, you’ll reduce the pain you go through as you learn what it takes to get publicity. It will make both our lives a lot easier. You’ll create better more newsworthy information, it will take less time to write a good news release, you’ll get more publicity when you do send it out, and I’ll get to spend more time fishing.

So here goes. I’ll share with you what I know.

First, understand that media are generally averse to giving anyone free advertising. They charge for advertising. That’s how they make their money.

So if when you write a news release and are perceived as asking for free advertising, for a commercial enterprise, the likely outcome is a call or email from the sales advertising manager at the media. So please do not be surprised if and when this happens.

Second, media only publish three basic things:

News
Entertainment
Education

That’s it. There is no more, except for the paid advertising that is.

Don’t believe me? Look at any media publication. Look at a newspaper, look at a magazine. Identify what you see. Do this article by article. Analyze the media. Learn and try to grasp what they do. Pick up any publication and classify every inch of space into one of these four classifications: news, entertainment, education, or paid advertising. Prove it to yourself.

Do you get this yet?

And realize that if you want to be published, this is what you need to give the media people you are pitching to and be quick about it.

Part 2

Now there’s a special psychology you need to really get down about what you are doing when you pitch to a media person.

The real key is to give media what they want. The hard part is in figuring out what that is. It’s crucial to remember we are writing to a publisher and asking for them to publish something about our topic, featuring us. BTW, if you do a good job on the news release, you’ll get some media responses even if you use the free services. But you’ll get greater penetration and quantity and quality response with services that send to custom targeted media lists matched to the message.

There are lots of issues that enter into a media decision to respond to a news release favorably: content, timeliness, quality of thinking, how many people in the audience will be interested, what’s in it for the audience, cost and effort needed to use it, prior and competing coverage of the topic,
downstream issues, and the likely audience response.

These are among the many factors that go through an editor’s or a producer’s mind. You find this out when you speak to them, and also when you watch what they select, and of course, by what they publish every day. In fact, this is the greatest source of guidance you can find, and it’s available to you everyday.

What I find is that very simply, if they see what they like, they use it. They may not use all of it, and they may change it, but it gets some coverage if it fits their readership and editorial needs. Media people make decisions based on how it will likely affect their bottom line, which is revenue based on subscriptions, advertising, and market share.

To you and me, it’s a gauntlet of sorts, and we try our best to learn, create appropriate material, present it as best we can, and act persuasively.

Once you understand this psychology and positioning, then you can get to work, and it’s really not that hard.

So how do you decide what do you put into a news release so that you maximize your publishing success?

Here are the basics.

Do you want to see your media response improve dramatically? Send a news release that pushes the media’s hot buttons. I’ve developed a little set of criteria from having sent out thousands of news releases for clients over the past two decades, and the common set of factors that produce the maximum success.

Here’s what you need to do:

Tell me story (a short, bed time story), give me a local news angle (of interest to my particular audience), hit me in the pocket book (make me or save me money), teach me something I didn’t know before (educate me), amaze me or astound me (like in WOW!), make my stomach churn (in horror or fear), or turn me on (yes, sex sizzles).

Your news release needs to do this in 30 seconds or less.

Let’s look at it again from a slightly different perspective.

I’ve studied what the media actually publish for decades now and I believe you can boil it all down to one simple formula. Look at almost every article in USA Today or any other newspaper or magazine or any TV show and try to identify the common key elements that pop out at you. You’ll see it immediately once I tell it to you.

Here it is:

DPAA+H

These letters stand for “Dramatic Personal Achievement in the Face of Adversity plus a little Humor.”

If you look at almost every media around you, from the front page of USA Today to the Olympics to the evening news to the sitcoms on TV, you’ll see this is what the American public wants, desires, and craves.

DPAA+H

As a culture, we crave to see the human spirit triumph in matters of the heart, and in trials of hardship and tragedy. We ask to be uplifted right out of the humdrum of our everyday reality into the exhilaration and extreme emotional states of those who are living life on the edge.

It galvanizes our attention. It rivets us to our seats. It captures our attention and our hearts.

It drives us to pay for newspaper subscriptions, to movie theaters for entertainment, to rent videos for fun or education, to bookstores for a good read. This is what energizes and drives the very core of numerous key economic systems and is what creates and maintains the very infrastructure
of the publishing, news, and entertainment industries.

And this is what the media seeks to provide. This is what works. Human interest stores with

DPAA+H

You will see these elements everywhere you look in varying degrees. It is a rare media feature that doesn’t contain most of these items. The media uses technology to increase the assault on our senses, enhance the effect, and make our experience ever more compelling and memorable.

And if you are writing a news release to get publicity for yourself or for a client, what you have to do to maximize your chances is recognize this desire and need, and then cater to it as best you can.

If you want to put your best foot forward and take a crack at writing a news release that does this, here is what I suggest:

For any particular publicity project you have in mind, study your target publications (the ones you really want to be in), identify articles that you want to achieve similar success, review prior and existing media coverage of your subject, and then make a list of the top ten things (ideas and actions) that you can write or talk about.

You can use News Search Engines (e.g., Google News) to evaluate media coverage of your topic and to identify articles that you can use as models. Then you can actually put pen to paper.

My 3 I technique is really useful at this point. Identify your success story, Imitate What You See, Innovate with your own information.

Just remember – you need to hit people’s hot buttons and galvanize attention. To do this you need to focus on developing some very special ideas.

One of the most successful types of news releases to use is the problem solving tips article or advice article or entertainment article.

Pretend that you are going to speak to 20 people and you wanted to inspire, motivate and impress the hell out of them, but only had exactly three minutes.

What are the very best eight to ten pieces of advice would you give them?

You must identify the topic that will interest the maximum number of people.

You must also then present the very best advice or analysis and recommendations, best stories, best insights, or best humor you are capable of to address the problem or the subject you identified. These must be ideas or actions they can take or implement that will produce highly desirable benefits in their life right now.

The reason is that these ideas are just like candy. Candy produces such pleasurable sensations that it results in chemical memory. People always remember where they got good candy. And that’s what you need to make. Good intellectual property candy.

The goal here is to galvanize them into action, so that when you are done, they jump up and open their wallets, and hand you their business card, and say “call me, I need your services”.

It is not just to sell your book. It is to sell people on YOU. You are the candy. It is professional branding at it’s best that we seek here, so that people are so enamored with you that they buy everything you have available for sale.

So if you’ve done your homework, and studied what your target media are publishing, you’ll see that this is what is being published day in day out in media of all types.

It is also a pathway that you can probably follow pretty easily if you set your mind to it.

So think about this relatively easy assignment and then start writing. If you do this, I’d like to see what you create. You can send it to me anytime and I’ll be happy to give you comments and recommendations on what to do with it to help you get to where you want to be.

Just remember this: If you give the media what they really want, they’ll give you what you want – free publicity.

Paying for Book Reviews – Are the Book Reviewer Sites Operating in Compliance with FTC Truth in Advertising Disclosure Requirements?

Paying for Book Reviews - Are the Book Reviewer Sites Operating in Compliance with FTC Truth in Advertising Disclosure Requirements?

I am participating in some heated discussion on LinkedIn regarding whether authors should pay for book reviews. Some of the owners and participants of book publishing review sites are touting how valuable the pay for review services are to authors. I openly disagree with their ideas and statements.

On December 3, 2014, Daniel Leffert posted an article on The Indie’s Guide to Paid Publishing. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/pw-select/article/64718-the-indie-author-s-guide-to-paid-reviews.html

I am a former attorney turned publicist who is very much opposed to seeing authors pay for reviews.

I respectfully wish to point out that according to the FTC regulations, if some one (e.g., any of the above companies identified) is paying reviewers and then posting those reviews to a review website for anyone to see, then each post is required to contain an appropriate disclosure.

Do you any of the businesses cited above abide by these requirements? I clicked on the book reviews. I don’t see very many clean and open disclosures.

You can read the regulations yourself here:

http://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/federal_register_notices/guides-concerning-use-endorsements-and-testimonials-advertising-16-cfr-part-255/091015guidesconcerningtestimonials.pdf

or use this sniplink: http://goo.gl/rmtXGQ

Here’s the summary of one of the more interesting examples of FTC enforcement taken in 2012, that illustrates the expectations of the federal government:

The FTC also alleged that Spokeo deceptively posted endorsements of their service on news and technology websites and blogs, portraying the endorsements as independent when in reality they were created by Spokeo’s own employees.

The settlement fine is $800,000.

Here’s the link to this one: http://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2012/06/spokeo-pay-800000-settle-ftc-charges-company-allegedly-marketed

Now people may think that the manner in which companies as like Blue Ink, Kirkus, Self-Publishing Review and other companies who offer paid review services self-police themselves is sufficient, but the regs and policy guidance clearly indicates that if each paid review isn’t disclosed sufficiently so that the viewing public knows of the fee arrangement, then they are very likely subject to legal action.

The Federal Trade Commission operates a complaint line too. Anyone can notify them of a situation and ask them to take action to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.

Here is the link to the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant:
https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-6

People can also call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Hope this helps.

What’s Wrong With Pay for Play? Why is Pay for Play Unethical?

What's Wrong With Pay for Play? Why is Pay for Play Unethical?

First, what is the distinction between pay for performance and pay for play?

One of the primary concerns about Pay for Performance and Pay for Play and even with Relationship Based PR has to do with the risk of payment to the journalist or media organization without adequate disclosure. Money is a powerful incentive. If you pay a PR person $15,000 to 25,000 for a five minute interview and placement on a prime time national TV show and half of it goes to a producer who agreed to booked the show then that is a serious issue. It presents something as objective reporting instead of identifying it clearly as advertising. Does everyone disclose their back door payments? Not really.

At least in my experience, most publicists who offer pay for performance are also highly ethical about what they do. The reason is that while success speaks loud, failure speaks much louder indeed, and unethical and illegal behavior fairly screams across the planet. And as in politics, there are, of course, consequences for getting caught.

The higher costs associated with pay for performance are a testament to how difficult it is to be successful. The publicist must take the risk for their time and effort instead of being paid for their time and effort. So yes, publicists do tend to take care when accepting PFP clients. Clearly, it is exceedingly difficult to be successful with poor quality books and inexperienced authors or those who aren’t qualified in the eyes of the media.

The key thing here is to follow the money. If the money gets to the journalist, then the disclosure is required by the FTC. With Pay for Performance, you pay the publicist for success, but the risk is that the media is getting paid, too.

What’s the Problem with Pay for Play?

With pay for play, you pay the media for their time or to cover production or whatever. With relationship based PR, you pay the publicist for the inside connection or referral, or you pay to be at an event where journalists and producers are there, and there is a risk they are receiving payment above ethical guidelines of requirements. With retainer based and task based, you pay the publicist to pitch and there is no payment to the media. It’s the content that is the determining factor.

There is a growing number of media who will charge you a fee and then give you coverage. It’s an ongoing issue in society.

Pay for play poses a growing ethical issue in social media, blogs, paid reviews, media placements in print, and on radio and TV. FTC 16 CFR Part 255 states anyone receiving a product (book, TV, widget) for review is considered to be paid with the product and must be disclosed.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)’s code now states that ethical practitioners must “encourage disclosure of any exchange of value that influences how those they represent are covered.” The value exchanged may take the form of cash, travel, gifts or future favors.

http://www.prsa.org/SearchResults/view/8138/105/PRSA_speaks_out_on_Pay_for_Play_strengthens_Code_o#.Usnlf9JDss0

You can pitch blogs and receive responses from mommy and techie bloggers (from $5 and $10 to $300) to radio shows and even major network and syndicated TV shows saying they’ll be happy to write about you or do a show, if you only pay for the costs of production ($3,000 to $5,000).

Steve Bennett wrote a column in PR Week and said:

“At The New York Times you can’t even accept a free lunch from a contact. And the AP sets a limit of $10 on the size of any benefit received by a journalist.”

http://www.prweekus.com/when-earned-media-becomes-paid-for/article/254180/

The relationship based poses similar ethically questionable situations. It sounds great to hear a PR firm or publicist say that they are on personal terms with a journalist or a host or producer at a big TV show. What’s the problem?

We rely on media to be impartial and to give everyone fair and honest consideration.

Many see this particular style of doing business as a slippery slope that is very susceptible to corruption that undermines the very core of objective reporting and fairness in journalism. There are public relations firms and service providers who offer to place you in front of a group of journalists for a fee. Is it any different than the payments of lobbyists and political action committees in exchange for a meeting with a lawmaker or a politician?

The gold ol’ “hey I’ll buy you lunch meetings”, with drinks, and even, the payment of transportation and even stays at hotels, and more in exchange for coverage. These can turn into lucrative clandestine long-term arrangements where favorable repeat coverage goes to people, companies, organizations, who can afford to pay for the privilege to speak with journalists. What if the PR firm slips a commission fee to the journalist or a “production cost reimbursement” to the media organization?

Do the journalists and their media organizations disclose all financial and other “gifts” faithfully? Do our politicians disclose all their donations, donors, and payments? OK I’m in dreamland.

The next time you see a TV news magazine show look closely for “FTC Disclosure” with the list of sponsors in the credits at the beginning (“The following is paid by our sponsors”.) and the end of the show (the quickly scrolling list of sponsors). Do you even see it?

Target your media carefully or fail to even hit the right people

So many media! What’s a person to do? Who is going to read your news release? How do you close the deal?

Target your media carefully, based the following criteria:

1. What are you trying to achieve with the media? Most people can benefit from feature stories, interviews, and products reviews, in that order. Some people want incoming links along with the content that drives SEO. What do you want?

2. Who can do that for you? Identify the right people by keyword and geography, by beat and area of authority or responsibility.

3. Can you supply them with the content or people they need to do their job directly? Can you send it to them electronically? Can you deliver it by mail? In person? Do they need to send a camera crew? Your chances for success go up if the delivery is fast and if the cost they incur is low. The slower the delivery and the higher the costs, the less likely you are to succeed in doing at needs to be one to get real media coverage.

4. How effectively can you reach them to engage in a meaningful communication about your proposal? Can you reach them directly by email and phone? By fax? By street mail? Only by appointment? Are they well protected by secretaries or administrative assistants? Are you using an online a post and pray news release distribution method where the only chance of being discovered is if someone in your target media trips over you having done a keyword search? Reaching media by phone, email and street mail is the best way to make a direct connection.

Lots of people get all of these wrong.

You can watch your media success improve dramatically when you treat media people with respect by targeting media carefully. Make sure you offer and can deliver:

1. Galvanizing news, education or entertainment that is designed to interest lots of people in the selected media audience

2. Tangible real value. Help the people you can help the most.

3. Easy access to the information, graphics, technology and the people that the media need to do their job the way you want it done, and by covering the travel costs for the delivery if needed.

Dealing with Bad Reviewers on Amazon

Dealing with bad reviewers on Amazon

Several people on the IAG-members group at yahoo described their experiences and feelings about a group of trolls, who wrote scathing abnormally negative reviews about their books on Amazon. Some of them obviously never read the book at all and in some cases, hid behind pseudo-names, fake personnas and did not reveal their true names and identities. The comments escalated into a full blown battle and flame war and the author being criticised research the identity of one of the commenters and found that they worked at a school district in California, and was using district equipment. When this was shared with the group their was concern expressed about an alleged “invasion of privacy”.

I am a former attorney and I do not see the author’s actions in a negative light at all. So I’m responding to the remarks that there has been an invasion of privacy that was inappropriate. I respectfully disagree.

If one is being harmed, whether it or outright physical harm or emotional or economic harm as the situation here, it is perfectly within the rights of the person experiencing the pain to know the identity of the person or person who is harming them.

Lying about, slandering the good works of another, defaming someone, and hiding one’s identity are all actions that create actionable legal liability. There are numerous cyber-bullying cases that have resulted in criminal and civil penalties and judgments against the wrongdoers.

A “silly flame war” can escalate to the point of actionable slander and defamation as soon as the lies and abuse go beyond reasonable opinion, turn personal, and have the clear intent and express ability to be economically physically and mentally harmful.

The law allows and even encourages people who believe they are being harmed to protect themselves, and it is appropriate to contact the individuals and identify where they work, what else they are doing, or seek out and contact their employer and share with other people or with authorities near or associated with them the nature of their conduct and the substance of their communications.

There is no invasion of privacy, because the law only protects people who act appropriately in society and typically where the law has declared people can have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Those rights, should they exists, are also explicitly waived in many cases by the voluntary participation or use of a site like Amazon, or the use of computers at work. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy here.

And yes, when you do confront people like this, there are also risks in doing so. They may yet react again or even escalate the battle in new ways.

The people who hide behind fake names remind me of the KKK Klansmen on horses in their white robes and hoods. The try to inflict pain and ride away unscathed. They must be uncovered, brought into the light, identified, and be made to face the consequences of their actions in society.

It is important remain vigilant and be prepared to take purpose-driven, affirmative, firm and well thought out, and decisive action in the face of evil. I admire the author for doing that and I support the actions he has taken.

In my view it is appropriate to investigate ISP contact information and employer information and reach out to inform people administratively.

I believe there are more steps that can yet be taken.

This behavior clearly is against the terms of use policies at Amazon, and it is certainly capable of having economic impacts on the individuals involved. So it would also be appropriate to share the entire set of communications with Amazon by way of a well-crafted, official letter of complaint to their CEO (still Mr. Jeff Bezos, yes?) and a copy to their lawyers. Sincerity and authenticity are supposed to be essential policies that Amazon abides by. Point out where these people go beyond the guidelines. Appeal to them with honor and present the entire train of communications and data, with all the offending passages and attacks highlighted for clear identification, and what else you have discovered about them. Stay on the moral high ground. Present the facts and carefully describe your proposed remedy. Ask for all posts by these individuals and their reviews be stricken from Amazon and that they be banned from posting.

One of my clients has also written on the subject of Amazon one star reviewers. Here is the link:

http://www.therobertd.com/why-one-star-reviews-mean-less-than-nothing/

Robert D. Smith is the manager of Andy Andrews, and I’ve worked with both gentlemen for almost ten years and six books, three of which became NY Time best sellers. Andy last book was relevant to this discussion. The title of this book is How Do You Kill 11 Million People?

The books’ answer is based on the actions of a single individual, Adolf Hitler. The answer is that ‘you lie’.

The promulgation and the perpetuation of lies is what the trolls are doing to authors they focus their sights on.

As I said, we must remain vigilant and be prepared to take action in the face of evil.

Is there anybody out there?

Discusses active vs. passive methods of delivering a news release

When you write a news release your goal is to get publicity – media coverage about you and your book – either an article or an interview. To do that you have to write a news release that is persuasive and interesting and then make sure it gets to media decision makers.

The technology you use to reach media decision makers has an incredible influence on the effectiveness of your outreach.

Online news release services will post a news release (a page of text and some even do multimedia pages) and then post a snippet (short description) or maybe even just a headline or a subject line with a link to the news release page and your content. Media have to search to find it and read it. The headline may be on top of the list of news releases posted for only a few minutes before another one is added to the system and then it gets pushed down as it is replaced by others. It may be accessible to media if they have signed up to receive news releases for selected keywords they are interested in. But they still may only receive an email with a list of subject lines or snippets and this may not produce a very high response.

The data you see on the reports from these services is also terribly misleading. You do not know really how many people saw your pitch, compared to how many machines or even search engine spiders actually are causing the hit. Page hits do not equal media coverage.

The meaningful measurements are:

How many media actually responded with an article or an interview;

How many review copies requested;

How many and what quality blog posts you get with links and attribution;

How many quality articles/reviews and interviews results from you then sending your book and media kit; and finally

Did you sell ultimately product and produce a return on your investment that exceeded the cost of your outreach;

The challenge with this process is that you have to communicate meaningfully with media and first persuade them to give you coverage and second, the coverage you get has to trigger action on the part of the audience.

I prefer using email html and the phone to get maximum effect when I write a news release.

This way you hit the maximum number of key media people directly with a pitch and follow up with them so you find out if they even received it, and if so what they think. If you can get them interested in getting more ideas, information and proposals from you, then the door opens. .

When can you send out a news release? Answer: as soon as your books are available!

Timing and lead time on sending out a news release about a book available for review

My rule of thumb is that you can send out a news release offering books for review as long as:

1. you have books for the media to review and can ship them within a week or so of getting the request

2. the book is available for purchase on Amazon and your web site at a minimum (and maybe other places as well).

Timing is roughly based on when you want the publicity to hit taking into account the normal lead time the media needs to do what they do even if they decide to do a feature story, an interview or a book review the day your book arrives in their hands. Your web site and Amazon need to be in place and operational so you derive the financial benefit of your promotion.

Now from experience (and I do send out lots of news releases for authors and publishing companies), 95 percent of the media response to a news release transmitted by email occurs within 24 to 48 hours of delivery. Then you have to stuff a package (with a book and a copy of your news release at a minimum), send it by street mail (I recommend First Class or Priority and never media mail), then wait for delivery (five to seven days), then wait for the media to review the book or take action (review time on the book and work time to take action on your proposal for media coverage).

The minimum lead time for media is usually two to three publishing cycles. So for online media you can estimate that even once they get the book and if they read it right away, it’s one to two weeks. For daily newspapers it is two to three weeks. Same for radio. TV varies on the urgency and perceived interest but the normal lead time is three to four weeks. For magazines, the lead time if four to six months.

I recommend you transmit your news release on timed for Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday delivery. The media tend to operate on a five day work week. Saturday and Sunday they are gone. Friday tends to be a bad day because they are wrapping things up and trying to get their desk cleared before the weekend. Monday is a bad day because they are catching up from Friday and also have staff meeting and priority assignment from on high. By Tuesday, you can get the maximum attention to read and respond to your proposal and it gives the media the rest of the week to identify, allocate and deploy the resources needed to give you the type of publicity you seek.

You may think that sending an eBook will expedite reviews. Don’t make that assumption. Media seek to validate when they get a review copy. They want to make sure they recommend something good that has real value. The ebook or pdf file is too readily deleted, discarded or ignored for you to trust a media to do a quality review. The best way I know to maximize your success with media is to make a quality presentation and give them what they need to do the best job you want done. Send them a quality book, a quality pitch, photographs of the cover and the author, plus feature story quality content and value.

Paying for Book Reviews and Sponsored Blog Posts

Paying for Book Reviews and Sponsored Blog Posts

Very interesting article in the NY Times about paying for book reviews.

Paying for Book Reviews http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/business/book-reviewers-for-hire-meet-a-demand-for-online-raves.html?pagewanted=all

or

http://goo.gl/YLCqh

The 331 comments are about as entertaining and interesting to read as the article.

I have watched with interest the growing recent pay for reviews phenomenon.

Personally, I don’t like the idea of paying for reviews, but like it or not people do like to read reviews and comments. Hence book reviews have become an item that people are apparently willing to pay for.

The challenge for authors and publishers is to get noticed in the marketplace. The publicity that reviews can supply is one of the ways they seek to achieve recognition.

The media coverage can be about the book, the author, the issues, the comments, the commenters, or the controversy — it’s whatever gets people interested enough so that they buy the book.

In some cases, it’s the book and the content and the quality that produce the interest.

In other cases, the book may not be all that great of a piece of writing, yet the dialog in the marketplace that is sometimes created becomes a self-sustaining wave that by itself generates a desire in society that needs to be satisfied by curiosity. The presence in media, whether it be prime media or online media doesn’t matter if sufficient people are motivated to click and buy, in hard copy or ebook format.

The reviews – good, bad, indifferent, ethically acquired merit-based, or purchased, and hence allegedly tainted by the financial interest, well, it doesn’t matter if it generates sales.

When I send out news releases in the past year, I’ve watched a new growing trend for media, especially bloggers, to come back with a request for sponsored posts – e.g., pay in exchange for coverage. This is a growing phenomenon. I’ve seen it growing in the mommy bloggers, the fashion bloggers, and in the college online services. We see the fees for paid reviews start at $5 a post to $300 for a product review and more. We’ve seen major TV networks charge $300 for a five to ten minute satellite uplink and even seen some “creative” major network TV shows pitch their services and capabilities to create a show back to use with $5,000 fees for a 30 minute interview that gets aired on prime time TV.

Is it worth it? Maybe. For some.

Does it matter that more and more people are seeking to get paid for their time, their effort, and the coverage they provide?

Media coverage has significant perceived value. This is known. We also know that feature stories tend to be more valuable than reviews. But even reviews have value and get read, forwarded, tweeted, and contribute to the search engine placement of owner sites.

There are objective trusted media (Associated Press and the Voice of America). There are media who express certain bias one way or the other (CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX). There are media you can rely on for certain types of coverage and reporting because of their appeal to their dedicated paying audiences (ESPN, Oxygen, O magazine, Cosmopolitan, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Reader’s Digest) and there’s media who simply report the entertaining or outrageous (The Enquirer, The Star) and the tantalizing and sexy (NY Post, Playboy, Penthouse and more). It may be print, electronic, or it may be online.

Coverage is what everyone is after. Some are obviously willing to pay to be there.

There are ethical (non-paying, objective, honest) reviewers and financially conflicted (paying, inherently-biased, allegedly dishonest) reviewers as well.

Some comply with the FTC disclosure requirements, and many don’t.

Obviously, it’s become a buyer beware marketplace. There is no reliable ever present policeman in the marketplace to protect innocent viewers from those who would take their money despite the FTC’s disclosure requirements.

Some of my clients actually have decided to experiment and pay for the coverage. In some cases the posts can be very useful in terms of the SEO value, since they trigger media coverage online and in social media.

The hits, the traffic, links, tweets, and conversation generated downstream can be significant enough to justify the costs.

But there is no way to predict the break even costs or value.

If you have an expensive product or multiple products or streams of income, then it may be in your favor.

If you are a single ebook author, and it is your first time, well, and need to sell a thousand $.99 books just to break even on your investment then it is a risk that YOU have to determine. It may be a role of the dice. You better think twice and enter the marketplace with your eyes open.

In any case, getting the word out there is something you have to try to do if you are going to seek the financial reimbursement of your time and energy. Being systematic, strategic and taking careful action to reduce your risks and maximize your gain, well that is something I highly recommend you do.

Reach out your target audience and turn them on. You can do this by creating a great book or delivering valuable helpful content. You can do this by doing what you do best or by creating controversy and getting other people to talk about you.

There are lots of reasonable strategies that you can use to trigger the interest that results in sales. You just have to create a good workable plan and schedule, get it going, and learn to do the things that work for you.

I’ve written a few more posts about the paying for book reviews issue. If you are interested in reading more, here’s a link:

http://blog.directcontactpr.com/2010/08/paying-for-book-reviews-is-it-worth-it/

or

http://goo.gl/xUvS0

Dealing with Negative Reviews on Amazon

Dealing with Negative Reviews on Amazon

Can you get rid of a negative review on Amazon?

Common question.

I have a client named Rudy Mazzocchi, who recently wrote a medical thriller titled Equity of Evil published by Twilight Times Books and shepherded by the incredible Lida Quillen.

To date he has received 83 Amazon reviews, 78 five star reviews, two four star reviews, and 3 one star reviews.

One of the one star reviews in particular was very negative and raised doubts that the number of five star reviews was honestly and
ethically acquired. Amazon wouldn’t deem the comment inappropriate so Rudy exercised the comment option on the review and wrote the following:

> Hey Neil,
>
> Thought you would be interested in the most recent 3-4 reviews since your posted review on AMAZON. My publicist and Literary Agent investigated all of my 75 5-star reviews for an upcoming interview with the NY Times and discovered that 51 of them came from professional book reviewers. They are attempting to get your review REMOVED from Amazon and to warn other authors. Did you really dislike this story that much?

> Ironically, I’ve received dozens of emails from readers in response to your review telling me that this was a “jealous competitive author” that I should not worry about it. I respect all reviews (and want to establish strong reader support) since this is the first of a trilogy called “The EQUITY Series”. I urge you to reconsider your review, but respect your opinion. I’m in the process of signing a movie deal that they believe could equal “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.

>Best,
>
>Rudy

You can read the details if you wish on Amazon here:


Equity of Evil Kindle edition


So my advice when you receive a negative comment is to:

1. Study it carefully, get what you can out of it.

2. Study the reviewer and commenter profile and his or her history of commenting on Amazon, to ascertain their sincerity, authenticity and veracity.

3. Do your best (e.g., active marketing and PR outreach that specifically asks people to post their comments to Amazon so that a. you get the benefits and b. overwhelm the negatives with positives), particularly with comments from people in your target pool that are specific, that explain specifically what you do that turns them on, and communicate clearly the sincere heartfelt value they experienced.

4. Explore the possibility of having the comment declared inappropriate and expunged from the Amazon record. And if that doesn’t work, then…

5. Comment back to the author comment directly on Amazon (and ask or request others do so as well) and make sure the response comments are written coolly, calmly, personally, professionally, and in a manner carries the dialog forward, openly acknowledges and address the issues you wish to discuss, and that allows you and others to see the big picture, capture and occupy the moral high ground, and view the commenter as questionable, biased, conflicted, and generally out to lunch.

This not only gives you the opportunity to show the Amazon users that you are in command, but you also get to add even more value and persuasive force to what prospective readers see when they come to the Amazon pages.

Make every word count. Think three steps ahead. Be assertive and act with power and style.

Use the negative review as an opportunity to turn a lemon into lemonade.

It may actually increase your sales.

Can you get a negative review removed? Probably not. It depends on whether you can persuade Amazon that an abuse policy was indeed violated.

There is a button on Amazon reviews that opens up a form that allows you to describe the problems you have with a review. You can read about how they want you to address these issues in their “Managing Reviews” section. Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=16465311

That said, Amazon refuses to remove reviews just because they are bad in the authors opinion. If they go to the writing or the merits of the writing, then they won’t honor the request for removal.

You have to give them evidence of abuse as it is defined in their policy. You submit your complaint through their customer service.

Magic in a Message! Creating the IrresistIble Pitch

Magic in a Message! Creating the IrresistIble Pitch

HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY AND DEVELOP THE IRRESISTIBLE PITCH?

I write a lot of blog posts on this. I call this the miracle of the microcosm.

http://blog.directcontactpr.com/index.php?s=miracle

You need to learn how to turn people on so that they come to you for more of what you are offering.

Perhaps the simplest and most powerful suggestion I can you suggest to you is that you use The 3 I Technique

a. Identify a Success Story
b. Imitate the Success Story
c. Innovate with Your Own Information

http://blog.directcontactpr.com/index.php?s=the+3+I+technique

This is a technique I recommend you experiment with. You can do this with any type of marketing communications. It basically focuses you on identifying a model of success and mimicking it as you create your own message. The idea is simple – follow in the footsteps of someone who is doing things that are successful.

You can use Google news for example on the word “troubleshooting tips” which I did for you here: http://goo.gl/gMO74

There are over 1,000 articles for you to study. Some are news releases, some are articles in newspapers and others are article in magazines and trade publications. Now your goal is to pick ONE! Find one about someone else, that is really interesting and motivates you the way you want to motivate others. This is your model success story.

Then open up your word processing program and start writing. Look at their headline, and then write your own. Then do their first sentence, then write your own. Then do their first paragraph, and write your own. You walk your way all the way through the article to the last sentence.

You may find this to be very mechanical, but guess what, it works. If for example, you use a story in USA Today as your model, and you use this technique, then you create an article that matches readership interest and editorial style on the first try. It looks like it belongs there.

And when you send it to USA Today, you maximize your chances of being successful with them because they tend to recognize when you’ve done your homework. And if it’s good enough for USA Today, then other media will respond to it as well.

Identify the successes of your competition or the authors in your genre. Study what they use to be successful and follow in their footsteps. If you are a story teller, tell stories. If you are a horror writer, scare and horrify people. If you write sci-fi, then talk about the future. Give people and experience. Engage them and let them experience something that is truly emotionally engaging. Don’t be boring. Be stimulating. Choose what you say carefully. Plan it out, test it, select and rehearse, like an actor or an actress on stage.

What you do is you talk about the ideas and concepts in your book and how it affects others. People are really only interested in things that have value to their own lives or others that they care about. That is what you must offer. I have a little poetic like formula which I wrote which describes what you need to do which goes like this:

Tell me a story
give me a local news angle (my audience!)
touch my heart (make me laugh or cry)
teach me something new
astound or amaze me,
make my stomach churn with horror or fear,
hit me in my pocketbook
or turn me on.

And you do this as many times as you can in two to three minutes.

If you study your target media and employ the 3-I technique, you will see that news coverage is largely predictable. Consumers and editors are drawn to types of stories that have worked well in the past. If you want to receive coverage, it’s important that you get familiar with these content patterns and do your best to replicate them.

The reason is simple: media publish what sells. To be in media you have to give them what they publish. Therefore to maximize your chances, you give it to them their way.

Now I’ve been doing this with clients for years and I’ve characterized the many patterns and ways media publish. The following list of most commonly featured content is derived from analyzing successful media coverage of my clients in newspapers, magazines, radio and TV:

1. A dramatic personal story that describes achievement in the face of adversity plus a little humor.

2. A problem-solving-tips article on a timely topic that shows how you can help the people that you can help the most.

3. An innovative product or service that people want because of the remarkable benefits offered.

4. A dramatic and interesting photograph that tells a 1,000-word story at a glance.

5. A new development or situation that affects lots of people in a unique way.

6. A personal battle between the forces of good and evil, or David and Goliath.

7. A truly heartwarming tale with a happy or remarkable ending.

8. New effective techniques or tactics to improving a problem or situation that is commonly faced.

9. New form of creativity that makes people feel good or experience heightened emotions.

10. A story that makes people cringe in fear, howl with delight, or experience intense desire or want.

11. An explanation of a mystery that confounds a lot of people.

12. News, analysis, and commentary on a controversial issue or topic.

13. Localized stories and media access to the local people involved.

14. Innovative and new ways to have fun, save money, help people, increase their enjoyment, protect the environment, and help them get more out of life.

15. Unusual, hot, and wacky ideas, products, activities, and situations.

16. Mouthwatering recipes, food, culinary delights, or opportunities.

17. Educational, unusual, hard-to-believe, never-before-revealed, or fascinating news, data, information, or stories.

18. Record-breaking achievements, competitions, paradoxes, dilemmas, anything that confounds the human spirit.

19. Knowledge, ideas, or information that astounds, enlightens, and inspires people to experience new feelings.

20. Remarkable little things people may not know about, that will make their dreams come true.

This is the way to make use of the miracle of the microcosm. These are weapons of mass persuasion, in part because readers and viewers know the arc of these pieces by heart. This familiarity soothes them and allows them to concentrate on the particulars of your story.

This is how you first develop and prove what you can say that turns people on and gets them to take the action you want, and then use technology as a force multiplier to repeat the message and reproduce the action you want in quantity.

If you follow my advice, please send me what you create. I’d love to see it.