Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Self-published Author Enjoys Book Promotion Success

One thing I love about teaching my two online book promotion courses is the quality of the students. They are smart and inquisitive. And they are in the course to discover how to get the media exposure their books deserve, so they are quick to implement what they learn in class.

Tom O'Malley, author of the self-published Canadian Divorce and Separation Made Easier, was one of my favorite students in the February class because he is so intelligent and so motivated to get the word out about his new book. Tom came to the class prepared -- he had read a lot of books and done some online research, so he knew what he wanted to get from the four-week course. If he had questions that weren't covered in the course materials, he asked them on the Q&A forum so others could learn from the answers, too. He shared information about resources he found helpful. And, most importantly, he did his homework for the class and implemented the feedback so that his end products were as useful as possible.

This is why I'm so pleased with the success this attorney is enjoying as he begins promoting his book. Tom is starting with a local book publicity campaign before expanding to other Canadian markets, discovering what works and what doesn't in a more "forgiving" marketplace. And after securing three local TV interviews and two newspaper articles about his new book, he is beginning to expand his reach. An association for counselors and psychologists -- the people often advising individuals in troubled marriages -- has agreed to include information about Tom's book in its next newsletter, and Tom will follow that with advice articles in the newsletter.

Tom created a solid publicity plan in the class, one that included goals, a strategy for reaching them, specific tactics, and a timeline that guides how and when he implements those tactics. Because he can't devote an eight-hour day to book promotion -- any more than the rest of us can -- he generated a plan that is reasonable and appropriate for the time he has available for this type of work. I have absolutely no doubt that he will stay with the plan for the long term, shifting strategies or tactics as needed over time. Tom will meet his sales goals.

Please visit Tom's Web site to learn more about his book and how he's promoting it and to request his free special report on the "7 Serious Mistakes That Many Spouses Make In Their Separation or Divorce."

The next "Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz" courses for authors are offered June 2-27, 2008. We have a lot of fun while learning and sharing; I hope you'll join us. Teaching this course and becoming friends with the students -- then watching them succeed -- is one of my most favorite activities! Learn more here. If you have questions about how the course works, feel free to either post them here as comments so others can learn from the answers, or send me a note -- sbATbuildbookbuzz.com.

Friday, April 25, 2008

How to Respond to ProfNet, PRLeads, and Helpareporter.com Queries, Part 2


Yesterday's post addressed the wrong way to respond to ProfNet/PRLeads/Helpareporter.com media queries. Today's commentary is about how to do it right.

The following format certainly isn't the only way to respond to queries, but it's one that helps me decide if a responder is an appropriate source for my needs. It's also one that I use when responding to queries as an author -- one that often generates interviews about my book topics, so I know it has value. It's not the only way to respond, of course, but it can be a good starting point for you.
  • Copy and paste the query title into your e-mail subject line. That's especially helpful for the journalist with more than one query.
  • Start with your credentials. What makes you qualified to contribute to this article or segment?
  • Take one or two sentences to offer your perspective. Maybe it's your opinion, something counter-intuitive, or information that validates the article premise.
  • If I'm looking for an expert, offer advice in three or four bullet points. This will help me see your perspective and determine if you'll be telling me something I haven't gotten from anyone else yet. Note that while I don't quote from these bullet points, many other writers do, so be aware that what you write might appear later in print. I personally prefer to do telephone interviews, but I realize that many just pull comments from the responses of experts without a direct conversation or even acknowledgement that the information will be used.
  • If I'm looking for an anecdote to illustrate a point rather than an expert, and you represent that anecdote, offer it in just a few sentences.
  • If you're an expert, provide a link to an online bio or copy and paste it into the response. If you have a Web site, include the URL.
  • Include contact information I can use to schedule an interview.

Ttry not to ramble and avoid attachments. If you think in terms of what you'd want to know about an expert source for that article, I'm sure you'll respond appropriately.

Finally, let me know how I can help you with this. If you've got questions, ask. Want somebody to look over your response? Send it along. Reach me at sbATsandrabeckwith.com. I'm here to help.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

How to Respond to ProfNet, PRLeads, and Helpareporter.com Queries, Part 1


An author I was coaching by phone this week mentioned that she was frustrated by the ProfNet query response system. She responds to queries from journalists looking for her particular expertise, but never hears back from the reporters -- not even a "thanks, but no thanks," e-mail. "Is it always like this?" she asked.

I noted that responding to these queries is an art form. It's not enough to be an appropriate resource for a story or segment -- you have to demonstrate your expertise in a pithy response that makes the journalist think, "She's exactly the person I'm looking for." Your answer has to show you understand what the reporter needs but you have to do it in a way that makes a tired, dullwitted or overworked reporter see this quickly and easily, without doing any more work than is absolutely necessary.

The reality is that the typical query posted on a service like ProfNet and its PRLeads reseller, or the new upstart, Helpareporter.com, generates more than enough responses from qualified sources.

So how can you make certain that you respond in a way that gives you a fair shot at being quoted? I'm going to use this afternoon's responses to my latest ProfNet query to help me illustrate what works and what doesn't. Out of respect for the publication I'm writing for, I'm not going to share my query, but I will say that in my request, I stated what the article is about, the industry I'm writing for, and that I was looking for experts to comment on that topic in that industry.

Here's how people actually responded, and how I reacted to each response. I hope this helps you understand the level of detail many of us do -- and don't need -- to help us select the best sources for our articles.

SOURCE 1: "I know some people that will be able to help you with this story. You can give me a ring to discuss this further."

ME: Tell me more. Who are these people? What are their credentials? I don't have time to fish for information on the telephone when I've got several more responses from people who look like good sources.

SOURCE 2: Writes a hasty response full of typos, missing words, and marketing jargon on behalf of her client, someone who doesn't appear to have specific industry experience. Doesn't tell me who her client is, but says, "Let me know if I can connect you." Signs only her first name. No last name. No company name. No phone number.

ME: Eyeroll.

SOURCE 3: "I have a great client that I am not certain is a perfect fit. We represent XXXX - they provide XXX customer service. (XXX's URL) (Descriptive info here that would reveal too much about the company and I don't want to embarrass anybody...) They have a great story that I would love to share with you if it is a fit.

ME: I like her honest approach, but if you're not certain it's a perfect fit, then it most likely isn't. Try to respond only to those where you are positive you can make a valuable contribution. This is the kind of response I'll send a "thanks, not no thanks" e-mail to because while she was off-target, she was at least articulate and honest.

SOURCE 4: "I must speak with you about your article. I have a lot to say on this. (Includes URL)"

ME: I'm not comfortable with the intensity of this response.

SOURCE 5: "We represent a company that's does XXX that has been interviewed before and would be happy to work with you for the article. The company is called XXX. http://www.xxx.com/. If you are interested please let me know."

ME: At least we've got the right industry. That's a good start. But why is this company qualified to address the problem posed in my query? Show me that they can give me good information in an interview. I don't have time to interview somebody who knows the industry, but has nothing to say about my topic.

SOURCE 6: "Check out this article I authored for http://www.biznik.com/, which offers (title somewhat related to my query topic). You can find it at this link: XXX.com. If this serves the article you are writing for your magazine, please feel free to use it for that purpose.

ME: I'm not sure what to do with this. Do you want me to read an article you wrote that might contain information that might be appropriate for the article I'm writing, and quote you from your article in MY article? Or are you using this to show me you'd be a good resource? If you really wanted to be quoted in my article, you'd summarize your thinking in your response.

SOURCE 7: "I received your query request. Attached is an article I wrote about XXX and it applies to all industries. I thought it might help you with your needs – even though it isn’t specific to XXX."

ME: She attached a Word file. See response to Source 6.

SOURCE 8: "We have an expert here, XXX, who blogs and speaks about how to XX, XXX and XXX effectively in the XXX industry, starting with market research and insight. (More text here that shows she understands what I'm looking for.... followed by her client's advice:)
(1) Find out where the opportunities are that align with your products/services
(2) Focus attention on winning the right ones.
(3) Do your homework to position yourself correctly

Here’s XX helping a small XX company via Fortune Small Business (link to an article showing her client in action). Let me know if you want to set something up. We can also look for client who’s in your industry to speak to this."

ME: Bingo! Great response -- especially when compared to the others.

In Part 2 tomorrow, I'm going to offer a formula for responding to queries that works for me as a journalist looking for sources, but also generates interviews for me as a responder to queries when I'm publicizing my books.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How to Take Advantage of TV Storylines


Last night's Boston Legal provided those in the end-of-life care movement with a wonderful opportunity for leveraging the drama's discussion about assisted suicide to call attention to their work to improve how we die in America. This Sunday night, "Sweet Nothing in My Ear," the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie that explores the little understood deaf culture, gives organizations serving the deaf community a news peg they can use to communicate their important messages to the public through the media.

There are a number of ways nonprofits and others can leverage storylines in TV dramas to their advantage; here are just a few:
  • Pitch the news assignment editor at the local network affiliate that airs the show (ABC for Boston Legal; CBS for this Sunday's Hall of Fame movie) on a local angle to that story by explaining what your organization is doing locally to, for example, make sure individuals' end-of-life care wishes are respected.

  • Write an op-ed to run in your daily or weekly newspaper's editorial page the day after the show airs.

  • Use the show as background information for a reporter you hope to educate about your issues. Invite the reporter to watch the show with you; as the story unfolds, offer your organization's viewpoint on the information, opinions, or controversy in the storyline.
How have you used TV dramas to educate and inform the media or your stakeholders? Please tell us about it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mark Penn's 4 Work-Work Balance Lessons

Hillary Clinton's chief strategist Mark Penn pissed off some people -- mostly Clinton and the Columbian government -- when he met with the Columbians as CEO of international PR firm Burson-Marsteller to discuss B-M's work advocating for the U.S.-Columbia Free Trade agreement. Clinton is opposed to the agreement.

When the news broke, we all thought, "Duh!" because, well, duh! It's a clear conflict of interest, one Penn might have avoided if he worked one job instead of two, taking a leave of absence from his B-M leadership position to guide Clinton's campaign. But because he thought he could do both jobs -- and so did his bosses, apparently -- the agency has lost the Columbian government as a client. Like we care, right? Of course not. But there are some universal lessons in Penn's experience:
  1. Open it up. When there are multiple issues, responsibilities, or audiences at stake, don't keep your information in silos, assuming that one employer isn't going to learn about what's in the other employer's silo. There are no secrets, especially in politics.
  2. Acknowledge your inner ego. For some reason, Penn thought he could run one of the world's largest PR firms while serving as Clinton's Bestest Thinker Ever. Oh stop. Even when you have the best management in place supporting you, you just can't do two big jobs well. It's amazing what sleep deprivation does to your judgement.
  3. Establish priorities and stick with them. What were Penn's priorities? What was more important -- his agency's integrity and reputation or helping Clinton become the first female president? I have to admit, they're both pretty heady and I'd find it hard to choose one over the other.
  4. You can't do it all. No, you can't. You can do a few things kind of OK but if you want to do something really well, you can't simply can't take on too many big challenges at once.
Lucky for Penn he still has his day job. Leaders of B-M parent company WPP Group have given him their vote of confidence, as they probably should. Let's just hope that he was able to find other assignments for those staffers working on the Columbian account.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

One Man's Life Lessons


Last fall, Wall Street Journal columnist Jeff Zaslow wrote a piece about Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch's last lecture to his students. Just 46, Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and wouldn't be teaching anymore. Zaslow's column resonated with me for many reasons but I was mostly touched by his message: Follow your dreams. What an important reminder to all of us.

And what an impressive legacy -- one that reminded me of my friend Laura Schmidt, who died of pancreatic cancer just a few years ago. Laura's legacy was a Nightline report chronicling her efforts to make sure her end-of-life care wishes were honored and respected. Laura started writing a book about her experiences; her husband finished the project, A Good Death: A Couple's Journey, after her death.

And while Laura never saw her book published, Randy has -- he and Jeff co-authored The Last Lecture: A Love Story for Your Life, just released this week. (It's already #3 on Amazon.com -- how cool is that? It will absolutely be my high school graduation gift of choice this year.)

Randy will be interviewed by Diane Sawyer Wednesday night, April 9, on ABC-TV at 10 p.m. Eastern. I won't miss this program -- I need to experience and absorb Randy's positive attitude -- and I hope you won't either.

Friday, April 4, 2008

How to Post a Book Trailer or Video on Amazon.com


I like AmazonConnect, the Amazon.com initiative that lets authors connect in a more personal way with their readers, but it's not as easy to use as you might expect. For example, to even find information about the program on Amazon.com, you have to select "help" in the upper right corner, and type "AmazonConnect" into the box in the left column of the page that comes up. That takes you to a page that uses the word "plog" without defining it but does offer links for more information and a brief FAQ.

I still haven't figured out how to reach the page that lets me post to my Amazon blog after logging in to my AmazonConnect account, so I have it bookmarked. (Pssst! It's http://www.amazon.com/gp/daily/post.) Sure, I'm about as bright as a small appliance lightbulb, but aren't these systems supposed to be created for the lowest common denominator?

In any case, today I helped a friend figure out how to post a book trailer on her Amazon book page. This very bright woman needed assistance because the Amazon "help" system doesn't offer the information. Google doesn't offer it either. We did it, though. Here's what we learned:
  1. It's easy to do from the AmazonConnect "Post" page and you can do a little happy dance when you see it up there, but as soon as you add more posts to your blog, your video will get buried. So you have to keep reposting it so it stays near the top. OR:
  2. Your publisher has to work with the folks at Amazon to keep the trailer static and separate from your Amazon blog. Get the trailer/video to the right person at your publisher and then nag, nag, nag until it's on the site.

Back to point 1 -- adding it to your blog. Here's what you do:

  • Sign in to your AmazonConnect account. (If you don't have one, create one. It's easy enough but somebody needs to verify that you are, indeed, the author of the books you're claiming and that will take time.)

  • Go to http://www.amazon.com/gp/daily/post. On that page, select the gold "Post a message" button in the upper right.

  • In the "Post a message to your readers" template, type your title and then select "Video" under the message title.

  • Follow the instructions to upload the file from your computer.

To keep it at the top without help from your publisher, you'll have to keep adding it ... and adding it ... and adding it.

I suspect that it's impossible to find information on how to do this on the Amazon site because it's a relatively new service. If enough authors keep pinging that "contact Amazon" e-mail address with questions, they will probably begin to identify the holes and plug them with instructions. In the meantime, check back here once in awhile for updates or improvements. I'll share what I learn as information becomes available.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Can You Help a Reporter?


Publicist Peter Shankman's new free service, "Help a Reporter," is getting good reviews from the journalists I know who have tried it. They're impressed with the quality of the responses from Shankman's growing list of subscribers.

Here's how it works: Journalists use an online form to post a query for sources -- expert or otherwise. Shankman pastes the inquiries into an e-mail message sent to subscribers. They go out three times a day. Subscribers contact journalists directly when they can help.

It will be interesting to see if Shankman can generate enough participation to give ProfNet/PR Leads decent competition. The timing is right for an alternative, but whether or not it happens depends on volume on both sides. But it also depends on the quality of responses from subscribers. If they're consistently off-target, it will discourage writers from using the service. And without queries, nobody will have an opportunity to help a reporter.

I hope it thrives. I love Shankman's entrepreneurship!