Thursday, June 19, 2008

High-Profile Authors Struggle to Sell Books Just Like Everyone Else

It's encouraging in a twisted kind of way to discover that well-known entrepreneurs who have written books have just as much trouble as the rest of us selling books.

A recent Wall Street Journal article on the subject revealed that Gary Hirshberg's Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World has sold only 5,000 copies since January. That's actually not a bad number -- it's just that the publisher printed 37,000 copies and expected to sell more in that timeframe because of Hirshberg's reputation. Maybe the author -- and perhaps the other high-profile entrepreneurs mentioned in the story -- should take my online book promotion course, eh? I'd love to show them how to build sustained interest in their books so that others continue to learn from their wisdom and experiences!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Teens Dominate Online Video Usage

If you live with teens, you aren't surprised by this month's Nielsen Online report that teens aged 12-17 spend the most time watching videos online. But even the little kids are spending lots of time doing this -- those in the 2-11 age group spend more time watching online videos than everyone else in the 18+ category. Use this information to shape your media relations plan -- if your target audience falls anywhere in the 2-17 age group, you'll want to consider a YouTube video, which tops the destination list for both the 2-11 and 12-17 groups.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Are Book Trailers Effective?

So, how effective are book trailers (videos) at selling books?

The Wall Street Journal asked that question in a June 7, 2008, article, "Watch This Book." Its conclusion? "There is scant evidence . . . that the average book trailer actually has much impact on book sales."

No kidding.

It is very difficult to find a direct and concrete link between book sales and any form of promotion, whether it's a video on YouTube, a review in a magazine, a blog Q&A with the author, or a radio talk show interview. Collectively? Sure. If you're out there getting the book's name in front of your target audience and the book is selling, it's safe to say that your hard work to promote your book is paying off. But linking sales to one individual tool is a challenge.

Let's say your book trailer on YouTube motivates someone to buy the book. You can't link from your video's YouTube page to your book's Amazon or Barnes & Noble page, which means there is no direct connection between the video and the purchase page. If the video motivates somebody to purchase, they have to leave YouTube and search for your title on a retail site. How could you possibly track this? You can't really connect sales to videos unless you're retailing your book yourself from your own site and are tracking incoming links to your purchase page.

The only way we can know if a book trailer is helping to sell books is if it's the only promotion tool out there working on the book's behalf. Even then, you don't know if other factors are influencing sales as well -- factors that might include strong support among independent retailers known for hand-selling books they like or a viral marketing campaign started not by the publisher or author but by a fan.

Does the WSJ's conclusion mean that authors shouldn't invest in book trailers? No. It's only a reminder that it's just as hard to track the impact of this new promotion tool as it is any other tool. But it's important to remember that you shouldn't create a book trailer just because "everybody else" is doing it. Your decision depends on your book's target audiences and how they get their information. Book videos aren't necessary or appropriate for all titles, but they are worth considering for some, in spite of the lack of hard data showing that they help sell books.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Does Oprah Like You?

As mentioned in a post last year, Oprah Winfrey's talk show is the be-all and end-all for so many individuals and businesses seeking media attention, whether their target audience watches the show or not. A recent Ad Age story evaluates the role advertising and sponsorships play in selecting featured products and spokespersons that appear on the show, and while most of the article's content applies to large corporations with consumer products, there's a message there for small businesses, nonprofits, authors and others, too: If Oprah or her producers like you or your product, you've got the best shot at getting on Oprah's show or mentioned in her popular magazine, O.

So how do you make sure Oprah and crew become fans of your consumer product? Serendipity would help, but you can't make that happen, so you have to explore other options. Here are some ideas:
  1. Hire a PR firm with a strong track record of placing guests and products on "Oprah." It will cost you a lot, so keep reading if the D-I-Y approach is a better budget fit.
  2. Suggest a compelling and appropriate show theme that can incorporate your product through the "Be on the Show" page of the show's Web site.
  3. Get your product, service or cause in front of the right "Oprah" producer. How? It will take work to figure out who might be the most interested. And while you can send your pitch to all of the producers, it's smarter to do some research to figure out which one might be the most receptive. Some ideas: Record the show and write down the names of all the producers. Check for their Facebook or MySpace pages, where they might list their interests. Google them to see if they've posted on any discussion lists that will give you a clue to their hobbies, likes, dislikes. Use the "intelligence" you gather to make an informed decision about who might be the most receptive to your pitch. For example, if your nonprofit is on a mission to educate America about how to create a safe environment for pets, pitch the producer who has pictures of her pets on her Facebook page.
  4. Review several issues of O, the magazine, to determine where your product might best fit into the magazine. Is it "The O List" or do you think it should be a recipe ingredient in the food section? Maybe your executive director is so remarkable that she could be profiled in the magazine. Check the masthead or make a call to find out who edits that section, and send a sample, a press release with product details, and a cover letter explaining why you're sending the product to the appropriate editor.
Finally, should you be lucky enough to get a show or magazine mention, leverage the heck out of it. That should be obvious, right? Nope. In 2002, Oprah declared Graeter's, a Southern Ohio ice cream brand, as her favorite. And yet, I can't find a mention of it on the Graeter's Web site. It should be on every page of that site. Every single page.

Have you been blessed with an Oprah endorsement? Tell us about it!