Publicity Mistakes For A First Time Author…And How I Hope to Avoid Them.

Posted April 30, 2010 and tagged Awkward, Blog, Listen, Performing by robsachs


So this week just may be one of the biggest of my life; After two years of proposing, writing, editing, and re-editing, my book, What Would Rob Do?: An Irreverent Guide to Surviving Life’s Daily Indignities finally hits the market. To be sure, just having the opportunity to write a book has been tremendously gratifying, but as the days get closer, a fear is creeping over me, what if nobody buys this thing? While this feeling of nausea has been increasingly difficult to stomach, I also realize this makes great fodder for a podcast, how not to screw up the publicity for your book.

As in the case of my other podcasts, I’ve asked an expert for some tips; this time I turned to Ken Siman, he has spent his whole career in the book industry as an author, editor, publisher, and publicist. He gave me some great advice as did my NPR colleague Jacki Lyden, author of the critically acclaimed memoir Daughter of the Queen of Sheba . Here’s what I learned so far:

1) Be nice to your publicists.

These are the people working their best to make other people care about you and your book. It’s important to be patient with them and have reasonable expectations of their results. I also heard from Eric Nuzum who told me it might not be a bad idea to butter up your publicists with some baked goods. As for what not to do? Siman told me of one self help guru who “threatened to place curses on our publishing house and the people who work there, that was kind of tough, so I would try to steer clear of that.” Ken also mentioned if I am going to send cookies, it might be best to buy them from a local store since sometimes home baked goods can backfire.

2) Keep your head up when pitching colleagues.

Working at NPR, I’m usually the one getting pitched author interviews all day long and so it’s somewhat awkward having to turn around and pitch the very same people I work with. But Siman said that’s just the nature of working in media. Jacki told me that despite having known Weekend Edition host Scott Simon for years , having him interview her for her book “was really nerve wracking.” Still Ken says pitching colleagues is a very common thing amongst journalists and I shouldn’t feel weird about the process.

3) Avoid Fraud.

Ken told me that at one point he would try to book himself interviews by putting on a Southern accent, and using the pseudonym “Blake Smith”. He says these days caller IDs might get you busted for that which would make you look pretty desperate. It’s best to let your real publicist make the phone calls.

4) And on the topic of being phony – never write your own online reviews.

It’s lame. However, Lyden mentioned it’s a good idea to have friends and family write reviews.

5) For book signings, be entertaining, be engaging, but don’t be cheesy.

As Ken told me, he had one author who had a book about Socrates and dressed up as Socrates. “He tried to gather people on the steps of the library, but that was tough.” Siman also mentioned passing out refreshments at the events, but somehow I think that too could backfire.

6) Be prepared for a bumpy ride.

Both Lyden and Siman said straight up, there’s going to be some tough moments ahead. There’ll be some less than gratifying interviews and undoubtedly a book signing that might only draw a small crowd. Jacki told me one story about one underpublicized signing in Austin which was only attended by the employees of the bookstore…yeesh.

Well, I’m not sure if their advice has helped me feel better, though I do feel more prepared. I’ll report back on how things go after my first book signing. In the meantime, now’s your chance to give me hand. What do you appreciate the most when you hear an author being interviewed? What’s the best part about attending a book signing? And also, what annoys you the most?







  • Barbara M.

    I'd say....relax. Be yourself. Know that there is a plethera of unpublished authors out there who would give their left arm to even see one of their books in print. I mean.... Barnes and Noble has a page for you! Are you kidding me? I would say: Basque in the glory of the moment. It only comes once.....the feeling of that first published book. And if all else fails, call me. I'll lead you through some EFT that will solve it. Period.

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