An Interview With Book Marketing Expert And Book Publicist Scott Lorenz
By Norm Goldman
Scott, could you tell our readers something about yourself, and a brief description of Westwind Communications.
Westwind Communications helps clients get all the publicity they deserve and more. We work with a wide variety of small to medium sized businesses, including doctors, lawyers, inventors, authors, and entrepreneurs. We have extensive media contacts that have produced volumes of clippings and hours of broadcast coverage including: "Fox & Friends," "Good Morning America," "Today Show," "Early Show," HBO, CNN, ESPN, NPR, Voice of America, USA TODAY, Investors Business Daily, and The Wall Street Journal.
How did you get into the business book marketing?
I started my own PR firm after working for several companies handling their PR. People kept asking me to do PR for them and it grew from there. Then authors heard of my successes and they began calling me to market their books. The rest is history.
What are the essential ingredients in effectively marketing authors and their books?
In the best possible situation, the book must be on an interesting topic appealing to a broad audience and tie into national breaking news. The author must be a good communicator and/or have a good story to tell.
What is the difference between PR, advertising, and marketing when it pertains to books?
Marketing is the integration of advertising, PR, and sales. It's the big umbrella under which PR and advertising sit. Some people confuse a PR firm with a marketing firm, or marketing agency, or even an ad agency. Basically a public relations firm handles media relations and is the interface between an author and the news media.
PR is FREE. The media does not charge people to write an article about them or interview them for TV or radio.
A public relations firm or publicist will "pitch" the media on a story idea about an author. A good pitch about a story that would interest the people who read, watch or listen to a particular media outlet gets coverage.
Advertising is when the author or publisher pays for an ad in a media outlet. For the most part you can control when it's published, what it says, and who is going to see it because you are paying for it. With PR you do not have those same controls.
Marketing in the book world is when an author or publisher sells to specific markets like the military or catalogue market, bookstores or retail outlets.
Today, many authors self-publish their books-- do you find it difficult to market self-published books, and is there any difference between marketing the self-published book and the mainstream published books?
Westwind Communications generates publicity for authors who self-publish or use a traditional publisher. I've had self-published authors in every major media outlet from USA TODAY to "FOX & Friends." Well-written self-published books can enter the market faster, and they can get a lot of media attention. Enlightened authors who self-publish also realize that they need to self promote and possibly hire a publicist. Mainstream publishers have in some cases dozens and dozens of books to promote and they cannot focus on any one book for long.
Frankly, the only people who snub their nose at self-published work are major book reviewers at major publications who use that criterion to weed out the hundreds of books they receive each week. And in their defense, there are a lot of self-published books that are poorly written and poorly distributed. They may also conclude that a self-published book is hard to get. They may conclude, "Why write about a book that nobody can find?" But, many major media outlets simply refuse to recognize self-published works-- sometimes to their detriment.
What challenges or obstacles have you encountered while promoting books? How did you overcome these challenges?
We've faced a lot of challenges and obstacles in the promotion of our clients' books. We've handled many genres, from poetry and fiction to western romance and sports, and they all offer challenges. For example, a book with regional interest hampers the PR effort because the book is only of interest to those people in the region. Or a book about a disease which is not widespread also means fewer media outlets would want to write about it since there would be only a few members of their audience interested. On the other hand, a book with national scope has much greater chance of getting more exposure since there are more media outlets in which to pitch the book.
Westwind Communications has promoted both types of books and there are pros and cons in dealing with both. When limits are placed on the market where the book would find readership and sales it also limits the likely media exposure. For example a book about the history of a small factory town in Ohio is not likely to get on national TV or play in national magazine unless you find some national tie-in. However, if a book were about retirement funding, that topic covers just about everyone in the USA.
Also, every book has a local angle, focusing on wherever the author is from or currently resides. If you can't get local PR for an author there's a big problem. Also, the media is usually very friendly to a local author. Good PR can begin at home, although sometimes it takes national exposure to get the attention of your hometown media.
I am currently working with an author who suffered a stroke and has difficulty speaking. While this poses a significant problem for radio and TV interviews he still has a sharp mind. Just think about astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and how he has overcome his inability to communicate verbally and you'll understand the challenge we'll have in the promotion of his books. But, it also gives me an angle to use with the media in that here's someone who has overcome a huge obstacle to become a published author.
Do you have any unique ways marketing your books that are different from how others market their books?
If I tell you I'd have to… hire you! Seriously, Norm, getting media coverage is all about creating interesting "angles." I try to find out everything I can about the author using a questionnaire that even asks about fraternities or sorority membership, roommates in college, and other tidbits about him or her personally and about the book itself. We then use this information to craft a pitch that entices the media to want to interview the author. To me it's like going fishing-- you use whatever bait you can and keep changing it until you find the one that really works. And, like fishing, the bait that works today may not work tomorrow and that's where most authors and other publicists will give up. With thousands of media outlets, this is a very time-consuming task. Unless an author has someone skilled in book publicity, their potential best-seller is just one of a million books lost on the shelves of Borders, Barnes and Noble, and in the "ether" of Amazon.com.
My approach to book marketing involves the following:
To successfully market a book, you need to determine who will read it. Once we really zero in and determine who the audience is, we can target the media they read directly.
We make sure galleys and the finished books are sent to the reviewers at major publications and broadcast outlets. We write and send press releases, pitch letters in an electronic press kit, and make follow up phone calls to media outlets encouraging reporters and reviewers to write about our client's book.
Being reviewed by The New York Times, Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, and USA TODAY are major goals. In fact USA TODAY has 4.3 million readers every day. Furthermore, it gets more notice from the other media than the other four newspapers combined. That's a major reason why we will make a concerted effort to get our authors noticed by USA TODAY.
We also contact national magazines and others that may be interested in the author's "personal" story. Sometimes the media is more interested in the author than the book itself and that is just one more angle we'll use to promote our client's book.
We contact TV and radio outlets. Every day thousands of interviews are conducted on TV and radio stations across North America and several hundred are with authors. If an author is not trying to get interviewed by the producers of those shows they won't find him/her because they simply don't have time to look. We have developed relationships with many producers over the years and those contacts combined with well-thought-out pitches produce results.
We go to major media events in New York City where we have face-to-face meetings with journalists, editors, writers, and producers from top national magazines, newspapers, and radio/TV programs. We have successfully pitched such media outlets as "20/20," "Prime Time," CNN, People, "Good Morning America," Newsweek, Time Magazine, "Dateline NBC," "The View," Oprah's O magazine, Cosmopolitan, Fox News, Good Housekeeping, and Newsweek to name a few.
If an author does not have a website for their book he or she needs to create one. We'll refer media to the site for more information and to download book jackets, author photos, etc.
What do you think of authors' tours and how effective are these in the promotion and marketing of a book?
As a book publicist I have a strong opinion about book tours. Authors tend to think they are a great idea because they see Bill and Hillary Clinton, Harvey McKay, and other big names out on the circuit and think that's the way to promote a book. Frankly it's just ONE way to promote a book and is an element in the overall marketing of a book. The reality is that unless you are well known it'll be you, the flower vase, and your book at the little table waiting for people to approach you. Now don't get me wrong-- book signings can be very useful, and even if you don't sell books it gives the media a reason to write about your book right now in order to promote the event. Without the signing, your book goes back in the pile with a few hundred other books the reporter can write about. And that's where I believe book signings and book tours are most useful.
In fact bookstores that have turned down clients will happily book them knowing a mention of their store will be in an upcoming article. Westwind Communications has obtained media coverage and then pitched a bookstore with a guaranteed mention if they book the author. This technique usually works. How can they refuse? The PR for the book signing, which is very difficult and time consuming for them, is already done.
Bookstores want enough lead time to put an announcement in their newsletter, get a press release out to their contacts, and create flyers, etc. They hate last minute plans (who doesn't?) so it's important to work a few months in advance if possible. But should you get a media interview and you know it's going to hit on a certain date, then it makes sense to pitch a book signing to the area bookstores and then get back to the media outlet to add that appearance in at the end of the story.
Bookstores also like to have the book available in "their system" before booking an author signing. This means that the book has to be available on their computer when they look it up so it can be ordered through regular channels, i.e., their own system (Ingram, Baker and Taylor, etc.) There are exceptions to everything and sometimes an author can bring books into the store and sell them, giving the store the profit from each book it would normally expect. But, that tends to throw a monkey wrench into the mix, and the big national chains will shy away from this. You may have better luck going to independent bookstores where the owner is on site. They tend to be more interested in a chance to book an author for an in-store appearance.
How do you use the Internet in the promoting of an author's book, and do you believe the Internet has an important place in the marketing plan? If so, why?
I know Internet promotion works since I use it myself to promote my own PR firm. We distribute press releases and articles about our clients' books to numerous Internet outlets such as e-zines and blogs. These then become searchable by keywords and most likely will drive traffic to the author's website. We may never see the posting or even get a notice or a news clip about it, but website traffic can increase because of these releases and articles. Furthermore, people use news gathering services that search the Internet for stories about their areas of interest. If a topic they have selected comes up in a blog or press release written by us they'll get a copy of that press release in their e-mail. This demonstrates that not all benefits from publicity need to come through traditional media channels.
Members of the media research everything online, too. In one particular case I had placed a release online and then a blogger saw it, and wrote about it in her blog. That blog then showed up when a writer for a major top ten city newspaper searched a particular term. That led the reporter to the blog and then my release which resulted in an interview, photo session, and a very nice feature story for my client who was introducing a new medical procedure.
Then of course there's Internet promotion on Amazon and Google. On Amazon it's important for authors to utilize… all opportunities from adding reviews on their own books to commenting on other books while mentioning their own book. On Google, their print program opens up sections of their book so that they are searchable. This should help drive sales. The list of things to do online goes on and I could fill a book itself on the topic.
So, yes, marketing on the Internet works and it's an important part of all my clients' campaigns.
How do you use book reviews in the promotion of a book?
People will tell their friends and associates about a book review they read in a magazine or newspaper, see on television, or hear on the radio about a book because the media is a third party, disinterested source disseminating the information. That's why getting book reviews is so important in starting the "word of mouth" every successful author desires. Furthermore, people believe what they see in the media thereby granting a third party endorsement which is far more effective than a paid ad.
Being reviewed by The New York Times, Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, and USA TODAY are major goals. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, USA TODAY has 4.3 million readers every day. And, it gets more notice from the other media (radio and TV especially) than the other four newspapers combined. That's a major reason why Westwind Communications will make a concerted effort to get our client's book get noticed by USA TODAY. Nine times out of ten, an appearance in USA TODAY will lead to other media notice as well because, "PR begets PR-- the more you get the more you get."
Then there's an entirely different set of reviewers who can help "prime the pump," so to speak in that you can use their comments in the early press material which can help set the tone for future media coverage. These early reviews are critical in "spinning" things the way the author wants it to go. Many of these reviewers read hundreds of books per year. They've graduated from the finest educational institutions in the US and while talented, there's only so many jobs reviewing books at The New York Times. These reviewers pen some of the best commentary ever composed, yet are independent reviewers for Amazon or have their own book review websites.
Is there any difference between promoting nonfiction and fiction?
Fiction is a tough genre. Some PR firms won't even touch fiction but Westwind Communications has had success in getting media coverage. How? In one case one of my authors had bipolar disorder. We tied into "National Bipolar" day in November with a media campaign and raised the profile of the author just with that association. With another book, whose topic was bio-terrorism, we tied into the national debate about whether or not the USA was ready for a bio-terror event. The author was able to comment on the issues in the news manifesting out of the 9/11 attacks.
As for nonfiction, this is clearly more promotable than fiction, as there numerous built-in media opportunities. For one, if the topic is of national interest and the author is a noted expert, then that has a lot more potential to get press than a fiction piece. Radio talk show hosts like nonfiction because there's less risk of losing the audience while trying to explain a plot.
Is it very costly to hire a marketing expert to promote one's book? How are you compensated?
I ask authors this: What is the cost of your book not being read? What is the cost if it's not sold? What is the value of your book two years from now? Will it even have value two years from now? As for hiring a publicist, consider yourself lucky if you can afford a publicist because without one you'll be paying for it one way or another in the form of bad choices for advertising, missed national PR opportunities, and "PR tuition" that costs you your time.
As for how Westwind Communications is compensated, we operate on a monthly retainer fee. In a nutshell, the retainer allows the author to have a fixed budget amount for PR and it allows my firm to rely on a steady cash flow. The work goes up and down depending upon the needs of the campaign. Authors will also appreciate the logic of this concept as the billing process is simplified for both of us. For example, let's say an author obtains a new book signing in Chicago that was not on the schedule. We'll put our writers on it and deliver a release to the media and pitch the story. There is no RUSH fee or other up-charges that other PR firms add on. There are also wire service fees that my firm pays for as well as phone and fax fees. There is no way authors want to review that detail every month and frankly it would cost us hundreds of dollars per month to prepare a bill with such a breakdown. The very thought of doing it that way is rather terrifying!
There are other reasons we believe it's in our mutual interest to use retainer fees over other billing methods but it serves everyone well so long as the expectations and goals are clear.
Is there anything else you wish to add?
Whew! The only other thing is that nobody in the media is sitting around waiting for a new book to land on his or her desk. In order for an author to get to the top of the pile they absolutely need to hire a publicist to help him or his book is destined to be lost in the ether of Amazon, Borders or Barnes and Noble. To discuss how Westwind Communications helps its clients get all the publicity they deserve and more call 734-667-2090 or e-mail me at email@example.com or visit: www.westwindcos.com/book
About the Author
Norm Goldman is the editor of BookPleasures. He graduated many moons ago from Sir George Williams University (now known as Concordia University) in Montreal, Canada, as well as the Université de Montréal, (Faculté de Droit) Faculty of Law. For more than thirty five years Norm practiced as a Title Attorney and Civil Law Notary. A few years ago Norm retired and decided to pursue his book reviewing passion, implementing many of his research skills he had been practicing for over 35 years. Initially, Norm restricted his reviews to one genre, travel and travel adventure, however, Norm gradually started to broaden his scope to other genres.
Today, Norm reviews books that will make you think, and are related to business ethics, sports, internet, Judaica, Canadiana, adventure, historical adventure, travel adventure, contemporary topics, politics, photography, music, and many more fiction and nonfiction. Norm has also contributed to several other sites as well as to the Canadian Book Review Annual. The latter is the most comprehensive collection of authoritative reviews of English language scholarly and reference books in Canada.
Norm also contributes reviews to Amazon, Bookideas, Searchwarp, Articlesdirectory, and many more e-zines.
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