The Elephant in the Room
[This Friday’s “What It Takes” is the first from my publicist Callie Oettinger. I’m sure the first thing most readers will think is, ‘Does a writer really need a publicist? How can you afford it? Isn’t that over the top?’ I first worked with Callie on a job-by-job basis. Her forte is the military; she’s based in Washington, D.C., and has done outreach for a number of successful military writers. She helped me on the launch of The Afghan Campaign. Her work has been invaluable.
But what really got us working together full-time is this blog. “Writing Wednesdays” was Callie’s idea. Without her, it wouldn’t exist or it would have pooped out months ago. In fact, the blog itself was Callie’s idea. She cracked the whip over me to make me do it. But let me let her tell it. Callie, over to you . . .]
Steve and I first worked together on The Afghan Campaign—an amazing experience and confirmation that he needed to break away from the traditional media outlet outreach. When Steve called up about a video series he was developing, the time was right to start things on a different track.
In the coming weeks, I’ll pull out all the stories from the past few years—what worked, what failed, what we’re still trying to figure out. I’ll go back to that first bit of outreach with The Afghan Campaign and move forward into the evolution of the blog and where we’re at today, prepping to launch the outreach campaign for The Profession.
For now, I want to jump back to Shawn Coyne’s first “What It Takes column”—”Getting the Meeting“—in which he shared the big elephant in the sales room:
“My colleagues and I were not in the business of selling to consumers. We made (and our authors made) our livelihood by selling to retailers.”
Delete the word retailers and insert traditional media and you’ll have the big elephant in the publicity room.
Traditional media has always been the way-point on publishers’ routes to connect with consumers. Book reviews, radio and television interviews, and magazine features have been the middlemen. With a few exceptions, direct-connects between publishers, publicists, authors and readers didn’t exist.
As we started building awareness for Steve’s blog, his work was featured by traditional outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the NY Daily News, and Newsweek. These are the outlets publishers and their sales reps like to see.
Reality: None of these outlets triggered the traffic that we witnessed when Crossfit posted the name of one of Steve’s blog series on its site. That was Oct. 2, 2009, and we’re still seeing traffic from the Crossfit community today. The same is true for sites such as Small Wars Journal and individual bloggers Glenn Reynolds (a.k.a. Instapundit) and Seth Godin.
Traditional media outlets have never covered even a dime in the dollar of books published each year. Everyone wants in, but there’s not enough room. And even though specific genres have never received equal coverage from traditional media outlets—military, science-fiction, and romance come to mind—many of the publishers and authors of these books continue traditional pitching, hoping something will stick. Why? Because that’s what’s always been done.
I still cringe when authors tell me they want to be on Oprah. I’m not discounting her program, but for many authors, a spot on her show is the answer to everything. They put all their eggs in that basket, rather than figuring out how to direct-connect with an audience the size of Oprah’s on their own.
And that’s the good news about where we’re at today. Authors, publicists and publishers can make that direct-connect with readers. It just takes time. Oprah didn’t build her following overnight either.
Should traditional outreach be ignored? No. It depends on the author and the book. But, traditional outreach shouldn’t be the linchpin, holding entire campaigns together.
Tune in for more in the coming weeks.
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