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Does Publicity Sell Books? The Debate Continues

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post titled “If Publicity Doesn’t Sell Books, What Does?” in which numerous published authors offered insider tips on how they publicized and marketed theirs books, and numerous writers responded. This week, Paul J. Krupin, a publicist who blogs at Direct Contact PR, offers his perspective on the publicity debate. Paul’s post will make you want to jump out of your chair and join Toastmaster’s. Welcome, Paul!

Response to Publicity Doesn’t Sell Books
By Paul J. Krupin

Quite a number of authors express great frustration and anguish over the fact that the publicity they received didn’t result in lots of book sales.

In fact several of them conclude that publicity doesn’t work.

Their experience with media may be due to a lot of things. But to me what appears to have happened is that whatever the media published certainly didn’t result in them “turning their people on.” I don’t see that as a reason to conclude that “Publicity Doesn’t Work.” I see that a failure to make effective use of any number of golden media opportunities.

In the middle of February, one of my clients, JJ Smith, did one interview on The Steve Harris Morning Show, and sold over 6,000 books and made it to the top of Amazon’s best seller list ahead of The Hunger Games trilogy. Sure, it was only for 24 hours or so, but it was a single talk show interview that did it.

One of my favorite authors, Vince Flynn, did an interview with USA Today on Feb 6. He’s a best selling author of 13 books. He was asked three questions, and he spent one to two minutes more or less, answering each question. I was tickled to see how he handled the last question from the USA Today interviewer, one that he apparently had never been asked before: “What is it about your stories that brings the reader in?” BTW, it worked since I ran to the local bookstore and bought a copy.

For those of you who have worked with me, I challenge you with this very same question: “What do you do that turns people on?” Whenever we seek get media coverage whether it is for a review, a feature story, or an interview.

Think about what happens—just for example, when was the last time you read the newspaper or a magazine or watched TV and grabbed your credit card?

It probably doesn’t happen very often., does it? In today’s world, it may actually happen more often if you read something on a trusted blog or on a friend’s Facebook and they say, “This is cool. You gotta have it.”

Think carefully about the times that it does happen. How did you feel? Weren’t you amazed, galvanized, and stunned? Wasn’t your attention riveted?

Well, if you want publicity or any other marcom (marketing communications) that you create to do that, then you’d better figure out what is happening when it happens to you first. Then you have to learn what you can say and do to make it happen to others.

Realize that if you want to be a successful author, you not only have to write a really good book, but when you get in front of media you need to turn your audience on. You have to learn how to do that or else people won’t respond the way you want them to.

Now I’ll share with you something I’ve learned doing publicity for a few tens of years.

I believe that you can learn to do this anywhere. I call this the miracle of the microcosm because I’ve found from working with real people, from all over the country, that it really doesn’t matter where you are. You can learn what to say that turns people on one person at a time. Yes you can.

You just have to keep talking to people and pay attention to what you said when it happens!

You can ask people at a speaking engagement to tell you. You can have a partner watch the audience and take notes while you are speaking. You can record your talks and track sales or how many people raise their hand or come up to you after your talk. You’ll find hints in your reviewer comments and testimonials where people tell you why they love what you do.

The miracle is that once you learn the magic words that produce the action you want, you can then you can use all the media and other marcom technologies as a force multiplier to repeat the message and keep reproducing the effect.

In a nation with 330 million people, you have very good reason to focus on that message. Even if you are successful in reaching and converting an itsy bitsy tiny percent, you can be phenomenally successful.

Before you think that doing publicity or any other marcom technology is going to help you, you really need to learn what you can say and do that turns your people on. You need to develop a script that produces action.

Can you stand in front of 50 people and talk for three minutes so that half the people come flying out of their chairs and hand you money? That is what you need to be able to do. You need to hit their hot buttons by being the very best you can be. You need to give people a transcendental emotionally engaging experience. Learn how to do this in a small audience and then place that script into your interviews and feature story proposals.

The same is true by the way with social media. The real promise of social media is only achieved when what you’ve done is so good people rave about it to all their friends. If it’s not good enough, it’s just panned.

If you learn how to turn people on, and then use that in your targeted communications so that you help the people you can help the most, you’ll see your success with the media hit maximum levels. This isn’t easy to do. But if you are strategic and test, improve, and prove your communications systematically, it can be done.

Make sure that the content you offer is like candy. Create a recipe that tastes so good that people just can’t get enough of it. and they want the whole bag.

BTW, I’ve created a five minute, self-serve Prezi that describes how to do this process in a highly entertaining and visual way. Here’s the link.


Paul J. Krupin, Publicist
Comments welcome. Send them to me anytime

13 comments to Does Publicity Sell Books? The Debate Continues

  • Well, anything that helps, helps.

    • meghancward

      I took a media training class last fall (a bit prematurely, but it was a good deal), and it's so important to be able to "capture" your audience for those three minutes. I really think published authors should practice filming themselves doing interviews – or have a friend ask you interview questions on video – and watch yourself and listen to your answers. Do it over and over again until you hone your responses. It's so worth the few hours spent for anyone going the traditional publishing route, or who plans to do audio and video interviews online.

  • It seems like reasonable advice.

    • meghancward

      I found this post really inspiring, Brian. It made me want to join Toastmaster's! The more public speaking experience writers get, the better.

  • Kristan

    Ah, I love the idea of experimenting with your words and your message and your delivery (market testing, essentially) to get results out of publicity. Funny (and sad) how the simplest business concepts sometimes have to be spelled out for me, haha. Thanks for this!

    • meghancward

      I wish I knew a LOT more about marketing and publicity. Then maybe I wouldn't be working for free all the time 🙂

  • […] Response to “Publicity Doesn’t Sell Books,” by Paul J. Krupin – “In fact several of them conclude that publicity doesn’t work. […]

  • The more you believe in your book, the more that is going to naturally come through. It can knock away uncertainty and shyness and propel you to share your book with others with an absolutely attractive and appealing confidence. I think that plays a huge role in a book's success.


    • meghancward

      That makes sense, Denise. But for someone like me, who has spent so long working on my book that I don't even want to talk about it anymore, it may take a little extra push.

  • […] The debate about how to sell a book is sure to go on and go on. Publishing houses may fail or disappear completely. Hardcover and paperback books may wind up being considered cute vintage items. Even then, we will still want to figure out how to get our words in front of as many readers as possible. Freelance writer and editor Meghan Ward followed up her February Writerland blog post about the merits of publicity with a post titled “Does Publicity Sell Book? The Debate Continues.” […]

  • Cal Orey

    Sometimes, it doesn't matter what you do…Fate saves the day. Case-in-point. I was on a book tour and during that time one of my publishers sold foreign rights to the book I was pushing. My main publisher? They have sold my books to the major book clubs…I did nothing. And so it goes. It's luck and PR together that creates a buzz.

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