“We do publicity because it makes our authors happy,” one publisher told me. “It doesn’t sell books.” That matter-of-fact comment from someone I respect was like a hit to the solar plexus. For nearly three decades I have been setting up interviews – more than 30,000 – and they’ve made ZERO difference in sales?
Several weeks ago I had a phone call from the producer of a television show. They were having one of the authors I represent on over the holiday weekend. She wanted to know what kind of discount they could get on 500 copies. They ended up buying 3,000 copies. Another couple who appeared on a Christian television show had 11,000 phone calls to their office during the three days after the airing – most wanting to purchase their book.
Three weeks ago I looked up a radio show in Portland and tracked down the host. I sent him a copy of an author’s book I thought would be a perfect fit for his show. He loved it. He said, “I liked the book so much I bought copies for every member of my staff.” Then, he set up three separate interviews with the author.
Publicity often gets a bad rap because sometimes an interview elicits no sales, no calls, and zero response. There are many reasons for this – timing, topic, presentation all come to mind. But interviews have more than a dollars and cents impact. “The book, God’s Smuggler, changed my life,” said my good friend, Marlene Rice. And isn’t this one of the reasons we write; to change minds, influence, educate, reach the lost?
If media interviews have little or no effect, why would anyone do them? Why spend money to hire a publicist? Why waste time? Well, the answer is simple, interviews and reviews can and most often do make a difference. There are tangible financial benefits and there are impacts like my friend Marlene experienced. Imagine something you write making a life-altering difference in one of your readers. The million-dollar question is, “how can authors leverage interviews to sell books?” Here are a few ideas based on my experience.
- Be relevant. Talk about a topic that people want to hear about.
- Be upbeat. Energy and enthusiasm sell.
- Be open and transparent with the audience.
- Be a storyteller. Stories connect to listeners in a real-world way.
- Be open to incentives (adding something of extra value).
- Be willing to offer special deals or price reductions.
If there was a magic formula for selling books, most publishers would have discovered it by now. The same is true for publicity. On the one hand, you have to do it if you want to give yourself a chance. On the other hand, you don’t want to waste money on something that has no guarantees. This leads us to the final and most important ingredient; the impact of God’s grace on our work or ministry. After we have done all we can, we let God do all He will.