Bring your book in through the back door

Earlier tips were on setting up speaking engagements and getting on radio shows. Authors often see a TV program or a radio program and ask, “How can I get them to promote my book?” I personally get this question a lot, as if there is some magic button I can push to make Oprah want you on her show.

Here’s the truth: There aren’t any radio or TV shows that exist to promote books.

Here’s the real truth: Every single one of those shows promotes books all the time.

How does that flesh out? If you were to call a radio or TV program and tell them you want them to promote your book, if you don’t get turned down immediately, you might get someone who will tell you what address to send the book to. If the book doesn’t go immediately into the trash, it will go into a stack of books they will read “someday” when they are in dire need of guests. There are books in that stack that some hopeful author sent them 4 years ago. So when TV or radio people say they don’t promote books, this is what they’re talking about.

Yet, still, barely a week goes by before the host of your favorite show is promoting a book by one of their guests. How did they get on there?

There are two main ways to get onto a radio show: personal connections and matching their market. Personal connections take time to build. If you have them, use them. Sean Hannity is not going to read a book I send him because Sean Hannity doesn’t know me. But if you know Sean Hannity’s next door neighbor or barber or someone who regularly has his ear, give them your book. He’s more likely to listen to them. If you don’t know people close to Hannity, get to know some. Volunteer to work for your congressman’s campaign and work your way up, for example.

Again, that takes time. Years or decades even. Fortunately there is another way. Every program exists for a purpose. For Rush Limbaugh, who rarely has guests, his stated purpose for the show is to make the host look good. The 700 Club once told us in a rejection letter that their show exists to tell the testimonies of those whose lives have been changed by Jesus Christ. I was thrilled! In essence, they told us, “We don’t let books in the front door,” but they proceeded to tell us where the front door is and how to get in it. Now when authors ask me how to get on the 700 Club, I tell them that they need to tell the show how their life was changed by Jesus Christ.

This is the key to communicating your book in any niche situation. You have to know the mission of the organization you’re trying to reach. Then you have to show them how your message helps them in their mission. Don’t even talk about the book until the very end. For this purpose, your book is nothing more than the credibility you need to show them why they should have you on their show instead of someone else with a similar story. When the person responsible for answering the phones goes to the show’s producer and says, “You might want to talk to this guy. He has a great story,” the producer will say, “Who is he?” That person can then say, “Well he wrote a book.” That sets you apart immediately.

Your book is not an automatic opportunity. It’s not even the door to opportunity in some cases. It’s the key to the door of opportunity. Think about it like this: if you walked into a locked room full of strangers, their first question would be, “How’d you get in here?” If your answer is, “I have a key,” they’re much more likely to shift from defensive to welcoming. Same with your book. When people ask, “Who are you?” and the answer is “I wrote this book,” they are much more likely to welcome you.

This is not a sure-fire, works-every-time solution. You might still have to try a lot of doors before your key matches one. But once you get onto one show, you might be invited on to others. Or it might be easier to find others that will say yes when you inquire.

A lot of authors hear this and cringe. They think – or even say to me – “I don’t want to go around promoting myself to these people.” There’s no other way to say it: That’s part of being an author. “These people” are the ones who determine who is going to be on their show. The initial contact is part of the process of being accepted. If you are professional and well spoken when you call (in other words, if you sound like you could be a good guest), they’ll be more likely to accept you. Being funny and folksy works just as well. Think about it, if you can’t carry on a conversation with a person on the phone, how will you be in front of a microphone or a camera? That’s what they’re thinking.

I don’t get paid by Toastmasters to tell you this, but they are the only organization I know that exists to help people become better at speaking in public: If you are cringing at this idea, find the nearest Toastmasters club and join them.


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Filed under Reputation building, speaking engagements

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