Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Get the stars to shine for your book; hats off to Madeleine L'Engle

Get the stars to shine for your book
There’s been some rumbling in the news this week about Oprah’s not-so-clandestine endorsement of Democratic candidate Barack Obama for president in ’08. This endorsement has made headlines because a) Oprah’s never endorsed a political candidate before and b) everything Oprah touches turns to gold. Pundits and political talking heads are speculating how this endorsement is going to enhance Obama’s campaign. In the past, political endorsements from Hollywood have failed to make any measurable impact at the polls. However, Oprah typically is not seen by the public as a member of the ultra-liberal Hollywood set. She’s less radical than Sean Penn or Susan Sarandon, and therefore connects with a broader range of people.

Having Oprah in his corner just might be exactly what Obama needs to court at least some of the women’s vote from Hilary Clinton. In an interview with CNN, USC communications professor Marty Kaplan stated, “People buy books when she tells them to. They will watch her shows, and buy her magazines when she asks them to. So the question is: are enough of them willing to follow her lead not with a consumer good, but with a ballot cast?”

Obama hit a homerun with this endorsement because it boosted his credibility with a segment of the market that trusts Oprah’s insight. The same principle applies when searching for endorsements for your book. As you think about potential endorsements for your book, think about the demographic and market segments to which you want to appeal. This is especially true for first-time or unknown authors.

As an example, NavPress just released Ian Cron’s debut novel, Chasing Francis. The book has already generated much discussion and buzz in the emergent community. Author and postmodern leader Brian McLaren called Chasing Francis “a unique and meaningful contribution to the emerging conversation about faith and life in today's world.” Makoto Fujimura, world renowned contemporary artist and founder of the International Arts Movement, says he now finds himself “chasing Francis” in his life and art. Other well-known authors endorsing the book include Brennan Manning, Dr. Tony Campolo and Father Richard Rohr—all leaders in the emerging church community, a market where Chasing Francis is sure to have the most resonance.

Not every author or politician will be lucky enough to get backing from Oprah’s empire or a praise-worthy quote from a well-established author. But remember, the media take quality endorsements very seriously (as does the buying public), so it’s well worth it to spend the time seeking endorsements before your book hits the market.

Hats off to Madeleine L’Engle
I’m a day or two late in mentioning this, but novelist Madeleine L’Engle passed away this weekend at the age of 88. She was best known for her novel for young adults, A Wrinkle in Time, which was first published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1962 after being rejected, in the words of L’Engle, “at least 26 times.” The novel subsequently became a Newberry Medal winner and a source of entertainment for generations. A Wrinkle in Time was one of the first “big kid” books I ever read. My mom bought it for me for Christmas one year, as it was one of her personal favorites growing up. The book’s beloved protagonist, Meg Murry, instantly became one of my heroes (possibly because we both wore dorky glasses), and the novel remains one of my all-time favorites. L’Engle’s work paved the way for many sci-fi and fantasy authors, including J.K. Rowling and Katherine Patterson – whose careers in young adult literature wouldn’t be what it is today without A Wrinkle in Time.

The New York Times sums it up best here. (Registration may be required.)

Oprah Winfrey & Barack Obama photo courtesy National Ledger

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