Monday, September 15, 2008

Prepping Authors for Talk Shows: Part 1 - Booking

This is the first of a series I'll be doing this week on prepping authors for nationally syndicated talk shows. One of our authors, Wendy Kays, author of Game Widow will be taping a segment this week on the Dr. Phil Show, and I thought I'd walk everyone through the process of booking, soundbyte prep, networking, and segment follow-up.

Booking a national talk show

Since so many authors rightly dream of being on shows like Oprah and Dr. Phil, the latter reaching 6.4 million viewers daily, it's important to clarify how these bookings come about. Many authors assume these shows are pitched just like other national TV spots, with their publicist calling or emailing the producer with a segment idea. In most cases, this actually couldn't be further from the truth. Since anyone can email or phone in a story idea to these programs if they have a producers' contact info, these producers are getting bombarded with completely original, wholly inspired, absolutely exclusive pitches every day - so pitching alone, you see, is not what seals the deal. A helpful step yes, but authors, don't get mad at your publicist if their pitches to Oprah go unanswered - this is the most difficult booking to get, period. Even for celebrities. Even for politicians.

Ok, so how do authors get on those shows? Here are some tips that worked for Wendy Kays.

1. Have a hot topic.
Wendy Kays wrote a book on video game addiction - a huge story right now, especially since games like Second Life, World of Warcraft, and soon Spore are slowly seducing whole legions of gamers out there. Moreover, the title of her book in itself is not only punny and clever, but comes up frequently on Google searches when other game widows are looking for a resource. Never underestimate the power of the buzzword.

2. Start small and work up.

If you follow talk shows like Oprah and Dr. Phil, you'll probably notice that these shows don't often break news stories, but follow popular trends. This is why it is vital for new authors to get a platform established by allowing their publicist to start small (i.e., local) and work their author's name and book up through the media outlet ranks. Our own publicity efforts for Game Widow had just gotten underway when this opportunity arose, and one of those publicity events was with a small college newspaper who wanted to interview Wendy - which she promptly and enthusiastically responded to.

3. Have your website up and running well before the pub date.
Wendy's website was a crucial part of securing this booking. After hearing about the book, a producer from Dr. Phil found Wendy's site, which directed her to Wendy's publicist. She then called our office to invite Wendy to the show.

4. Make your website as informative and credible as possible.

There are two things that Wendy did especially right on her website.

First, she had links to her press materials, which help producers find out more about a prospective guest. These press materials also provided her publicist's contact info, making it easy for the producer to track us down.

Secondly, Wendy had done plenty of work on the front end to secure key endorsements for her book, and listed them on her website. This boosted her credibility, and also connects her to a wider network of experts on this topic whose names will now come up on Google searches for video game addiction. (Remember - TV producers are just like us, putting on their pants one leg at a time, and using Google). So while your publisher or publicist may help you with the endorsement process, it's always a good idea to start contacting prominent authors or experts with a similar field / book genre early on, ideally 3-6 months before your book pubs.

5. Clarify the nature of the interview.
If you're a book publicist, it's important to know just what role your author will be playing in the segment when a talk show producer comes calling. As you can well imagine, getting counseled on Dr. Phil for poor decision-making is not exactly the same thing as offering an expert opinion. Fortunately, Wendy's expert thoughts were just what Dr. Phil's producer wanted, so we were able to quickly establish everything Wendy needed to know to prep for the segment.

Hopefully this clarifies some of the mystery behind those elusive talk show bookings. It's a lot more back-to-basics than you'd think, no?

Stop by tomorrow for the next in our Prepping Author for Talk Shows series: Soundbyte prep.

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