Sell Your Story, Not Your Book

Oprah and Sarah Palin

Want to get on Oprah or some big-name popular talk show? Forget you ever wrote a book.

When seeking media appearances, the first thing new authors want to talk about is their book.

Wrong move.

Just as new mothers are quick to learn “no one thinks your baby is cute but you” – same goes for authors and their new book. We don’t want to hear about your book – there’s no reason we should invest our time in it. Talking about your book is boring and is probably why you rarely see unknown authors on Oprah.

What we do want to hear, most of you probably don’t want to tell us anyway. So why do you want media coverage again – to tell us to buy your book? Do us a favor buy an Ad instead.

For the rest of you who understand that media, including books and broadcast, is a two-way street consider the following.

We always hear about the Oprah Effect but on November 16, 2009 we found out about the Sarah Palin Draw. Say what you will about the former Vice-Presidential candidate but one thing you should include is she can move a crowd.

When Harper Collins released Palin’s book “Going Rogue: An American Life” on November 1, 2009 readers bought up more than 460,000 copies in the first week according to Nielsen Bookscan . By the time Palin sat down on Oprah’s ‘proverbial’ couch –readers had already purchased 700,000 of the 2.5 million copies in print.

So what could Oprah do for Palin? Wait, flip the script – what could Palin do for Oprah?

As my friend Donna Marie, the Celebrity Editor said “when it comes to media that’s like asking what you can do for God.”

Sarah might as well have been a media evangelist because she brought Oprah plenty of viewers. Palin came on Oprah’s talk show and instead of selling a book; she told her story.  Palin talked about her daughter Bristol’s baby-daddy Levi; she talked about hurtful moments on the 2008 campaign trail and she talked about how she felt about Tina Fey’s impersonation of her.

In short, Sarah Palin told her story and it made for good television. According to Nielsen Media, in several key markets (cities), viewer ratings for the Oprah show increased as much as 128%!

In case you didn’t know, ratings equal money in the broadcast television business. So yes, maybe Oprah is a philanthropist but first, she is a business woman.

Which brings me to this, for those authors who say they want to be on Oprah’s show or on any TV/Radio show, column and/or magazine, answer this – “What’s your story?”

Your story will have others talking about you. If your story has the right elements such as conflict or it tugs at the heart strings you’ll have other people, the media and even Oprah telling your story.

One word of caution, though, make sure your story is true. Or your writing career could be shattered like that of James Frey, author of “A Million Little Pieces” if you lie to Oprah.

Copyright (c) 2010 MH