Sell Your Story, Not Your Book

Want to get on Oprah or some big-name popular talk show? Forget you ever wrote a book. Like most new authors, when seeking media appearances, they want to talk about their book.

Wrong move.

Just as new mothers are quick to learn, “no one thinks your baby is cute but you” – the same goes for authors and their new books. 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 ask us to buy your book? Do us a favor buy an Ad instead.

Consider the following for the rest of you who understand that media is a two-way street. And this includes books and broadcasts.

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 you should include that 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 spoke of hurtful moments on the 2008 campaign trail and 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 businesswoman. And she helped Palin go platinum before the month’s end – selling an additional 300,000 copies.*

This 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?”

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.