Today, I spoke to Arielle Ford, is the president of The Ford Group and author of The Soulmate Secret. She was instrumental in launching the careers of many NY Times bestselling self-help authors including Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, and Mark Victor Hansen. In this interview, Arielle talks about how she got started in non-function book publicity, how book PR has changed, lists some marketing tactics for authors, and explains what doesn’t work in book marketing.
How and why did you get started in non-fiction book publicity?
During the late 1980’s my PR firm, The Ford Group, handled luxury hotels, upscale art galleries, and some of the top residential real estate firms in Los Angeles…with the recession of 1990 I lost 80% of my clients in six weeks. Suddenly I had a lot of free time to reflect on my life and was shocked to discover that I had been so busy making money that I forgot to be happy.
With my huge income down the drain, the depression set in and I realized that my business had not been fulfilling my soul. I created a new mission statement for myself. I decided to only represent people, places or products that were good for the planet. During this time I self-published a book and figured out effective ways to secure media coverage and book sales. Within a short amount of time I found myself representing ALL of my favorite authors: Deepak Chopra, Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, and Marianne Williamson. My the mid-90’s my client list expanded to Chicken Soup for the Soul (I handled there first 3 years of books), Neale Donald Walsch, Gregg Braden, Dean Ornish, and many others. By the end of 2004 I was fairly burnt out on book publicity and decided to step back and create new ventures. My at-home study course Everything You Should Know About Publishing, Publicity and Building A Platform is a 23-hour, 500 page guide that is the compilation of my knowledge as an author, book publicist and literary agent.
Has book PR changed since you started? How?
YES!!! It’s changed in so many ways. Long ago, when authors still did book tours, you could send an author to a city and keep them busy with media interviews from early morning to late at night. There were slots for interviews in all the local TV news outlets including 6am, tam, 9am (usually a Regis type talk show), News at Noon, News at 5pm etc. Then there were locally produced shows such as PM Magazine. Local radio had tons of local talk show hosts who loved authors. And it wasn’t unusual for a big to medium size city to have two or more daily newspapers. Many of the TV talk-show formats no longer exist. The radio stations now utilize syndicated hosts. You can hear Dr. Laura, Rush Limbaugh, and the BIGGIES in 300 or more markets across the country, which means there are fewer and fewer local radio hosts looking for guests. And, even if there are shows, they prefer call-in (using landlines only!) to in-studio interviews.
Newspapers have shrunk and rarely do author interviews unless there is a strong local angle. Often when they run an author-interview it’s from a syndication service. The book tour is officially dead for all but the biggest names in publishing.
The good news is that while many of the old media outlets have dried up, new opportunities have emerged. I am most excited and encouraged about using social media for spreading the word about authors and their books. Creating online communities via Twitter and Facebook is a fast and low-cost way to reach a targeted audience. Speaking directly to your audience via teleseminars and webinars has replaced the in-store book-signing. Creating massive sales with internet bestseller campaigns is one way authors can quick-start their book launches. I cover all of these topics at my annual conference 21stcenturybookmarketing.com where I gather the experts to share what’s new and what’s working RIGHT NOW.
Top three tips to score a big publishing deal.
- First and foremost you must write a great book. One that is fresh, original, extremely well written, and one that serves a specific market.
- Secondly (and for many publishers this is actually the most important point) you must have a large and growing platform. A platform is the combination of your email list, social media connections, media interviews and paid speaking dates. They want to know that you already have thousands fans out there that will buy your book the moment it hits the bookstores.
- Finally, the author must be a media-genic, highly articulate, engaging spokesperson for the book.
What PR/marketing tactics do you have for published authors who want to be bestsellers?
To be a bestselling author these days you must become a marketing machine. There is no “one” tactic that will land you on the bestsellers lists short of appearing on Oprah and only then if she holds your book up to the camera and gushes over it. (Many authors have appeared on Oprah with only tepid sales as a result) Begin creating your platform today, even if you are a year away from writing your book proposal. Start with a blog, a weekly newsletter and then re-purpose the content via your social media. Collect those all-important email addresses, gather fans on Facebook and get the ball rolling. Build a website and offer an “ethical bribe” to have people sign up fro your newsletter.
Start writing content-rich articles to spread throughout the web with links back to your website which will hopefully lead to sign-ups for your newsletter. Start attending book marketing conferences to learn everything you can and begin to network with other authors. Authors are generally a friendly group of folks who love to trade information and contacts. Lose the “competitive thinking” and learn that cooperation and co-creation are two of the winning attributes of all the bestselling authors I’ve ever worked with.
Understand that there are no “overnight” successes in this business but with hard work, a clear intention plus a great book, becoming a bestselling author is possible.
That’s easy….being stingy! Authors who withhold the key messages of their book become lousy interviews that don’t sell books. Authors who tease the audience by saying “you’ll have to read my book to find out… generally are unsuccessful. When it comes to your juicy content, give it all away in your interviews, newsletters, blogs, websites. Those that are attracted to it will buy your book…even if it’s just to have all the details in one easy to find location.
A few authors I know gave their entire book away for free via the internet and still sold a ton of books.
Arielle Ford is a leading pioneer and personality in the personal growth and contemporary spirituality movement. For the past 25 years she has been living, teaching, and promoting consciousness through all forms of media. Her stellar career includes years as a prominent book publicist, author, literary agent, TV lifestyle reporter, television producer, Sirius radio host, publishing consultant, relationship expert, speaker, columnist and blogger for the Huffington Post. As the president of The Ford Group, Arielle was widely recognized as America’s foremost book publicist and was instrumental in launching the careers of many NY Times bestselling self-help authors including Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Neale Donald Walsch, and Debbie Ford. She is also a founding partner of the Spiritual Cinema Circle. Arielle is a gifted writer and the author of seven books including her most recent, THE SOULMATE SECRET, now in a 4th printing and 21 languages. www.soulmatesecret.com and www.soulmatekit.com Arielle is the creator of the at-home publishing study course Everything You Should Know About Publishing, Publicity and Building A Platform www.everythingyoushouldknow.com and the annual 21st Century Book Marketing event which is the premiere book-marketing event for authors.