To My Dear Colleagues in Publishing,
I know many of you are looking at this Books section and wondering how the hell you are going to make any noise for your titles considering there's so much on the page -- videos, slide shows, reviews, link outs, splashes all of it changing before you've even had a chance to read something you heard about on a publishing blog, which by the way, is at least a day behind everything else on the web.
So let me see if I can offer you a little guidance, because there are a bunch of surprises.
#1. This is NOT a book review section. Let me say that again, because I know about 72,000 publicists just plotzed because they have no idea what to do other than ask for a review. Huffington Post Books is not a review -- there's a reason those sections in newspapers are dropping like flies. Book reviews tend to be conversation enders, and when you're living in the age of engagement, a time when people are looking for conversation starters, that stance gets you nowhere.
And now you're thinking, If I can't send you books to review, how does anyone get attention for them on your site?
I thought you'd never ask.
#2. Blog, blog, blog, blog, blog. You, your authors, your authors' friends. And especially editors. Yes, you can come and blog about the books you love, the ones you are publishing, just make it clear to the reader who you are and what your relationship to the book is. Look. At some point, you got that manuscript or proposal in from an agent, you fell in love with it so madly that you were willing to face the firing squad (aka acquisition board) in order to sign up the book. To get past that hurdle you had to be a hell of an advocate, and you had to believe deeply in the author you were asking the company to invest in--because your job depends on your instincts being right. And when your life depends on that decision-making ability, you have to speak more passionately and eloquently about that book than than anyone else can. Don't you think readers of the books section will be moved by that? I do. Take a look at Bob Miller's piece about Joann Davis's book if you need an example. He's ahead of the game as usual.
#3. If you're not willing to step out from behind your desk, if you're not willing to let the world know how you feel personally about the books you stake your job and reputation on every day, then ask a blogger to review a book. But be careful how you do it (publicists, sit down and hang onto your desk, I'm about to make your already overwhelming job harder). If you think you're going to send a generic pitch to a blogger, take a look at Jonathan Fields' piece to find out what can happen. The web is all about authentic relationships, so start creating them. Human to human, not "corporate identity" to "potential publicity vehicle."
#4. Forget the publication date. (Sorry, watch for fainting publicists again.) Ten days before is not enough. Four weeks before is not enough. Between two and four months--you heard me, two to four months. Around the time you're thinking of sending to long lead magazines (for any lay readers, that's the monthly magazines, and we pitch them about 4 months before publication date) is when buzz on the Internet needs to start because remember, when the editors and producers you contact begin thinking about whether or not they are going to have your author on TV or feature your book in their magazine, they're on Google looking for early buzz.
When was the last time a good old fashioned pub date blast really worked (unless you're Dan Brown or Sarah Palin)? Does a book even stay in a store long enough for it to work? Arianna said the following at a recent Publishers Lunch, "From publication date to oblivion, you have about three weeks to make a book work." Now is that really long enough?
#5. Start a conversation with our readers. For the first time, you can reach your readers directly instead of waiting for a large chain store or a major media outlet (getting that is like winning the lottery) to promote a book to the point that it becomes visible. Huffington Post had 27 million unique visitors last month and 2 million unique comments. These are book-loving and idea-hungry readers. Invite feedback. Ask their opinion. Tell them what you love in books, what gets you out of bed in the morning, but whatever you do, speak personally, authentically and from the heart because they can smell an adapted press release a mile away.
Next time we'll talk about your Facebook pages. Oh boy do we have some work to do.
Every Friday, HuffPost's Culture Shift newsletter helps you figure out which books you should read, art you should check out, movies you should watch and music should listen to. Learn more