Thursday, February 21, 2008

Homer's Plea to Celebrities

In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer Simpson made a plea that makes sense to me. He asked celebrities to "Sign an autograph or two. Support a charity for something that hasn't happened to a member of your family. Let one of us regular guys write a terrible children's book."

I think his requests are reasonable. The last one, of course, has the most relevance to book authors. It has to be frustrating to write great children's books and to have them rejected in favor of children's books by celebrities. It seems nowadays, every celebrity has a story inside themselves.

Of course, the same applies to celebrities that write cookbooks that steal central concepts and some recipes from hard-working authors. Alas.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Power of Telling Stories

The September issue of Wired magazine featured the work of psychologist Paul Slovic which reveals that we as humans will rush to help a single stranger in dire straits while ignoring the masses who are suffering the same plight.

In one study, Slovic showed a group a photo of a starving child in Mali named Rokia and asked the members of the group how much they would give to help feed her. He then showed another group a photo of two starving children (Rokia and Moussa) and asked them how much they would give. He found that those shown a group of children (two or more) were willing to give 15% LESS that those who were shown only one child.

In another study, he found that people asked to donate money to help a group of dying children gave 50% less than people who were asked to donate to help one child.

How does this apply to marketing books? Simple. If you want people to respond to your the causes in your book, tell stories. But focus the stories on one person. Don't generalize. We do not respond to generalizations the way we respond to the plight of one person.

If you want people to be worried about global warming, don't talk about global warming. Too big. Too hard to grasp. Too hard to figure out how to help. Tell the story of one lone polar bear cub who is losing its home as it melts around him. We will respond to that.

Don't exhort people to be good to their neighbors or, God forbid, to strangers. If you want them to act better, tell them the story of the Good Samaritan. Be specific.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Top 10 Telephone Tips to Make Your Radio Talk Shows Pay Off Handsomely

Here is a gift from Joe Sabah, author of How to Get On Radio Talk Shows All Across America Without Leaving Your Home or Office. You can find more valuable tips as well as 1,000 updated radio talk shows at Tell him John Kremer sent you.

1. Have a glass of water handy (room temperature). When your throat is lubricated it's easier to talk. Plus the water serves as a cough button if needed.

2. Stand while speaking. Pretend you're presenting a seminar. Your voice will carry further. And you'll sound more animated.

3. Have a copy of their state map on your wall. Refer to cities in the radio station's surrounding area. This helps make you feel like you are one of them. I once made the mistake of referring to South Bend as "South Bend, Indiana." The host reminded me that I was talking on a radio station in South Bend, Wisconsin. Oops!

4. Listen to their weather and traffic report. This allows you to personalize your presentation. For example: When I was being interviewed on WHIO in Dayton, Ohio I noticed during the breaks they were referring to their metro area as "the Miami Valley." So it became a natural for me to say "I believe we can help some folks in "the Miami Valley" get their perfect job this afternoon." What a difference the right words make.

5. Get your listeners involved. For example, before the last commercial break I ask them to get pencil and paper to write down the three tips I guarantee will turn every job interview into a job offer. Then they have pencil and paper ready when I later give out my 800 number.

6. For those who are driving around without writing tools handy, ask your host if the listeners can call the station for the 800 number. As soon as you're off the air, you call the station's receptionist and give her or him your 800 number plus the title of your book.

7. Give the host some quotes from your book to use as segues. I offer quotes like: "Are You Singing The Song You Came To Sing?" And "If You Do What You've Always Done, You'll Get What You've Always Gotten. Is That Enough?"

8. After the host uses these Inspirational Postcard Quotes on the air, I also offer them to listeners who order my book. Another bonus to increase orders.

9. Always thank both the host and the producer for the good job they are doing. After the show, also send each of them a handwritten note of thanks and an offer "Let's do it again."

10. You may also want to record your show by using a device available at most phone center stores, that will record both sides of the interview. Then listen to your show to see how you can improve the next one.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Paulo Coelho: 100 million sales and growing!

I am sharing this story from David Kirkpatrick's Fast Forward blog at because I do not know how to link to it, and it is too important to ignore. I wish Fortune made it easy to link to their articles.

Forget Radiohead. Brazilian author Paulo Coelho has been an apostle of free Internet distribution for years. He figures they sell more books this way.

In 1999, best-selling author Paulo Coelho, who wrote The Alchemist, was failing in Russia. That year he sold only about 1,000 books, and his Russian publisher dropped him. But after he found another, Coelho took a radical step. On his own Web site, launched in 1996, he posted a digital Russian copy of The Alchemist.

With no additional promotion, print sales picked up immediately. Within a year he sold 10,000 copies; the next year around 100,000. By 2002 he was selling a total of a million copies of multiple titles. Today, Coelho's sales in Russian are over 10 million and growing. "I'm convinced it was putting it up for free on the Internet that made the difference," he said in an interview at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos.

Coelho, whose fiction explores universal themes of spiritual aspiration and brotherhood in unpretentious language, has been a star of the Forum for 11 years. (For an account of Davos 2008 see this column.) Before this year's Davos, both Coelho and I attended a wonderful conference in Munich called Digital, Life, Design. Onstage there he told the surprising story of his embrace of free Internet distribution. In Davos I sat down with him to learn more.

Coelho explained why he thinks giving books away online leads to selling more copies in print: "It's very difficult to read a book on your computer. People start printing out their own copies. But if they like the book, after reading 30-40 pages they just go out and buy it."

Intrigued by his growing sales in Russia, Coelho used the Bittorrent site - a favorite for illicit distribution of media - to seek out and download online translations of his books as well as audio versions. By 2006 he was hosting an entire sub-site he called The Pirate Coelho, with links to books in many languages. While he did not play up his own role, he did quietly include a link on his official site.

"So you gather together all the stolen digital versions?" I asked him.

"You say steal?" he replied. "No. I think it's a way of sharing."

His agent, Monica Antunes, who joined in the interview, chimed in unashamedly, "We don't own the translation rights to all those editions."

By last year Coelho's total print sales worldwide surpassed 100 million books. "Once we did the Pirate Coelho there was a significant boost," he says.

For all this, he kept quiet with his many publishers in countries around the world. "Sharing" is typically not the word they use to describe such activities. Coelho says the publishers have periodically taken action to remove books from the Pirate Coelho. "They think it is against me. They don't know it is in my favor. They will know it after your article," he says.

"Publishing is in a kind of Jurassic age," Coelho continues. "Publishers see free downloads as threatening the sales of the book. But this should make them rethink their entire business model."

Now Coelho is a convert to the Internet way of doing things. His online e-mail newsletter, published since 2000, has 200,000 subscribers. In 2006 he started blogging. Last year he joined MySpace and Facebook to interact more actively with readers. "MySpace is an addiction," he says ruefully. He also makes available an extensive archive of rights-free photos on the Flickr photo-sharing site.

None of Coelho's books has ever been made into a movie. But now he is using the Internet to let his readers make one for him, based on his latest book, The "Witch of Portobello." It tells the story of its protagonist from the point of view of multiple people who knew her at various times in her peripatetic life. Now Coelho and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ, Fortune 500) have created a competition, inviting anyone worldwide to submit a segment as they envision it. Coelho plans to knit together 15 winners and release the film.

He spends about three hours online every day, interacting with readers who send him over 1,000 e-mails and messages daily. A fulltime staff of six helps manage his manifold Net activities, and the entire operation costs him $15,000 each month, which he pays out of his own pocket.

"I don't understand why publishers don't understand that this new medium is not killing books," Coelho says. "I'm doing it mostly because the joy of a writer is to be read. But at the end of the day, you will sell more books."


I've been recommending that authors give away their books online now for several years. Indeed, that's why I started up the following to websites:

All Books Free: (for novels, short stories, poems, and children's books)

Free Books for All: (for nonfiction books)

In a comment below, Paulo provide a link to his blog. Here is the live link so you can go there right away:
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