As publicists, the number one question we get is: "Do you know Oprah?" Or, clients give us a declarative statement: "The only thing I want is to get my book in Oprah's book club!" Here are some insights on the "Big O" which might help put the Queen of all Media in perspective as it relates to book promotion.
Oprah certainly is the gold standard of book publicity; a connection with her can indeed make a book an overnight sensation and sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Her stamp of approval can instantly take an author to the major leagues. Her power is undeniable.
But ... Oprah also creates some problems in the book publicity world, and at times, has actually prompted authors to make awful promotional decisions. Authors with books that might be a good fit for her, or people who have expertise in topics she covers should always try to get her attention. The only way people do this is because they try. You will have no shot if you don't take a shot. However, authors can develop an obsession with Oprah, and fixate on her to the detriment of their promotional campaign.
The stark reality: The odds of getting your book in Oprah's book club are akin to playing the lottery. Even if your book is a perfect fit, her staff receives hundreds and hundreds, perhaps even thousands of books each and every week. They also receive at least 100 pitches from publicists and authors every day, and I'm talking each staff member. Some great books, undoubtedly, get lost in the piles and just never get seen.
As publicists, we engage in a structured and persistent follow-up program, but this only slightly increases the odds. Putting all of your promotional eggs in the Oprah basket is simply a bad decision. And believe me, we've had authors who have done this.
The 'Oprah Effect' spills over in various negative ways. Some examples of things we've heard from authors:
• "Getting all types of other publicity is fine, but my book is only going to really sell if I get on Oprah's book club list."
• "I will pay you $100,000 if you get me on Oprah's reading list."
• "I want to UPS myself to Oprah in a box with some air holes"
• "Can you get me her address, I want to camp outside her home."
• "I want to put a billboard up in Chicago with a message for her."
I could go on and on with examples. While many of these are funny, they drive home the point I'm trying to make: Oprah is something you should try for, but understand the odds and appreciate the full spectrum of book publicity. There are tens of thousands of media outlets out there, and you have the potential to achieve great success without Oprah's help.
Also, keep in mind that not every book is right for Oprah's reading list. Take a look at the books she chooses and see if yours is similar.
So ... if you and your book could make a good fit, go for it! But look at the big picture, and fight against being lured into obsession.
Written by Dan Smith