As publicists, the number one question we get is: “Can you get me on Oprah?” Or, clients give us a declarative statement: “The only thing I want is to get on Oprah!”
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; an appearance on her show 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 show, or people who have expertise in topics she covers should always try to get on the show. The only way people get on her show 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 appearing on her show to the detriment of their promotional campaign.
The stark reality: The odds of getting on the Oprah show are akin to playing the lottery. Even if your book is a perfect fit the show, her producers (and she has dozens of them) receive hundreds and hundreds, perhaps even thousands of books each and every week. The producers also receive at least 100 pitches from publicists and authors every day, and I’m talking each producer. Some great books, undoubtedly, get lost in the piles and just never get seen. Others are put aside due to bad timing, such as a show recently taped on a similar subject.
As publicists, we engage in a structured and persistent follow-up program to producers, 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.”
- “I will pay you $100,000 if you get me on Oprah.”
- “I want to UPS myself to the Oprah producers 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 to get on, 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.
Also, keep in mind that not every book is right for Oprah. If you watch the show, take note of the types of authors and experts she has on.
So … if you and your book could make a good fit for her show, go for it! But look at the big picture, and fight against being lured into obsession.
Dan Smith is the Founder and CEO of Smith Publicity Inc. Beginning in 1997, Smith Publicity is one of the world’s leading promotional firms, specializing in book publicity. Fueled by a passion for making good things happen for clients, the company has worked with over 900 individuals and companies–from authors and entrepreneurs to publicly-held companies and businesses representing a wide range of industries. The Smith Publicity reach is international with offices in New Jersey, New York City, Los Angeles, and London. For more information about Smith Publicity, Inc., please visit www.smithpublicity.com.
Photo by Alan Light