It doesn’t matter what your area of knowledge is, if you want to become known as an expert there is almost no better way than writing a book, says Rick Frishman, a publisher, author, and book publicist. For professional speakers in particular, writing a book can generate publicity for themselves and help to spark their careers.
Frishman will present “Why Publicity is 100 Times Better Than Advertising for Your Speaking Career” at the New Jersey chapter of the National Speaker’s Association on Thursday, February 25, at 6:30 p.m., at the Hilton Garden Inn, Bridgewater. Cost: $55. Visit www.NSANJ.org or call 732-899-0810.
Frishman, the founder of Planned Television Arts, has worked as a book publicist for more than 30 years, including helping to launch the well-known “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series. He has worked with dozens of top book editors, literary agents, and publishers, including Simon and Schuster, Random House, Wiley, and Harper Collins, and has helped authors known and unknown to launch their books. The list of authors he has worked with includes Bill Moyers, Stephen King, Caroline Kennedy, Howard Stern, Henry Kissinger, and Jimmy Carter. But his favorite thing is to take an unknown author and help him become a household name, he says.
“Back in the early 1980s a friend asked me to give his son, who was just out of college, a job. He couldn’t even write a press release when he first came to us,” Frishman says. Several years later the young man decided to write a book. “He wanted to make some money to help a friend who was dying. He visited him every Tuesday.”
Once the book was written he came to Frishman for help with some publicity. The 21-year-old man was named Mitch Albom — “One of my favorite people to work with” — and his first book was “Tuesdays With Morrie.”
Frishman sprinkles his talk with stories of the people he has known. He graduated from Ithaca College in 1976 with a B.F.A. in acting and directing and a B.S. in communications. “I was an RA at the college and one of my fellow RAs was Bob Iger,” now the president and CEO of Disney, he says.
After college he worked in radio for several years and then founded Planned Television Arts, a book publicity company, which he eventually sold, although he is still involved in the company, he says. He also is co-author of 11 books, including national best-sellers “Guerrilla Publicity” and “Networking Magic.”
But his full-time job is as publisher at Morgan James in New York. The company published more than 180 books in 2009.
Become an expert. “I’m seen as an expert on networking because the media has said I’m an expert on networking,” Frishman says. “Even though I’m sure there are thousands of people out there who are better networkers.”
But don’t expect to either sell a book or gain expert status without working at it.
Be everywhere. “Authors need to do PR,” Frishman says. “They have to have a platform, they need to be doing social media, they need to have a URL, they need to list their seminars and where they are speaking on their websites so that when someone Googles their name they are everywhere.”
The reason is that when the media is looking for the “expert” to interview, they are looking for someone who has a reputation. “If you’re not everywhere, you’re nowhere,” he says.
Overnight success takes time. While many people write a book and then develop their platform, Frishman suggests taking the opposite approach. “You should be building your platform two to three years before your book comes out,” he says.
The Oprah Winfrey Show has become the Holy Grail for authors, but most authors have very successful careers without her, Frishman notes. “You can’t just start with Oprah. You need to start with your local newspaper.” He mentions that his own first interview appeared in the Jericho News, a New York paper with a circulation about 2,000. “Then I was quoted in Newsday, then I was in the Wall Street Journal,” he says.
Hire a publicist. Most authors who gain national recognition have hired a public relations firm or a publicist. “Hire someone. You can’t do it all yourself,” he advises.
But you also have to understand how not to get ripped off. You have to know what the publicist is supposed to do and who you will work with. Find out exactly who you will be working with before signing a contract. Will it be the boss who sold you on the services, or will you be passed off to an inexperienced intern?
Make sure you receive regular updates detailing the calls that were made, the press releases that were sent, and anything else that was done. “A publicist will guarantee you one thing,” he says. “He’ll guarantee that you will pay him every month.”
Always follow-up. The most important part of public relations is follow-up, says Frishman. Editors, reviewers, and radio and television producers get hundreds of press releases every day. Following up is the difference between your release ending up in the recycle bin and getting an interview.
“Sending a press release is great, but I’ve worked in the business and I know,” Frishman says. “Getting in their face in a loving manner for 30 seconds and making your pitch works best.”
Most press releases these days are sent by E-mail. Frishman offers a few tips to make sure that yours is read.
1). Have a wonderful subject line that grabs attention. “Expert teaches you how to ...” is one possibility.
2). Put your press release in the body of the E-mail, not as an attachment. “Editors have short attention spans. They won’t open them,” he says.
3). Understand their needs. “Read their articles or listen to their shows before you make your pitch,” he says. “It’s really impressive to hear from someone who says, ‘I’ve been reading your column for a year and I think that your readers might like this.’”
4). Find the right person. “Don’t send your cookbook to the business editor or your business book to the travel guy,” says Frishman. That’s the quickest way to end up in the trash can.
Finally, he notes, you don’t have to be a great writer to have a successful book. “You need a great message. You can always hire a great writer.”