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Friday, August 06, 2010

Authors Beware The Oprah Scam

I think I’m ready for another rant. I’ll try to save you from a near scam. Let's call it the Playing-On-Oprah's-Name Scam.

Many marketers are still trying to coax writers into spending the money they’ve set aside for book promotion to get that one in a million chance to be on Oprah. Still!!

The odds are not crapshoot odds. They are lottery odds.

Here's my story, one from my early days as the author of This Is the Place, a woman's coming-of-age story. Let's call it my naive period.

A friend of mine had a friend who lived across the street from Oprah's cousin (or aunt, or best friend--can't quite remember). Anyway, Oprah spends every Thanksgiving with her. So my friend sweetly offered to take my book (package of course--with a professional media kit and a cover letter with nice pitch on the benefits of my tolerance-related book and how it fit with Oprah's mission!) to them on Thanksgiving day. I never heard a word. In fact, the most it did for me is give me visions of everyone sitting around the dining room table laughing at the chutzpa (and stupidity!) of we “little” authors.

Then later another woman--a newly-minted fantasy author--got the idea of following one of the many Oprah-success-plans to the letter but with a twist. It was a packet from several of the best-known authors she knew. Our e-mails went on endlessly and she was always positive, always sure that her next ploy would work. Still, nada. And, by the way, her presentations were meticulous and the credentials of the authors she chose quite stellar. They also all fit into what might be considered Oprah's mission for good reading and reading that opens the minds of women to possibilities for women of all races. The only thing some didn't have was prestigious publishers.

To continue the saga, another friend had success--of a sort!

Keep reading!

Her book was a nonfiction book on finance about working from home.
She was chosen for a panel/group segment on Oprah. Just before that she had been featured on the cover(!) of Money magazine working from her bubble bath tub, phone and computer nearby. Now that's a pretty stupendous platform even though her book, too, was self published. Here's what she said, as nearly as I can remember it: "I think I sold ten books and the new edition I printed for the occasion is still sitting in my garage--a couple thousand of them! With nowhere to go."

That's when I decided that if an author is determined to use their promotion time seeking the big splash instead of working hard, one step at a time--which eventually assures success (assuming they have a great product, of course!)--I won't take them on as clients.

Nope. They can use one of those others who slap enticing Oprah-titled articles around the Web because they know they'll get lots of readership! I'd rather be there to show them how to build a career. Most of those who appear to be "instant successes" have done just that. “Instant” successes are usually writers who have taken the time to first learn their craft, and then used the elbow grease necessary to get their books read. Usually without Oprah.

This blog post is an excerpt from my Sharing with Writers newsletter. The editorial. To subscribe send me an e-mail message with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line. HoJoNews@aol.com

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog: