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Getting on Oprah Good, Bad, or Indifferent (Reprinted from the PMA-L Listserv, courtesy of Rogak)

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Ya know, I don’t really want to throw a wet blanket on dreams of Oprah, but as someone who actually did make it to her show to talk about one of my books on moving to the country, I gotta set you straight.
First off, unless she chooses your (so far, always fiction) book as her book club selection, or you’re such a scintillating, sparkling speaker that she can’t help but have you — and only you — on for the whole hour, you’re not gonna sell too many books as a result of an appearance on her show.
Besides, I’d venture to guess that 99.9999% of the books that are sent directly to the show, unsolicited, never make it on.
Here’s how I got on Oprah. One of her producers who was planning a
show on simple living just happened to see a write-up on my book
in Self magazine that same month.
Rule #1: Dumb luck
The producer called me and asked me some questions, and I didn’t give her the answers she wanted to hear. I sent the book, as she had requested, and then heard nothing.
Two years later, I get a call from another Oprah producer planning a show on small towns. She saw my book in the show’s library, tracked me down, and then called. I gave her the answers she wanted, she booked me on the spot, and I had the publisher of the book (it wasn’t one of mine) pay for the plane ticket. Rule #2: Brown nosing works!
I appeared on the show, and two of my responses survived the cut to the televised version. Oprah would ask me a question, allowed me to say five words, then spent five minutes telling a story and showing film clips, though they did flash a copy of the cover for three seconds.
Another bit of interest: The producer called a day before she had to have the guests all lined up, a week before the show taped. They sprung for the hotel, but not for the plane ticket.
The most telling bit of interest: The book still hasn’t earned out its measly $3,000 advance, even after two printings, though I probably sold more copies than the publisher did through bookstores, by buying books at my author’s discount and then reselling them via my 800 number and doing my own promotion. This is why I became a publisher after being an author for other publishers. I was doing all the work myself and not making any money.
Rule #3 (which my bookstore distributor loves to tell me on a regular basis): If you rely on bookstore sales, you’ll starve!
A few months later, I spoke at a local author’s luncheon about writing my myriad books, and brought a bunch to sell with me. Which one sold out? The one that was on Oprah. Talk about selling ice to Eskimos. These people were already living in the country! Blew my mind.
I say up front in any press kit for any of my post-Oprah books that I appeared on her show. I’m not sure how much that helps.
Rule #4: Don’t spend too much time trying to come up with the perfect letter or press kit that will make Oprah or one of her producers drop everything and call you. Instead, spend all of your marketing time and money pursuing other media, because Oprah — and everyone else — reads the national media, who will call you because some other media person covered you, a not-so-subtle endorsement.
The most interesting bit: Because the snowball effect has worked so well for me, I thought the phone would ring off the hook after my Oprah debut. Instead, zip. Someone told me this was because everyone considers Oprah to be the apex, they figured they’d look like a bunch of copycats if they did the same topic.
My 3.5 pennies worth….Lisa Rogak can be reached via e-mail at lrk@ENDOR.COM.




This article is from thePMA Newsletterfor February, 1999, and is reprinted with permission of Publishers Marketing Association.

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