Wednesday, May 07, 2008

is anyone measuring this footprint?

To promote her new autobiography, Audition, celebrity newswoman Barbara Walters is doing what almost every author on the planet can only dream about: she's taking her story on the road and visiting 25 cities to promote her book. As I write this, the book is # 1 on the Amazon bestseller list.

This tour intrigues me for a number of reasons. First off, the number one thing publishers want to know about anyone who submits a book proposal is not what your story is, not what your goals are, not the wisdom you have to share with book buyers around the world nor the poetic voice in which you will deliver that message. Not one of those things matters to publishers. What matters most is that you have a "platform," a built-in audience who will not only welcome the news that you've written a book, they'll rush out to buy a copy or two or three as well. Having a platform means that the publishers can P/L your book with some measure of comfort about the number of books that will sell right off the bat; it means they can count on your audience to support their investment in you. It also means they won't have to engage a publicist to promote you or your book. They won't have to spend much on advertising or marketing. In other words, you've done their job for them.

But in the case of writers who may need a boost, whose platform may be lacking a bit in scope or reach, those writers who could benefit from some face time with a crowd to build momentum for their book, publishers create the "book tour" and put authors on the road. Authors visit bookstores and sell and sign books to their anxious public - or not. I've attended some book signings where the store is so empty your voice echoes. Yes, a tour can work but it's expensive and risky - for everyone.

So - at the risk of sounding jealous and petty, let me pose the following questions. Why is Barbara Walters on a 25-city book tour? Doesn't she have a national platform large enough to engender some good will with her publisher? Isn't it enough that she produces a daily talk show, commands network attention anytime she wants it to conduct her celebrity interviews and is arguably the most well-known female television journalist in the world? Is it possible her book will NOT sell because no one will have heard of her or heard of it? Particularly since she leaked the intriguing tidbit about her affair with a married politician some forty years ago?

But all that aside, here's what's really bothering me. According to a report in Publisher's Weekly, Ms. Walters is using private jet to travel to her tour cities. A private jet. Why isn't someone from the green police writing a scathing OP Ed about the wretched excess of Ms. Walters and condemning this wasteful carbon footprint from the sake of promoting a soon-to-be-bestseller book?

If a journalist from the FOX network or another conservative-leaning organization were doing the same thing to promote their own book, you can bet the media would be screaming for their decidedly not-green head.

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