First of all, Oprah, herself, isnâ€™t going to call. If you do get a call, it will likely be from one of Oprahâ€™s producers. Like her magazine, the Oprah show has a lot of supporting help behind the scenes. In her magazine, the publisherâ€™s name may be at the top of the masthead, but itâ€™s the folks listed below the publisher who actually create and manage the magazine, including who advertises there and whose articles get printed.
For instance, at O, The Oprah Magazine, Jill Seelig is listed as the publisher. She is responsible for much of what goes in the magazine, not Oprah. And she is likely in close contact with Oprahâ€™s best friend, Gayle King, who is the editor at large of the magazine.
No, that doesnâ€™t mean Oprah is totally hands-off. This FORTUNE article explains the Oprah phenomenon better than any other Iâ€™ve read, and in it admits that sheâ€™s as confused as we are, sometimes (the article is from 2004 â€“ but still relevant today, I think). What has Oprah got to be confused about? Maybe about what to do and how to do it, which proves thatâ€”Oprah is human, the most endearing quality anyone can have. Her confession in this article also shows why she, like the rest of us, relies on trusted assistants. These are the people who read the books we send to Oprah. They are the ones putting together a successful magazine, and they are the people who know that there is more to being on a TV show watched by millions, than just being newsworthy. These are Oprahâ€™s â€œvillageâ€ â€“ the ones in charge of putting together her show and magazine. These are the people you have to please, to get on Oprah.
Susan Harrow, also quoted in my article last week, suggests creating an online press kit. Her advice on this can be found on the Marketing Sherpa site.
She recommends, â€œâ€¦creating an online press kit so producers can access it immediately if they are interested in your pitch.â€ Some of the things that should be in the kit are:
- Your bio
- Questions to ask you
- Streaming video
- Samples of product (chapters of your book will work)
Now, if it turns out that Oprah receives your book (via a friend, a producer, or via your blog or your online press kit), and if it turns out that Oprah likes your book, she will share it with her staff and if THEY approve you, you may get a call. Thatâ€™s when you can start worrying.
Itâ€™s a sure bet that one of the first concerns Oprahâ€™s producers are going to have is whether or not you are newsworthy and whether or not you look good on TV (yes, looking good on TV counts, itâ€™s a visual medium; if you donâ€™t play well to the cameras, it could be, probably will be, a problem).
Understand this â€“ â€œlooking goodâ€ is subjective. You donâ€™t have to be Cindy Crawford, or Britney Spears, or Gwenth Paltrow, or George Clooney, but it doesnâ€™t hurt. If youâ€™re an average gal or guy, create some video and test yourself. Being clean and neat is the first step to being presentable and looking good. A professional haircut is a must. A new suit or dress, helps. It doesnâ€™t have to be expensive. Smiling is crucial—so if you donâ€™t like your smile, fix it.
If you pass those hurdles, then itâ€™s time to get serious. Because, before you step foot on Oprahâ€™s stage, before you melt as you hear her introduce you to her audience (in TV-land and in the studio), before you hear that thunderous applause announcing that youâ€™ve made it, no, really, youâ€™ve MADE itâ€¦you have a lot of work to do.
Now, speak into the microphone. Excuse me, I didnâ€™t hear you. Say again? This is more important than you can imagine. If you cannot speak, slowly, with clear enunciation, Oprah is going to give a sigh and put your book away. When being interviewed, one of the things many new authors do that jeopardizes not only the interview, but possible sales of their book, is to talk too fast or use street jargon.
Be clear. Be specific. Know what points are critical for your book, and learn how to make eye-contact. Practice with a mirror, with friends, and with colleagues. Take a Toastmastersâ€™ course. If youâ€™re lucky enough to get radio or Internet interviews (podcasts), use that as your testing ground. Get feedback. I always recommend that my authors imagine making eye contact, even if they are only looking in the mirror.
While all that is going on, while youâ€™re grooming yourself for television (letâ€™s hope itâ€™s for the Oprah show), you need to do a few more things. You need to call your webmaster. Once itâ€™s announced that youâ€™ll be on Oprah, your website is going to get hit hard! Be prepared for that increase in traffic.
The last thing you want is to have your site crash, because your hosting company isnâ€™t prepared for that huge influx of traffic. Itâ€™s also a good time to make sure you donâ€™t have any dead links. Is your navigation simple and easy to follow? If youâ€™re selling your book on your site, is it easy to buy? It better be.
Next, make sure you and/or your publisher are ready for the book sales. It could be in the millions. As noted in my last article, Oprah is a powerhouse for product sales, especially books. Every place that your book is distributed needs to know youâ€™ll be on Oprah. Not only will you lose sales if you donâ€™t give these people a headâ€™s up, youâ€™ll lose face.
People will be upset that they cannot get your book in a reasonable amount of time. Letâ€™s imagine how that will affect your chances of ever getting onâ€¦any TV show, let alone Oprah, for your next book. Hmmmâ€¦
IF, IF, if you believe you can get on Oprah, start now, today, developing a complete PR plan for local and national media. Which TV station do you want to give this scoop to? Get that anchor or reporter on your side as soon as possible. Newspapers and magazines will be calling, also. Write down all of them. No, not all of them will call. But, why not be prepared for all of them, anyway?
Once again, have your talking points rehearsed. Keep them by the phone. Memorize them, without losing the ability to be flexible and discuss your book from a different angle at any moment—–you can never predict what the reporter calling will ask you. Try to remember this: it really isnâ€™t about youâ€¦or your book. Itâ€™s about the reader and Oprah and the audience. Donâ€™t get too full of yourself. Lose the â€œme, me, meâ€¦â€ and focus on the â€œyou, you, youâ€¦â€ and “them, them, them.”
So, are you ready? I think I hear the phone ringing . . . .
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