Jon Stewart’s decision to step down from the Daily Show later this year hit few people harder than book publicists. The group quickly acknowledged that the satirical news program is one of the few for books remaining bright spots in an otherwise bleak media landscape. Stewart’s show is, as Scribner’s Kate Lloyd told the Washington Post, the “Holy Grail for book publicists.” So what will replace the Daily Show as the best place to plug a book when Stewart makes his exit? The quick answer: nothing.
PW polled a number of book publicists, who spoke off the record, about which radio and television shows—in a post-Stewart future—can move the needle the most when it comes to promoting a book. The respondents acknowledged that no one is likely to replace Stewart anytime soon, but that, depending on the kind of title, any number of shows can still generate notable sales.
For nonfiction, the big “get” is usually NPR: some publicists called out the power of Fresh Air and All Things Considered, while others touted the Diane Rehm Show. As one publicist put it, though, “Any show on NPR moves the dial.” Another publicist noted that 60 Minutes can create a major sales boon.
Other publicists feel that CBS Sunday Morning has the power to build a bestseller—or at least sell quite a few copies. Sunday Morning, one publicist noted, can spur sales of fiction and nonfiction, thanks to “excellent producers and reporters who give our authors a fair shake.” For a number of publicists, the HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher remains “underrated” for its ability to prompt book sales. Still other sources said that, although they don’t promote as many books as they once did (and their ability to boost sales is lower), both Good Morning America and the Today show can still do more for fiction than anything else on TV. One publicist, who specializes in nonfiction, said she often sees bumps from GPS, Fareed Zakaria’s CNN show. And those looking to boost conservative titles, unsurprisingly, see traction after appearances on right-leaning shows such as Fox and Friends.
With no single show emerging as a slam dunk for promoting books, publicists agreed on one point: the on-air landscape is more segmented than ever before. Some publicists noted that few TV shows still reach a broad audience—a decade ago, Today was one of the top outlets for promoting books, in part because it consistently drew such a large viewership—so the key is to think small... and more focused. Now, for book publicists, it’s less about the big “get” than the right “get.”
Television Loses Some Clout
The fragmentation of the television market is perhaps one reason that the medium does not generate as much buzz about books as it once did. About 3% of respondents to a 2014 survey of adult book buyers by Nielsen Books and Consumer said that they learned about a new book from television, down from 4% in 2012. (Though 3% or 4% may seem very small, consumers discover books in a variety of ways; 16% of adult book buyers said that they heard about a new fiction title via word-of-mouth last year, the most frequently cited means of book discovery.) TV’s impact was strongest for sales of nonfiction titles, with 7% of adult book buyers reporting that they bought a nonfiction title after seeing the author on television, down from 8% in 2012. Purchases of movie tie-in titles benefited from author television appearances as well, with 6% of adult book buyers saying they bought such titles after seeing the authors on a show. Television appearances by authors of general fiction had much less impact, with only 1% of adult book buyers saying that a novelist’s appearance on TV prompted them to purchase a title. The difference between the impact that television had on purchases of movie tie-ins and general fiction reflects a trend mentioned by a number of publicists: television producers are much less interested in scheduling debut or literary novelists than booking celebrity authors such as Gillian Flynn and Veronica Roth.—Jim Milliot
TV, Radio Impact on Book Discovery, Selected Categories, 2014
|Total||General Fiction||Movie Tie-in||Romance||General Nonfiction||Juvenile||Young Adult|
Source: Nielsen Books and Consumer