Wednesday, May 20, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER: Stacey Cochran

Besides being a talented novelist, our guest today is a book marketing guru. Stacey Cochran's television show, which offers detailed interviews with some of the best suspense novelists working today, airs in Wake County to 90,000 households, and then on YouTube for a global audience. He's here to share some tips about self-promotion for authors, especially on television. Feel free to grill him; he'll be sticking around to answer questions.

-Marcus Sakey


First off, thanks to all the members of The Outfit for having me today; not only are you all extraordinarily gifted writers, you're extraordinarily generous as well. Thanks so much for the opportunity.

Some of you have probably seen the interviews I’ve done over the past two years. We’ve had Michael Connelly, J.A. Jance, Jeffery Deaver, John Hart, Margaret Maron, Carl Hiaasen, and many others on the show. 40 total episodes. So today I’d like to talk about some of the things I’ve learned that you can do to both land an interview and do yours well.

  1. Figure out who the program director is and address them personally. Most radio and television stations have a director in charge of programming, and the stations have websites. A few years ago, I looked up every NPR affiliate across the country and looked up online the name of each program director at each station. If you address an e-mail to the program director, chances are you’ll get a response. If you can’t find a director of programming, you might try the host or news director.

  2. For a TV interview, make sure you show up on time. Usually ten to fifteen minutes early is ideal. If it’s a Live broadcast, you probably want to arrive closer to twenty minutes early so they can do a sound check and make sure your lighting levels are right.

  3. Keep your answers under 90 seconds. I usually try to tell our guests this before we get started, but some hosts aren’t going to. Nothing can turn off an audience faster than an answer that goes on too long. That said, a good host is going to cut you off if you start rambling. My advice? Don’t make them.

  4. If you have time, be sure to introduce yourself to the folks working behind the camera. These people talk after a guest leaves, and if you come off as an asshole, a lot of times they’ll say as much once you leave the set. (Better yet, bring free copies of your book to hand out and sign.)

  5. Make eye contact with your interviewer, not the camera. We’ve all seen folks who don’t know where to look when they’re on camera. Unless you’ve been given the green light to address the television audience, keep your focus on the person asking you the questions.

  6. For crime fiction authors, you might consider looking up who the crime reporter is at a local TV station. At our station in Raleigh, for example, our crime reporter is a published author of true crime. A crime reporter might be inclined to respond to a crime fiction author’s request for an interview…. and most veteran reporters are given the freedom to develop their own stories. Your book could be their story.

  7. Be sure to follow up your interview a few weeks later with a simple e-mail to say thanks to the folks you met at the station. This simple step goes so far towards creating a friend and ally.

  8. If time allows, you might ask the host, crew, or program director if they’d like to get a bite to eat afterwards. You’d better believe if Michael Connelly asked me if I wanted to get a bite to eat, I’d say “yes.” And as a local, I can steer him toward the other media outlets in town and the right bookstore managers to talk to.

So, who are some of your favorite interviewers of all time? I’m a huge fan of Letterman, Carson, Merv Griffin. I love Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air. Charlie Rose would be really, really good if he could inject some humor into his style. And of course Larry King is the greatest. How about you…who is your favorite interviewer? Or do you have any other questions about television, or how to land and nail an interview?


abbourgoin said...

As far as locally, I live in CT and in Springfield, MA, on Rock 102 morning show, John Bax and John O'Brian are fantastic. They are hilarious but they also can be very serious when the interview requires it. Also, when he's not being his old self, Howard Stern can also surprise me with his guests and interviews-people like Arlan Spector come to mind.

Stacey Cochran said...

Well, I don't know about "guru" but I appreciate the vote of confidence. If anyone has any questions, I'll be checking in periodically throughout the day. Thanks, guys.

Stacey Cochran said...


Howard Stern is a genius. Seems like such an influence on guys like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. Stern emboldens everyone. It's like if he can get away with doing that, maybe we can, too.The ability to move from humor to sobriety and focus is definitely a skill. Go Springfield, Mass!

Tex Hungren said...

Well, it finally happened.

The Outfit has jumped the shark.

(thanks a lot, Marcus)

abbourgoin said...

I've been listening to Howard for a long time on Sirius-partly because I am nothing but a little kid inside, and partly because of the political value of his show. Stacey-how do I find your show on YouTube? I am interested in finding some episodes.

Anonymous said...

Okay, let's play a game. Try and choose which line is the funniest of all:

1 - "Guest Blogger: Stacey Cochran"

2 - "Besides being a talented novelist"

3 - "is a book marketing guru"

4 - "Howard Stern is a genius"

5 - "Seems like such an influence on guys like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart"

Seriously, this isn't really The Outfit, is it? No, seriously, where's the real blog? Seriously.

abbourgoin said...

Anonymous-You don't need to agree that Howard is a genius politically but if you ignore the fact that he is a marketing monster, you are just being ignorant. The successes he has had are inumerable. And as far as the stabs at Stacey, just do a google search on him and you will realize just how successful he has been. If you are going to post, at least have some grounds for your opinions and use a tag instead of anonymous. That way you can defend your opinions respectably.

Verne Thomas said...

You're just being mean, Tex.

Saying this post is The Outfit jumping the shark is an insult to Happy Days. And sharks.

There's a reason they call Blago "the Stacey Cochran of governors."

Anonymous said...

I wasn't going to say anymore, but since the anonymous abbourgoin asked:

1 - "Guest Blogger: Stacey Cochran"

This is funny because the outfit is a respected blog of professional writers who (I thought) didn't promote nor endorse self-published authors, let alone have them "guest blog."

2 - "Besides being a talented novelist"

This is funny because if you have tried reading Cochran's books, they are awful. There's a reason people are self-published.

3 - "is a book marketing guru"

This is funny because it implies Cochran knows something about marketing. No, not just something, that he knows A LOT about it and must be very succesful at it. He is neither.

4 - "Howard Stern is a genius"

Stern is neither a genius nor, as you claim, a marketing monster. Stern's success had little to do with marketing. If you research him and his history you will see that. He has even admitted that.

Stern simply did something no one else was doing at a time. Not genius. Just lucky. He didn't have a master plan, he wasn't doing this because he knew it would lead to untold riches. He did it because that was him, his thing. And word of mouth spread.

As for marketing - check out how much money Sirius has lost because of the Stern deal. They had to merge with XM because the return on the Stern investment bankrupted the company.

Check issues of the WSJ and Forbes to back that up.

5 - "Seems like such an influence on guys like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart"

Anyone with a remedial knowledge of Stewart or Colbert would know what they do has zero to do with Stern. It's not even apples and oranges. It's more like apples and commercial office space.

As to your "just do a google search on him", I did. And I found what I already knew. A guy desperate to be part of the club, the published novelist club, but having no real talent for it, so instead has ingratiated himself into that world by interviewing authors for his "TV show." Saying he has a TV show is like saying anyone with a blog is a journalist.

If Cochran stopped his obsession with BEING a professional writer, and put all that energy into improving his craft, learning to actually write well, he might actually become legitimately published one day.

But no matter how much one promotes themselves or their self-published works, no matter how much one buddies up to professional authors, nothing makes you a writer except writing.

If you want to see what a REAL marketing guru is go check out MJ Rose. You will quickly see the difference between the two.

Oh, and MJ Rose knows how to write, which I heard is a help.

Published Thriller Writer said...

Unlike Stacey, I'm a published author. Not well published, but you've gotta start somewhere.

Let me give you an example of Stacey's marketing genius: a couple years ago, he showed up at ThrillerFest in New York and plastered the walls with posters advertising his self-published novel.

It was one of the most amateurish moves I've ever seen a writer do. Someone finally had to tell him he couldn't do that and to take the damn things down.

Stacey is a friendly, pleasant guy with a lot of heart. But he's a marketing guru like my cat is the Queen of Siam.

Guyot said...

Wow, I try and get some work done for once and I get no less than three emails telling me I have to go see what's happening over at THE OUTFIT.

And why my take on it means anything... well, it doesn't. So here goes.

I tend to agree with Tex's comment. Okay, that's overstating. But his/hers made me laugh. And I do think self-published authors are... you fill in the blank.

And while Anonymous does make some solid points, there is no reason to have such an angry, mean-spirited tone.

I get paid to write. Screenplays. And I've published some short stories. But guess what? Stacey Cochran has done something I have never done...

He has finished a novel. And not just one, but many. Can Anonymous say that? I doubt it. Regardless of the quality of the books, Stacey Cochran has done it. More than I can say about myself. More than a lot of you can say.

And let's remember - in this time of awards - reading is subjective. Except where Chercover is concerned. That guy's a freaking genius!

So lets dial back the hate. Have opinions, but express them intelligently, or else they're not worth anything.

abbourgoin said...

Well stated Guyot. And anonymous, Sirius' main financial woes come from the high overhead of getting a sattelite into space and a slower than expected membership enrollment. According to first quarter reports, their cash flow is improving and costs are reducing. The Stern deal has little, if anything to do with their situation.

Marcus Sakey said...

Folks, we're all about discussion, but I'm going to lay down the law--no attack posts. Any more that hit, I delete. There's no reason for them, and they're counter to everything we're about.

You want to debate the importance of Howard Stern, by all means. You want to sling insults at a guest, go somewhere else.

I do find it interesting that of all the vitriol spilled here, no one has commented on the article Stacey wrote, which is hands-on, topical, and informed.

When I posted last week asking what people were interested in reading about, the overwhelming response was information about writing, publishing, and promotion. Stacey's piece is right in line with that, and contains information that I found useful and thought others might as well. Simple as that.

The floor is now re-opened. But please, let's limit it to reasonable discussion. We're not interested in flame wars and long-distance slaps.

Barbara D'Amato said...

What I like is that we have such reasoned, tame discussions.

abbourgoin said...

Thank you, Marcus, and I apologize if I was inappropriate-that was not my intention.

I enjoy the idea of Guest Bloggers and Stacey's post was insightful as I have never been interviewed. I am not at the stage where i would be but this post will remain in mind for when, someday, I hope to be at that stage.

Again, my sincerest apologies if I offended anyone.

Ted Chambers said...

For the last off-topic comment on this thread; with all due respect Abbourgoin, the Wall Street Journal has had two articles, one a page oner, about the problems with Sirius and both point candidly at the Stern deal as being the major error.

The overhead would have been covered, as well as coverage for lack of enrollment had they not spent 77% of their liquidity on Stern.

Ted Chambers

Kevin Guilfoile said...

1. If you're going to talk smack about anybody, not just here but anywhere on the internet, sign your name. Anonymous flame warriors are cowards.

2. I also think MJ Rose is both smart and awesome. Her first novel, by the way--self-published.

Stacey Cochran said...

All I'm going to say is, I can't wait until I actually am published. And you thought James Frey was polarizing.

Of course, at my rate, I may have wait another thirty years. But still.

Abbourgoin, you can find my YouTube channel here.

abbourgoin said...

Thank you, Stacey, and thank you for posting today.

Alan Orloff said...


We met at Bouchercon in Balmer, and I want you to know that your sheer persistence helped inspire me to keep going.

Good luck!

Stacey Cochran said...

Thanks so much, Alan. I remember very well talking with you at Bouchercon; it was out in the main outside the rooms.

Send me a copy of your book whenever you've got it done, man. I'd love to help you out in any way that I can.

Stacey Cochran said...

He has finished a novel. And not just one, but many. Can Anonymous say that? I doubt it. Regardless of the quality of the books, Stacey Cochran has done it.Thanks so much, Guyot, for recognizing this. While I'll never again vouch for the quality of my writing (I learned years ago not to defend myself there), it is true that I have finished ten novels since 2001.

For whatever that's worth.

David J. Montgomery said...

Writing is too tough of a business for people to spend time tearing each other down. I would hope that people could be a little more constructive.

Self-publishing is a rocky road, that's for certain. I haven't seen any evidence that it's best path to success as most writers define it.

Since Kevin brought up M.J. Rose, you can read some of her thoughts on self-publishing here:

abbourgoin said...

Finishing a novel is worth a lot Stacey. I am currently about 25-30% through my first one. I hope to be sumbitting queries to agents by the end of September. It's tough work and I commend you and every other novelist out there. Finishing my novel will be a lot like graduating Marine Corps boot camp was for me-tough as hell, but an accomplishment I can be proud of.

Stacey Cochran said...

Kevin and David, M.J. is one of the most authentic people I've ever met. I could totally see myself in high school hanging out with her at a keg party. She seems like so many of my closest friends in high school.

And she was so kind to me at Thrillerfest. We shared a conversation that I don't would be appropriate for me to share here, but I'll just say that it meant the world to me to hear her candor regarding people's opinions.

She's the real deal.

FizzWater said...

Never seen more dumbasses gathered in one place in my lifetime.

Makes me embarrassed to have internet access.

I shoulda stayed on vacation in Tularosa.

Steerpike said...

I'll comment on the article Stacey wrote: I thought it was concise, clear, and well-reasoned.

Generally I don't approve of articles like that, being a 10,00-word man myself, but Stacey, "professionally" published or no, I think your thoughts and advice were excellent.

I have a good friend who self-publishes many books (name: Josef Bastian, I do most of his layouts for him), and while he's not finding miraculous success, he is WRITING... the thing that is his passion. And he is also beginning to do many of the things that Stacey suggests, and finding more attention for it.

I love the Outfit's regular writers, but I especially love guest contributors who give us new and intriguing perspectives, or make us look at things in different ways. I feel I learned something from Stacey's post, and for that I thank him. For those of you who just want to be mean-spirited, that's what the Internet Movie Database boards are for. You're not wanted here.

Stacey Cochran said...

Thanks, Steerpike.

Steerpike said...

Here's a question for you, Stacey - when does "aggressive self-marketing" become "being that guy?" Is there a line, and if so, can you give us some pointers about recognizing it?

I ask because I am working to promote a website (unrelated to topics discussed here at the Outfit) and while I'm willing to Make An Effort and even Spend Some Money, the last thing I want is for my place to become a... well, a place others laugh at regardless of content.

I figure since you've worked hard to self-publicize for many years you might know what not to do.

And by the way, I meant 10,000 words, not 10,00, so your article is totally unacceptable to me in the sense that you could have said the same thing using far, FAR more baroque and adverbial prose. For shame. :)


Stacey Cochran said...

Very good question, Steerpike. Probably the best way to answer that is to say that everybody has to decide for him/herself what they're comfortable with doing to promote themselves.

For me in the past two years, I've tried to find causes that are much larger than me to throw my energy into. For example, I try to help other authors (with my TV show, with my 1000+ member strong writers group, with teaching).

It certainly helps sustain you through the lean years if you truly believe you're doing something that helps others. And it makes living with criticism a little easier, too.

I don't really regret anything I've ever done marketing-wise because I view it all as a learning experience... and even when I was at my lowest I was like Fuck it, I'll learn from this.

Help others and be willing to learn. Be open to getting better.

If that's in your framework you'll do alright.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Great stuff Stacey. See you at Bouchercon again this year?

Stacey Cochran said...

Absolutely, Wil. I am signed up and hopefully will get to moderate a panel or two this year. Let's have a bite to eat together this year. Indie rocks!

Sara Paretsky said...

Marcus, yes, no attack posts. And could we also dial back the heavy breathing? Anonymous post on Laura's entry went a bit over the line, i thought.