An appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s television show is the holy grail for authors. Her influence cannot be understated when it comes to launching a bestselling book. As a veteran book marketing and publicity professional and someone who has successfully booked authors onto her show, I been asked often how authors can get their book on Oprah. Here are some things I’d like authors to keep in mind when considering their book’s chances of landing one of those coveted appearances.
- Watch the show, many times. What types of guests do you see on Oprah’s show? What topics are those guests discussing? Does your book fit into the wide range of interests you’ve seen discussed on the show? For many, many authors this is the hardest point to digest. Not every book is right for Ms. Winfrey’s show. You may have written a fantastic book and still not be right for her show.
- Think like a producer. If you were in charge of booking guests for Oprah, would you be absolutely positive that the subject matter of your book is a perfect fit for Oprah’s audience? Would you stake your job on recommending your book to Oprah for a segment? Do you know the demographics of Oprah’s audience? They are women. Will your book appeal to women?
- Are you an experienced television guest? Television is a big business and the cost of an hour-long show is enormous. Would you and the topic of your book be a good investment for Oprah and her team? Would you and your book be so interesting that ratings might increase because people truly desire the information you have to offer? Can you, personally, deliver that information in a telegenic way and by that I mean can you speak passionately, animatedly and engagingly on your area of expertise? Can you make the viewers “see” your topic?
- Television is a visual medium. Standard talking head interviews are alright if you’re a celebrity. If you’re not, Oprah or any television show would be more interested if you had ideas for visually presenting your material. During one appearance on Oprah, Dr. Oz brought a human heart so that Oprah could see and feel what a damaged artery feels like. She was able to touch it and describe to the audience how stiff it felt. It was riveting TV. Do you have something amazing to show your ideas to her television audience?
- Can you surprise and inspire a television audience with your information? Do you have something so interesting to say that Oprah will feel compelled to share it with the women who watch her show? Now every author thinks they have compelling material or they wouldn’t have written a book. But to make your book a candidate for Oprah’s show, it needs to appeal to Oprah first and then to her audience. A book about a World War II battle, however important, might not be the best fit for her audience unless, perhaps, it’s about the Navy nurses who are still today, visiting veterans and have banned together to raise money to send deserving young women to nursing school to help fill the nursing shortage. That’s inspiring, motivating and engaging for Oprah’s audience.
Here’s the last observation I’d like to share. No one can guarantee you and your book a spot on Oprah. I mean no one. Oprah and her producers receive hundreds of books and book pitches every week. Her producers comb through the pitches and bring forward those that promise to be the most compelling to Oprah’s audience. Even then, a book may not be slated for a show because books are not the only basis for Oprah’s shows. The team will create a schedule of shows and mix in authors, artists, celebrities and experts throughout any given season. Oprah could, in fact, love your book and still not invite you to be her guest. She is responsible for putting together a season of shows that appeals to her audience across a wide range of subjects. You and your book may or may not fit the needs of her show during a given season. That doesn’t reflect on you as a writer or your book.
So what can you do? Go through the questions above and ask yourself honestly “Is my book right for Oprah?” If you believe it is, submit your pitch. But if after honest reflection you see that it’s not, your time might be better spent connecting with your natural readership where they live.
Make a list of media you watch and listen to ~ after all, the topic of your book was interesting to you. Where would you find YOU in the media? That’s your sweet spot, the place where you’ll find readers who will be as passionate about your book’s subject as you are. Go there and speak to your audience.