In a super-crowded, hyper-competitive marketplace, one of the main challenges for book authors is to stand out. And where there’s a need, there are always unscrupulous operators waiting to take advantage. The internet is awash in worthless schemes and outright scams designed to profit from authors’ hunger for publicity and exposure.
I’ve written about a number of these junk marketing products: Hollywood book-to-screen packages, the hugely marked-up PR options offered by assisted self-publishing conglomerate Author Solutions, high entry fee awards programs, offers for book fair “representation”, advertising in pay-to-play magazines, faux news segments, expensive paid shelf space schemes.
Today, I’m going to talk about vanity radio and TV interviews.
What’s vanity radio/TV? In the “writer beware” context, it’s radio or television air time that you, the program guest, have to pay for. Such schemes have been around forever in various forms, aimed at experts and creatives of all kinds, from services that explicitly sell pay-to-play interviews, to show hosts that charge interview fees to defray the fees that they themselves have to pay their platforms.
The main selling point is the promise that your interview will be heard by a large and eager audience, giving wide exposure to you and your book (see the pitches screenshotted below).
In reality, though, vanity radio primarily means local AM/FM stations (not national radio), often in obscure time slots; or internet radio broadcasts and podcasts delivered via platforms like Blog Talk Radio, Spreaker, and streaming services such as iHeart Radio. Internet radio listenership has steadily risen over the last decade and a half, but unless there are subscriber lists (as on YouTube, for instance), there’s usually no way to determine the audience for any given host or show–or to authenticate any listenership claims the show may make.
Ditto for vanity television: interviews may appear on local channels–again, often at times when viewership may be low–but are most often delivered via “sponsored content” internet stations such as The Spotlight Network, or proprietary online “channels” like Daily Spark TV, or “cable alternative” apps like TikiLIVE, which provide no reliable way of verifying audience.
Bottom line: lots of people may be tuning in…or no one at all. Which means that that the only benefit authors can be sure they’ll receive for their money is an audio or video clip they can post to their websites and social media accounts.
Whether that’s worth it when it costs $99 or $150 or $200 is debatable enough. But when the price tag is four figures?
The pioneer of paid radio/TV interviews–as always in the realm of writer-targeted junk marketing–was Author Solutions. All its imprints have been selling vanity radio in some form for years, using AS’s trademark high-pressure sales tactics to convince authors that buying interviews for thousands of dollars is a good investment. Here are AuthorHouse’s radio offerings, for instance, where you can pay $1,099 for an interview on AuthorHouse’s own radio station, or buy a fancier package with professional interviewer Kate Delaney (more about her below) for $2,999. iUniverse, Xlibris, and Trafford all sell similar services.
The most prolific sellers of vanity radio and television, though, are the scores of publishing/marketing/fake literary agency scams that are Author Solutions’ direct descendants. Along with other marketing services of dubious worth, these ripoff factories aggressively shill pay-to-play interviews to authors, both as individual offerings or as part of costly re-publishing and “re-branding” packages.
Here, for example, is an email solicitation from Great Writers Media (cost: just $4,500!):
From Author Reputation Press (cost: $2,500):
From Good River Print and Media (cost: $2,000, supposedly half of the “airtime fee”):
Publishing/marketing scammers sell the services of multiple show hosts (see below), but the three personalities noted above–Kate Delaney with America Tonight Radio, Ric Bratton with This Week in America, and Logan Crawford with Spotlight With Logan Crawford–make some of the most frequent appearances on scammer websites and in their email solicitations. Crawford is primarily an actor, with the interviews seeming like kind of a side hustle, but Delaney and Bratton have substantial, legit resumes in TV and radio (although a theft conviction cost Bratton his long-running TV show in 2003). What, if anything, do they know of the reputation and tactics of the companies that are re-selling their services? Several years ago, I contacted Delaney and Bratton to ask. Neither responded.
Given that the scams routinely charge an enormous markup on products they re-sell (see, for instance, this warning from the Combined Book Exhibit, whose book fair exhibit packages many of the copycats re-sell for hugely inflated prices; the copycats also seriously jack up the fees for paid book reviews such as Kirkus Indie and BlueInk Reviews), it seems a fair bet that the interviews’ hefty price tags are substantially inflated as well. It’s not clear if you can book a Bratton or Delaney interview directly–but if you want Logan Crawford, you can get him yourself for just $495.
Apart from the question of such interviews’ value for book promotion, that seems like reason enough to avoid them.
Other hosts whose interview services are re-sold by scammers:
- Al and Benji Cole (Radio interview: $1,749. For comparison, the interview price Al Cole lists on his own website is $599)
- Bishop OC Pringle (TV interview: $2,899)
- Dr. Larry Carnes (TV interview: $2,549)
- Dr. Angela Chester (Radio and TV interview via Daily Spark and Daily Spark TV: $599 to $2,500, depending on who’s re-selling)