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  • Blurb is a Verb: What's It Worth To Have TV Exposure for your Book?
Blurb is a Verb: What's It Worth To Have TV Exposure for your Book?
Written by
Sarah Pinneo
August 2011
Written by
Sarah Pinneo
August 2011

Television is a powerful promotional tool. If you’ve ever idly wondered what a little TV promotion would be worth to your writing, I give you this story by SheWriter Deborah Lee Luskin.  She was made to consider this very question last year, just after the publication of her award-winning novel Into the Wilderness.  This incident made my jaw drop, which probably only proves that I'm naïve.

Sarah  P.


Enticement & Integrity, By Deborah Lee Luskin


Like any author marketing a book, I’m constantly swinging between fantastical hopefulness and utter despair. In a recent hopeful moment, I answered the phone when I meant to be writing. It began like a cold call when the man asked, “How are you doing today?”

“I’m working,” I lie. If I’d been writing, I wouldn’t have answered the phone. I force myself to be somewhat polite. “So please get to the point.”

As soon as he mentioned my book, he had my attention. He was scouting for authors to appear on a segment of a nationally televised show for women, which airs for an hour every morning on both coasts. Had I heard of The Balancing Act?

“Not the show,” I said, “but I’m familiar with the concept.”

Had I heard of the Lifetime Television Network?

This is when I wonder if it’s wise to confess I don’t own a TV. I keep it simple. “No,” I say.

He tells me about the show. He says he’s looked at my website and can tell I have “presence” and would probably make a great guest.

I’m flattered. I’m thinking this is the lucky break I’ve been waiting for. I start telling him about my experience as a public speaker while computing the equation of five minutes on television into book sales.

Ten minutes into the conversation, the tables have turned: now he’s playing coy. “Well,” he says, “I have to bring this proposal to my team. We’ll have a decision by five.”

I’m eager to sign on until he names the show’s corporate sponsors. “Are you saying that I’d have to endorse your sponsors’ products?” I ask.

“Oh, no!” he assures me. And then he launches into production costs, which run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for the five-minute segment. This doesn’t surprise me, but I’m wondering why he’s telling me all this, when I hear something about a $4,900 fee.

“Who pays the $4,900?” I ask.

“It’s a preproduction fee,” he says with slimy evasion. “With the high cost of production, we’ve had some guests not show up.” Despite the great gaps in logic, I understood all I need: the network wants me to pay to appear on their show.

With unaccustomed grace, I say I’ll think about it and hang up.

I momentarily bask in the knowledge that my obsessive, one-woman marketing efforts have penetrated this level of corporate broadcasting. But as the flattery fades, I confront this sobering fact: By charging its guests, the show is no more than a paid advertisement – except that the audience doesn’t know that the “guests” are really just elite advertisers, and not newsmakers at all. And the target audience of this show – women aged 19 to 54 – women who are indeed performing that hectic balancing act of mating, mothering and supporting their families – most probably have no idea that they’re being scammed.

I email the man my regrets, telling him $4,900 is simply beyond my budget, which is partly the truth. It is also true that I find this kind of broadcasting unethical, but I don’t tell him that. Instead, I’m left to wonder what I would have done if the fee had been $100? I’d like to think my principles would trump my obsession with making Into the Wilderness required reading from coast to coast. 

by Deborah Lee Luskin


Deborah Lee Luskin is the author of the Into the Wilderness (White River Press). She holds a PhD from Columbia University, is a Visiting Scholar for the Vermont Humanities Council, and a regular commentator for Vermont Public Radio.

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  • Katherine Malmo

    I can't believe this. Has anyone else experienced anything like this? Is this normal or should we assume this is a rarity? Thanks for sharing!

  • Cheri Lasota

    Thank you for sharing your struggle with this dilemma. We all hope that we would make the right choice.

  • Sarah Pinneo

    I'm glad to see I wasn't the only horrified reader!  I love that Deborah considers at the end what she would have done if he'd named a lower price.

  • Ruth Feiertag


    I applaud your adherence to your principles, and admire your style in explaining how you passed this unexpected test without sounding self-righteous. I hope that you did something nice for yourself after you sent that e-mail. Thank you for sounding the warning for the rest of us.



  • Tracey Hill-Bensalem

    Wow! That is just terrible! I worked for many years at a magazine which was very strict about the separation of advertising from editorial, and above all the clear labeling of what was paid/sponsored. It enrages me (especially as a mother) to see paid content presented as editorial

    I've never seen the show, but googled it. Ironically this is how they describe their "mission" on their facebook page:

    The Balancing Act inspires and empowers with entertaining and educational segments, placing women in the best position to achieve success in every area of their lives.

    Ugh... so much for empowering!

  • Widdershins

    What would you have done? ... It's funny isn't it, where we'll draw that line? What if it was $50, or $10, or a 'special one-off free' deal with a program we know to be ethically 'dubious'? Do we watch movies starring or directed by people whose behaviour crosses our ethical lines? Thorny questions indeed.

  • Just bought your book -- She Writes is as good as any (paid) TV spot...from my experience in public relations...  focus on local news stations, radio, cable, start there... that's real... and won't cost you. Eager to read your novel... and fyi my debut YA novel -- LIE -- comes out August 30th from St. Martin's Press.

  • Jamie Rose

    As I embark on my first foray into marketing a book. I’m very glad I read this piece. Thank you so much for writing it! I just posted it to my FB and Twitter accounts.

  • Very interesting--and surprising. Thanks for posting this.