It took Howard Stern more than ten years to build his radio audience to the point where a company like Simon and Schuster felt that he was bankable and could publish his first book, Private Parts. Even getting an endorsement from what many would consider to be the most influential publisher in the world didn’t cause him to lose sight of his audience.
Always the promoter (I’ve heard him refer to being like P. T. Barnum when discussing self-promotion), Howard announced to his legions of fans that he would go on a national book tour in support of Private Parts.
That in and of itself probably didn’t surprise anyone. Most celebrity authors, particularly those new to the publishing game, often commit to promote their book with in-store signings and other on-site promotions. This means that their handlers (managers, agents, and publishers) schedule a book-signing tour.
During the planning stages, the team identifies which cities will be visited, which bookstores will be included, when the signings start and end, and the logistics of whizzing the author off to the next city.
They may think, “How can we get our precious author in and out of these signings with as little stress and time commitment possible?”
Once the plan is put into action, it’s not uncommon for the author to show up for the signing five to ten minutes late and leave thirty seconds after the signing is scheduled to end. They do the bare minimum.
Howard did things differently. He committed to a rigorous tour that covered more cities than many authors would consider. When he hit the airwaves in the mornings during his tour, he told his audience that he would not disappoint them. He promised his listeners that if they took time out of their busy lives to come to his book signing, their book would get signed, period. He proclaimed that the signing would not end until the last listener left the line with an autographed copy of Private Parts.
Talk about building trust. The benefits of this approach became clear when Howard visited Barnes and Noble on Fifth Avenue in New York for a signing, and ten thousand fans showed up to get their books signed by the King of All Media.
Howard’s masterful promotion and his commitment to his loyal fan base resulted in the initial printing of Private Parts—two hundred and fifty thousand copies—selling out within hours of release. Private Parts quickly became the fastest-selling book in Simon and Schuster’s history.
The book sold so fast that in two weeks, the book entered its eighth printing and had sold more than a million copies.