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How To Launch A Book

Launching a book successfully takes more than writing well (although obviously it helps if you arent trying to flog your audience a load of drivel they have no interest in buying). But, as anyone will tell you, writing and talking are two very different things and the art of seducing someone who has a mild to non-existent interest usually comes down to how much they like you on the day.

And by you I mean you the product as in your book plus your ability to sell it.

As with all things in life, content and process go hand in hand. And, while this may sound blindingly obvious I regularly encounter otherwise intelligent individuals (particularly in Brussels) who frequently give presentations or make impromptu speaking appearances without giving a thought to how they are going to get the audience on side.

Jonathan Powell, on the other hand, has done his homework on how to tell a tale both on and off the page. I saw him launch his most recent book The New Machiavelli at The Centre in Brussels a few weeks ago. For those who havent read it, it revisits the lessons contained in The Prince and how they can be applied to modern leadership in general and the Blair Government in particular.

Much as it annoys me to say it, Mr Powell was riveting (there wouldnt be much point to this blog if he werent). As Tony Blairs former Chief of Staff, he clearly has some inherent advantages when it comes to snaring an audience. Firstly, the controversies of the Blair era pretty much guaranteed even the most hostile of bums (of which there were a few) were on seats.

Secondly, under Mr Blair Mr Powell had the chance to learn first hand from one of the worlds slickest political communicators.

Here is my take on his performance.

1) Powell neither read from nor mentioned his book
I counted and he never actually said In my book, I rather, whenever he was asked a direct question he answered it with a comparison from Machiavelli. This is clever strategy it allows him to communicate the books core message while simultaneously portraying himself as an expert rather than a player.

Audiences like this they dont feel like a sales transaction to be naked so entertainment and information are essential.

2. Soundbites some his, some recycled were rolling off Powells tongue. I got a sore hand trying to get them all down but here are just a few Tony Blair once described power as a shiny Rolls Royce without keys.

The civil service used to be like a monastic order which boys would enter upon leaving university and only quit on retirement,
Bill Clinton once said he wanted to come back as someone with real power a member of a focus group. We were desperate to be re-elected (in 2001).

There were tons more like this but the picture they painted of Downing Street life was vivid and compelling.

3) Anecdotes always humanise your point with a case study or example. This is something Machiavelli was good at too. In Powells case the stories are also used to illustrate a wider point, but they are also told to be make people laugh and show people what life was like behind the scenes e.g. the former Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok gate crashed a private Downing Street dinner and they didnt have anything to feed him because he was vegetarian.

Lindsay Williams is the MD of The Media Coach. With international experience, her London based firm provides expert media training. Go to for more information.

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