From Tiny Blog to Book Deal to Oprah

Here’s a true story to help you understand how to get noticed by hundreds of thousands of people and eventually have the media begging for interviews with you.

If you want to be in this position *before* you publish your book, follow the lead of Christopher Greenslate and his partner, Kerri Leonard, who teach English and social justice in a southern California high school.

Teachers Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard got a book deal after they ate on just a dollar a day.

Teachers Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard got a book deal after they ate on just a dollar a day.

One day, while they were discussing their extremely high grocery bill, they thought about people in third world countries who lived on just a dollar a day. Then they asked themselves a question that would literally change their lives: What would it be like to eat on a budget like that?

They decided to conduct an experiment to find out. Greenslate and Leonard would subsist on a one dollar a day diet.

When they told their friends and relatives about their idea, several suggested that they start a blog, so everyone would be able to keep up with how they were surviving this crazy experiment.

You can see the results at

They blogged about the rules they created, what they bought, and shared their recipes as well as how they were faring. (In just thirty days, Christopher wound up losing 13 pounds and Kerri lost 5.)

Not too many people knew about their Web site, but word spread.  And spread, and spread and spread. Around the time of the end of their experiment, their blog had been viewed by 700,000 readers. As of this writing they’ve reached a total of 1.2 million people.

The news media also found them. They were written about in the New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor. People magazine called. So did an Oprah producer.

With that kind of attention, literary agents called, too. They eventually signed with Lynn Johnston at Lynn Johnston Literary. Johnston sold their book to Hyperion on March 17th, 2009, less than six months finished their thirty day challenge. It’s called On a Dollar a Day: One Couple’s Unlikely Adventures in Eating in America. Look for it in January.

(This is unusually fast turnaround only happens under extraordinary circumstances. Most books take about 18 months after a publishing deal is signed to reach the bookshelves. It probably means they’re scheduled to appear on Oprah.)

There are a few takeaways from this:

1) The dollar a day diet was a great publicity stunt.

Though Greenslate and Leonard were guileless in their intention, they created an attention getting event that captured the imagination of more than a million people. (If you want to create a P.R. stunt, check out Peter Shankman’s book,Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work–And Why Your Company Needs Them. Shankman, by the way, is the creator of, the site where you can subscribe to a list of reporters looking for people to interview for their stories.)

2) Their stunt related to current events.

The plight of hungry people around the world is, unfortunately, a news story that won’t go away.

3) They added a charitable aspect to their experiment.

Greenslate and Leonard asked their blog readers to sponsor them. Their goal was to raise $1,000. They were to donate the money to t, Community Resource Center, a local organization that provides food for the hungry. They succeeded in reaching their target.

4) Their publicity stunt had a clear tie-in to their message of social justice.

This is an essential component of a successful promotion. There’s a huge difference between getting attention and getting meaningful attention. (If you watch the bad, crazy-costumed auditions on American Idol, you know what I mean.)

5) They created something viral.

Greenslate and Leonard’s experiment was something worth mentioning to friends. Plus it was easy to describe: “I found this really cool blog. These two teachers are eating on a dollar a day for a month.”

A publicity stunt may not be right for every project, but if you can find one that works, it can take you all the way to Oprah, and possibly even the bestseller list.

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