Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hey readers...

Our blog has a new home! Head on over to http://phenixpublicity.com/blog to keep reading.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hearing Critics...But Staying Focused

My friend Scott Jeffrey has a great post on his blog today titled "Ignore the Critics" where he lays out eleven highly successful books next to a dissenting opinion from a critic.

For example:
Manuscript: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Literary Opinion
: “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.”

Beyond the novelty of reading through dissenting literary opinions on some of the greatest literary works of our time, Scott's blog post makes a very important point about how focused we have to be in today's "everyone is a critic" atmosphere.

Reviews aren't just for authors anymore. Sites likes Yelp.com, blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and other social media platforms make it possible for readers, customers, competitors, even friends, to post an opinion on anything from coffee shops to books to passers-by.

The anonymous nature of many internet reviews can lead people to be much more scornful with comments than they would dream to be in person. Such reviews often have a domino effect when the reviewed read them and let themselves react emotionally. The often out-of-line response then becomes the story rather than the product or service that the review was about.

The power-to-the-people aspect of social media is what we love about it, but it also presents some challenges to our psyche.

When you hear criticism of your book, your speaking, your publicity work, your job, etc...what is your first instinct?

Do you take it personally and get defensive or do you hear the opinion and remain confident in yourself?

Let me give you an example of someone who was pointedly criticized, responded gracefully but remained confident in the face of that criticism.

Kick Butt Coffee is a new coffee shop in Austin, TX. As many of you know, our city is known for it's "Keep Austin Weird" vibe and this coffee shop--complete with live music, mocha martinis, martial arts decor and offer on its website to "get a black eye next time you visit"--is everything but run of the mill.

The owner, Thomas R. Gohring, decided that if he was going to stand out from the crowd in a city full of stand-out acts, he had to be different.

Gohring's Kick Butt Coffee has generated mostly positive reviews on Yelp.com, with many customers calling it their favorite coffee house in Austin. However, like anything that is out of the ordinary, the coffee shop has also had a couple sub-par reviews.

A recent review, from Ellyn E. called it "her worst coffee house experience ever," before saying the "insanely loud horrible grunge band" drove her and other customers away. She also cracks on the Americano.

Put yourself in Gohring's shoes for a minute...you've invested in a new coffee shop--in the midst of a recession--and someone has written a biting review, where they seem to go out of their way to be a bit dramatic about the (bad) experience. It would be easy to respond with a "you don't know what you're talking about" tone or even question your own logic in including live music at your coffee shop.

But Gohring does neither. Here's his response:
"Ellyn...sorry to hear you had a bad experience at our new shop. The bands myspace music samples are nice and not too loud. I will address this with them. We are known as a huge supporter of local musicians, live music venue at night. But it is not a good thing for customers to leave because of the music. I appreciate you bringing that to my attention. I am surprised about the americano. Sorry yours wasn't to your satisfaction. (Update, even though it is brand new the decaf grinder's burrs were bad.) The flat screens are my idea, sorry you didn't like it."
He acknowledges the issues that can be improved and lets the customer know he appreciates her feedback, but remains confident in the vision he has for his coffee shop.

We need to do the same thing with online chatter. You have to hear it and, at times, respond to it, but you certainly don't have to let it get you off track and you never have to respond emotionally.

Stay focused and above the fray and let your idea...your book...your service...whatever it may be...make the impact you meant it to make.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

ANNOUNCING: Winners of the Social Lives book giveaway!

And the big winners of our free giveaway for Wendy Walker's Social Lives is ......(drumroll please)....

Evidence of An Artistic Life! (At least, that is what her blog name is!)


Melissa from Frugal Creativity!

Congratulations, ladies!

And to all those that didn't win: fear not, we're doing ANOTHER book giveaway next month for an amazing memoir, Halfway to Each Other. (Amazon says it pubs Sept. 1, but it actually pubs Sept. 25). It's received early raves here, here, here, and also here.

Back to Social Lives for a moment. As Glamour.com's Little Miss Fortune wrote about it the other day, "recession lit" - a.k.a books like Social Lives, The Penny Pinchers Club, et. al - represent a departure for women's fiction from the credit card-wielding, clackety-clack high heeled heroines of Chasing Harry Winston and Confessions of a Shopaholic. Little Miss Fortune described recession lit as "a new type of chick-friendly fiction packed with characters who are dealing with the reality of today’s economy." Her readers weighed in on this trend, and had lots of interesting thoughts. Like this one:

"This sounds right up my alley. I've given up reading the sort of rich-bitch-socialite-professional-arm-candy books because I keep wanting to slap those fluttery tweety birds. But a-hah! Recession Lit! Yes to that- gimme some realism!" -spikesnsilk (awesome commenter name)

So we want to know, P&P blog readers: What do you think about recession lit? Intrigued? Tell us in the comment section.

And while you think about it, have a gander at the new book trailer for Social Lives!

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What your publicist wants you to know

I chatted with a few friendly book publicists yesterday about what works best when it comes to the author-publicist relationship. Here are five simple pointers to get you started.

1. First things first, talk strategy. It's a good idea to start with a timeline for the campaign, a defined target audience and set expectations. Sure, dream big, but remember, Oprah isn't for everyone. If you've watched her recently, you already know she tends to be celebrity-driven. So unless that's you, be realistic in your goal-setting. Rely on your publicist to steer you to your target audience through the most appropriate media channels (even, gasp, new media!) and trust their expertise.Speaking of new media, consider outside-the-box marketing ideas that go beyond traditional publicity. Twitter is one platform many authors are using to creatively network with potential readers, and they're rolling out ultra-savvy campaigns that spur traditional media. This P&P client landed coverage on Jacket Copy, the L.A. Times book blog, for her Twitter Kindle giveaway aimed at promoting her upcoming book Perseverance.

2. When it comes to the "influencer" mailing - you know, all those celebs who "need" your book? - don't leave it to your publicist. That's an ideal project for your assistant, an intern, or even yourself, if you have the time. Allow your publicist to spend her/his time working directly with media, rather than on those media big mouths who may or may not be interested.

3. Hey, fill us in. We need professional (and recent!) headshots, your contact information, and everything that will help us understand how you climbed the ladder to budding author/aspiring artist/sought-after expert. Aside from what we can learn about you on our own and from the book itself, what's your story? We'll be asked, so the more we know about you, the more equipped we are to respond appropriately. Be willing to do some homework like writing contributed pieces, maintaining a blog, and utilizing Twitter.

4. Communicate. If you're not an email person, tell us. Be clear about that early on. I recently dusted off my faxing skills for a client who is still holding out on a home computer. Missed interview opportunities are unfortunate and can be avoided if your communication mode is defined, efficient and most importantly, two-way. Some authors are missing the boat by being unavailable or too selective when it comes to early morning or late night interviews and market size. Allow your publicist to filter the best requests to you.

5. In keeping with solid communication, also trust that your publicist is working on your behalf even when you aren't calling them anxiously. So relax when activity seems to have slowed. Becoming a media starlet or hitting bestseller status isn't an overnight process. An over-eager author can bog down the process when they blow up the phones, duplicate media contact efforts or email assault the publicist. Your publicist can devote several hours a week to crafting lengthy emails that allay your fears... or he/she can be a better steward of that time, using it to pitch media. It's up to you. Stay informed by establishing an efficient reporting method with your publicist so can be sure you are receiving regular, detailed updates.

Think positive. Be creative, accessible, resourceful. And have fun!

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday web roundup

Here’s a roundup of book news to get your week started off write--I mean, right:

--Apparently Agatha Christie and Quentin Tarantino have something in common. Who knew?

--Also, what do the Lockerbie bomber, Dick Cheney, Janet Jackson and Tom Ridge have in common? They’re all penning tell-all books.

--Oh, and this is what’s on Dick Cheney’s bookshelf.

--Director Peter Jackson explains how he adapted the book The Lovely Bones to film in this short featurette.

--And I don’t think the president will have much time to enjoy Martha’s Vineyard if he actually reads everything on this reading list for the week. What, no Julie & Julia?

--Would you watch an “Antiques Roadshow” for books? I don't know if I could handle all the excitement.

--Elisabeth Gilbert talks to the New York Times about the anxiety she felt writing the follow up to Eat, Pray, Love.

--And finally, with all the vampire lore out there in the literary realm, I guess it had to happen: Twilight author Stephenie Meyer is being sued for copyright infringement.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Ad hero, Emu & You: Stretching Creativity

You can’t blame an advertising major for wanting to quote an ad giant.

At some point in my educational career, I was told the quote, “To be interesting, you must first be interested.” I’ve always attributed the spark of brilliance to James Webb Young, an ad hero and author of the essential guide, A Technique for Producing Ideas. True or not, it sounds like something he’d say.

In his book, Young talks about great creative people being intrigued by the world around them. How great visionaries seek out random info about a variety of topics. Are you curious about hairless emus? Then read about them. Do you want to be able to name significant Roman generals? Study ancient battles. (Or sleep with the history channel blaring in the background) Young encourages people to delve deeply into areas that may not seem relevant to what they do. Why? Because a wide knowledge enables engaged, inquisitive people to see relationships that others might not. For example, the creative team who wrote this ad took two completely separate objects—a vacuum and a plane—recognized a connection, and perfectly communicated the message.

What does this have to do with PR?

PR is the work of relationships. Publicists to media contacts, authors to audiences, authors to media, the combinations are endless. What if instead of seeing possibilities through objects, we saw possibilities through people? Authors should stretch their bounds in terms of who they are having conversations with.

Fellow Twitter-ers, have you ever had that moment where you are on the page of a new follower and you’re scanning their Tweets, evaluating as you read? I do. I’ll admit it. I go through and think, is this relevant to me?
What if instead of asking ourselves if it’s relevant, we open ourselves to the new knowledge we might gain? Even if it’s out of our normal realm of Tweets.

To be interesting, you must first be interested.

In our media training, we talk about social media in terms of involvement. Participation. Being interested not in who is following you, but interested in those you follow.

Let’s step outside of social media. Authors should stretch themselves in how they position their books. See the unexpected relationships. Who can you talk to? Who can you get to listen to your book outside of your initially chosen audience? Where can you read? What cause/group can you connect with that will greater push the distribution of your message?

Example: If you wrote a children’s story about a lost mitten, go read while organizing a clothes drive.

I recently attended an Austin Association for Women in Communication’s luncheon. In a discussion on leadership, the speaker used a word I wasn’t expecting. Service. Authors, consider these questions. How can you demonstrate that your book cares about someone else & is cognizant of someone else’s issues? How does your book engage in your community? Is it based on your hometown? Is it about a group of people you met in your community? How do you and your book serve?

Don’t just entertain. Listen. Respond. Help. This is advice we should all heed, myself included. After all, as JWY may or may not have said, “To be interesting, you first must be interested."

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

BOOK GIVEAWAY: Kick off your Manolos, dig into recession lit with "Social Lives"

Last week, Ruth La Ferla's eloquent piece in the Style section of The New York Times forecast a new trend for women's fiction: "recession lit." "Once unabashedly focused on the perks of wealth and fame, this spate of new fiction is tackling the recession and its attendant woes," wrote La Ferla. In the story, she quoted this section from Social Lives, a novel coming next month by our client Wendy Walker.

“There was little equity in the house after the loan for the new wing they’d put on last year, and the severe drop in the housing market,” she frets. “Nothing remained in the checking account beyond what was needed to pay the bills.”

Can you relate, dear Reader?

GalleyCat interviewed Wendy last Friday about the new economic reality facing women's fiction. Specifically, they asked her about the experience of publishing exactly two novels that focus on women in wealthy communities: one pre-recession (Four Wives), and one mid-recession (Social Lives). From Financial Times onward, everyone in the publishing industry - as well as those who make the the publishing industry possible, readers - are keeping an eye out for writers and books that grapple with the tightened purses of our times. Call it the Age of Recess.

Because we here at P&P are taking the recession lit trend as seriously as anyone, we thought we'd offer something to our plucky readers who could use a little freebie. A moment of escapism while you ignore your 401K, browse online sales, and brew coffee at home! See how the once very, very privileged ladies of Wilshire are navigating the recession waters, in particular Jacqueline Halstead's husband, whose hedge fund husband is being investigated for fraud. (Read Wendy's blog post - and a very moving reader comment - about her character Jacqueline here).

We'll select two winners for this book giveaway. To enter, just leave a comment below, and don't forget to include your email address so we can notify you. Contest closes next Wednesday!

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Twitter giveaway – Perseverance: True Voices of Cancer Survivors

Tomorrow marks the release of Carolyn Rubenstein’s new book, Perseverance: True Voices of Cancer Survivors, which shares the stories of 20 young people who exemplify success in the face of adversity, and the life lessons Carolyn learned from these brave survivors.

The author has decided to celebrate with readers by giving away four Kindle wireless reading devices via Twitter Tuesday, August 18, through Friday, August 21. To enter, simply include the hashtag #perseverance in ONE tweet ONE time during the contest timeframe. A winner will be randomly selected each contest day and will be notified of their Kindle prize in a Twitter direct message. If you still have questions, visit her blog for complete contest rules.

Carolyn will appear on the NBC’s “The Today Show” on August 31 to discuss Perseverance and to mark the beginning of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (September). She is a featured blogger for The Huffington Post and Psychology Today.com.

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