Monday, May 12, 2008

Talking Shop: Q&A with your favorite insiders

Karen Campbell, Director of Public Relations, Zondervan
Karen Campbell heads up the Public Relations department at Zondervan and is one of the best in business. It is always interesting to hear about publicity from the publisher's perspective, so we asked her to share some of her wisdom with our readers...

Describe your role as Director of Public Relations at Zondervan.
Create communication and PR campaigns to increase awareness of Zondervan and it’s brands with consumers, retailers, and authors. I communicate with media regarding new product releases, best-selling backlist products and titles that speak to news-breaking events and trends. I also secure interviews and media attention for Zondervan authors, contributors, and related spokespeople for maximum sales and brand impact.

Zondervan has been on the cutting edge of Web 2.0 promotion (a blog, online newsroom, social networking pages and other initiatives) for many years--how have these ventures helped your titles?
We have an amazing team of people at Zondervan who are completely dedicated to communicate information about our authors, books and tours online through social networking sites, blogging, websites, etc. It really is amazing how fast word can spread about a new book by posting information on our website or working with an author to create a group on a social networking site.

How have you seen book publicity change during your years at Zondervan?
I think book publicity changes as the publishing industry changes—more technology based. It is also directly affected by culture and as pivotal events take place, the need for experts, information or just a good story change. There are also more and more media outlets available with more and more competition for those spots.

What type of media do you think is most effective for new authors?
I think it’s getting the word out there about your books—having people engage with it and start talking about it. Whether that’s through interaction online via a YouTube video, an author’s personal blog, reviews or television interviews.

How would you describe your ideal author?
Someone who doesn’t want to be on Oprah. Seriously, I would have to say it’s someone who has reasonable expectations, is available for appropriate interviews and appreciates the hard work put into getting the word out about their book.

What is one thing that would surprise authors about what publicists do?
An author of mine recently wrote her own press materials. She mentioned in her email that writing these materials was a lot harder than she thought. It took her days to figure out what to say and she is the one closest to the book!

What is your favorite thing about working in the publishing industry?
It’s the pleasure of reading books and talking about them for a living. It’s a great industry to be in for a book lover!

Is there a particular booking that you are most proud of?
I secured an article in The New York Times for Greg Boyd, author of The Myth of a Christian Nation. At the time, I wasn’t sure where the article would be placed. When I got the paper the morning it ran, I looked and it was on the front page! Needless to say, the article spurred more media attention and we doubled our first year sales expectations in just a couple weeks.

What advice would you give authors about book publicity?
Let your publicist know about any media outlets you’ve been on or worked with in the past or any relationships you have with media that might help secure coverage for your book.

Be patient. It’s not always an instant thing and may take a month or so to build interest and momentum.

How do you think book PR is likely to change over the next few years?
I definitely think coverage and word-of-mouth will continue to grow online/electronically.

What should readers be watching for from Zondervan this fall?
We have quite a bit!

Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell and Don Golden, Sin Boldly by Cathleen Falsani, Where’s Your Jesus Now? by Karen Spears Zacharias, Faith & Doubt by John Ortberg, You Matter More Than You Think by Jim Cymbala, Every Now & Then by Karen Kingsbury, The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher by Rob Stennett

What are you reading right now?
The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR by Al Ries and Laura Ries, Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, My Beautiful Idol by Pete Gall and Certain Girls: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner.

How did you land in the publishing industry?
One of my most respected college professors was an author at a publishing company and knew they were looking for people. I started out my first year in customer service and then moved to publicity—that was 10 years ago…

Who is an author we should keep an eye on?
Rob Bell.

What would surprise Zondervan authors about Karen Campbell?
I’m a huge NHL Hockey fan. Let’s Go Red Wings!!!

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