Friday, January 30, 2009

Based on the novel

I just want to take this opportunity to briefly speak to anyone out there who has ever said, “I really think my book should be made into a film.”

Okay, stop right there. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer here, but after hearing this phrase for the 1 billionth time, we at P&P thought something should be said on the subject.

First off, if your goal is to one day have a film on the big screen based on a story you wrote, perhaps you should look into screenwriting. Cut out the middle man. I’m just sayin’....

Second, let’s look at the facts: I recently came across a great article on the Boston Globe’s site about just how many movies are actually made from books these days (fiction, specifically).

One publisher and literary agent interviewed notes that, in the 25 years she’s been in the business, most novels she’s worked with have been optioned for a film—but none made.

However, this isn’t the case for all. Some book rights are snapped up and made in no time. In fact, we’ve had some recent success with books making it into production, including Entering Hades, a true crime book about a serial killer.

Of course, here are also examples like recent Oscar buzz-worthy flick Revolutionary Road, a book that was written in 1961 and just made into a movie in 2008 (after much campaigning from star Kate Winslet and her husband, director Sam Mendes).

Another instance is novelist Elinor Lipman, who sold an option to her book Then She Found Me 19 years ago, only to have it made into a movie that went into limited release in April 2008.

And if the recent Watchmen fiasco is any indication, sometimes it may just be better not to have your book optioned at all.

In the end, it’s important to remember why you’re an author in the first place—hopefully because you feel a calling to share your story with readers and you’re passionate about what you do. The goal of your publicity campaign shouldn’t necessarily be to get your book made into a movie, but to establish your presence as an author.

And if you write that awesome book and Hollywood does come a knockin’...well, that’s just icing on the cake.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What book publicists can learn from band promotion. (Hint: social media!)

Lately, I have been a little bit obsessed with social media's affect on book publicity. I know, I know - it seems like we publicists will not shut up about blogs, Facebook, and Twitter (see Rusty's post from Jan. 23). But here in Austin, we at Phenix & Phenix have kind of a unique perspective on all this. See, we are home of the DIY Artist - be it a musician on a street corner, a scarf-knitter in Austin Craft Mafia, or a filmmaker with his Panisonic VariCam - and as such, these individuals must quickly learn the fine art of Self Promotion. How do they do it? Why, social media of course. It's part of the reason Austin made the Top Ten U.S. Cities for Social Media list.

Also - advance apologies for yet another Recession Soapbox moment - the internet is relatively cheap, and because of that, it's most consumers' media staple. As we all get a little more thrifty, we may think about canceling a print subscription, or not renewing our cable package - but how many of us are going to shut off the internet? Not a lot. (Especially when you can read the same print information, and watch most of those cable shows you just canceled, online). So, if it's not drilled into your mind already:


Publicists, I think we need to get as creative as possible in 2009 to promote our authors online. Being an Austinite, I'm taking some cues from local bands. Now, band promotion and book promotion are different, it's true; but here's what I see working really well for our musically-oriented counterparts.


Now, doesn't this look inviting? This is a particularly well-designed poster, but it doesn't need to be that involved. Here's a simpler poster I saw recently for an author reading here in town:

As we continue to interact with local bloggers to promote book events - and we're only going to do more of that as time goes on, publicists - I think these posters work very effectively. So much more exciting than a plain email that says, "Hi blogger, my author has a reading at this place on this day...mind posting something about it??" No. Let's rockstar it up a bit. Give the blogger some bling to post.


Most of us are on-board with podcasts, which run anywhere from 5 minutes to a few hours, but what if you want to offer bloggers just a little vocal snippet of an author's work? Say, 30-60 seconds? Here's an awesome site where you can do just that, Muzicons. All you need? An MP3 file of your author reading.

See the cute "Result" widget on the right? You can then offer that to bloggers to post, so they can give their readers a taste of the book we're promoting.


A few weeks ago (Jan. 9), I posted about a genius idea Overlook Press had: to host an online, Facebook giveaway for one of their Elvis books on The King's birthday. They received calls from national radio shows for this clever stunt, and got books out to excited fans in the process.

Here's another Facebook buzz-building method that bands like to do: Create a Facebook event, and invite tons of people to it. Publicists, this needn't be an author signing, although that's a perfect application. I've seen bands invite friends to watch a YouTube trailer, or participate in a one-day CD giveaway hosted on their home website. Many of you may already be doing that, and if so, hats off. But what's great about the Facebook event is that, unlike plain old email, you can see how other people are reacting to it - they can attend or not attend, post comments on the event wall, etc.

These are just a smattering of the ways we book publicists can use social media to build our author's online presence. We've raided YouTube with our book trailers, we're now Twittering, but what else can we do? I'd love to hear other ideas in the comments.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

P&P Favorite Blogs of 2009

Whether catching up on the latest celebrity gossip or learning more about the publishing industry, we at P&P love reading blogs. It's a chance for us to catch up on what going on in that big ole world we are livin' in.

Check out some of our favorite blogs below:
(in no particular order)

1. Gawker: with a focus on media celebs, it's a source of Manhattan media news and gossip.

2. Pop Candy: recounts personal experiences with celebrities, offers hot gossip and answers readers' questions.

3. The Book Publicity Blog: provide tips and information about publishing / marketing trends for book publicists.

4. From Where I Sit: from How to Shave Ten Hours Off Your Work Week to The Beginners Guide to Twitter, this blog provides the ins and outs of the publishing industry.

5. welcome to optimism: a weblog about life at wieden + kennedy london.

6. Perez Hilton: Hollywood's Most-Hated Web Site and the internet's most notorious gossip columnist.

7. eatmakeread: all about good eats, fun stuff to do and interesting books / articles.

8. Organette: all food, all the time.

9. dooce: a chronicle of one woman's life from her single days to postpartum depression.

10. Hostess with the Mostess: an innovative online resource for hip, modern, and unique entertaining ideas.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Time to Twitter

Are you on Twitter?

If so, you've seen the "fail whale" a few times. He pops up when Twitter is a bit overloaded with traffic--a sign the 140 character movement is spreading to even more people.

By now you've heard of Twitter. Surely you're heard about it. If not, throw "Twitter" into Google and learn about one of the fastest growing movements online.

At first I was a bit skeptical but I've since been converted and now view it as a major pillar of our firm's online platform. Here is what Twitter allows P&P to do:

- Talk about our clients (and book media for them)
- Stay connected to others in the book industry

- Discuss recent client wins, new projects and events

- Hear about the latest news--instantly

What I've found most rewarding about Twitter is our ability to engage in instant conversations and see how the book industry is responding to the newest literary and national news, new books and trends. It's something no other platform offers and what a valuable tool it can be.

If you are just getting started, I'm sure you are a bit uncertain how to go about building a following. Here are a few ideas:

- Start following people that you want to follow you - many of them will reciprocate.

- Ask your best industry contacts whether they are on Twitter. You'll be surprised how many are already there.

- Add your Twitter address to your email signature.

- To connect with others within the book industry, consult Jennifer Tribe's handy directory here. If you are not already on the list, submit a comment on the bottom of the list and she will add you.

(side note--Jennifer's idea to build a directory is responsible for a large number of our new followers. It also generated a significant amount of chatter for her company--it was a great idea)

Connect with us on Twitter here.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

The author headshot. Let’s discuss.

When it comes to headshots, we’ve seen it all. There have been writers posed with their animals – dogs, cats, even a tiger. Non sports-related authors in athletic gear on the slopes and courtside. Even shots a la “Glamour Shots by Deb” from Napolean Dynamite. Without the boa or soft camera lens effect, we have to wonder if the author on the dust jacket is the same person.

So if you invest so much in what’s inside the book, why not take just as much care with what’s on the book? Your publicist will thank you for a polished, professional headshot that is message-appropriate. When negotiating national television appearances, publicists are often required to submit a headshot and the quality of that photo – no matter how good looking you are – speaks volumes for your credibility as an author or expert source.

Do you really want that grainy photo of you in a muscle shirt when you still had a full head of hair to represent you as a respected author? Before you say cheese, consider these pointers.


  • stick with business or business casual attire.
  • add a statement necklace like chunky layered beads or turquoise. Style consultant Sherrie Mathieson, also author Forever Cool, of owns this look.
  • be truthful about your appearance with a recent photo (no outdated shots taken 10 years and 10 pounds ago).
  • invest in a professionally photographed portrait and rely on a prol for the best quality, light and digital quality.
  • offer a variety of expressions and settings. Your publicist can play up your various facets when pitching different audiences
  • match the tone of your headshot to your book’s message.


  • go full body. Remember, it’s a “head” shot.
  • submit photos from vacation or locations where you aren’t the primary focal point.
  • go glam. Present your true self, sans props with current makeup and hair so you are recognizable in appearance and in public.
  • overdo it, ladies. Play up one of your best features (ex. your lips or eyes ), but not both. The rules of makeup application also apply to jewelry – go with a statement necklace or bold earrings, not both.
  • careful to not overwhelm your headshot with bulky scarves and hats.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

End of an Era

All you children of the 80's, listen up: according to an afternoon Tweet from @mediaisdying, Teen Magazine has ceased publication.

Before the dawn of CosmoGirl, Teen People, Facebook, cell phones and words like "frenemy," was a little magazine called Teen. Right alongside Bop and Teen Beat. Bring back memories?

Pre-teen girls (ok, including myself) went crazy for the pullout centerfolds of 80's - early 90's heartthrobs and plastered their bedroom walls. Oh yes - Michael J. Fox (Teen Wolf days), Fred Savage, Boy George, the cast of Goonies. Oh, and let's not forget all pages devoted to NKOTB.

Well, it's the end of an era. Thanks for the memories, Teen. So long!

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Dante Goes Digital

I was perusing Jacket Copy earlier this week when this article about a University of Texas professor caught my eye. As a fiercely proud Longhorn, I try to read anything that has to do with my alma mater. For all you fans of Dante and medieval Italian literature, this is pretty cool. Guy Raffa, a professor of Italian at UT, has brought Dante to the world of Web 2.0, Flash enabled websites and digital awesomeness with his website, Danteworlds. The site is an interactive companion to his academic title, Danteworlds: A Reader's Guide to the Inferno (U. of Chicago Press, 2007).

Danteworlds allows visitors to "walk" through the three worlds of the afterlife as presented in Dante's Divine Comedy. You can visit Inferno, Purgatory and Paradiso and click on regions that exist in each realm. The various nooks and crannies of the site also include explanatory notes, study questions, artistic images by Botticelli and Suloni Robertson (some of which are quite terrifying,) and audio snippets read in Italian. According to the website, all this is "aimed at enriching the experience of reading Dante's poetic vision of a voyage literally out of this world." Personally, I think the site achieves this goal and then some. What a neat resource for students and fans of Dante's works.

Authors, take note. While it's certainly not necessary to create a tricked out, Flash enabled hypertext, be creative when it comes to your web efforts. Don't be afraid to pursue "outside the box" ideas for your website or blog. An excellent example is that of a new favorite author of mine, Ed Park. Park has made his website a series of e-mails sent back and forth between characters in his critically acclaimed novel, Personal Days. The e-mails contain news about the novel, media hits and so on. It's a cool, different way to keep readers informed of what's going on with the book.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Long Live The Freelancer: Top 5 Reasons They're Your BFF

As publicists and authors, we all have pie-in-the-sky ambitions for that book or author to land ink in a dream publication, often overlooking other opportunities that can be just as fruitful, sometimes more so.

Enter the freelancer. If you haven’t made one your BFF yet, you should. It’s true that sometimes, a freelancer will interview you before his/her story has gotten the green light from a publication – but this is rarely the case. Like most of us, freelancers are interested in getting paid, and want to devote their time to interviews that already have a publication behind them. So when a freelancing reporter approaches you and the story gets ink, it can mean big results. Just consider these five reasons why most publicists ardently seek out relationships with freelancers:

1. Most national magazines use them. Have you recently thumbed through your favorite magazine only to see numerous stories with the title “Contributing writer” or “special to Glamour” in the byline? You are probably reading a piece by a freelancer. National magazines actually source most of their writing assignments to freelancers, who are managed by a team of editors.

2. They likely work for more than one publication. Possibly the biggest value in a freelancer lies in the fact that they often work for more than one publication. So, instead of pitching your book/expertise to one staff writer who works for Shape you could instead pitch your story to a freelancer who writes for Shape, Glamour and Marie Claire. Bonus!
3. They’re more likely to keep you as a source. Because freelancers are writing stories for a variety of publications with a wide range of topics, they need a broader source list. Interview with a freelancer once and potentially be a repeat source down the road.

4. They are always looking for quotes. Be it a tip sheet they’re working on, a feature story or a round-up of “best books for Mother’s Day,” freelancers are always looking for expert sources to quote. This is a great opportunity for you to provide information about a given topic, which highly bolsters your credentials (ex: “Shelby Sledge has lent her publicity expertise to USA Today, GQ and”).

5. Print publications turn to freelancers in a down economy. As the economy goes south, freelancers will be more heavily relied upon. Publications across the country have made staff cuts, and when that happens, the freelancer becomes king. Why? Well, it’s easier to pay a freelancer’s per-story fee than an in-house reporter’s annual salary. Many of the reporters who were recently laid off by major publications – think New York Times, Chicago Tribune, etc. – now command impressive freelance portfolios with great contacts. Befriend one, and you’ll have an “in” to the publications you covet.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Best of the Blogosphere

I polled a few publicists here for hightlights topping various blogrolls this week. A smattering of results includes:

All the book industr
y people you should be following on Twitter has been compiled onto one tidy little list, which came to us via Yen's always in-the-know Book Publicity Blog, originating here.

By way of "The 26th Story," The New York Times revealed a totally interactive and very cool billboard campaign by BBDO for HBO’s “Big Love” (of which I am a big fan). It brings the concept of PostSecret to the streets.

L.A. Times "Jacket Copy" finally revealed “How to read 462 books in one year." Thank goodness!When trying to explain how she's able to read so many books, Sarah Weinman (who also writes the LA Times' "Dark Passages" column,) had this to say: "It's like I'm reading from a whole-language standpoint instead of phonics -- that's the only way I can figure out how to explain it.”

Heather Armstrong of is headed to Austin‘s BookPeople in April to promote her upcoming memoir about postpartum, It Sucked and Then I Cried. (Simon Spotlight Entertainment). We love the cover. Ahem, shameless plug: Heather Armstrong is also a contributor in a book we’re currently promoting, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms.

Peter Shankman reported on a tweet gone awry – a heed to all who engage in social networking: “Be careful what you post.”

It's all about the 'Battlestar' this week – the final season begins tonight, and everyone on the blogosphere is guessing who the final cylon is. Wired’s “Underwired” reports on the various parties being organized in its honor. Word on the street says there’s a few of these so-called “frak parties” going down in Austin tonight.

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