Friday, April 24, 2009

What to do when your email goes down

This week we had a brief email scare.
Email issues are scary for anyone but to a publicist, an email hiccup is akin to a stockbroker losing his trading software to a power surge or a rural mailman losing his alternator on the first leg of his shift--tough to do your job well without it.
But it wasn't always this way--when did we start to rely so much on email as publicists?
Over the past year I have marveled at how much our jobs as publicists have changed. You know the reasons--from media conglomeration to social media platforms--being a good publicist now is as much about being a savvy social media advocate and strategist as it is giving a great phone pitch.
However, when you look at how much publicity has changed over the past 5-10 years, we have transitioned from an environment of almost exclusively phone pitching (don't forget the old fax pitch!) media contacts to email pitching.
Email is the perfect medium for pitching because it allows publicists to get their media contacts all the information they need in a format that they can manage amidst deadlines and other pulls on their time.

So, when a publicist's email goes down--even for a short period of time--it is a stressful event. As an author or publicist, what do you do when you have email problems?
Here are some tips for making the most out of a brief email hiccup:
- Write! We used our brief email hiccup to catch up on press materials for a number of campaigns. Email has a way of becoming a distraction throughout the day and having some down time to work on new pitches, press materials and other documents for our clients was a blessing.
- Get on the phone. We used the email issue as an excuse to talk with a number of media contacts. Although email has become a convenient way to pitch, it doesn't provide the same level of personal communication that a good phone conversation does.
- Catch up on projects that have gotten behind. Again, email can be a distraction and you can use the down time to catch up on projects that may have fallen behind.
- Use the hiccup as a reminder to back up your email files. Most of us use our email accounts to do more than communicate--we store information we know we will need at a later date. Thankfully, we backed everything up at our office but make sure you have similar protections in place.
Our world is changing--first email, then Facebook and now Twitter. For our parents it was letters, then phones and then faxes. We can get so caught up in these different technologies and the conveniences that they provide that sometimes we lose productivity in other areas of our business.
Our brief email issue allowed us to catch up on a few projects and reconnect with a number of media contacts over the phone. I think it was a blessing in disguise.
When your email goes down in the future, take a deep breath and look at it as an opportunity to catch up on other areas of your business.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Twitter Dumb?

Tweet, Tweeted, Twittering, Tweeter, and of course, Twitter. This is the new language of today. In fact, even Oprah Winfrey herself has joined the Twitter bandwagon sending tweets to all of her "fabulous" celebrity friends. But for some, Twitter is a bit overwhelming. No need to fret, help is on its way. Here are the basics for understanding Twitter:

Twitter asks one question and one question only: "What are you doing?" To answer this simply complex question, users can answer via the web, instant message or mobile texting within the 140 character limit. Example: Writing a blog post on Twittering.

But with only 140 characters, users must be mindful of the length of their tweet. For example, if I wanted to share the link to my blog post, I would exceed the 140 characters. However with the convenience of, I have the option of making a long URL tiny. Example: to

Now that you know what to say and how to say it on Twitter, here are few more helpful hints to decoding tweets.

# - hashtag. Placed in front of terms to make it easier to search for on
i.e., Sci-Fi authors at #Phenix Publicity

@ - reply. Indicates you are replying to a specific user or mentioning a user in your tweet
i.e., For more info about what's going on at #Phenix Publicity, check out @PhenixandPhenix

RT - retweet. A repost of someone else's tweet
i.e., @PhenixandPhenix tweets, "New children's author celebrates Earth Day April 22."
I want to post this tweet as my update: RT @PhenixandPhenix New children's author celebrates Earth Day.

So now, everyone go out and tweet away!

Still confused? Feel free to check out the sites below for more information:
Qwitter - A website allowing you to track when followers quit following you on Twitter - A website which allows you to update all your social networks at one time

The Ultimate Guide to Everything Twitter - Great information with more glossary terms, Twitter etiquette, articles, applications and use with cell phones

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Noticer Project: What is all the fuss about?

It has been fun to watch so many people putting the inspiring and perspective-changing message of Andy Andrews' new book, The Noticer (Thomas Nelson), to good use through The Noticer Project.

It is an important movement at a time when many of us can use a pick-me-up amidst the seemingly endless sea of bad news found in the media. Not only is it gratifying to be "noticed" by someone for the impact you have made on their life, but I personally got more out of remembering all the gifts I've been given through the years.

Often we get too busy with our daily lives to think about how lucky we really are. I know I do--this helped put things in perspective. Thanks, Andy!

I thought it might be helpful to provide a central location for those who have blogged about The Noticer Project. Most of the posts are individuals noticing their five, while others feature commentary about the concept itself. For those of you still wondering who you might notice, these posts may give you a good idea.

This is by no means a complete list and doesn't feature the many notes throughout the Facebook universe. Have I missed you? Shoot me an email.

Pages and pages of notices on

Andy Andrews
Remember that you can send a personal email to those you plan to "notice" directly from The Noticer Project website. By doing so, you also add your voice to the many notices that can be found there and give a more public recognition of your five.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

We have quite a few fans of Jane Austen’s works on the Phenix & Phenix team. In fact, when we had our media analysis meeting for Jane Austen Ruined My Life a few months ago, it was a resounding, “YES, we want this book.” Personally, I’ve never been able to get into to Austen’s works, although I certainly understand their redeeming qualities.

However, I do like a good Zombie story and/or flick. What do they have to do with each other?

This, dear reader, is what they have to do with each other:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance (Quirk Books) by Seth Grahame-Smith hit the shelves earlier this month to great success. As of this writing, the book is in the top 5 on The New York Times’ Paperback Trade Fiction Best Seller List. The “literary mash-up” opens with this take on the immortalized first line of Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." Indeed. This week, Grahame-Smith granted The Toronto Star a fun interview about the book and how it came to be.

According to, studios are now clamoring for the movie rights to the Zombie-ized retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Also, last week Publisher’s Weekly reported that Grahame-Smith has inked a new, two book deal worth six figures with Grand Central Publishing. His first mash-up with Grand Central: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Per PW: “The proposal for Grahame-Smith's new book sold at auction Wednesday and the story is a loose sketch of Lincoln's life with one twist--honest Abe is the world's most skilled vampire hunter.”

What literary mash-ups would you like to see?

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Kris Saknussemm coming to Austin update: BEERLAND!

Kris Saknussemm, author of Private Midnight, will be giving a reading next week at Beerland on Red River. He'll be speaking against a backdrop of live "broken word mutant jazz." Um, we can't wait??

See you there, Austin!

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Take me back to Manhattan: Jack Ford's book launch recapped

This week, I had the wonderful privilege of attending Jack Ford's book launch for his new book, "The Osiris Alliance" (Ovation Books, April 2009). Held at the prestigious Yale Club in NYC, the event was a great success and those in attendance were truly genuine in the regard they held for Jack. Many may recognize Jack as the former chief legal correspondent for NBC News, but let me briefly give some background:

Jack is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning television news anchor and former trial lawyer. Since becoming a journalist, he has served as an anchor and correspondent for NBC News, ABC News and Court TV. He is recognized as one of the top legal journalists in America and currently co-anchors TruTv’s “In Session.” A graduate of Yale University, where he is currently a visiting professor, and the Fordham University School of Law, Ford has also been the recipient of a number of honorary degrees, recognizing his professional accomplishments and his extensive public service work.

For all of his accomplishments he is quite the gentleman, refreshingly humble and truly a one-of-a-kind guy. The trip to New York was a whirlwind. I flew in and caught a cab into the city on Tuesday afternoon. The event was that evening and right around the corner from my hotel and Grand Central Station.

Numerous friends, family and colleagues were in attendance to support and celebrate Jack and “The Osiris Alliance,” some of which included Dan Abrams, NBC News chief legal correspondent, Ashleigh Banfield, “In Session” anchor, Katie Couric, “CBS Evening News” anchor, and Jamie Floyd, “In Session” anchor. I was pleased to meet Jack’s wife, Dorothy, and his extended truTV family. Jack signed copies of “The Osiris Alliance,” told his story about how John Grisham pulled him aside and told him to just write the book and posed for pictures with friends and family.

I flew back to Austin the next day and was surprised to see snow flurries on my trek back to JFK. Snow in April was a big deal to this Texas girl!

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Where social media meets a perspective-changing movement

I must confess: I haven't been this excited about a campaign in a while.

As you will read below, there is an amazing amount of buzz building for Andy Andrews' new book, The Noticer (Thomas Nelson, Apr. 2009).

Thomas Nelson is a longtime client of ours and they regularly bring us great books by leading authors. They also push the envelope with their creativity and willingness to step outside the box. We're happy to be working with them and Andy Andrews on The Noticer Project, which launched yesterday.

What is The Noticer Project?

If you haven't been asked this question already, I hope someone will pose it to you over the coming weeks.

If asked, you can explain that The Noticer Project is a worldwide movement to "notice" the five most influential people in your life and it is inspired by Andy Andrews' new book, The Noticer. The movement started yesterday and I'm excited to see a number of people already taking part.

For more details on The Noticer Project, please visit the offical website here or join the Facebook group here.

You can also read a letter from Andy about why he's so excited about The Noticer Project here.

What is the goal of The Noticer Project?

Every once in a while a book comes along that has the right message at just the right time and proceeds to impact lives around the world. I think many would agree that we are in need of such a perspective-shaping message right now.

Many of you have read the New York Times bestseller, The Traveler's Gift, written by author and speaker Andy Andrews, which walks the reader through the seven decisions that determine personal success. Many people point to this book as a "game-changer" in their lives--a book that put them back on the right track. As powerful as The Traveler's Gift was and is, I think Andy's new book, The Noticer, has the potential to impact even more lives.

To say we're living in challening times is a major understatement--and a bit cliche--but with many struggling to find a new job, pay their mortgage and keep food on the table, it can be very difficult to keep the right perspective on life.

Andy Andrews knows this from personal experience--he not only lost both of his parents at a very young age but also became homeless soon-after, having to resort to living under a pier. Andy has long since gotten back on his feet but he knows firsthand how many are feeling right now.

Andy seems to have known that this book had the potential to not just entertain, but also engage readers to put its principles into action. In The Noticer, he talks a lot about perspective--something that many of us lose grip of as a result of the busyness of our daily lives.

The main question in many of our minds was how to turn the principles of the book into action.
Then an idea--what if we encouraged people to take a minute and notice those people who have impacted their lives--wouldn't that be an experience that put things back in perspective for many people? After all, when we think about the gifts we have thanks to the important people in our lives, it tends to put financial strains and other stresses back in perspective.
Andy decided to launch The Noticer Project out of a hope that people wouldn't wait until it's too late to notice those people that have made a positive impact on their lives. Far too often we take those treasured relationships for granted and end up sending a letter to the family after a funeral to tell them how much of an impact their loved one had on our lives (while hoping the lost loved one knew what we thought of them when they passed).

Why is it so hard for us to "notice" those people before it is too late?

That's where The Noticer Project comes in--it's a movement to push the pause button on our busy lives and "notice" five people that you owe a great debt to thanks to their love and care through the years.

Noticing those people can be as private (a hand-written note or taking an old teacher to coffee) or as public (posting on your blog, joining the Facebook group or posting a note on Facebook like I did here) as you want it to be. Andy's team has also set up a website that allows people to publicly notice their five.

When it comes down to it, the important thing is not how you "notice" your five, but that you take time to say thanks. When you do that, not only do you let them know how they have impacted you, but you also gain a new perspective on the gifts within your own life.

Here are a few public examples of those taking part in The Noticer Project:

Head over to The Noticer Project website for a running scroll of those being noticed.

Why am I so excited about The Noticer Project?

I think The Noticer Project is going to be a great experiment on the power of social media to advance a meaningful agenda. The "25 Things" movement saw great success on Facebook and although The Noticer Project is more focused on others than it is ourselves--as the "25 Things" note was--I'm hoping that people see their various social media platforms (from Facebook to Twitter) as great tools for publicly "noticing" those who have impacted them.

I hope that you enjoy reconnecting with those five on your list as you take part in The Noticer Project.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Mt. Hermon Conference: Day 4

Have I mentioned how big the redwoods are out here? Radio towers with branches.

A few of us broke away yesterday to go redwooding at the state park near Mt. Hermon. The towers graciously posed with us as I filled my digitial camera with pictures (which don't do the trees justice).

Very cool stuff. If you're in California and can breakaway to see these thousand-year old trees, you'd be smart to do so.

Today is day four of the Mt. Hermon writers conference and we're having a blast. This morning was the moment of truth for my publicity track attendees. We practiced television interviews--each author brought a list of ten sample media questions and we ran through as many as we could before the three minute buzzer went off. For many of these authors it was their first interview and I was impressed with the quality of their answers.

We worked on several tips for TV interviews, including:

- Use narratives and examples to illustrate points. Show not tell is a virtue as a writer and the same principle applies to TV interviews.

- Credential yourself early in the interview. Lead into your first answer with a statement like "In my twenty years of experience as a counselor, I've learned..."

- Have tips and resources available for viewers on your website to save you time during an answer and add viewers to your site. Use a statement like this "I list the top ten tips for avoiding spring break travel stress on my website."

- Lead into answers with a list--it not only keeps you on topic, but it also lets the host know when you're done answering. For example, "My research has shown that these three things are the biggest threats to married couples, first..."

All of the authors did well and I'm excited to watch as they build their platforms beyond the conference.

Twitter is a hot topic at Mt. Hermon this year. The younger authors are busy trying to explain to the older authors why it makes sense for them to dive into another social networking platform. After all, many of them recently gave in and made the jump to Facebook.

Last night my new buddy Andy Merrick gave a late night presentation to a room packed with authors on why Twitter matters to them. He had an uphill battle from the start because many of the authors in the room were against another drain on their time and if you've ever tried to explain Twitter to someone who has never seen it, you know that it's not an easy thing to do.

After some discussion and a few good examples from Andy, many of those in the crowd began to be swayed. As I sit in the coffee lounge right now there are authors fanned out around the room trying to figure out how to begin their new Twlifes.

Although many of them are still skeptical, in a few days they will be writing blog posts telling their friends how useful it has become for them. Remarkable thing--this Twitter.

If you are interested in following some of the Mt. Hermon early adopters, Thomas Umstattd has posted a helpful link here. Those of you interested in searching for Mt. Hermon 'tweets' can search the hash tag #mthermon

Mt. Hermon Quick Hits

  • I've been communicating back and forth with the office and we've got a tremendous amount of buzz building for the launch of The Noticer Project tomorrow. Who will you notice? Learn more about the grassroots movement here.

  • One of the authors in my morning track, BJ Hamrick, has a great blog for teens here.

  • I know I mentioned this but it's really remarkable to hear the chatter around this coffee shop--60-70 year old authors saying things like "follow me" and "did you just 'tweet me'?" Good stuff.

  • Have I mentioned that Bill Butterworth is funny? Another great performance from him last night.

  • I'm ready to see my family--my man Luke (18 months old) is going to be twice as tall when I get home. Can't wait to see him.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Mt. Hermon Conference: Day 2

Still sunny and 70 degrees out here. Amazing stuff.

Today was the first day of my major morning track, titled "Bring on the Media." I'm still not sold on the title--it sounds like I'm encouraging an author/media smackdown or something.

"Who wants some--did you say something, Redbook?"

I've seen a few public back and forths between authors and journalists and while they can be entertaining (if you're not the publicist caught in between), I'm more interested in making sure the class doesn't feel intimidated by the publicity process.

I started things off by commenting that the changes within the media over the past six months make the publishing industry look stable by comparison. As publicists, we're having to evolve almost daily as the media consolidates, changes and in some cases just disappears.

For authors watching that process from the sidelines, it can be worrisome, if not flat-out depressing. My morning track is all about prepping authors for those new challenges--and more importantly, new opportunities.

A few of the things we covered today:

- Social media is all about building authentic relationships--not hawking books.

- Media members are searching for sources and guests online and if you don't have a good website with fresh, professional information--you're missing out on opportunities.

- Thanks to blogs, Twitter and other apps, authors have more control than ever over their platforms. No excuses remain for not plugging in online.

- Buzz doesn't build overnight--it's a result of hard work and a unique/entertaining perspective communicated to an ever-growing audience over time.

- Don't be intimidated by social media--learn as much as you can about how to approach it and dive right in.

Mt. Hermon Quick Hits: Day 2

  • Bill Butterworth is one funny dude. He gave his first talk last night and the guy had us eating out of his hands.

  • I've got some very smart, savvy authors in my course, including Annie Downs, Sharon Norris Elliott, Holley Gerth and others that I will get dirty looks from for not mentioning here.

  • My poor roommate. Every time I roll over in bed it sounds like I'm doing a cannon-ball on a creaky set of box-springs. It's brutal.

  • I haven't had to dodge any careening branches yet today--stay tuned.

  • All weekend I have been asked for examples of an author with a good Web presence and I always point people to my good friend Vicki Courtney. Her website is excellent and her blog is even better.

  • The food is amazing here--I feel like I'm on a cruise. I thought people were just being nice but it's as good as advertised.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Mt. Hermon Conference: Day 1

As some of you have read on Twitter, I'm participating in the Mt. Hermon Writers Conference this weekend. It is one of the most well-regarded writers conferences in the country and takes place just outside of San Jose, CA, in the middle of an amazing redwood forest and I'm honored to be on the faculty this year.

After arriving yesterday, I had a conference call with the Thomas Nelson team about Andy Andrews' new book, The Noticer, and the grassroots movement born from it, The Noticer Project. More about The Noticer Project when it launches on Tuesday, April 7th but I will say that this is a book that is going to turn a lot of heads. Andy is a tremendous author and world-renowned speaker and I think The Noticer is his most important (and best) work yet.

Once I arrived at Mt. Hermon, I had some free time and thought it would be cool to sit underneath a few redwoods and work on my presentation. I was feeling very Californian until out of nowhere a massive branch dove out of one of the trees and crashed onto the sidewalk next to me. Hmm--maybe the coffee house instead?

I have gotten a bit of work done but have spent most of my time connecting with friends and discussing the publishing industry. CBE has been a big topic and most have an opinion on what should have been done differently. I think the consensus is that at its core it was a good idea and there's probably a way to make it work in the future.

Last night at the faculty introductions someone stood up and tongue-in-cheeked on how static the industry has been for the past few year--"nothing's changing, y'all." Right, nor in print media or investment banking...

It really summed up the mood of many I've talked to--from the Kindle 2 to consolidation to layoffs to other financial woes--our industry is changing at such a rapid pace that it can be hard to keep up. With so much noise, this conference is a refreshing opportunity to get back to what we all love about what we do--helping good books find readers.

Mt. Hermon Quick Hits

  • Rachel Williams and Dave Talbot have done a tremendous job so far with this event--both hold up to their great reputations.

  • I just had a chance to see Anita Higman's new book, Love Finds You in Humble, TX, and it looks very impressive. Kudos to Summerside Press for a great cover.

  • Mary E. DeMuth has a new novel out called Daisy Chain that is getting some very good buzz.

  • I had a great conversation with the always charming Brandilyn Collins last night and enjoyed hearing more about her soon-to-be released novel, Exposure.
  • I enjoyed meeting Bruce W. Martin yesterday and hearing more about his speaking and forthcoming book, Your Perfect Storm.

Although I'm thrilled to be at Mt. Hermon, I am bummed to be missing what should be a very fun wedding tomorrow. Our manager of media relations, Stephanie Mayabb, is getting married tomorrow to Jeremy Ridge in Austin. Congrats to them both--a great couple starting what should be an awesome journey.

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