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'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

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Friday, August 14, 2009

#FollowFriday: Blog Edition

I'm a big fan of #FollowFriday on Twitter. It's a great chance to give shout-outs to friends and colleagues, while also building new relationships.

I think FollowFriday also works for blogs, so today I'm going to recommend a few smart blogs I think you should be following:
  • The Book Publicity Blog -- Ok, if you read our blog you're probably already following this one but it's a must-read for publicity types.
  • Enlightened Business -- Scott Jeffrey consistently provides smart tips, resources and ideas for creative professionals
  • Lisa Tener's Writing Blog -- Wondering how to find an agent? Need help with your proposal? Working on an internet platform? Lisa's your coach.
  • Michael Hyatt's Blog -- Mike's blog gets plenty of good publicity because he's earned it with quality content. A must for leaders in the publishing industry and beyond.
  • BookPros[e] -- Everything from distribution info to how to use quotation marks correctly.
  • Texas Pages Blog -- Michael Merschel is one of the best book review editors in the country and does a fabulous job of providing Texas literary content here.
  • Follow The Reader -- We love NetGalley and the many cool things they do, including this blog.
  • GalleyCat -- This is my favorite publishing industry blog--Jason and Ron do a tremendous job day in and day out.
  • Welcome to Optimism -- This is my wild card pick. W+K is leading ad agency and this is their UK blog. Great insight into the creative process. I'm a huge fan.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

From book to film

Lots of literature on the silver screen this year—here are some of the latest book-to-film tidbits:

  • Julia Child’s famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, has shot back to the bestseller list some 50 years after first being published. The film “Julie & Julia” reached #2 at the weekend box office.

  • For all the romance lovers out there, “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” based on the bestselling novel by Audrey Niffenegger, hits box offices this weekend. (This means you male moviegoers who dragged your significant other to “G.I. Joe” last week have some payback coming. And his name is Eric Bana.)

  • A new trailer has been released for director Spike Jonze’s interpretation of Where the Wild Things Are. Personally, can’t wait to see this one! Less CGI, more monster suits, I say.

  • Have you seen the new trailer for the adaptation of The Lovely Bones? It’s directed by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings notoriety, who introduces the trailer. If you ask me, any work of literature is safe in his hands.

  • Speaking of Peter Jackson, he updated fans on the status of The Hobbit film at this year’s Comic Con. (It’s not quite green-lit, but the book will be translated into two films.)

  • And the folks at GalleyCat report that Julia Roberts was seen at a Brooklyn bookstore yesterday filming scenes for the upcoming adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, Eat, Pray, Love.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Join P&P's web design team

It's time.

Actually, the time passed a year or two ago. Time for a new website for Phenix & Phenix.


We talk to clients until we are blue in the face about the fabulous benefits of building their sites on a social media-friendly platform and it's time for us to make the jump as well.

Luckily, we're almost finished building a new one.

That's where you come in. We're looking to our friends, clients, media contacts and other colleagues to let us know what you would like to see from a P&P website. Here's a taste of what's coming:

A blog hosted on our actual website? Check.

A "why you should visit us in Austin" page? Check.

Significantly upgraded online press rooms for each client? Check.

Video content from great potential guests? Check.

The ability to easily share content? Check.

Moderately cheesy head shots from our staff? Check.

Case studies, praise and other background on P&P's 15 year history? Check.

The ability to opt-in to a monthly email regarding potential guests/sources for your newspaper, radio show, blog, TV program, etc.? Check.

We're interested in hearing from you as we put the finishing touches on our new site--what would you like to see from P&P?

How can we provide the resources, information and tools through our website to make it as effective as possible for you?

Let us know by posting a comment or emailing me at If it is a cool idea, we'll publicly credit you as a member of the P&P web design team on Twitter.

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Biting the hand that feeds

***This post is written by Kelly Stonebock, new publicist at P&P.

Author’s social media success turns to silence

Curious indeed. While perusing Twitter, I stumbled upon this Texas Monthly article with native Austinite author Julie Powell. The film adaptation of Powell’s book Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, starring Meryl Streep, releases tomorrow. While reading, I was stopped dead in my tracks at the following Q & A:

TM: I noticed you stopped posting on Twitter. Why did you stop tweeting?

When someone asks me about Twitter, I feel like I’m 82 years old. I stopped tweeting—I was actually given a gag order on the tweeting—because Sony Pictures wanted to handle the whole advertising tweet campaign, and, you know, Twitter is such a promotional tool which is exactly what I don’t like about it. I mean, I love Facebook. I’ll Facebook all day, but Twitter to me feels much more corporate, and I’m not that interested, so when they told me I couldn’t twitter, I was like, happy to not do it.

My jaw remained agape for a moment.

To a certain extent, I understand. Sony wants an aggressive Twitter campaign. Ok. I can handle that. But for an author to relinquish ownership of her own personal brand— herself as an author, a cook, a normal person —astounds me. My mind flashed to a childhood memory of twisting plastic, rigid Barbie doll arms to position them as I wanted. It seems manipulative. It seems deceiving.

It seems common.

Yes, this Pollyanna realizes that there are celebrity Twitter accounts where corporate puppeteers feed us our required 140 characters hourly. I get that. But what those suits (who undoubtedly smile maniacally in their swivel chairs at misleading the public) don’t realize is that they’re not using Twitter as effectively as they could for their clients.

Twitter allows for a conversation. It humanizes what could very well just be a name on a book cover to a dynamic, engaging person to which other people can relate and connect.

It’s microblogging. It does most things that a blog can do.

I’m shocked that Julie is apathetic. She paid attention when blogging became relevant. And good thing she did,

it got her a book deal and a major motion picture.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Good reads

This afternoon, a change of pace: a few of our recommended reads this Summer.

Tolly: In Defense of Food! I was inspired to read it after seeing "Food, Inc.," which released a few weeks ago. Michael Pollan does such a great job of restoring the relationship between food and people: I can't stop thinking about this one line where he's talking about a berry ("so this berry walks into a bar"....heh), saying it tells us when it wants us to eat it. When it gets a bright, deep hue, it's saying: "I'm ready for you to spread my genes now." I love that. I love it when berries talk to me. I'm still not an angel when it comes to food, but I'm 50x more conscious about what I buy, and am determined to plant a garden when Texas returns to sub-surface-of-the-sun temperatures. Thanks Michael.

Reminisces of a Stock Operator by Edwin Lefevre, originally published in 1923. I like it because it's more about the market's mentality than gimmicks, stock picks or trends (which are often outdated or played out before the book is published). It's timeless for that reason and most brokers will tell you it's still their favorite book on investing.

Merritt: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenberger. I am both fascinated and dumbfounded by the concept of time travel, but Clare and Henry's love story is intoxicating (I might have a literary crush on Henry DeTamble). Next up, The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich. I am excited to get the full scoop on the founding of Facebook. Why it is a good summer read? The front cover has a picture of a red bra and a lipstick-stained martini glass. Enough said.

My bookshelf skews toward stories that are introspective and ones that take me to another place, hence my obession with travel memoirs, foodie books, and other firsthand accounts that show us the limitlessness of possibility. My latest read happens to also be a shameless plug for a book we're working on, Halfway to Each Other by Susan Pohlman. Unfortunately, the masses won't find it in stores until September, but pre-order on Amazon now. The book is the true story of how Susan and her husband rescusitated their marriage by moving the whole family to Italy for a year. Cozy up with some vino as you are whisked to the dolce vita and soon you'll be unplugging your TV, putting down your iPhone and booking the next flight to the Italian Riviera.

Kelly: The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer. It's the fictional story of a family that's torn apart when the father is accused of being a spy during the Iranian Revolution. The story is told from each family member's perspective: the father, the mother, the daughter and the son in America. The book is loosely based on the author's own life- she fled Iran when she was ten. In the biography section of the book, she talks about what it was like as a little girl to leave her house. For the longest time she wondered if anyone moved the toys in her room. When writing this story, Sofer paid the same amount of attention to details. It's beautifully written. Also Patrick Rosal's My American Kundiman. He's a former bboy turned poet who understands sounds so well that his poetry flows off the page like a hip-hop track. Seriously. Poems range in this book from subdued and wistful to in-your-face-confident.

Now go read a book.

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