Thursday, August 27, 2009

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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