Monday, August 20, 2007

Pub Talk: Publicity Director

While in New York last week, I asked a bunch of publishing folk what they think authors need to know about publicity. Here are notes from my first conversation, with the publicity director--I'll call her Anne--at a major trade house.

Anne's first bit of advice--are you ready for this?--is something I've been saying in my workshop from Day 1:

This is a working relationship; treat your publicist as a colleague you'd like to get along with. Be as much help as you can without being an incredible nudge. Understand where the publisher is coming from. You've won the lottery just by getting a book deal. The only people that have made money on the book so far are you and your agent.

The publisher wants the book to work as much as you do. A tour does not equal love. We only do it where we think we'll have success. If we thought a tour would help, we'd send you on tour. Tours are getting tougher all the time: turnouts are down, local media has dried up.

You're either a national story or a local story; there's nothing in-between. Your topic has to be national for you to get national attention. An author being 40 or older doesn't help (OUCH!); that doesn't appeal to younger audiences.

One of the best things an author can do to promote his/her work is to get published in magazines. Especially for novelists, it's important to have a backstory that can be pitched to the media.

Give your publicist a copy of your publicity plan, but discuss your marketing plan with your editor. (The marketing plan would include things like website and blog, which don't belong under the rubric of "publicity"--at least to the publisher.)

To publicists: Use authors as much as you can; they are the experts on their books.

You should hear from your publicist about five months out, but first talk to your editor about publicity. Work doesn't start till galleys are in. There's a 3-4 week launch. The inhouse publicist's job is to LAUNCH the book. (After the launch, it's up to the author and/or a freelance publicist.)

If you're having difficulties with your publicist, don't complain or get nasty. Say to your editor (calmly!), "I'm just concerned that..."
A book is "review only"when there's nothing to talk about--author is unpresentable, there's no riveting backstory, etc. We send every book to Oprah, and pitch most everything to Charlie Rose and NPR. Watch and listen to all the shows that you think you should be on. How will you talk about your book on "Fresh Air"?

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