Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Team? What Team?

At the Backspace forums, where I answer publicity questions every month, an author asked:
I read your blog post [Frame These Words!], and while I certainly agree with an author's viewing their relationship with their inhouse publicist as a partnership in theory, in my experience, the reality was much different.

I asked my publicist how they wanted to work together when they were first assigned to me, and only got a vague answer. I kept them informed of all of the publicity I had lined up; they told me nothing of what they were doing (and aside from their sending out arcs and galleys for review, I saw no evidence of any initiative on their part). At one point, I asked for a copy of the press release they'd been using, and was told that sending out press releases was my responsibility.

It's all well and good to advise authors to try to be a team player, but what's an author to do if there's no team to play with?
My response:
Ugh. This is the sort of story that gives publishers a bad name. How easy would it be for them to sit down with an author--or at least send an email--detailing EXACTLY what they're going to do to publicize the book and what they expect the author to do? But then I'd be out of a job...

You can tell pretty early on if the publisher is unenthusiastic about your book and isn't going to be doing much for it. Vague responses, no marketing/publicity timeline, late (or no) answers to your emails & phone calls are all dead giveaways.

So what to do? To quote publicist extraordinaire Kim-from-LA: "Give them energy, not problems." Act as though you're all on the same team and working together--because you are, even if the other players are deadbeats.

Charge full steam ahead with your own plans, but make sure EVERYONE is in the info loop. Send periodic (weekly or monthly) emails to your agent, editor & publicist with updates of what you're doing & your upcoming events & media. This will lessen the chance for ugly surprises, such as you & the pub pitching the same media; or you doing a radio interview in a big market & there being no books in area stores.

Most important: NO WHINING. And thank your publicist for all her help, even if you think she's done nothing. Thanking her might make her feel guilty, which might get her to do more. If you yell at her she'll feel resentful, even (or especially) if you're right, and she'll do even less. As an author I know said, "Making a publicist--even a bad one--angry at you is shooting yourself in the foot."

Keep in mind that if your publicist isn't doing much for your book, it may be because that's what her boss told her. If your publicist is the boss, well, you're SOL & you know it's all up to you.

1 comment:

Eric Riback said...

The part about saying thank you and not yelling is also effective at airline service counters when your flight has been canceled.