Thursday, September 20, 2007

SEVEN QUESTIONS NOT TO ASK YOUR PUBLICIST

Excerpted from:
The Savvy Author’s Guide to Book Publicity (Carroll & Graf)
By Lissa Warren

A savvy author is going to have a lot of questions about the publicity for his or her book. Yet there are some questions that are notorious for riling publicists. I list a few below, and reasons to avoid them. I encourage you to think of them as the seven deadly sins.

1.
“Have you tried Oprah? (or Larry King, Charlie Rose, Regis and Kelly, or Terry Gross)?” Publicists know that these people’s shows really sell books, and go for them before anything else if you and your book are even remotely appropriate. They’re already under a lot of pressure to get you on these programs. They won’t appreciate more.
2.
“Could you overnight a copy to . . . ?” You’re asking your publicist to stop what she’s doing (perhaps preparing for a big marketing meeting where she’ll discuss your book) and send a copy by the costliest means possible. If it’s a major show or publication and they’ve expressed real and urgent interest, by all means ask for this. Otherwise, just e-mail the info to your publicist and ask her to mail the book or send it via UPS Ground as soon as possible.
3.
“Anything new?” If there were, your publicist would have told you; we’re not shy about trumpeting success. Keep in mind that your publicist constantly hears this same question from her immediate supervisor, the publisher, the sales reps, the foreign rights department, the subrights department, and the editors. Then multiply the pestering by ten for the number of books she’s working on, in some capacity, on any given day.
4.
“Did the host/reporter who just interviewed me even read the book?” Unfortunately, the answer is, probably not. But please don’t be offended. They may be even busier than your publicist. That’s why she sent them press material to crib from.
5.
“Is (insert name of show or publication) going to do anything with my book?” Your publicist will do her best to get a “yes” or “no” from each media outlet about your book, but she isn’t always able to, and pushing the media for an answer when they haven’t responded to a galley, a finished book, two e-mails, a fax, and three voice mail messages isn’t going to help her reputation—or yours. Sometimes, no answer is an answer—if they were interested, they’d have called. Also keep in mind that when she does get a “no,” your publicist might not get a reason or the reason may be vague (“it’s just not right for our magazine,” or “the host wasn’t interested”). This is frustrating, but perfectly normal.
6.
“Could you send a copy to my friend Mandy from high school? She knows Katie Couric’s assistant.” It’s nice that your friend knows Katie Couric’s assistant. However, your publicist probably knows Andrea Smith (Editors Note: This excerpt is from the 2004 edition, so I'm sure Lissa would like us to note that it's now Jackie Levin), the books producer at the Today Show(who has been on the list of publishing’s most powerful people) and the person there who is most likely to actually do something with your book—and chances are your publicist has sent your book to her. Remember, your publicist only has so many copies to send to the media. You don’t want her to waste one, and insisting that she send one to acquaintances of yours who have distant connections to the media is a sure way to do so. However, if you yourself have a direct connection to the media (e.g., your friend Mandy from high school is Katie Couric’s assistant—or better yet, your friend from high school is Katie Couric), then by all means ask your publicist
to send. She’ll be grateful.
7.
“How many other books are you working on right now?” More than you want to know about. Trust me.

Keep those anonymous submissions coming. I don't think Publitron could have put it any better.

do tell,
the editor

7 comments:

The Writers' Group said...

Isn't Lissa Warren brilliant? She did a publicity panel at Grub Street's Muse & the Marketplace writers' conference this past May and we sure hope she comes back next year. Every writer should own this book.

Amy

Babytron said...

Or how about - can you book me a car for 8:00am on Friday? (Email sent at 4:30am on Friday)

Yep that one doesn't work either

snackywombat said...

thanks, it's nice to see the curtain pulled back a little. i think this sort of thing helps writers manage their expectations

Anonymous said...

Lissa is probably one of those people who works hard and doesn't require babysitting but don't read her book and think you should abide by the rules she lays out just because she says so.

My business partner is a NY Times best seller. She asked her publicist(Major expensive publicist) if she had contacted the major TV, Radio and Newspapers that we wanted to be featured on. The answer was "Yes we e-mailed them but haven't heard back yet". We fired the publicist and my partners agent made the calls to the TV, radio and newspapers. A week later she was featured on CNN, ABC, and Fox. She was featured in the top six newspapers in the country including the N.Y Times and LA Times. If we hadn't questioned the publicist we would have lost those opportunities. So ask the questions if your gut tells you to. Listen to your gut. In my opinion, the bigger the publicist the more questions you should ask.

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