Inhouse or Independent PR~Kathy Carlton Willis

What Is a Publicist?
A publicist is a professional who has both the know-how and the network in place to help bring your name to the public. In the literary world, a publicist is key to the marketing plan, to help create a consumer craving for a book title, or any book written by a specific author.

A literary publicist will promote the book title directly to consumers by identifying and making book information available to the niche-markets with an interest in the storyline or subject matter of the book. The publicist will also network with media by pitching specific interview angles the author can provide—setting up the writer as an expert on certain subjects.

In-House Publicist

Every publishing house has a publicist or publicity team under the umbrella of their marketing department. Their biggest goal is to make sure the book sells well, so they will invest their biggest promotional dollars and time on the book titles they predict will be big sellers. This means either the subject matter is unique and marketable or the author has some sort of celebrity status. But even first-time unknown writers will garner some sort of attention from their publishing house’s publicity staff. It’s up to the author to find out what the plan and timeline is for their title.

Some publishing houses will print ARCS (Advance Review Copies or Advance Reader Copies) as part of their publicity strategy. Marketing and PR staff will send the ARCS to reviewers who require advance review time (normally 4-5 months prior to release date). These reviewers are heavy-hitters. Garnering the attention of Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal or Romantic Times is a big bolster in the launch of any book.

Independent Publicist:

Sometimes publishing houses hire outside PR firms to manage specific book campaigns, or entire lines of books. Other times, they pay half toward an outside campaign, and the author matches that. The third option is for the author to pay all of the expense from their advance, believing that publicity and marketing is what will make or break the overall sales for the book. Independent publicists also assist with author branding for the career of the author, not just this one book campaign.

Most PR and communications firms offer a wide array of services for authors (and other public figures). They will come alongside of you at any stage in the writing game. They can help expand your platform, branding and name recognition. Need some help making sure your website is selling you in the best possible light? Ask your publicist. Some will even edit your manuscripts and write your book proposals, query letters and marketing plans.
After the book contract, your publicist will customize a plan for promoting you and your titles to create buzz in a way that makes the campaign go viral. This can be through traditional publicity campaigns through media, internet and social networking campaigns, and more.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a dozen times, “I’m so glad I didn’t have to navigate this book promotion jungle on my own. Thanks for holding my hand through the process.”

Why Hire a Publicist?

–A publicist has the media contacts and relationships needed to secure interviews/ reviews.

–A publicist knows how to pitch your book to the media and how each journalist prefers to be contacted.
–Most writers do not have the time to devote to a publicity campaign. It is a full-time job.
–When an author is pitching his own book, it is sometimes viewed as being too self-promotional. A publicist is seen as a third party and most journalists are more receptive to discussing a book with a publicist rather than the author.
-When media, retailers and consumers hear an author has a publicist, they seem to see the author as having more “clout.” It legitimizes the expert-status of the author and elevates them to a higher professional standing. An author with a publicity team has “peeps.” It’s that whole “I’ll have my people contact your people” approach.
So, whether you are blessed with a Johnny-on-the-spot in-house publicity team or an independent publicist or publicity firm, rest assured—they’ve got you covered!

Talking to Pros~What’s the Golden Rule?

Talking to Pros is more about simple courtesies than pitching a certain book idea.
Often at Christian Writers Conferences, conferees are so programmed to engage with industry pros that they end up going overboard and make a poor first impression. Whether we connect face-to-face, by phone, or e-mail, there is a certain code of conduct that should be followed. It’s all about respect and courtesy. The Golden Rule sums up how we are to treat editors, agents, and others in the industry. Make sure you treat industry pros the very way you would want to be treated in their shoes. By doing this, you will leave a lasting impression with them.
Here are some specific etiquette suggestions for you, as you connect with the pros:
In Person
Make sure you don’t smell of cigarette smoke or heavy perfume. Many are sensitive to smell, and this will ruin your first impression. Double-check your other first impressions as well. Be respectful of the pro’s space. Watch their body language to determine if it’s a good time to talk. Avoid stalker-style pitches (such as following a pro to the restroom to pitch your idea through the bathroom stall door!). Follow their lead regarding physical contact. Sometimes a handshake is in order, and other times, if there was a real connection, a hug is okay—let them initiate which it will be.
On the Phone Try to find general information online first, or in a market guide—before calling the agent or editor to ask questions. No need to ask if they take a certain genre if their website plainly lists what types of books they acquire or represent. Since you are selling the agent or editor on your writing ability, usually they prefer your first contact (outside of conferences) to happen via e-mail or mail. Why? Because the pro wants to see how you write, rather than how you speak. This also works better for their schedules. Then they can schedule a phone conference if/when it suits them. Even though you will be eager to hear how the pro likes your work, abstain from calling to ask. Honor whatever timeline they say it takes to hear back, and if you have not received a reply in that timeline, a short e-mail to make sure they received the submission is the best way to follow-up. Do not press for a decision or a deadline; just ask IF they received it and what the status is. Once you are acquired by an editor or agent, you are welcome to call them on important matters, but be considerate of their time and avoid contacting them about trivial issues. Use e-mail for most communication. Avoid frequent phone calls, even if the pro seems happy to hear from you. Remember they have other projects—avoid monopolizing their time. Especially be aware that they have office hours, and deserve a personal life outside of that time. If a call is warranted, it’s best to request a phone date via e-mail, and let the agent call you when his schedule permits. When planning a phone conversation, it is helpful to give your agent a range of convenient times to call.
Do not send attached files containing manuscripts unless their guidelines expressly state they welcome attachments. Keep your initial correspondence with an agent or editor brief and subsequent correspondence on point with what is requested. Realize industry pros deal with hundreds of e-mails daily, and respect their time. Authors should advise an agent how he knows the agent’s name (met at a conference, found online, referred by a friend, etc.). In fact, it’s helpful to put the connecting point in the subject line, such as “per your request at ABC Conference.” Show appreciation for any information a pro gives you, even if it’s comes with a rejection of a submission. Try to avoid being defensive or argumentative, and by all means do not attack, accuse or criticize the professional. Honor any requirements for correspondence. If the listing says to send a query, they mean a one-page pitch about the book project. If the pro requests more information, send that with the original correspondence so they don’t have to search for the original note. Mention “per your request,” and resist saying that unless it is true.
Editors and agents are not royalty—they are normal people who happen to be in a position to get your manuscript to the next step toward publication. Treat them with common courtesy and professional respect and they will remember you. It’s these little things that set you apart from the thronging crowds of writers who forget something as simple as The Golden Rule.
What’s The Golden Rule is written by Kathy Carlton Willis, owner of the same named communications firm. Kathy and her team get jazzed shining the light on their clients and their Lord. See more at their blog: