Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Working With a Publicist by Rebecca York

Full disclosure. I've never hired a publicist. My two main reasons--being cheap and thinking I could do it all myself--aren't really valid, because I frankly never looked deeply into the subject.

When I asked writer Rebecca York about her experiences, this was her response:

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There was a time when an author could sit back in her comfortable office and focus on the word processor. Her job was writing the best book she could. Her publisher’s job was printing, publicizing and distributing her book. But things have changed dramatically over the past few years. Today a writer’s also got to do something about publicity, or her book is likely to get lost in the great sea of publications that come out every month.

I’d love the luxury of simply sitting and writing. And give a few lectures a year to enthusiastic audiences. But how are readers going to know I’ve got a book out? Unless they’re poring through future pub lists, I need to let them know they can get the next exciting book in my werewolf series in–October. And hopefully I can also interest some new readers in my work.

A full-blown promotion effort is a lot of work–more than I can do myself. Which is why I’ve hired several people to help me. My latest release is DRAGON MOON, which came out from Berkley on October 6. The heroine is Kenna, a slave from my alternate universe, sent here to help her ruthless dragon-shifter master invade our world. She meets werewolf Talon Marshall and desperately wants to tell him her frightening secret. But every time she tries to reveal her plight, excruciating pains stab into her head. Even as Kenna and Talon fall in love, he can’t trust her. And she struggles to break through the barriers that control her mind. It’s classic romantic suspense, with the paranormal twists I love.

But how do I tell people about the book? I’ve got several strategies, with three different "publicists" who each bring something to my book promotion.

For years I’ve used Binnie Syril Braunstein of Press Kit Communications. I met her because she lives in my local area. Mainly she makes and sends out ARCs of my single-title Berkley releases to readers’ groups and review sites. And recently, to save money, I asked her to send out "teasers" to some of these groups. The teasers were the first seven chapters of DRAGON MOON, and we got a good response from them. Also, some of the review sites have asked me for interviews. Another thing we tried with this book was offering to give away ARCs to people who would post reviews of DRAGON MOON. Again, this got a great response.

Another key part of my marketing plan for DRAGON MOON involves Circle of Seven Productions. I’ve had them produce a book trailer for the past five of my Berkley single-title releases. This time I also bought a special package they offered in conjunction with Between Your Sheets, a weekly e-newsletter that goes out to readers. (I’m one of the participating authors.) Although COS isn’t strictly a publicist, they do a lot of the same things. They made a great video for DRAGON MOON which you can see on my Web site at www.rebeccayork.com They distributed it to a lot of outlets on the Web including Youtube.

And the video will also be playing on television stations in Northern California. The special deal with them also included a review, blog entries, Tweets about the video that drove traffic to my Web site, and a podcast. (Which became two podcasts!)

But I was looking for more exposure. For DRAGON MOON, I added another publicist, Dana Kaye, recommended by a friend. Dana’s got media savvy and some great contacts. She’s filled in the blanks in my book promotion strategy by sending a DRAGON MOON press kit to various newspapers, magazines, blogs, radio and television shows. As a result of her work, I’m now writing this guest blog entry. She’s also set up a podcast for me as well as several other blogs and articles. And she’s following up on these contacts.

In addition, Dana’s helped me with some other aspects of publicity that I hadn’t used effectively. She linked my Tweets to my Facebook page, made a background for my Twitter page, started me a Facebook fan page, and advises me on my Web presence.

All of the above seems to be working for me. I’m getting a lot of visibility, and I’m not spending a fortune, either. One thing I discovered after doing several book videos with COS is that the shorter ones are probably the most effective. So I’m buying their least expensive products and taking advantage of their media presence. Also, both Binnie and Dana give me excellent value for my money.

In the quest for effective promotion, I’ve learned from my past experiences. Two years ago I hired an expensive publicist and was much less pleased with the relationship. She charged me for her time while she had me paying third-party suppliers for various projects like my Web pages and press kit. Unfortunately, she had a bad habit of getting into disagreements with her suppliers, costing me extra money and sometimes leaving me with not-quite-completed work.

If you’re looking for help with your publicity, find out up front what the publicist will do for you and how much it’s going to cost. Be prepared to be a partner with your publicist. She should listen to your ideas and use them if they make sense. Keep in mind that the most expensive services aren’t necessarily going to be the best for you. And be open to opportunities you might not have considered on your own.

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If you have any questions for Rebecca, post them and I'm sure she'll reply.

If you'd like to see her press kit for DRAGON MOON, if posted it HERE.

23 comments:

Joe Konrath said...

Thanks for the guest post, Rebecca. And for the great tips.

Anonymous said...

I'm unpublished but am always thinking ahead. I'm saving a copy of this post for future reference. Thank you! And best of luck with DRAGON MOON. Sounds fascinating.

Gayle Carline said...

Hey, Rebecca - could you give us a hint as to the cost range for a publicist? I have one book out (am writing the second as fast as I can), and I'm trying to take advantage of as many avenues as possible. But I'm finding that seeking out promotion opportunities is taking my focus away from the writing. Well, that and having a senior in high school, but we'll leave that alone for now.

Is a publicist cost-prohibitive?

Gayle (author of Freezer Burn)
http://gaylecarline.blogspot.com

AstonWest said...

I, too, would like to know a little more about the specific costs. It's stated as not being "a fortune" but that may be a full quarter of an author's significant advance. That may not seem like a fortune to the author in question, but it definitely would be for someone who was getting a much smaller advance.

Until then, I'm going to need to stick with the cheap and dirty DIY methods.

Jude Hardin said...

Nice post.

How effective have these strategies been in terms of increased sales for you? Just curious.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to use this reply box.
Rebecca

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'll just do it this way!

What does it cost? The expensive publicist I used charged me $40 to $60 an hour and billed a lot of hours.

I feel uncomfortable talking about current publicists. But the people I'm working with charge much, much less than that. And we neotiate specific jobs before they do any work.

I did take a special promotion deal with Circle of Seven for $995 that got me a book trailer, varous blog and podcast opportunities, posting of the book trailer on lots of places around the web and a bunch of twitter mentions.

How much good does publicity do? I wish I knew. I've NEVER not done it, so I suppose the only way I'd find out would be to stop doing anything. I don't really do much publicity for my Harlequin Intrigues, but since they'r only out for a month, I don't think there IS muh you can do.
Rebecca

Amber Argyle-Smith said...

Good ideas. It always pays to be prepared.

Anonymous said...

Anyone can make a trailer. Just use Windows Movie Maker which comes automatically on most new computers. Buy the videos royalty free at www.pond5.com. There are many good ones for under $25. All told, a good trailer won't cost more than $100. Get background music for free at soundsnap.com

To see a trailer made for $100, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QcRQdNfi1s.

Gayle Carline said...

Thanks, Rebecca. I understand not wanting to talk about your current publicists' fees. I just wanted a price range, as in what's about right vs. what's outrageous. Sounds like they:
1. should not be costing me >$40 an hour,
2. should be willing to specify exactly how many hours they will work an event before they start,
3. should have some credentials/references I can check before hiring them (I learned this one from a friend of mine).

Rebecca York said...

Of course anyone can make a book trailer. I've seen some home made ones that are pretty good. And I've seen some really bad ones. To do a good one, you need to devote time to learning the process. If you look at the DRAGON MOON trailer (www.rebeccayork.com) you'll see that it has wonder effects. I worked with them on the script. I made suggestions for improvements. If I'd done it myself, I would not have gotten COS distribution, which included showings on California TV stations. Also, the COS deal got me two podcasts.
Rebecca

Liz Kreger said...

Some great advice, Rebecca. I've worked with COS in the past and know that not only do they do primo vidoes but they also have a network of on-line connections that's beyond compare.

I will admit that I'm a friend of Sheila English and am a bit biased, but COS is professional all the way.

Rebecca York said...

I'm not PUSHING COS. But I do know that you'll get a good product from them--and distribution opportunities you can't get on your own. I do think a book trailer gives you something to "show." But it's important to do it right. Really, I see too many people try to tell too much of the story. I did that in the beginning. Now I just do the beginning and suggest more.
Rebecca

Anonymous said...

Anon 4.0

You will never know how much publicity has paid off. No one knows. Billboard ads, TV commercials, and radio ads don't come with view counts!

How could you possibly recoup $995 for what is essentially a slide show that got 300 views??

What does getting a podcast mean in a digital world with millions of podcasts? You can record and post your own podcast for low cost. In fact you can record many of them!

For Joe, no bashing this time. Well, maybe backhandly a bash.

The book covers actually look really good.

But you are no longer the wackiest video champion. Hermes and the pink blood has been out done by a woman in a cowsuit singing Prince!! This one made me lose more brain cells. Is she a relative?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KloEAoKvBqA

Rebecca York said...

I'm trying to figure out why you think the booktrailer had only 300 downloads. Did you check all the places it's on the web? And on my web site. You've got the stats for my site?

It will also show at RT booklovers convention. Featured on the BYS newsletter. You forgot it was on TV in California about 30 times.

The trailer cost was about $600. The additonal fee was for other promotion from COS. I can't tell you exactly what that was because my "regular" computer is in the shop and I'm using my travel computer, so I don't have access to my e-mail files.

I agree with you. I can't know to what extent publicity for DRAGON MOON will pay off. I do know that the more times people hear about the book, the more likely they are to buy it. I also know that my advance is high enough so that I can afford to spend some money on publicity.

Rebecca

Anonymous said...

I can't quantify what the comericlas on northern Californian TV did. It depends on what time and what program they were shown on. But if you feel like limited TV is better than no TV, then so be it.

The 300 hits was just a rounded off number off youtube. The hits to your page don't count because I'll assume you already had traffic, and I don't know how you could tell if more people came to your site becasue of it.

I do know that the more times people hear about the book, the more likely they are to buy it

That is wishful thinking. Perhaps, the more shapeshifting, werewolf, romance novel liking audience that hears it might want to buy it. But a general TV audience and a general book buying audience, this is simply not true.

artifexnm said...

Rebecca, thank you for all the information and advice about publicists. Too bad writers can't just be "writers" anymore. We have to be business people as well. I'm not published yet and i have started a blog about my India travel experience. I'm also working on a novel and will save this info for future help.

Here is my India Travelblog:
http://pattybcoffman.blogspot.com/

Rebecca York said...

Well, anon, I guess you know more about the subject than I do. How many books have you published, and how are they doing for you?

Rebecca

Anonymous said...

Nice try Rebecca. But like Joe, you've missed the point entirely.

You've already accomplished several things. 1)You got an agent. 2)You got the book sold. 3)You are now published. 4)You have an audience. My question is: why throw good money out the window?

Your genre is a niche. And that audience is what it is. It won't grow past that. So why not keep doing what you are doing and keep that money in your pocket??

Oh, and I know not to be disillusioned with publicists!!! Unless you have some knockout book that can hit the talkshow circuit what are you expecting to happen with twitter and a slide show with words?

To make it perfectly clear: you are already doing a good job. Keep writing good books. Keep doing your speeches, and keep your money in your pocket!!

Joe Konrath said...

Your genre is a niche. And that audience is what it is. It won't grow past that.

Romantic Suspense is a niche, and it will never grow past that. Except for Iris Johansen, Kay Hooper, Sandra Brown, Lisa Jackson, and countless others.

YA is a niche, and it won't grow past it. Except for JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Christopher Paolini, Rick Riorden, and many others.

Thriller is a niche, and it won't grow past it. Except for James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, Lee Child, John Sandford, and many others.

Mystery, sci-fi, paranormal romance, etc.

I've gotten well over six thousand views on various videos I've posted. Do they sell books? I have now idea. But people are watching them, and my sales are decent. Like all marketing, it's tough to draw conclusions.

But I do know it's always better to do something than nothing at all.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4.0

Okay, lets take these down one by one.

1. You know damn well why James Patterson sells as many books as he does. And it's not becasue he tweets or makes youtube slideshows. So don't even try to lump yourself or anyone else into that category.

2. Do we need to go back to the bat video again? Really? Please, dogs popping balloons gets hits on youtube so how can you make a comparison about the hits you got and selling books? Oh and you screaming to buy your books might be inexpensive, but not all that clever.

3. Lets see JK Rowling got extremely LUCKY! Timing. Striking a chord with families. And it wasn't 5 books in that she felt like she needed to do youtube videos and podcasts to increase her visibility.

Paolini is a horrible hack Tolkien ripoff who is only successful because he got pubbed as a teen, plus the whole mormon thing. But then again, you have very low artistic goals, so he just might be your idol!

Again, with Stepheanie Meyer you know why it worked! Don't play dumb!!

Last time I checked Kay Hooper, Sandra Brown, Lisa Jackson weren't writing about shapeshifting werewolves.

And as for all the comparisons: mystery, sci-fi, paranormal, thriller. When was the last time you saw Lee Child or Michael Connely at Comic-con? Or at a romance writers convention?

I don't know what your argument is. That it's better to spend hard earned money from an advance on slideshows and podcasts so you can say you did something?

Have you grown your audience substantially? Are you now a NY Times bestseller because you drove 1000's of miles and went to hundreds of bookstores? Arent you essentially still a mid lister despite all the tweets, youtube videos, multiple mammoth book tours, blog, website, contests, etc...etc...etc...?

Joe Konrath said...

Is it you just don't read thoroughly, or you enjoy taking things out of context?

You said audiences don't grow past genres. I gave you ample examples to prove you incorrect.

And I see Lee Child and Michael Connelly at conventions all the time.

My argument has been the same for years: you sell more books doing something than doing nothing.

An author can in no way replace what a publisher can do, with a giant budget and a huge print run. My sales have been limited by my distribution. Hyperion recently screwed up with Borders, who didn't get my latest hardcover in stock until it had already been out for two weeks.

And yet, that hardcover went into a second printing anyway.

Can any author get themselves on the bestseller list? No. I never said they could.

But I do know that my books are still in print, earning royalties. And I'm pretty sure my efforts have a lot to do with that.

And once again, you criticizing my efforts comes off as petty, envious, and short-sighted. Plus, your arguments are poorly constructed.

Mostly, you bore me. Go play somewhere else.

Bostonia Magazine said...

An interesting article on why we don't need literary agents or publishers anymore.

http://www.bu.edu/bostonia/fall09/kirsner/