Just as spouses who are often the last to discover that their partners are cheating, authors are often the last to know when a publisher decides to delay or move up the pub date of their books.
Recently, a client of mine called me, distraught that his book’s pub date had been moved up two months. He had done his homework and made sure he hired me more than three months before his book was due to hit the bookshelves. Now, without his knowledge, his publisher had decided to release his book two months early, which put a kink in the publicity plans. This author wondered aloud if he had made a mistake in hiring me, and asked if it was not too late to maximize publicity.
In the best of all possible worlds, a publicist wants to be able to pitch the long lead national monthly magazines as well as the national morning and evening magazine shows at least three months prior to pub date. Many publications prefer to tie in a review, profile or Q&A to a book’s pub date. This rule is not set in stone, but it is more often than not reliable. indeed, many national network programs book their author interviews or evening segment stories three to four month’s in advance.
Rules, however, are made to be broken, and a good publicist can find ways around those rules. My schedule would have to be stepped up. Instead of writing the press materials at my leisure—because I thought I had several months to do so—I got to work immediately. They were ready within days of the author’s phone call.
Next, I urged the author not to wait for his publisher to print advance reading copies, but to print his manuscript and have it spiral-bound. his book is on a timely subject—strategies for small businesses to survive in a tough economy—and I wanted to get his book out to as many shows as possible while the topic is hot. As I explained to the author, a publicist never knows if a show such as 20/20 is doing a story on small businesses. I would hate to turn on my TV several months from now and watch a segment on how small businesses are coping and know that my author missed a media opportunity because his publisher was unable to print galleys fast enough to meet the earlier than scheduled pub date.
What can authors do to stay abreast of their publishers’ decision making and not learn about sudden changes of plans after the fact? Authors have to be vigilant. This doesn’t mean that you pester your publisher everyday. But you should be receiving fairly regular communications from your editor and in-house publicist. A good agent is usually on top of things. But, for those authors who don’t have agents, sending regular e-mails to ascertain when advance reading copies are due, when covers are ready, and checking Amazon to make sure your publisher has featured your book on Amazon three months before pub date so you will not lose out on pre-orders, is essential.
In my author’s case, he did all of the above. Sometimes, despite all of your efforts, you are still the last to know. In an ideal world, everything runs smoothly. You have hired a publicist six months before your book comes out. You have written about a topic that makes breaking news as soon as your book hits the shelves. You do the talk show circuit. And you hit the bestseller list.
In a less than ideal world, a good publicist who thinks out of the box can often do damage control and get you more media coverage than you ever anticipated.
1. I resolve to update my Blog every day.
Well, unless I'm booking a West Coast tour. They're 3 hours behind, so I would be working until late into the evening, which leaves very little time to blog. Or if Resolution #4 works out. Or if I break Resolution #9. Ok, would you accept one blog post per week? I can do that...
2. I resolve to take on every author who needs me.
This will be a tough one. I really wish I could. Problem is, I'm a boutique firm and I only take on as many campaigns as I can handle. I love what I do and I love reading books. Nothing makes me happier than spending my time reading and getting authors the media coverage they deserve, but there are only so many hours in the day. Leaving me very little time for Resolution #4.
3. I resolve to NEVER take on a book campaign more than 3 months after the pub date.
Oh, your book came out 12 months ago and NOW you want to promote it? National shows like Oprah, The Today Show, 60 Minutes and 20/20 usually book three months BEFORE the publishing date. Your book that was gleaming and fresh and au courant 12 months ago is stale and tired. Oh wait... See Resolution #7.
4. I resolve to take a vacation this year!
I mean it this time! But... What if Oprah calls when I'm basking in the sun? Or hiking up the Swiss Alps? It's not so farfetched -- she did call one publicist who was in Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit. The publicist survived but her clients didn't. No one wants to hear excuses. Now that I think about it, maybe I’d better not take a vacation. Oh, who am I kidding? This is one resolution that I can't even pretend to make. Let's try again...
5. I resolve to take the GPS ankle bracelets off my clients.
It may be time to forgive and forget, but after I pulled out all the stops to get this guy on a national morning show and he went MIA, well, what options did I have? Hey, I have my reputation to consider. Hmmmm. Yeah, better cross this resolution off too.
6. I resolve to NEVER AGAIN agree to arrange a full five-city media tour in one day.
Sure, I did it, because I had to, and that’s why I’ve been told that I’m the Navy SEAL of Publicists. But since when did a Navy SEAL win a war in ONE day? I suppose Odysseus’ Trojan Horse won the war overnight, but that was more of a group effort. Then again, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.
7. I resolve to start pampering the delicate egos of new authors.
"Oh, absolutely! Your textbook on derivatives and their relationship to Etruscan tax law is PERFECT for Oprah! You're going to make millions!"
8. I resolve to stop being frustrated by authors who tell me where they live, but nothing else.
Um, what's your book about? Who are you? What have you done? Your geographical location isn't newsworthy unless you live in Alaska and think you can see Russia from your backyard.
9. I resolve to avoid authors without hobbies.
Forty "Just checking in!" emails a day from one person is too many.
10. I resolve to stop taking on clients who brag about their net worth.
I know it's tempting, but the richer they say they are, the more they complain about having “cash flow problems,” especially when payment is due.