I haven’t posted a blog in several weeks because I came down with a bad case of bronchitis. When you’re self employed, it’s a bummer to be sick. Friends and acquaintances think I’ve got the life. That I can work when I want to and take off when I want to, but nothing could be further from the truth.

When authors are paying you out-of-pocket to get media coverage for their book, you’ve got to work, rain or shine—or getting sick. Publicity is very time sensitive. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know that there are tight deadlines. Magazines must see galleys three – six months prior to the book’s pub date. National morning shows and Oprah book author interviews three months in advance. Local TV has shorter lead times. But the cycle in publicity is never-ending. When I’m promoting a June or July book in March, I’m also promoting March and April titles to radio and local TV, and to local newspapers.

So I got up each morning, feeling sicker than I’ve been in years (I pride myself in never getting sick), and pounded away on my keyboard, sending out as many e-mail pitches as I could. Leaving voice-mail messages was futile after three or four phone calls as no one wants to hear a hacking cough over the phone (most media prefers that you pitch them via e-mail anyway and a message mixed with a hacking cough is sure to result in a deleted message).

But all the extra work I usually do went by the wayside. At 4:00 in the afternoon I was ready to pack it in. I had a book review due for THE LOST SUMMER OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT, a debut novel by Kelly O’Connor McNees, which will be posted on BookPage’s website on April 1st or sooner (
http://www.bookpage.com/). Fortunately, I read the novel and took notes before I got sick, so I was able to meet my deadline without a problem.

But my friends and acquaintances are right. I do have the life. I love what I do, and the freedom that comes with being self-employed. Although I disagree with Janis Joplin’s definition of freedom—“freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”—what those of us who are self employed do lose is the luxury to take sick days and extended vacations.

Stay tuned this weekend for a special guest posting by bestselling author Kyra Davis of the Sophie Katz mystery series, which includes Sex, Murder and a Double Latte, Lust Loathing and a Little Lip Gloss, Passion Betrayal and Killer Highlights, Obsession, Deceit and Really Dark Chocolate, and a stand alone novel,
So Much For My Happy Ending.

Kyra’s latest book, VOWS, VENDETTAS & A LITTLE BLACK DRESS will be available on May 26th. Check out
http://www.kyradavis.com/ for more information. Stay tuned.

WIN SOME, LOSE SOME

In a blog I posted last week, What to Read or Not To Read, I wrote about the publicist’s dilemma: when many clients query me at once and send me their books, how do I choose the book that I will read first?

I usually select the book that is the most media driven. But what if I am sent three books at once that are all equally media driven? I usually begin reading the book from the author who has expressed the most interest in hiring me. The author who indicates that he or she wants to begin a campaign immediately because his or her book is already out. Due to the time sensitivity of publicity campaigns, if a publicist doesn’t contact the media at least a month or two before a book’s publication, the media opportunities dwindle. In fact, I launch most campaigns three to six months before pub date in order to get book review coverage in monthly magazines which have a three to six month lead time. National shows such as 20/20, 60 Minutes, Oprah and The Mornings Shows usually have a two-to-three month lead time as well.

Often, I read several chapters of several books at the same time. In the course of a week, I may have partially read as many as five books. In some cases, however, the books I’m sent are so riveting I finish them, only to find out that the author has decided not to hire me.

I started to read SEX LOVE AND MONEY: Revenge and Ruin in the World of High Stakes Divorce as soon as I received the book. The author had sent me many e-mails, and we were engaged in a weeklong conversation about his book. The day after I received SEX, LOVE AND MONEY, however, I received another book that piqued my interest and which turned out to be just as riveting: RED NOVEMBER: Inside The Secret U.S.-Soviet Submarine War by W. Craig Reed, who served as a U.S. Navy Recon Diver, submarine weapons technician, and special operations photographer on nuclear fast-attack submarines. He accompanied Navy SEAL teams on reconnaissance missions and earned commendations for completing top-secret operations during the Cold War.

There is a quote on the cover from New York Times bestselling author James Rollins which says “If Tom Clancy had turned THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER into a nonfiction thriller, RED NOVEMBER might be the result. [A] full-throttle and riveting story….not to be missed.”

How can anyone who is interested in history, the Cold War, and who reads thrillers resist a description like that? So I sunk myself into the pages of RED NOVEMBER as I was half-way through SEX LOVE AND MONEY.

So did either author hire me? I sent out proposals to both authors on the same day. Craig Reed signed a Letter of Agreement shortly thereafter. The other author did not.

You win some and you lose some. But I’ve learned after 18 years of wins and losses that for every author who doesn’t hire me, another author of perhaps an even better book is around the corner.

Every day is full of suspense. Much like the thrillers I promote, I never know what surprises are in store for me when I awake and turn on my computer. And sometimes, there is an e-mail waiting for me from a New York Times bestselling author who wants to hire me to promote his next book. What could be better than that?

When I first began promoting books as an independent book publicist, several prospective clients who were looking for bargain-basement deals said to me, “You only make a few phone calls a day and that’s it.”

Would that it were that easy. A few phone calls is quite the understatement when there are literally hundreds of media outlets to contact in a comprehensive campaign. Way back in the early Nineties, however, when that comment was made, we publicists relied on the phone and voicemail as e-mail was a burgeoning form of communication and most of the media preferred that you contact them via the old-fashioned way.

Slowly that changed. You would call a media contact and some voicemail messages indicated that the editor or producer would prefer you to contact them via e-mail. Nowadays, if you call a media contact their voicemail message often says, “If you are a book publicist, please don’t leave a voice-mail message. E-mail me a press release or pitch.”

What do you do then, when you’ve sent hundreds of e-mails and not one contact has responded? Ah, that’s the challenge of being a publicist. Because most likely, unless you are promoting the latest celebrity or political confessional, one e-mail is not enough to ensure your author receives media coverage. Nor are two e-mails. Sometimes three e-mails are not enough.

Do I send the same e-mail if the first, second or third has not received a response? Of course not. I am constantly reinventing my pitches and rewriting press releases, looking for a new hook that will elicit a response.

Recently, I had to stoop to more subtle means when I had not heard back from producers who had consistently booked my clients throughout the years. So I put in the subject line: Are you still producing for the Morning Show? That did elicit a very quick response. And a positive one at that. “When is your author coming to town? We’d love to have him on our show.”

I do, whenever possible, follow up three or four unanswered e-mails with phone calls on the oft chance that a real live voice will pick up the phone, and that I can engage in an old-fashioned conversation. And when that happens, more often that not, I land an article or a TV or radio interview.

But chatty conversations with the media have gone by the wayside just as relying solely on newspaper coverage for our content has.

And just like in the past when producers complained about the amount of voicemail messages they received and how they could not possibly listen to all of them (one harried producer of a well-known national morning show who was deluged with hundreds of voicemails a day once called to say “please keep your pitches to 30 seconds” when I was a rookie), the media now complains about the amount of e-mails they receive daily, which far exceed the number of voice mails they ever received.

One producer said at a luncheon that she receives more than 200 e-mails a day. And remember, she is not glued to her computer all day. She has meetings to attend to, books to sift through, shows to produce. By the end of the week, she has received more than 1,000 e-mails from book publicists all jockeying like for the very few interview spots that exist. It’s understandable that she can’t respond to all of the e-mails she receives. Just those few books by high-profile authors or books about subjects such as finding “Mr. Right” that she and her executive producers feel will pull the highest ratings.

So what is the day in the life of a book publicist like? Sometimes I compare it to existing in the void of a black hole. I am out there in cyberspace wondering if anyone is even reading my e-mails, much less responding to them. But I persist. Because that’s what a good publicist does. I pitch and pitch again until I have finally caught the attention of a producer or reviewer.

And when I do, the adrenaline rush kicks in and makes all the effort worth it. For me and for my client.

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