SPAWN Market Update – July, 2007
By Patricia L. Fry
Going, Going, Gone – 11 publishers have gone on hiatus.
Here’s What’s New – 10 news bites, announcements and changes.
Opportunities for Freelance Writers and Authors – A dozen amazing opportunities.
Opportunities for Fiction Writers – 5 fiction markets.
Book Promotion Opportunities – How to get in O-The Oprah Magazine. 5 Review Sites. Do excerpts sell books?
Opportunities for Scriptwriters – Free seminar
Opportunities for Artists and Photographers – Two potential jobs.
Resources for SPAWN Members – Google Alerts, Warning Sites and the all important Shut-Down Software for Write-a-holics.
Interview with Publicist, Marsha Friedman
Going, Going, Gone
Silver Lake Publishing is not currently accepting manuscript submissions. Check back often so you’ll know when this policy changes. http://www.silverlakepublishing.com.
Domhan Books, at http://www.domhanbooks.com, is not taking on any new authors at this time. If you have a high quality fiction book manuscript to pitch, you may want to visit their Web site from time to time to find out when they are open for submissions.
Roaring Brook Press is currently not accepting unsolicited manuscripts, nor is Sagaponack Books, Shadow Mountain, Scholastic Inc, Snow Tree Books, Viking Children’s Books, VSP Books or Trellis Publishing, Inc.
Trivium Publishing is not accepting submissions at this time. They’re moving and do not want to bother with keeping track of your manuscript in the transition. Keep a watch over their Submission Guidelines page at http://www.triviumpublishing.com/authors.html. What do they produce? Historical fiction and fantasy.
Your organizations are working for you. I see that PMA is gearing up to participate in a protest against high postal rates. The Direct Marketing Association is actively working to fight those postal rates that are affecting publishers so deeply in the pocketbook. Get more information here: http://www.the-dma.org/postal.
Former SPAWN member, attorney Tonya Evans just came out with a new book called, The Copyright Companion for Writers. I’ve requested a copy to review for SPAWNews. In the meantime, learn more about this book at: http://www.literarylawguide.com.
News from Canada. According to the Canadian Freelance Union, a journalist’s income has dropped. This union formed under the auspices of the Communications, Energy and Paper Workers Union with 150,000 members. Around 25,000 of them are in the media. If you are working as a writer, graphic artist, designer, or photographer in Canada and you want higher wages for your work, you may want to consider joining up. http://www.cfunion.ca
Fidlar Doubleday (a POD printing company) has moved, consequently there are some changes in staffing. Your new customer representative is Joy Hubbs. You can reach her at 800-248-0888. I’m a little confused by the rest of Keith Reisinger’s message to me about their move. He says they are moving to Davenport, Iowa from Potage, Michigan, but that their corporate offices are at 4450 48th Ave. Court, Rock Island, IL 61204-6248. If this is confusing to you too, contact Keith at email@example.com or Linda Castner (who will be staying on) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donohue Group, a provider of the PCIP services is raising their prices effective July 1, 2007. For regular service (delivery within 2 weeks), the new fee will be $55.00. For rush service (3 business days), the fee is $80.00/title. http://www.dgiinc.com.
Anomalos Publishing House is new. Check them out at http://www.anomalospublishing.com. And read more about opportunities with Anomalos under “Opportunities for Freelance Writers and Authors.”
Victoria is back—or it will be in November. http://www.hoffmanmedia.com.
Subscribers to Freelance Writers Report can get the 2008 Writer’s Market at a reduced rate of $29.99 plus shipping/tax. Or order the Deluxe Edition which includes the book and Internet access to WritersMarket.com for one year plus membership in CNW (Cassell Network of Writers) for $143.99 plus shipping/tax. This includes a $15 savings on membership. Learn more at http://www.writers-editors.com. Questions? Contact Dana K. Cassell, email@example.com.
Church Business Magazine has a new name. This publication is now addressed as Church Solutions.
Freelance Work Exchange has changed its name to GoFreelance.com. Under any name, this site seems to have a lot of warnings launched against them. So don’t be fooled by the name change. If you had problems with Freelance Work Exchange, you may want to avoid GoFreelance.com.
WOW! Women on Writing is soliciting articles for their newsletter. Here are their topics for coming months: August, “Put on your writing cap”; September is their anniversary issue; in October, they want articles for children’s book authors and in November, they will focus on literary agents. http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
SM: The Magazine for Single Mothers is brand new. They’re looking for articles on a wide range of topics of interest to single mothers including family law, health, diet, spirituality, money management, co-parenting, relationships, etc. Articles should teach, inspire, motivate and inform. In other words, they want service-oriented pieces. And they pay well, too: $150 for a department piece of 100 words and $400-$1,000 for feature articles. Study guidelines at: http://www.singlemothermag.com/writers_guidelines.html.
Thomas Horn at Anomalos Publishing House is seeking writers who haven’t yet made a name for themselves. Horn says, “There are a vast number of undiscovered authors out there and we would like to partner with them to see them through their publishing goals.” Anomalos is, according to all indications, a traditional royalty publisher. Evidently, Horn is putting a lot of energy into promotion, which is enticing even well-known authors such as George Archibald (Pulitzer Prize nominee), Patrick Heron (Pyramid of the Apocalypse) and Lynn Marzulli (the Nephilim Trilogy), to switch to Anomalos. Go to http://www.anomalospublishing.com and find out what Horn means by “Partnering” with Anomalos.
Dorchester Publishing is trying to cut down on the number of manuscripts they receive. In so doing, they are now only accepting romance, horror, thriller, historical fiction and western novels. Here’s what they want; a cover letter, synopsis (roughly 5 pages) and the first three chapters. And send this material the old-fashioned way—through the mail along with an SASE. Here are additional specs: Keep your romance to 80,000 to 100,000 words. They are only acquiring certain categories of romance: historical, futuristic, time-travel, paranormal, contemporary/comedies, chick lit, suspense and African American. Keep westerns to 70,000-90,000 words. Historical fiction, horror, thriller manuscripts should run from 80,000 to 100,000. Learn more about their submission process at http://www.dorchesterpub.com. Click on Submission Guidelines.
Morgana Press produces commercial nonfiction and fiction. They only want submissions from published authors or authors with literary agents. They are always on the lookout for fresh voices and great books. This company is only a few years old and they focus on New Orleans-based authors, themes and/or subject matter. They wish to receive a query letter first sent by mail and an SASE. Please also send an overview of your project and they ask you to include your promotional ideas. No email. Morgana Press, 929 Royal Street, #512, New Orleans, LA 70116. But hold off sending anything to them for a few more weeks. Unsolicited submissions will not be accepted until after July 15, 2007. Review their guidelines at http://www.morganapress.com/submissions.html.
Whiskey Creek Press is primarily a publisher of ebooks. They’re now accepting submissions for general nonfiction, historical biographies, general reference/how-to works, romance fiction, mainstream fiction, historical, westerns, inspirations and Christian themes, science fiction, fantasy, horror, suspense, thrillers and the paranormal. Novels should be at least 50,000 words (80,000 words preferred). Nonfiction manuscripts can run up to 120,000 words. Visit their Web site for submission preparation instructions: http://www.whiskeycreekpress.com/submissions.shtml.
Walker and Company is accepting manuscripts for books for young readers (Preschool through young adult.) 104 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011
Wild Heart Ranch, 1385 Gulf Road, Ste. 102, Point Roberts, WA 98281 is seeking fiction picture books for children.
Sylvan Dell Publishing is accepting fiction picture books. 976 Houston Northcutt Blvd., Ste. 3, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464.
See Sharp Press wants to hear from you via a query letter or email regarding your manuscript related to anti-12-step substance-abuse self-help programs, psychology, anarchism, atheism and philosophy. They also accept fiction, but rarely. Send queries to See Sharp Press, POB 1731, Tucson, AZ 85702.
Mapletree Publishing Company is a small publisher that produces quality materials on homeschooling and parenting. They also look at quality fiction manuscripts. http://www.mapletreepublishing.com.
Jist Publishing produces books on job search and careers and occasionally on education and training as well as business topics. They are seeking proposals and they clearly outline exactly what questions they want addressed in that proposal at their Web site. Study submission guidelines at http://www.jist.com/manuscript_guide.shtm.
A new fiction magazine will debut in January, 2008. Get ready for Noctem Aeternus, an e-zine focusing on horror. Your story can have a science fiction, fantasy, western or mystery slant, but it must have the horror element. Editor Michael Knost says that this will be a quality fiction magazine, so send your best stories. Visit the site at http://www.michaelknost.com. And click “Guidelines,” to learn what Knost wants from his contributors. Good news—this is a paying market. Even though the magazine is free, Knost pays 10 cents/word up to 4,000 words. (Thanks to SPAWN member Sandra Murphy for this heads-up.)
Have you heard that the government is looking for Science Fiction writers? Yes, they want you to tell them how to prepare for the future in terrorism. Learn more at http://www.tinyurl.com/3cys5h.
BOFFM (Big Ole Face Full of Monster) is paying 25 cents/word for supernatural horror, dark science fiction and cross genre short stories. Check their guidelines at http://www.gomonstergo.com/submissions.html.
The Passionate Pen has posted a romance publisher directory at their site. And they include some of the majors, Christian publishers, e-publishers and small presses—all of them eager for good romance manuscripts. Check out the directory at: http://www.passionatepen.com/romancepubs.htm.
Crossquarter Publishing produces a variety of nonfiction and fiction books that may be just a little unusual. You’ll see what I mean when you visit their submissions page: http://www.crossquarter.com/Query.htm. They state on this page that proposals must include a marketing plan and show that you understand the book industry and are willing to aggressively promote your book. Proposals without a marketing plan will not be considered.
Do you have a Chick Lit book? Or maybe yours fits more into the Hen Lit, Mom Lit or Lad Lit. If your book is by women and for women, check out this site. There may be a possible review in it for you. Chick Lit Chicks posts reviews for books in the Chick Lit category. Check them out at: http://www.chicklitchicks.com.
Curled Up With a Good Book at http://www.curledup.com, reviews Chick Lit books as well as many others types.
If your book is writing-related, ask Angela Hoy at Writer’s Weekly to feature it at her site. http://www.writersweekly.com
Okay, here it is—a chance at the brass O ring. Yes, I’m talking Oprah. Author Susan Yarrow has produced a book called, How to Get into 0, The Oprah Magazine. It offers the strategies that prestigious publicists have used to get their clients into the magazine, techniques for packaging your product or idea for making your presentation Oprah-ready. And, get this—the book includes Oprah’s 10 hot buttons—topics that the O editors are looking for.
The book isn’t cheap. Unfortunately, I stumbled across this information too late to get you the discounted price. They were running a special on the book through June 16, 2007. If you want to purchase it now, the cost is $197.00. And would you believe it’s only a 136-page ebook? It might be worthwhile pooling funds with everyone in your writing group to purchase a copy. Check it out at http://www.prsecretstore.com/otheoprahmagazine.html.
If you’re including a DVD or CD with your book, you might take a look at what Discom Technologies is doing. Instead of placing the disk in a sleeve glued to the inside back cover of the book, this company has discovered a way to insert plastic disk encasements within the pages of the book automatically at the time the book is bound. Check it out at: http://www.discomtech.com.
The International Herald Tribune recently ran an article by Joanne Kaufman called, “A Publishing Quandary: Do Excerpts Help Sales?” Major publishers are rethinking the value of excerpts that are used primarily to engage readers’ interest. Now they’re wondering, Do excerpts whet a reader’s appetite for the book or give them their fill of the story? While some publishers believe that readers will be anxious for more, others are not too sure. Read the article at http://www.iht.com/bin/print.php?id=6103485.
There’s a complimentary ScriptShark seminar in Santa Monica on July 15, 2007. Learn more about this opportunity by calling 310-434-7272. Or email email@example.com. Here’s what you’ll get out of this seminar: tips for landing an agent, marketing strategies (how to get your script into the right hands), the art of the pitch, the most common mistakes writers make and more.
Silver Lake Publishing is inviting artists to submit samples along with a cover letter of credits and biographical information. If they like your work, they will contact you when a job comes available. http://www.silverlakepublishing.com/guidelines/index.html.
Google Alerts Keeps Authors/Writers Informed
Are you getting your daily dose of Google Alerts, yet? I just learned about this useful feature. Here’s how it works. You tell Google what subjects you want information about and you’ll receive a daily (or weekly) email giving you the latest information, links, blog entries, etc. in your chosen topic. I’d like to hear how other members use this FREE service.
Here’s what I’m doing. I gave Google my name and the title of my latest book for one search. Each morning I receive emails letting me know where my name and book title are showing up. They might send me links to articles that have appeared within the last few days, a mention of my name in someone’s blog, etc. I also asked to be alerted to new information about writing, publishing and book promotion. Guess what link landed in my email box one day this week. It was my own latest blog entry called—“The Changing Face of Publishing.” (http://www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog). It’s cool to think that I was the hottest thing going within the publishing industry that day.
Use Google Alerts to discover where the topic of your book is being discussed and then go there and join in. Locate new magazines, sites and blogs on the topic or in the genre. Follow up and find ways to use them to promote your book. Be creative in using the Google Alerts service.
I understand that there are additional Google Alerts services you can pay for. I haven’t tried any of them, yet. But I am enjoying Google’s assistance keeping track of my promotion and keeping me up-to-date on the publishing industry. http://www.google.com/alerts.
Pain in the English—Check Your Grammar the Fun Way
Pain in the English is an interactive site for anyone who is interested in the elements of proper English. http://www.painintheenglish.com
Warnings for Authors
A recent SPAWNDiscuss topic focused on warnings and I promised to run an update of warning sites that authors, freelance writers, artists, publishers, etc. can use to check on the reputation of an individual or company before diving in with both feet. Please be proactive—watch out for the sharks.
Freelance Writers Report
***Here’s a new one
This site contains much more than poetry scams. You’ll also find complaints about publishers, author/publisher support companies, individual writers and more. They list blacklisted Web sites related to publishing/writing, as well.
A Discipline Aid for Write-a-holics
Do you sit at your computer for long periods? Are you having neck or back problems? Has your chiropractor told you over and over again to take regular breaks from your computer? Here’s software to help you get away. Aquarius Soft PC Shutdown Professional. $19.80. http://www.aquariussoft.com/pc-shutdown
Accurate Shutdown c.6.10. http://www.softaward.com/9197.html
How did I find out about those programs? My chiropractor recommended it.
Interview with Publicist, Marsha Friedman Please tell us about your company and your services.
Marsha: Let me begin by giving you a little background about my company, Event Management Services. I started the business in 1990 with a woman I met when I moved to Clearwater, Florida (Tampa Bay area) from Los Angeles. (She was my partner for about 13 years.) But, it all began with a request from a friend of mine from the financial community who asked me to arrange talk radio interviews for him on a pay-for-performance basis. My partner and I did some research and realized that the model of pay-for-performance publicity was almost unheard of and we took this as an opportunity to launch our firm. I then used my relationships with business associates in the financial community; (financial newsletter writers and financial experts/authors) as my source for new clients.We started out booking clients on talk radio and became very niche in this medium. We developed our own style for writing press releases that the media really liked and it encouraged them to want to use us as a primary source of guests. This was crucial for us, because at that time, we didn’t bill our clients until we booked a show. So, with no formal education in PR (which I now honestly believe was a blessing), no financial backing or rich husbands to support us, we were strongly motivated to figure it out.We were two smart women who had a strong desire and intention to make the business work for us—and we did!
After about a year into the business, one of our clients told us he loved the work we were doing for him with talk radio, but he needed to do a “book tour” and wanted national TV as well. He was going to find another firm to handle this part of his campaign, while we continued to arrange his talk radio interviews. But he offered us the opportunity to do it for him, if we wanted to take on the challenge. Well, that’s all we needed to hear. We did research on how journalists and TV producers wanted to be pitched and proceeded to work our angles and write our press releases. Again, because we only got paid for our bookings, we had to get smart very quickly. We also had no notion that it would be a hard thing to do or that it couldn’t be done. So, with a lot of smarts, hard work and perseverance we landed our client on CBS’ morning news show and Donahue!
From there, we booked this author on a 10 city author tour, arranging in-studio radio interviews, in-studio TV appearances, book-signings and print coverage in each city. And that’s how we learned the ropes of working with all media and it was also the turning point when we officially became a full service publicity firm. In hindsight, I can tell you that our positive attitude and hunger for success definitely played a key role in building my company. In fact, even now, if I hear one of my campaign managers tell me a booking “can’t be done” they get an earful from me—as I have years of experience to prove the most outrageous things “can be done”.
Still to this day, we specialize in representing mostly non-fiction authors to the media arranging interviews on talk radio shows around the country, appearances on local and national TV and obtaining editorial coverage in newspapers and magazines. We still maintain the pay-for-performance model for our radio and TV bookings, but we have a different model for our print campaigns which has done very well for our clients. They receive a great amount of service in exchange for their fee.
Patricia asks: What led to your work in this publicity firm—what is your background/professional interests?
Marsha: My background in the world of PR came from my involvement in the 70s with an organization called the American Economic Council. The President of this organization taught me the founding principles of marketing and PR and with a hand-picked team of professionals, we helped create one of the largest and most important investment and economic forums for investors and economists alike. These seminars attracted thousands of investors from all over the world to hear internationally renowned economists and legislators such as former President Gerald R. Ford, General Alexander Haig, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Nobel Prize laureate Frederich Von Hayek and many other well known experts in this field.
My role in helping to market these seminars and work closely with these celebrities in the financial community enabled me to launch my company and firmly establish it as a public relations player for a highly diverse group of clients. Over the years we’ve represented authors and experts in almost every field you can think of (lifestyle, business, health, politics, entertainment, finance, sports, food) along with such notable figures as Jimmy Hoffa Jr., National Security Advisor Robert McFarland as well as the legendary Motown Group “The Temptations,” media personality Jim Rogers and a host of others.
On a personal level, I co-founded a charity when I moved to Clearwater in 1989, called, Cherish the Children Foundation which was recognized by the White House in 1996. For 18 years our organization primarily supported the foster children and foster families in the Tampa Bay area, but we recently opened a Teen Division of Cherish The Children Foundation, working with teenagers in the Juvenile Justice System, teaching them values that will help them live a more productive life when they are released.
Patricia asks: I see that your firm doesn’t focus just on authors, but I sure see your name at a lot of sites and in a lot of newsletters related to authorship and publishing. What percentage of your clients are authors seeking publicity?
Marsha: When I launched my firm in 1990, we solely worked with non-fiction authors, all of whom were experts in a variety of industries. As I was the partner responsible for marketing and sales, I recognized the value of marketing our services to the natural health industry—as we had a number of authors in this industry, which provided me with the marketing credibility I needed for a successful marketing campaign. And, at the same time, I understood the need for health experts to be interviewed in the media, particularly on the natural health side of the spectrum. It was a much younger industry at that time, and there was a lot of controversy—a perfect formula for attracting media interest.
So, in 1995, I started marketing very heavily to manufacturers of products you would see on the shelves of any health food store and pairing them up with experts/authors in this field. Our service as a Corporate Publicist was unique and certainly our pay-for-performance method of payment was unusual and very welcome for smaller companies and start-ups. As this industry grew, so did my company. At the same time, I used other resources available to me for marketing and was able to attract a few major recording companies and some political clients as well. So, for a number of years, we were rather eclectic, in terms of our clients. We represented everyone from Bristol Myers to Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. to Motown’s Temptations to Harry Browne (Presidential Candidate for the Libertarian Party); consumer product manufacturers in the natural health industry and a variety of non-fiction authors in the mix.
Interestingly enough, what most people don’t understand is that through this wide range of topics we represented we became specialized, in an unusual way, of being able to take ANY consumer oriented topic, understand the salient points of its message and develop it into an angle that would attract interest and attention from the media. Along with this knowledge was the internal “machine” we created to support such a diverse group of clients and their needs. And, to this day, that is truly one of our strengths.
After 9/11, many of our clients suffered and we saw the decline in our business as well. I reconstructed our marketing plan and for a variety of reasons began focusing our marketing back into the publishing industry. So, the short answer to your question is in the early days, we were almost exclusively representing authors – and only non-fiction. Then in the mid 90’s to pre 9/11, we were more focused on manufacturers of consumer goods and products whereas today, probably 90% of our publicity clients are authors.
Patricia asks: What services/exposure can you offer authors that, perhaps, a book publicist can’t/won’t?
Marsha: In addition to publicity, we also offer advertising services to our corporate clients—like radio and TV commercials and infomercials. But I wouldn’t recommend this to authors and publishers, simply because the profit margins aren’t there for them in the same way they exist for corporations. The exception to this of course, is if the book is being used as a marketing tool for a company, in which case advertising can make good financial sense.
But, there is one service I provide, which is completely outside the realm of book publicity and can be a perfect promotional tool for a certain genre of authors. It’s having your own local or national talk radio show or TV show. A talk radio show in particular is a perfect platform for an author who has a professional expertise for consumers and a business that sells a service or product. I’m sure you’ve heard the Saturday or Sunday “Ask the Expert” type radio shows—or the weekend health, gardening or car shows? These are the types of shows I’m referring to. If you’re an author AND a chiropractor, natural health practitioner, lawyer, investment advisor, gardener, food expert, life coach, relationship expert, etc., this type of show can help boom a business.
Patricia asks: Please share one (or two) of your author success stories.
Marsha: There are many, and it’s hard to focus on just one or two. But, the successes come with authors who understand the need to stay out there in the media and have the wherewithal to do so. And, in that sense, it’s really a team effort. Once they understand that we work to position the author as an expert rather than just pitching their book, that’s when we see a fantastic response from the media. As you’d expect, timing and current events are also an integral part of what we do. For instance, we represent an author who is a certified grief recovery counselor as well as a pet expert. When the recent pet food recalls made headlines earlier this year and countless pet owners across the country were wondering if their pets had been poisoned, we were able to showcase our author’s expertise in numerous talk radio interviews. She gave listeners solid, useful information and has now cemented her reputation as an authoritative voice on grief and pets, making her an ‘expert’ guest, not just an author of several books. We also have a client who’s a former IRS attorney. He’s published two books that have helped readers save millions of dollars in taxes. He originally contracted with us to promote his second book. After a wildly successful campaign he came back to us and asked us what we could do to drum up interest in his first book. Now mind you, this was shortly after April 15th and he worried that he’d have to wait until next January when most consumer-oriented tax stories and articles start appearing. But after our creative team read his book we decided his target audience needed to hear his advice now to best implement his tips. Next January would have been too late. So we crafted releases with a sense of urgency, demonstrating that to avoid getting socked by the IRS next year, people needed to put his advice into action ASAP while there was still half the year left in 2007.
Below is a comment from one of my clients, that she sent to an editor I referred her to. The client is Nicole Rocheleau and she has given me her approval to use this in my marketing materials, so please feel free to use any of this in your article, if you feel it’s appropriate.
“What I did find after writing every newspaper I could find an address for and every free publicity release website imaginable, is my awesome Publicity Company- */EMSI./* They are absolutely amazing and they have opened doors for me that I thought would take me many more years of banging on before being opened to me. Thanks to them- I have been on 30 radio interviews, 2 major Arizona News Shows, written articles for a couple of magazines, done interviews for a couple more, and have had many, many fabulous write ups in all kinds of magazines about my Emmy Bolan series book one and two. Like you, God blessed me ten-fold when He put them on my path. Oh and by the way, I have only been working with them for a year.”
Below is Nicole’s official testimonial:
“Working with EMSI is like your family looking out for your best interest. You are pushed to be your best, supported to go further than you dreamed possible, and you are made to feel safe with all and any decisions. Their staff is unsurpassed and their work is phenomenal. From radio, to T.V., to print campaign, you are placed in the best hands without fear. Deciding to work with EMSI was easy, and everything after that was gold.”
Patricia asks: Do you have a screening process for clients? Please describe it? In other words, are there some authors who would not benefit from your professional services?
Marsha: We absolutely have a screening process for authors. We screen for the quality of an author’s message and the quality of their book. I’ve turned away self-published authors who are in love with their writing, but just don’t understand the need for a professional ghostwriter, editor and/or designer. They’re not open to the idea that while they may have the raw skills or talent, their work needs polishing. I won’t take on a book that isn’t produced professionally enough—because it will hurt our reputation with the media. That lack of attention to detail diminishes the message and erodes the sense that there’s an expert at the helm. The media rely on us to provide them with professional, experts who are doling out advice to their listeners and the book is a reflection of that expertise.
There are also topics I turn down because of philosophical differences between my viewpoint and that of the author’s. I look at it this way; I’m in the promotion business and if I disagree with the validity of a message I wouldn’t be willing to promote it. For example, I’m strongly opposed to the use of Ritalin and other psychotropic drugs so freely being doled out to our children. To me, it sends a wrong message to our kids, that drugs are a solution. And, as a mom whose daughter died of an overdose of drugs, this is something I am vocal about. Bottom line is when books come to me with this “solution” I won’t have anything to do with the promotion of it. I’ve even walked away from a huge contract with a pharmaceutical that manufactured psychotropic drugs. It’s a point of personal integrity for me and as integrity is such an important virtue, I’m unwilling to comprise this.
Patricia asks: How should an author prepare to work with you?
Marsha: Good question—and there are definitely some key preparation points before embarking on a publicity campaign. First and foremost, we tell them to know their topic cold. If you know your topic inside and out then your chances of being caught off guard with unexpected questions become slim.
Patricia asks: At what point should an author contact a publicity firm? Should this be after he or she has exhausted his promotional ideas or just as soon as they produce a book?
Marsha: If an author is going to rely on a publicity firm to promote their book, they need to engage one just as soon as the book is produced, if not sooner! There’s preparation that needs to be done by your publicist – developing their tools to pitch to the media, developing customized databases, etc. Also the timelines of the different media need to be taken into account. For example, magazines work 3 to 6 months out, bookstores arrange book signings 2 to 3 months out, TV and radio producers often book their guest segments 4 to 6 weeks in advance. The firm will also want to read the book, interview the author and go from there to start crafting the message. It’s a collaborative process for us; our creative team reads the book, reviews the author’s questionnaire and biography and then researches the topic—and that all happens before they even begin crafting the campaign message. So if you want a well-thought out and well-orchestrated plan, the sooner you start the better.
On the flip side, we do have many authors come to us after their numerous attempts at self-promotion have flopped and they’re frustrated, at wit’s end. We hear a common refrain after we’ve created their campaigns and booked their interviews—‘why didn’t I call you from the beginning?’
Patricia asks: What is the best advice (about promotion and publicity) that you can give someone who is planning to write a book?
Marsha: Realize that writing your book is step one in this process. Step two is creating a marketing plan for your book and equally important is to have a marketing budget in place so you can execute that plan. Even if the author promotes the book on his own without hiring a firm there are still costs involved. Whether it’s the cost to buy a media list, the cost to print press releases, mail books, travel costs to do book signings and media interviews, etc. and these costs need to be budgeted.
If the author wants to hire a professional firm they need to research what a publicity campaign will cost. There are all kinds of campaigns and many different levels of service from distributing a press release through a wire service or PR Web.com or a more comprehensive campaign that includes book tours, online publicity, etc. An author really needs to understand that to sell books, they need a marketing plan, and the time and money to implement the plan.
All too often I have authors contact me with a desire to promote their books, and they have a lofty goal of their book becoming a best-seller, or a book that “belongs on Oprah,” but they have no marketing plan in place, no budget for professional help to make it happen and their goals suffer from being completely unrealistic.
Writing the book is just one part of the project, but if no marketing or promotion is done so that people even know your book exists—then all that hard work and passion can be for naught.
I would also encourage them to read about other successful authors—how did they get their book in the spotlight? What strategies did they use to get media attention and how can you apply those principles to promoting your book?
Patricia asks: I see that you have done publicity work for some major publishing houses. When you are given an author to work with, is there something he or she can do to make the experience more successful?
Marsha: Really it’s a lot like the preparation we talked about in question number 7. Whether an author comes to us from a publisher or if they’re self published the preparation is the same. One key thing I would like to point out is that we do our homework. We always keep a pulse on current events and the topics that people are talking about. But when we get a new book we spend time researching the topic to find various angles that will tie into current events, so I always encourage authors to come into this with an open mind. We have a staff with a lot of media experience, they’ve been on the other side of the press release, so I like to let our authors know that when our creative team tells them an angle has ‘legs,’ they’re speaking from experience because they used to wear that producer or show host’s hat.
Patricia asks: What seems to be the best promotional activity these days for authors of fiction? Nonfiction?
Marsha: Of course, book reviews in well-respected newspapers and magazines, with high circulations will always be at the top of the list. But that activity is not something an author can always obtain. Beyond that, I don’t think there’s anything that compares with a live conversation to a targeted audience. That’s the beauty of talk radio interviews; you reach a huge number of listeners who feel personally invested in the conversation. This is very effective for authors of nonfiction primarily. For certain fiction authors, where a theme from their book can tie into current events, talk radio can be a great fit as well.
Talk radio listeners are typically very loyal listeners, so when their favorite talk show host interviews one of our authors and presents them as an expert in their field, the listeners take notice and feel as though they’re part of the conversation. The radio hosts and producers know what their listeners like, so when they receive our releases and work with our national radio campaign manager, we know that we’re booking an interview to a targeted demographic.
Speaking engagements are also great—an author should go out of their way to arrange speaking engagements wherever and whenever possible. This humanizes the author and makes him accessible and real. When readers can feel as though the author is speaking specifically and directly to them, they form a personal interest in the book. And of course, this is something they would tell their family and friends about. Book-signings are also excellent for this reason as well.
Online publicity is also very important in today’s world—with technology being so available to help us reach people all over the world. So they should take the time to develop a great website for their book; one that looks professional and features the key points of their message. They also need their web designer to focus on search engine optimization so that their site comes up early in the search engine listings during searches of their topic or field.
Patricia asks: Please add anything you would like.
Marsha: One of the most important tips I can offer is that if an author does decide to hire a publicity firm to promote their book they should look for one that charges on a performance basis, rather than paying a monthly retainer for the firm’s ‘best efforts.’ That will help them get the ‘most bang for their buck,’ and they only pay when they get those bookings and interviews. We’re not the only firm in the book industry that operates this way, whereas in the corporate world, there are very few firms that are performance based. Authors should take advantage of this opportunity because it will help them stretch their marketing dollars to maximize results.