This article appears courtesy our friends at Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists
Help Me, Help You
It would seem like common sense for authors to treat their publicist with kindness and respect. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Publicists often bear the brunt of authors’ disillusionment and frustration when his or her book doesn’t become an overnight success. If this sounds all too familiar, its time to rehab your attitude. The following are five “difficult” author types and the accompanying cures to become the kind of author that your publicist loves to work for.
1) The primadonna. It happens more often than you think. Some authors really think shouting and swearing at their publicist for allegedly not doing their job properly is the way to get results. Would you do the same to your doctor or accountant?
Cure: Become team player. Ask your publicist what you can do to complement his or her efforts. Keep an eye on the top news stories, and inform your publicist about current events that tie into your book. Draft opinion pieces that your publicist can place in the media. Compile tip sheets on practical topics related to your book. Mine any unusual hobbies or anecdotes from your personal biography and put them at the disposal of your publicist. Are you scheduling book signings and speaking engagements that your publicist can leverage for media opportunities? Have you provided a list of your top media priorities? Your publicist will love to brag about how helpful you are.
2) The unrealistic author. “When will my book be reviewed by The New York Times?” “Have you heard back from Oprah yet?” Please stop bugging your publicist about booking you on Oprah. Most authors don't have a realistic view of just how serious the competition for national publicity really is.
Cure: Get practical. Don’t compare your experience to your peers. Fiction and non-fiction books will simply not get the same kind of publicity. Remember that the amount of books produced each year has increased while the amount of media opportunities for books has decreased along with circulation figures. Realize that even relatively successful authors have trouble attracting and sustaining national media attention. The key is to build momentum. Start with your local media. Once you have several articles and interviews under your belt with your local press, regional and national press are more likely to pay attention.
3) The control freak. This is the author who calls everyday to check on the progress of the campaign. The author who sends email after email trying to control the minutiae of the campaign process. The author who completely re-writes the press release in “sales-speak” so that it barely resembles the original.
Cure: Go Zen (let go). Realize that the more time your publicist spends communicating with you about the campaign, the less time he or she is actually on the phone talking to the media about your book. There are an infinite number of variables that affect the success (or failure) of a book: competition, breaking news, conflicts of interest, timing, author credentials, marketing budget, cover design problems, etc. Hire a publicist you trust, and then let them do their job. They’re the experts.
4) The literary snob. Who can forget Jonathan Franzen’s public ambivalence toward his selection for Oprah’s Book Club in 2001? While some authors would have reacted to such astonishing good fortune by expressing heartfelt gratitude, Franzen offered whiny insults instead. Oprah eventually cancelled his appearance and Franzen lost an incredible opportunity to get his message out.
Cure: Adjust your attitude. A lot of authors talk about wasting their time on interviews with small-town newspapers and radio stations. The truly successful authors know that everything counts. With the consolidation of media ownership, articles that appear in local newspapers can often be picked up by wire services and syndicated to hundreds of newspapers around the country. Interviews with seemingly tiny radio stations have been tapped by NPR and broadcast nationwide.
5) The absentee author. This is the author who can’t be reached via phone, who takes days to answer an email, who doesn’t clearly communicate availability, or who cancels and/or reschedules at the last minute.
Cure: Set priorities. Authors generally only have three months after a book’s publication date to make an impact with the media. Use your time wisely. Good publicists know how to work within the media’s chaotic process, but author flexibility is the key ingredient for a successful campaign. Authors miss valuable media opportunities all the time when they don’t understand that reporters live by the deadline. Keep your publicist informed of your schedule. Make sure he or she has all of your contact info. Answer requests for interviews in a timely manner. You just might become your publicist’s new best friend!