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Ed. Talks: How to Speak Publicist

An Ed. Talks Panel Continued

The Ed. Talks panel “How to Speak Publicist” was held on January 28. The in-depth look into the publicist’s daily responsibilities and processes was deeply informative. So much so that we wanted to continue this inspirational talk off-camera. If you’re looking for more insights after watching the 1-hour event or just want useful tips on how to best communicate with your designers, read on.

Faye Bi, Publicity Director, Bloomsbury

Do your in-house publicity departments sometimes partner with independent publicists? What strategies would you suggest when using an independent publicist?

We do occasionally work with freelance publicists! Sometimes it’s part of our publicity strategy, and other times it’s arranged by the author. The most important thing to consider when hiring a freelance publicist is to make sure they are adding value to a campaign. We might bring on someone from the outside if a) we’re understaffed, or b) they specialize in particular media that we’ve identified as a target area when setting our plans. It’s crucial to know the freelance publicist’s scope of work from the very start, to make sure it doesn’t overlap or undermine existing publicity efforts. Hiring someone outside the company always requires extra communication and coordination–sometimes a lot of it!–so it’s good to make sure that additional work is worthwhile.

What can we do to broaden the reach of our marketing and publicity efforts to bring in more readers from diverse backgrounds? Can you talk about a campaign where part of the outreach targeted one group of readers specifically (eg. Asian American teens).

We need to think beyond standard marketing and publicity plans, and traditional metrics. Once you really start digging into diversity in publishing, you’ll need to interrogate all aspects of the book community–not just publishing companies, but bookstores, media rooms, educational institutions, libraries, award committees, and more. There have been tireless folk in each of these spaces that have been making diversity efforts for a long time; find them, be helpful to them, and give them what they need. Also, and especially if you do not share an identity, work with the author. I work with author Renée Watson, who is also a poet, educator and activist–and for she is in spaces that I, as an Asian American woman, am not–and we have connected with non-profits, theaters, and museums. Asian American teens aren’t necessarily getting their book recommendations from NPR, but they might be getting them from podcasts like Books and Boba. Some of these outlets and strategies might never have never been on a marketing plan before.

Geena El-Haj, Marketing and Research Assistant, Mango Publishing

About how many months from pub date is it helpful to receive positioning ideas/extra info about the author?

I personally find it the most effective to begin receiving positioning ideas or “platform wishlists” from authors at least 2-3 months in advance of their pub date. This gives me enough time to write a few pitches surrounding that subject/angle, as well as find the contact information of any platforms they would like to be on and similar outlets that may pick up their book. Not only on my end, but it gives the authors a chance to find new angles they may like and pitch themselves to personal contacts.

How many authors or titles are you working with at any given time?

At my publishing house (Mango Publishing) we work extensively with our backlist titles the way we do with our newly published frontlist, which means that the amount of titles I am working on is constantly growing. I would say that at any given time, I am actively working on at least 15-25 books and authors.

What is the best way that editorial can interact with publicity to ensure that their books get everything they need to succeed?

I believe the easiest way for editorial and publicity to work together is to just constantly keep an open line of communication between ourselves and the editors. For example, having the editors let us know when the manuscript of a book is finalized so that we can pull excerpts for outlets and maybe even send watermarked PDFs if requested. It is also helpful on the editorial side for us to let them know of any hits we receive in publicity, or any scheduling we’ve done for the authors so that the editor knows what they can add to analytical data, and what angle of the book is being the most well received.

Do you do media training for authors and illustrators?

We don’t necessarily do media training for authors and illustrators, but we do offer advice and examples of what can be done to boost media presence or be prepared for interviews. Majority of our authors already have larger platforms on some form of social media, which helps a lot when it comes to the new age of online interviews and live interviews via social media outlets that many traditional outlets have begun to take on. – GE

Jackson Ingram, Marketing Specialist, Andrews McMeel Universal

Do you find success working with MuckRack or Cision — and which do you prefer?

At Andrews McMeel, we use Cision exclusively, so I can’t speak to whether or not it’s preferable to MuckRack, but I will say that it comes with a fair share of quirks and challenges. To be honest, Cision usually comes later in my press-list-building process. At least personally speaking, I prefer to start in an Excel sheet, gathering potential leads through Google searches before combing through our database and loading all the new contacts into Cision.

Do publicists work as a team or solo with their authors?

Nine times out of ten, we work solo (with the author, of course). That may be unique to smaller publishing houses, but with so many titles and a limited number of people tackling both marketing and publicity, it suits us to have individuals take ownership of a title as their “project,” and oversee all efforts to promote it. That said, there are definitely books that need a bigger push and/or cross content lanes that make sense for two publicists. As our company moves more into YA, for example, it’s been helpful to have both a children’s publicist and someone on the adult side work together on outreach.

Morgan Kane, Assistant Director of Publicity, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

What advice would you give a publicist first starting out in children’s books?

To publicists first starting out in the children’s book industry, I would recommend doing a lot of reading to gain a better understanding of the current market. Your colleagues at work will likely have recommendations of where to start in the various categories, depending on what’s new or of interest to you. Beyond reading actual books, I recommend starting to follow key entertainment and book reviews sites to learn more about what relevant media is covering, and how they are covering it. Similarly, checking out bookstagrammers, bloggers, and booktubers is a fun and highly visual way to see what’s “out there” in the market. Finally, when it’s safe to do so, go to as many bookstores as possible to see what’s on the shelves, staff picks in kids books, and beyond!

Watch this and other events on our CBC Videos page.

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