How long have you been in PR?
I received my BA in communications with an emphasis in public relations in 2000. I worked in media and communications capacities in the non-profit sector throughout college, then graduated and moved to Florida to work in advertising. I went back to the non-profit world in Florida, then returned to Tennessee and spent time in commercial/medical real estate management. It didn’t take me long to miss the world of communications, though! I took my first literary publicist position with Thomas Nelson in 2004. I’ve been in literary publicity ever since.
Was there ever a time in your career you thought of quitting?
No, not that I can remember. There are days when I wonder if I’m any good at this, though! That happens to most of us publicists if we’ve spent the day pitching a client and ended the day with no nibbles, not even a hint of media coverage. I’ve learned to take those doubts to God and ask for His affirmation if I’m walking the right path. Inevitably, the next day I’ll get a call from some big media outlet like National Public Radio or the Today Show or we’ll land a big client and I’ll think, “Yep, I love this.”
How many clients can you serve in a year?
Our firm handles 20-30 books at any given time. That ends up being close to 50 books per year. Thankfully, it’s not just me handling those campaigns! We have a staff of publicists and publicity assistants – as well as able support staff – that keeps all the balls up in the air.
What can your agency offer to first time authors that they might not be able to do on their own?
Probably the most valuable thing we offer to first timers is wisdom. Entering the publishing world is a lot like jumping on a galloping horse with your eyes duct-taped shut. It can either result in a thrilling ride or a painful mess. Debut authors normally don’t know who does what at the publishing house, what they can be doing themselves to promote their books, how to work well with the promotions team at the publishing house, etc. We answer a lot of questions on those topics.
As for the actual act of publicity, our relationships with media representatives are of great benefit to first time and seasoned authors alike. We can make a call or shoot an email to a lot of media reps and know we’ll be listened to because we take the time to develop relationships with those folks. We regularly fly to New York, LA, Chicago, etc. to meet with reps and ask them what they want to see. Our entire day is spent learning about these outlets – what kinds of books the reviewers like, what kinds of interviews the editors want, etc. Those relationships help us know where to steer the book rather than shooting books blindly into the night and hoping someone picks it up for a story or review.
What about established authors? Can you give us an idea how working with Glass Road Public Relations can help them?
Sure – it depends on the author’s previous media coverage and desires for the future. Some authors have published eight books, but if you mention their name to an avid reader, all you get is a raised eyebrow. With publicity, that shouldn’t happen as often. Your title list equips the publicist to pitch you to media, who in turn write articles about you and review your books. Consumers see that media coverage and become more familiar with your name. Then, when they go to purchase a book, they know to find your books. We know from a survey in 2005 that author name recognition is in the top five reasons consumers name for purchasing a book, so getting your name out there is very important!
For seasoned authors who have gotten plenty of media coverage, we take them to the next level. For instance, if they’ve been on all the regional media, let’s start talking to national media. If they’ve already done the morning news shows and talk shows, then let’s start talking to radio and print more. And, if they’ve exhausted the media spectrum (I’ve yet to meet an author who has, but he/she could exist!), then we simply need to get the word out that your next book is releasing. Educating the public to the fact of your new release spurs sales.
Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?
I do have one main peeve – it’s when we don’t conduct ourselves as Christians, either with each other or when dealing with non-believers in the industry. I’m as guilty of this as the next person, so know that I’m pointing my finger inward! If we’re going to say we’re “Christians” then we should operate at a level more excellent than the rest of the world. I get frustrated when people say something is “just a ministry” – as if that phrase is ever justified! Just a ministry? A ministry is a calling. And we’re told to do everything as unto the Lord. Which means if I’m operating a business that is also a ministry, I ought to be making it the most excellent business/ministry I possibly can. No cutting corners, no half-way doing stuff – 110% all the time.
What work have you done that you’re especially proud of and why?
I really love getting newbie authors off the ground. I love teaching them the ropes of the publishing world and walking alongside them on this path of publication. Don’t get me wrong – working with established authors lets me flex my publicist muscles and call up the big dog media outlets – but there’s a special joy in seeing an author’s eyes light up as those first reviews come rolling in. I’ve been really honored to work with several debut authors and I count my work with them as something I’m proud of.
Do you have a scripture or quote that has spoken to you lately?
There’s a song that I’ve been playing almost constantly for three days now. Our music minister handed me Warren Barfield’s second CD (Reach) and I can’t get enough of it. In particular, there’s a song that starts out, They say you learn from your mistakes. Well, I…I guess I should be a genius. For all the times I’ve fallen on my face. Tangled in my weakness. Wishing someone would say keep your head held high. Don’t stop believing. You are God’s child and His strength is stronger than your weakness. I love the sound of this music – he’s like a Christian John Legend! – and the lyrics on pretty much every song speak to me.
Can you give us a look into a typical day for you?
Danger, Will Roger. Danger! I think I just revealed my age – for all you young ‘uns out there, that’s a line from a TV show in the early eighties. Ha ha! A typical day starts out between 6 and 7AM. I get up and go straight to the kitchen for a quick breakfast (usually muffins, toast, or sausage biscuits). I take breakfast and a Diet Mt Dew into the den and flip on Morning Express with Robin Meade. I eat and get caught up on the day’s headlines, which usually takes about twenty minutes. Then I wake up my hubby and tell him I’m going to let the dogs out because he has to open the downstairs door while I’m upstairs letting them out of their crates.
I let the dogs out, then go to the office and see what’s landed in my inbox overnight. I spend about half an hour responding to anything that can’t wait until later. About the time I finish, I can hear my two-year-old talking downstairs so I take a break to go say, “Good morning” and get that ever-important morning hug. If it’s Monday, Wednesday, or Friday I help him get ready for pre-school, then go back to the office. If it’s Tuesday or Thursday, I just get my hug and go back to work. Next is my Task list. I first do anything that has a deadline on it – creating press materials, updating activity reports, sending out contracts, following up with media who let me know they were meeting a deadline, etc. Then I move on to things without hard and fast deadlines, just loose timeframes – calling and emailing media, developing media lists, scheduling trips to media-rich cities, pulling together presentations for writers conferences, talking with authors, reading new manuscripts that are coming in, etc. I break around 1 or 2 o’clock if I have a few free minutes for lunch. Otherwise, I just keep working and my darling husband ends up sitting something on my desk when I’m on the inevitable phone call. I usually stop officially working around 5 or 6 unless I’ve scheduled a call with someone on the West Coast. In that case, I keep working until the call is over.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of working with authors?
My favorite part is getting to be a portion of the dream God created for their lives. That’s just so freaking cool! My least favorite part is when an author is unteachable – when they come in having a set idea of what should happen (with no background for having formed such) and are totally closed to adapting to the environment and reality. That makes the experience hard on everyone because the author is disappointed and the publicist feels as if she’s letting the author down.
What's your favorite part of marketing?
Getting a “big” hit for a “little” author. Totally makes my day every time! My favorite part of the campaign is crafting the press materials and the branding. That’s the dreaming stage!
What things have you found work particularly well when marketing a book?
Figuring out the appropriate audience for that book, then learning enough about the audience to know what makes its members tick. What do they read? What do they watch? What do they listen to? Where do they spend time? The answers to those questions tell us where and how to promote the book.
Knowing and spotting trends is also very helpful. If I see a trend coming, I pitch it to media outlets. Their purpose is to report on what’s happening in the world around us. Letting them know what’s happening makes me an asset to them and a successful publicist – a win/win! So, for instance, let’s assume I know that 35 Christian science fiction books are releasing in August (I don’t – this is just an imagined scenario), then I pick up the phone and call a Fox News producer to see if they’d like to interview my author about that trend in August.
We all hear how subjective this business is. Can you elaborate on that?
There really is no objective bar by which to measure ourselves. What I think is a fabulous story may be junk to someone else because what entertains me doesn’t entertain everyone.
When you think about it, there’s really no reason to expect otherwise. We’re made in the image of an infinite God – infinite in being. Each of us has the tiniest portion of characteristics of His making. Before the Fall, all those characteristics probably worked in beautiful harmony together. Now, they war with each other. What one person calls art, another calls horrid. We lost the ability to see the complete picture, so we praise the portions that connect with our creation.
That’s why it’s so important to measure ourselves by His standard for our lives, not one we create ourselves by looking at everyone else.
What's the best piece of advice you can give our readers about marketing?
Take the time to think through the image of your ideal reader. Why does that reader want to read your book? Knowing your audience tells you how to reach your audience.
Also, be teachable. My mom drilled this into me as a child. None of us knows everything, so listening to each other and being open to new information is nearly always a wise choice!
What are the biggest mistakes writers make when marketing their work?
Not tailoring the information to the outlet they’re pitching – which goes hand in hand with not knowing the outlet they’re pitching. Take the time to Google stuff. Find out what books the reviewer read in the past and liked – then reference that in your email or phone call or letter. Familiarize yourself with the outlet and you’ll know if your product is appropriate for them.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Keep your head up! Twenty years ago, promotions folks could find a silver bullet that shot a book and author up the charts almost without fail. With the plethora of outlets in the world today (blogs, internet sites, radio, internet radio, podcasts, billboards, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, book clubs, libraries, bookstores, church libraries, reading groups, etc.), there is no longer a single magic bullet. There are forty bullets and they’ve all got to be aimed carefully. Now, more than ever, promotions at the grassroots level is what will consistently bring good results. As I told an author just this morning, it’s not sexy, but it gets books in bags.