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Monday, February 15, 2010

Guest blogger Kathy Willis, Publicist

Kathy Carlton Willis, owner of the same named communications firm, will be one of our guest bloggers over the next six months. We’ve asked her to share a little about herself for this first installment, and in future visits she will share some tutorials with our readers, to coach authors in skills that will advance their writing careers.

Kathy, what is a publicist and what does your job involve?

A publicist helps create buzz about a person or project by utilizing press releases, arranging interviews with media, article placement, branding, blog tours, social networking, and more. My communications firm is involved in all of this, plus marketing books to stores and consumers, coaching authors, editing, book proposals, marketing plans and so much more. Our firm consists of my publicist assistant, and my clerical assistant and me. You could say it takes a village to get the word out!

The industry seems to increasingly want writers to have a developed platform before they will consider their projects for publication. How do you help writers build a platform from scratch, or expand an existing platform?

I love it when writers contact me before their books release to help them build a foundation for their work. The sooner we are brought into the picture, the better we can plan and brainstorm on more than just promoting a book—we promote the PERSON behind the book. Before writers can develop their platform they have to know who their audience (their target market) is. Then they can find ways to communicate with that audience through article placement, column writing, speaking, radio shows, social networking, and more. We consult with authors to help them find the best places to network with their audience and build a fan base. Platform building and branding are very strategic and must be customized to fit the giftedness of each writer.

I know that each publishing house has a marketing and PR person or team who promote their new book releases. Why should a writer hire an independent publicist? What would be the benefit in doing so?

Most publishing houses have a marketing team that often includes a publicity department or in-house publicist. Sometimes publishing houses hire us (independent publicity firms) to supplement what they do in-house, or to be the point person as primary publicist for the project. Other times authors choose to hire us because they want to maximize their opportunities to help get the word out about their books. We work in tandem with the publishing houses so we don’t duplicate efforts. The benefits are: increased exposure, reduced load on the in-house PR team, utilization of the relationships we have built with media and online personalities, and customized databases to fit the message of each book project. Also, since we are more of a boutique PR firm, we can help the authors create buzz in more unique approaches with innovative strategy to tailor-fit their promotional plan.

How should a writer go about selecting the right publicity firm?

Ask a lot of questions in person or by phone if possible, so you can get a sense of how your personalities gel. Find out what sort of databases they can use for your project, to make sure they have the connections you need. Ask them to brainstorm with you about how they might customize your campaign. Ask if they do phone call or e-mail follow-up on any e-blast or print promotional pitches. Request a written proposal to spell out what services are offered. Check out their references and ask your writing mentors if they would recommend this publicist or publicity firm. Communicate your desires for the campaign in advance so there are no misunderstandings or unmet expectations.

Kathy will be sharing her insights on promoting yourself as an author, book campaigns, marketing, and publicity. Feel free to contact her with your questions for this column at Here is her formal biographical sketch:

Kathy Carlton Willis shines the light on God and others through her communications firm as: writer, publicist, writer's coach, book doctor, speaker, and more. She gets jazzed when she’s fiddling with words! Kathy’s team builds relationships with a large industry network, so they can help writers connect to media, ministries and readers. She is affiliated with Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and American Christian Fiction Writers. Her columns and book reviews have appeared online and in print, and she served as grammar guru for three publications. She ghostwrites books and e-books for clients, collaborating with writers to help them find their voices. Kathy is a contributing author for The Reason We Speak, It Happened By Design: A Series of God-Incidence Stories and Groovy Chicks’ Road Trip to Peace. She has a background in newspaper journalism as copyeditor and feature writer. Kathy is a contributor and editor of daily devotions for The Christian Pulse and started a new column “For Readers” at Christian Fiction Online Magazine this month.

Kathy loves pouring herself into the lives of other writers and speakers, and can be heard leading workshops and keynoting at several writers conferences and retreats each year. In the first half of 2010 she will be the career track faculty member for Write To Publish, the retreat speaker for Word Weavers, and workshop facilitator at Quad Cities Christian Writers Conference. She’s also co-launching a new CLASSeminar in the near future. She’s known for her integrity and generosity, giving away several grants for customized services each year. Kathy and her pastor/husband minister together in Raymondville, Texas.

Kathy is always looking for blog tour hosts and book reviewers, so contact her at if you are interested in learning more. The KCWC Verse for 2010 is Proverbs 4:18: “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day,” (NIV).

Learn more about Kathy at her professional blog:

Her website:

1 comment:

  1. Such a great post. Every writer needs a great publicist if they can afford it. It's an extra blessing when the publisher provides an outside publicist who can be devoted to a title. I know I've been blessed by my awesome publicist.


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