This is a question I’ve been asking myself for the last two years. Maybe I’m growing more anxious as I move closer to being “publisher ready,” but it seems like the emphasis on marketing and branding escalates every few months. To help me better understand the PR landscape, I’ve asked my guest, Kathy Carlton Willis, to share her thoughts on the publicist writer relationship. First, a little bit about Kathy.
Kathy considers herself blessed to get to fiddle with words like: writer, editor, publicist, writer’s coach, speaker, and more. She gets jazzed helping other writers shine and promoting their messages through her communications firm.
Kathy is a member of AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) and CHW (Christian Humor Writers). She has served on faculty for Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, and Quad-Cities Christian Writers Conference.
Hi, Kathy, before we jump into the tough questions, could you start by explaining what a publicist is and what the job involves.
A publicist helps to create buzz about a person or project by utilizing press releases, arranging interviews with media, article placement, branding, blog tours, social networking, and more.
I recently attended the ACW (American Christian Writers) Conference and learned about the importance of building a platform from literary agent Chip MacGregor. He explained that a “platform” is simply the touch points that an author has with their audience. Have you found that more writers are working with publicists to help them build their platform?
I love it when writers contact me before their books are released to help them build a foundation for their work. The sooner we are brought into the picture, the better we can plan and brainstorm various ways of promoting the book and also 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 can consult with authors to help them find the best places to network with their audience.
My understanding is that each publishing house has a marketing and PR person or people who promote new books being released by the publisher. Should a writer still work with a publicist they personally hire? What would be the benefit of 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 publicists) 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 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 by using more unique approaches, and by thinking outside of the box to customize a promotional plan.
I would imagine there are loads of PR companies a writer can choose from if they decide to work with a publicist. Can you offer some suggestions to help a writer determine who to work with?
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 on how they might customize your campaign. 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, thank you so much for being my guest today. I hate to sneak this on you, but I’ve started a tradition on my blog that is in keeping with my storytelling theme. With this in mind, I have one final question for you. What is the last movie that you’ve seen that made you laugh out loud?
Well, I’ve been working too hard between my communications firm and ministering at the church where my husband pastors to sit for 2 hours uninterrupted. But since I believe laughter is a vital daily vitamin, I make sure to get it in other ways. Not a day goes by that I miss out on laughter, thanks to the antics of my Boston Terrier Jazzy and the improv of my husband Russ.