Tuesday, April 13, 2010

THE "USED-TO-BE YEARS" OF BOOK PUBLICITY

PUBLICITY--THE PIONEER WOMAN SHOWS US HOW IT'S DONE--2010 STYLE

The other part of my career, the one I don't talk about much here, is my role as book publicist. As we slowly build our literary agency, it's book publicity that pays the bills. Today I'm paying homage to book publicity and how it's changed.

Every few months I meet three other "freelance" book publicists at a cheap and yummy Chinese restaurant in NYC. We've been doing this for over 15 years--after C left Ballantine, D left Putnam, I left Rodale and ML left show-biz publicity. We talk about the biz, about how we're each doing, about the authors and publishers we service. But mostly we talk about CHANGE. Sometimes we wax nostalgic about the "used-to-be-years" when we could do a whiz-bang author tour that included national television interviews, three or four or more radio and television interviews and at least one print interview and a book signing in each market. We remember when we could sit down with the producers of the BIG shows like "Today" and "Good Morning America" and get at least one interview for our clients per season. Life was good. My friends and I complain that it's hard to get an editor on the phone or pitch a radio producer. "Everything is voicemail and email!"we cry.

Oh, how things have changed. Sitting down with the producer of a national television show? Maybe--if you're the PR director for Random House or the press agent for George Clooney. Author tour? Hardly. It's just not worth it, not when you can do radio-telephone interviews and guest blogging. Book signings? Yes! But these are usually in the author's home town or in markets where he or she is traveling.

Now, there are exceptions. I've been very impressed with what Ree Drummond, "The Pioneer Woman" has been doing. Ree is probably the best blogger in the universe and she wisely parlayed her fabulous cooking-confession-parenting-marriage-lifestyle blog into a colorful cookbook for William Morrow Cookbooks. The girl is a publicist's dream and kudos to Morrow for recognizing that. Morrow put her out on the road on a 27- city tour, including Tulsa, Denver, Phoenix, Little Rock, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, Chicago and New York City. She schmoozed with Whoopie Goldberg and the ladies on "The View" and cooked for the hosts of "Good Morning America." I noticed that her "tour" always included book signings and presentations, but was short on interviews. Who needs interviews when you sell hundreds of books at every bookstore / venue you visit?

Ree's is an interesting case because suddenly this woman is a celebrity. It's because of her blog. She attracted a steady stream of readers with her brilliant, useful and colorful posts. When she was named "Blogger of the Year" a few years ago, it was time to become a book author. The entire arc of her career and heady success could be seen as a case study of what book publicity has become.

So when we four publicists who've been in the trenches since the 80s moan about the changes, we need to slap ourselves and get social--social media I mean. It's how things work now.

2 comments:

Richie Frieman said...

How can I get invited to these yummy Chinese restaurant get togethers? I love Chinese food and am totally a barrel of laughs. Any chance I get an invite?

Dana said...

Mmmm and have you tried her cinnamon rolls?