Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Working With a Publicist by Rebecca York

Full disclosure. I've never hired a publicist. My two main reasons--being cheap and thinking I could do it all myself--aren't really valid, because I frankly never looked deeply into the subject.

When I asked writer Rebecca York about her experiences, this was her response:

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There was a time when an author could sit back in her comfortable office and focus on the word processor. Her job was writing the best book she could. Her publisher’s job was printing, publicizing and distributing her book. But things have changed dramatically over the past few years. Today a writer’s also got to do something about publicity, or her book is likely to get lost in the great sea of publications that come out every month.

I’d love the luxury of simply sitting and writing. And give a few lectures a year to enthusiastic audiences. But how are readers going to know I’ve got a book out? Unless they’re poring through future pub lists, I need to let them know they can get the next exciting book in my werewolf series in–October. And hopefully I can also interest some new readers in my work.

A full-blown promotion effort is a lot of work–more than I can do myself. Which is why I’ve hired several people to help me. My latest release is DRAGON MOON, which came out from Berkley on October 6. The heroine is Kenna, a slave from my alternate universe, sent here to help her ruthless dragon-shifter master invade our world. She meets werewolf Talon Marshall and desperately wants to tell him her frightening secret. But every time she tries to reveal her plight, excruciating pains stab into her head. Even as Kenna and Talon fall in love, he can’t trust her. And she struggles to break through the barriers that control her mind. It’s classic romantic suspense, with the paranormal twists I love.

But how do I tell people about the book? I’ve got several strategies, with three different "publicists" who each bring something to my book promotion.

For years I’ve used Binnie Syril Braunstein of Press Kit Communications. I met her because she lives in my local area. Mainly she makes and sends out ARCs of my single-title Berkley releases to readers’ groups and review sites. And recently, to save money, I asked her to send out "teasers" to some of these groups. The teasers were the first seven chapters of DRAGON MOON, and we got a good response from them. Also, some of the review sites have asked me for interviews. Another thing we tried with this book was offering to give away ARCs to people who would post reviews of DRAGON MOON. Again, this got a great response.

Another key part of my marketing plan for DRAGON MOON involves Circle of Seven Productions. I’ve had them produce a book trailer for the past five of my Berkley single-title releases. This time I also bought a special package they offered in conjunction with Between Your Sheets, a weekly e-newsletter that goes out to readers. (I’m one of the participating authors.) Although COS isn’t strictly a publicist, they do a lot of the same things. They made a great video for DRAGON MOON which you can see on my Web site at www.rebeccayork.com They distributed it to a lot of outlets on the Web including Youtube.

And the video will also be playing on television stations in Northern California. The special deal with them also included a review, blog entries, Tweets about the video that drove traffic to my Web site, and a podcast. (Which became two podcasts!)

But I was looking for more exposure. For DRAGON MOON, I added another publicist, Dana Kaye, recommended by a friend. Dana’s got media savvy and some great contacts. She’s filled in the blanks in my book promotion strategy by sending a DRAGON MOON press kit to various newspapers, magazines, blogs, radio and television shows. As a result of her work, I’m now writing this guest blog entry. She’s also set up a podcast for me as well as several other blogs and articles. And she’s following up on these contacts.

In addition, Dana’s helped me with some other aspects of publicity that I hadn’t used effectively. She linked my Tweets to my Facebook page, made a background for my Twitter page, started me a Facebook fan page, and advises me on my Web presence.

All of the above seems to be working for me. I’m getting a lot of visibility, and I’m not spending a fortune, either. One thing I discovered after doing several book videos with COS is that the shorter ones are probably the most effective. So I’m buying their least expensive products and taking advantage of their media presence. Also, both Binnie and Dana give me excellent value for my money.

In the quest for effective promotion, I’ve learned from my past experiences. Two years ago I hired an expensive publicist and was much less pleased with the relationship. She charged me for her time while she had me paying third-party suppliers for various projects like my Web pages and press kit. Unfortunately, she had a bad habit of getting into disagreements with her suppliers, costing me extra money and sometimes leaving me with not-quite-completed work.

If you’re looking for help with your publicity, find out up front what the publicist will do for you and how much it’s going to cost. Be prepared to be a partner with your publicist. She should listen to your ideas and use them if they make sense. Keep in mind that the most expensive services aren’t necessarily going to be the best for you. And be open to opportunities you might not have considered on your own.

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If you have any questions for Rebecca, post them and I'm sure she'll reply.

If you'd like to see her press kit for DRAGON MOON, if posted it HERE.