posted by Aunty Cindy aka Loucinda McGary
One of the nicest perks of being a Sourcbooks Casablanca author is working with my very own publicist! Okay, so she's really assigned to ALL the Casablanca authors, but I ADORE working with her, and all of us in the Casa line know how very fortunate we are to have her in our corner.
I'm talking about the lovely and vivacious Danielle Jackson, of course! She works tirelessly to get the word out about all the Casablanca romances, whether it is sending out Advance Review Copies of our books, or writing killer Press Releases for us.
Aunty twisted Danielle's ar... er, um, CONVINCED Danielle to pay a visit to the Lair and answer all our questions (and I know we have MANY) about promotion and publicity! So with the help of my fellow Banditas, I started out by grill... er, um, asking Danielle a few questions...
AC: Please give us a bit of your background and what led you to become a book publicist. Any advice for others seeking a similar career?
DJ: I’ve always been a reader—my parents would joke with me because even if we went somewhere 10 minutes away, I had a book in the car and they’d ask me how to get home and I wouldn’t know how to direct them! That love for books carried all through high school and into college, where I was an English major, history minor with a French concentration. A lot of reading, a lot of writing and a lot of discussing books, history social commentary etc. Around my junior year I began to look into publishing, had a couple of internships with an online publication, a magazine and at a publishing house—Sourcebooks! The rest is history.
AC: What is the “best” part of your job?
DJ: I work with some of the hardest working authors I know in the business! They keep me laughing and also keep things VERY positive all the time. And I have to mention the publicity department at Sourcebooks—there are 8 publicist working very hard an all the books we put out each season, and they are the BEST co-workers I could ask for.
AC: The worst?
DJ: I HATE getting bad reviews in for “my” authors’ books. Even though I know they will eventually find them, I do my best to hide them, haha! (Aunty's note: Danielle is very good at hiding them!) However, even when a negative review comes in, it makes me work harder to find the perfect niche audience for that particular book. There is always someone out there that will read AND like your books, and it is my job to find that person!
Bandita A: In your opinion, what role does publisher promotion play in propelling a book onto the bestseller lists?
DJ: In my experience with Sourcebooks (before I worked on romance, I did some radio PR and worked with all kinds of books from children’s to how –to’s), publisher PR is very important. We make sure books are sent to the appropriate pre-publication reviewers and long-lead time reviewers, and of course, continue on to all available places for review. I think that a publisher should have high goals for all its books and they should put support behind them!
Bandita B: Self-promotion is hard work and for that reason, many authors don't do much of it. How important is it for new and "midlist" authors to promote themselves?
DJ: I cannot agree more that self-promotion is hard work! Sometime I feel like I sent out emails to the authors asking them to write so many guest blogs, or so many interviews and I wonder, do they have time to write their new books? I hope so!!
It is BEYOND important for new and midlist authors to promote themselves—be it contacting local media on their own, blogging, or handing out postcards or book marks in the grocery store. You never know who might be standing next to you or who you might bump into! But most importantly, a collaborative effort between you and your publisher, as I do with my authors, spreads the knowledge of your book.
Bandita C: Short of getting a marketing degree, how can we get smarter about our own publicity? What things should an author do to promote him/herself? Which choices will likely get the best results for the time and money we have available?
DJ: One idea is to look at some of your favorite authors—where are they being reviewed or interviewed? I know, I know, how could you get the same level of PR of Nora Roberts or Jodi Picoult, right? But look around—their books are probably being reviewed on a lot of the same site or blogs as yours!
I think author blogs, especially of the romance vernacular, are amazing, because it is such a warm community to belong to, and you can all help one another out. Also, if you see a small personal blog that looks fun, email them and ask them if they’d like a review copy. Chances are, they will fall all over themselves to hear from you! Most bloggers can’t believe that a publicist would contact them; think of what might happen if YOU, a real live author, did!
As for promo materials, I personally like postcards better than bookmarks because there’s more room for information, but bookmarks and business cards do seem to go over well. Postcards are fun for mailing and to leave places.
Once you do start to get in reviews, interviews, etc., creating a personalized press kit is a great idea (and something new I’ve discovered authors doing). I usually create a media profile or buzz sheet for each of my authors as the season progresses and share that with them. This way everyone has relevant information and together we can continue the “noise” about your book!
Bandita D: How should we begin to "think" about publicity and generating it, even before we're published? Is there anything the unpubbed can do to set ourselves up in a good position to be able to help our publicist/house once we sell?
DJ: Getting your name out there is the number one initiative for all authors—think of your name as your “brand”—YOU are the one constant from book to book, and people get used to you and your style.
Unpubbed authors can do quite a lot—joining RWA is the BEST way to network, and all of you romance authors are so NICE! (Note from AC: She hasn't seen the Pits of Despair deep in the Lair!) Also, reading and reviewing books is also great, especially if you make friends with the authors your review; you might even be able to get a blurb or two out of one of them. By having connections within the romance community, you are staking out your place for your own book’s release.
Also—you know that random guy you sort of dated when you were 19 that you saw once 4 years ago at the grocery store and found out he works for a local newspaper? Yeah—you should call him and see if you can’t get a local author feature. Random connections like that can turn out to be a huge surprise and can really help out. I’ve had a lot of luck by starting off an email by saying, “your friend/colleague, Author McAuthorson (AC notes: any resemblance to Loucinda McGary is purely coincidental!), let me know that you might be interested in a review copy of her new book!”
Bandita E: What about when it comes to working with an outside publicist? How do the two roles differ? And ideally, what can an outside publicist do for the author that the in-house publicist doesn't have the time, budget or energy for?
I personally have not worked with an outside publicist, but I do know that a few of my colleagues have done this. Their advice is to OVER communicate everything. That’s a rule that I have with my authors anyway—I’d rather you tell me something 5 times all within the same day than not at all!
An outside publicist generally has the time to focus all of their time, budget and energy solely on that one particular author. I work with all of our romance authors, our Austen-sequel authors, and I also do PR for some historical fiction that Sourcebooks is reissuing (Georgette Heyer, Joan Aiken, Margaret Campbell Barnes; just to name a few). The main difference is that there would be one publicist for one author.
However, I think with a lot of organization, a desk full of post-it notes, a dry erase board with schedules on it and a WHOLE LOT OF COFFEE, an in-house publicist with an unbelievable group of proactive, energetic authors can do just about anything, and can achieve the same results as an outside publicist. (AC notes: any resemblance here may not be coincidental!)
AC: If you weren’t a publicist, what would your dream job be?
DJ: This is going to sound totally nerdy, but I would LOVE to be a student again. I enjoy learning. So you know back in the old days when people would aspire to be “scholars” (even though they were usually men and the children of very wealthy people and didn’t have any responsibility in life) –yeah, that’s what my dream job would be.
AC: Hmmm, being the offspring of very wealthy people would be a dream job for me too! Er, um... Thank you, Danielle! But the questions are just beginning!
Now it is YOUR turn! Do you have a question about publicity or promotion for Danielle? If not, care to tell us what your dream job would be?