What would you like to ask a publicist?

Imagine walking into an enormous shoe store with all kinds of shoes, then telling the salesman you’re not sure what kind you’re looking for, or what size you wear, or how much you want to spend. Just show me something….


At the very least, a good publicist should understand that you’re fairly new at the process and be able to ask questions that help determine what you’re looking for. Of course, that’s hard to do on a website or an email so usually a phone call is best. He or she should also be honest about whether or not what you’re looking for is going to help you achieve the desired results.


Many approach me seeming to think that hiring me will be a shortcut to success. I wish it was, but it might not be.  I can often help an author get things done faster, but if you’re totally new at the process, your first interview isn’t going to be on Good Morning America. On occasion I might help you skip a small market and move to a larger one, but you won’t do well without the experience the smaller markets give you. If you have experience, we can move forward more quickly, but generally overnight success is fiction.


My job isn’t to promote your books for you, it’s to help you promote your books more effectively. I set the stage but you still show up to perform. What I aim to help you do is to make sure you’re making a great first impression, on the web, in person, on the radio, in print – whatever you choose to do.


It would be nice if there was a one-size-fits-all promotion plan that could be duplicated again and again, but there isn’t. At least I haven’t found it. A great campaign can be small or large and focused on one area of promotion or several. What’s important is that it works for you and that you feel comfortable doing what it entails.


Three things a publicist can and should do no matter what your campaign involves:


  1. Handle rejection – it happens, but it’s not personal and nobody likes to hear it. If it might be personal, I would talk to you about making some changes to take care of it, but usually it’s just business.


  1. Free up your time for writing – Many of the tasks involved in promotion are hugely time consuming. Unending follow up calls are inevitable. Since this is what we do, we’ve streamlined the process and can free up large amounts of your time.


  1. Lastly, we should be able to offer you direction when things get overwhelming and you’re not sure what to do next. Any promotional campaign should be very flexible. The market is highly unpredictable and whatever is in the news that day makes a difference whether you’ll get print space or broadcast time. If you’ve tried something and results are lackluster, your publicist can help you decide if it’s worth trying again, or time to move on to something different.


Above all, your publicist should be a team player, ready and willing to help you and your publisher get the right kind of attention for your book and help increase your sales base.

 What would you like to ask a publicist?

Promotion is a process

PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

In today’s world, we’re used to instant gratification. Microwaves, TV programming on demand, real time email (ha!) and Skyping around the world. BTP logoIt’s no wonder we expect what we want when we want it. But book promotion, like many other things, isn’t instant.  If someone promises you instant results, beware. There’s no such thing as an overnight success, and houses still take months to build.

This can be frustrating to authors, especially when they wait to hire a publicist after the book is already out, and they want to see sales increase that next week. It’s great when a single event or interview can cause a small spike in sales, but that’s not usually the norm.

Those of you who are gardeners can relate. If you plant beans, you might see a tiny sprout a week later. If you plant parsnips it will be two weeks or more. Then the time from the first sprout to harvest varies even more. Many vegetables will only yield one crop in a season, depending on the climate where you are located. So it would be a little ridiculous for you to plant a tomato seed, then check it a day later and give up because you don’t see a tomato. Or to celebrate a sprout of a pumpkin seed, then be annoyed because there’s only a flower a week or two later.

Expectations are everything in gauging success and so many are on the right track but give up way too soon. Remember if you’re building a house, Expectation realityespecially a good, strong, beautiful house, it can be months where the only activity you see involves moving dirt, pouring concrete, installing wiring and plumbing, etc. It would be easy to walk away because it still doesn’t look like a house.

If at any time you’re wondering what’s going on underground in your campaign, feel free to ask. A whole lot of things are happening in my office that you don’t see because I’m installing plumbing and wires, figuratively speaking. We want you to have a strong foundation so it won’t let you down later as your career progresses. Decide on the campaign that best meets your needs, then stick with it and give it time to work. Happy promoting!

I can get it there but I can’t make them love it by PJ Nunn

PJNI’m a publicist, not a wizard. I’m a really good publicist. Some days, I aim to be the world’s greatest publicist. But a man’s gotta know his limitations, as they say.

People hire publicists for a lot of reasons, and one of those reasons is to pass the buck. They’ve worked hard and finally, one way or another, their book is published. They’re tired and they feel they’ve taken it as far as they can on their own. For most, hiring a publicist is a big step, not one they take lightly. And it’s a sizable expense in many cases so, yes, they have high expectations of what they’ll get in return for their hard-earned money.

I learned early on that one of the main things I do for my clients is take rejection. Nobody wants to make a pitch for their book only to be told “NO.” We don’t want it. We don’t think it’s good enough. No. Of course when you call a store in hopes of setting up a signing event and are told “NO” it’s rarely a personal thing. More likely it’s a scheduling thing or a policy thing or some other “thing.” Chances are they didn’t look at your book information long enough to know enough about it to form an opinion of any kind. But when someone says “NO” it feels personal. Especially when you’re making more than one call and they keep saying “NO”. A publicist is nice to have at that point because I’m used to hearing more “NO” answers than “YES” and because I really know that it’s not personal. It’s timing. So hiring a publicist shields an author from too many “NO” responses.

But because I don’t tell every author about every NO I hear on their behalf, some think I don’t get “NO” answers. They think hiring a publicist means I can make people say “Yes” to them. I wish I could make them an offer they can’t refuse, but that’s not what I do. I do have contacts that you probably don’t have. I can pick up the phone and call the Guest Booker at the Today Show. I can make my best pitch for you and your book. But they still have to say something. If I’m really on my game that day, maybe they’ll say “Sure, send me more info and I’ll take a look.” Or maybe they’ll say, “NO.”

Most days, after doing this for 15+ years, I get more, “Sure, send me more info…” answers than “NO” answers. That’s when it gets tricky. That’s when people forget what my job is. They think it’s my job to get them to say “YES.” Don’t get me wrong, I love it when they do. But when they say, “Sure, send me more info,” I’ve done my job. My job is to get you there – in front of the people who matter. My job is to get the right people to look at your work. It’s the audition for the part. To get you noticed by people who can share you with their audience who will hopefully want to buy your book.

Now, there are lots and lots of things I can do that bypass that audition. I can call a radio host that I’ve worked with over the years and tell him I have an author I think he’d like to interview. Based on our past history, he’ll schedule an interview without ever talking to the author or seeing the book based on my say so. Don’t think for a second that I take that lightly. If I don’t really think he’ll like you, I won’t pitch you even if I know you’d like to be on that program. Hey, wait a minute! That’s not right!  Yes it is. First, if he doesn’t like you, it won’t be a good interview and you’ll probably be mad that I set it up in the first place. Second, I have to call him again for the next client. No need to make everyone unhappy. But I digress.

Whether I’m arranging an “audition” or an actual appearance, you or your book still have to show up and perform. I get you there but it’s up to you to make them love you. That means I hope you’ve honed your interview skills and are able to give an entertaining talk in front of an audience. That means when the reviewer opens and reads those first few pages, they better be error free and engaging enough to make them want to keep reading. I’ve been shocked over the years when I find a particularly compelling writer who can only stare at the floor and give one word answers to an interviewer. Or even worse, find a fabulous storyline in synopsis only to find the final copy is riddled with grammatical or formatting errors. And whether it’s fair or not, more than one really good book has been passed over because of an ugly cover. You know that’s true.

I realize when things just don’t turn out the way you’d like and maybe sales don’t increase after a promotional campaign, it’s easiest to blame the publicist. But if you don’t want it to keep happening, I urge you to bite the bullet and take a good hard look at your product and presentation. Chances are there’s room for improvement somewhere.

For your best chance of success, make sure you’ve done all you can to fine tune your presentation skills, make sure your book has a good editor, formatter and a professional cover then join up with a professional publicist who has a good track record. Don’t be hasty!

It’s worth the effort to do things right!

Do you have any experiences along these lines that you’d like to share?

A publicist’s day by PJ Nunn

PJSometimes when I see someone’s tweet, I wonder what their day is like. So when I knew I needed to get a new blog up and quick, I thought maybe that would be a fair topic for me. I’m a lot of things on a given day, but I am never bored. Multi-tasking doesn’t even begin to cover it.

My Master’s degree is in psychology with a side order of criminology. If you went over my resume or CV you’d guess I was at least 100 years old. I’m not. I was a counselor/law enforcement consultant/teacher/administrator for years. Actually I still am those things occasionally. But as it so often does, life intervened, one of my children became seriously ill and I had to change my plans. I needed to work from home, so I turned to writing and did fairly well as a freelance writer, particularly on topics of abnormal psychology/criminology. However, the freelance field was feast or famine and I needed an income that was slightly more dependable than that. So on the basis of a favor for an author friend, BreakThrough Promotions was born and I added “publicist” to my list.

I say all that to let you know that I didn’t get here on a traditional path and my MBA isn’t in business or marketing.  Sometimes, when I OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtalk to other PR professionals, I don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.  I used to worry about that but I don’t anymore. First, because I’ve had a few well known publicists call me over the years to find out how I pitched a particular story or client and got coverage that they couldn’t get. Secondly because I’ve learned that my clients don’t care if I know all the catch-phrases. They just care if I can get the job done. And usually I can. So the day I talk about might not fit your publicist (or your day if you’re a publicist) but we can all have our own kinds of days, right?

cup_of_coffeeI’m not a morning person. If you know me well, you can attest that you’ve gotten emails from me that are stamped in the wee hours. I love the night when it’s quiet in my house. My creative juices are flowing at that time. Never expect me to be at my best before nine. Because of that, I work late and I sleep late. I plan to be, and usually am, at my desk by 10 a.m. I scan my emails to see if anything marked URGENT popped in while I was sleeping. If not, I turn to my phone list to see what is on my “immediate” list, then start with the east coast calls. That’s a typical beginning.

If you want the atypical, I probably got wakened at 6 a.m. by a frantic producer who scheduled one of my authors for an interview and early_morning_wake-up_callthey didn’t call OR maybe by a guest booker who wanted to get an early start on the day by returning my phone call from last week. Those guys (nongender specific) don’t keep office hours. Probably they don’t even wear a watch or pay attention to the time on their phones. This is why, as a good publicist, I charge my phone on the nightstand beside my bed and have even been known (on desperate days) to carry it with me to the bathroom. That information should really increase my Klout score. If you call me and I don’t answer my phone, it’s probably because I’m already on it.

If I haven’t been interrupted too many times by miscellaneous calls and urgent (questionable) emails, I might be through that list by 1 or 2 p.m.  Interruptions are inevitable, though, and may include but are not limited to:

  • A quick glance at a rough jpg for a new cover
  • A quick argument with the author that the font for the author’s name is much too small
  • A pause to send a manuscript to an author who’s agreed to do a blurb for a new release coming several months down the road
  • A call from a radio host whose show has been pre-empted by local news wanting to schedule a new date
  • A call from a tv host whose copy of the author’s book has grown legs and walked away and he needs a jpg sent to production so they’ll have something to show during the interview
  • A callback from a journalist I’ve been trying to catch who wanted to let me know he’s decided to go another way with his article, but thanks anyway. Remind me that networking matters.
  • A quick pause to check my Twitter feed and see what I’ve missed
  • Another pause to check my Facebook for the same reason
  • A phone call to interrupt my checking from another host who is concerned he hasn’t received the book I sent last week

I just realized that it’s silly to call these things interruptions. They don’t interrupt my work. They are my work. They interrupt the rhythm. So I go back to the next item on my list and double check my upcoming scheduled events to see if I need to send any confirmation packages out. Once that’s done, I go to my calendar to see which clients are scheduled for particular attention this day. Since I have a good list of clients and they’re at all stages of pre/post release, I make sure everyone gets the appropriate time from me each month, although the amount of followup time can vary from one to another.

I usually spend 3 – 5 hours a day in this zone. I don’t answer the phone unless it’s urgent or I have an appointment, and when I’m working on a particular client, that campaign has my undivided attention. This happens later in the day when things are a lot quieter and I’m really starting to enter that creative place. I pull up the client’s campaign that we’ve laid out and compare it with his or her schedule, then determine which contacts I’ve made for him/her that haven’t confirmed anything yet and what new contacts need to be made.

dallas_morning_news_logoDepending on what I’m trying to accomplish, I’ll need to create a pitch and/or press release that speaks directly to the market. For instance, if I want to get additional newspaper coverage, I either need to arrange an event or take advantage of an event the client is already planning to attend in the area OR I need to find a newsworthy hook that could be turned into an article. Once I’ve decided which of those has the best chance of success, I have to write it because even though I’ll do my best to make the pitch by phone they’ll want a followup email/press release/promo kit/something. Besides, I make a better oral pitch once I’ve written it out.

If I’m pitching an appearance on a television show in a larger market, I have to do more than that. I have to know the show (thus the The-Chew-Logolate night tv viewing that I’ve set to record during the day) and be able to envision my client in a segment on the show. I have to learn who the best segment producer is and find his or her contact info, and I have to write a pitch for the segment, including any other guest experts that might help sell the idea. I used to balk at this, feeling like I was doing my job and theirs too, but if you want to get it done, this is the best way, at least until you have a good relationship with that producer and know how they like to work. If any of you other publicists know better, I’d sure love to hear it!

By the time that part of my day winds down, I’m usually tired but a little reluctant to stop. I think it’s what I enjoy most. I love my clients. I enjoy taking their work and examining it and trying to find ways to get it the attention they want to see. There’s a lot of satisfaction for me in that. Of course I can’t always do what they want, and I’m not always successful at getting what I want to see. But I think the successes are plentiful enough to outnumber the failures. And I remind myself as well as them that rejections in this business are not personal. They just happen.

Late at night, when my house is asleep and I’ve finished watching The Chew or Rachael Ray or Ellen or whatever I’m pitching at the time, I kind of wind down but my mind is always working. Like I said, I’m more creative at night so sometimes ideas I’m not even actively looking for pop up out of nowhere. I make a point to read a little while after I turn off the television, but even after I put down the book, many nights as I’m drifting off to sleep I grab the phone beside my bed and email myself a note with an idea for a pitch so I won’t forget by morning.

RC_fav_smallWhen I started reading Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole novels, I loved the idea of him being World’s Greatest Detective and thought maybe I should aspire to being the World’s Greatest Publicist. I’m not of course, any more than Elvis is, but I share his enthusiasm for my job. I just love what I do. So even on the days when things seem more wrong than right, a publicist’s day – to me – is a good day.

How’s your day?

10 Reasons Why You Might Need a Publicist

Why you might need a publicist:

  1. Because it always sounds better when someone else – especially a professional – brags about you and your work
  2. Because key people within the industry probably know him or her and they don’t know you – yet
  3. Because things aren’t always what they seem and a good publicist keeps abreast of inside industry info
  4. Because in this biz there will be a lot more rejections than acceptances and a publicist can field those for you
  5. Because a good publicist will think of ways to market your book that you never thought of
  6. Because life is too short and your book is too important to wonder what could have been
  7. Because he/she can help you know the difference between a great idea and a scam
  8. Because a good publicist can help you learn why some things work and some things don’t so you don’t waste time on repeat mistakes
  9. Because a good publicist can help you step outside of your comfort zone and explore new, productive possibilities
  10. Because it will give you a lot more time to do what you do best – write!

If this is you, check out our services at BreakThrough Promotions!

What would you add to the list?