Essays

Preach It: Tips for Publicists

By posted at 4:42 pm on May 10, 2006 1

Amen. Dan Wickett writes an open letter to all the pushy publicists out there and all I want to know is where do I sign. Dan is writing about “the litblogging version of the Cold Call. An email from somebody I’ve never heard of, asking if I’d be interested in reading and reviewing their work, possibly interviewing them, linking to their website, etc.” It goes on, with justifiable frustration, from there.

Like Dan, I’m extremely grateful to the publicists, publishers and authors who regularly read this blog and who, based on their knowledge of what sort of books I like to write about, will let me know about titles that might interest me. But I think the problem is that somebody has convinced publicists, authors, and other publishing-industry types that getting talked about on blogs is a key ingredient in the secret elixir of publishing success. Sure books now hit number one on Amazon thanks to the Internet presence of their authors, and bloggers individually or in groups have raised the profile of certain titles, but no bestsellers have been made by cold calling. No way. Bloggers care about the books they write about, so the publicists have to do a better job of making bloggers care. So with the knowledge I’ve gained from being the recipient of countless pitches – too many of them cold calls – here are my thoughts on how to promote a project to bloggers. Hopefully, the following tips will be useful to anyone, not just book industry types, trying to pitch something to a blogger.

My tips for pitching to bloggers:

  1. Most importantly, read blogs. Why spend the time and effort pitching a project to bloggers if you don’t read blogs in the first place. If you don’t get blogs and how they work, how can you expect to use them to promote your project?
  2. As Dan suggests, stop pitching projects that aren’t appropriate to the content of the blog. It’s rude and borderline spammy.
  3. Do not pitch any blog that you haven’t been reading for at least a month. Bloggers are used to corresponding with their regular readers both on and off the blog, and, frankly, it’s very unlikely that I’ll mention your project if you just appear, out of the blue, in my inbox.
  4. Do not mass email. First of all, I don’t care what kind of fancy email program you use, it’s pretty obvious when I get a mass email. If you don’t care enough to write me a personal email, then why should I care enough to support your project?
  5. Finally, don’t oversell. If you are trying to let me know about something that you think I’ll be genuinely interested in, then your email and a link ought to be enough. If I say sure send the book (or whatever), then send it along, but don’t try to buy me off with swag, let your project stand on its own.

I’d love to hear any other ideas people might have in the comments.

See also: MJ Rose’s post “Don’t Do This” from today. Maud has encountered this as well. And Ed, too. Scott devotes a Friday Column to publicists.

Update May 24, 2006: Mark has written a thoughtful counterpoint to the outpouring here and at other litblogs, which makes me think that the use of the term “publicist” was perhaps cavalier here and elsewhere. Please see my comment on his post as well as my more recent post-BEA post on the topic.





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One Response to “Preach It: Tips for Publicists”

  1. Bryan Catherman
    at 6:42 am on May 11, 2006

    This sounds like the advice agents give to authors who are looking for them. Wow, it also sounds like editor's advice to freelancers and authors. You would thing the publisist would get it.

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