So a publicist walks into a party…
I really get a kick out of telling people at parties that I’m a literary publicist, mostly because my marketing mind is constantly conducting consumer research—whether sitting in a corporate boardroom or standing in line at the movie theater. Here’s the word on the street: nobody really knows what it is I (read: literary marketing and publicity professionals in general) do all day. Some think publicist=publisher=printer (enough of the same letters, right?) and start asking me questions about how I make the pretty books. Some think I’m one of those faceless paper-pushers filling an Office Space cubicle. Some are even convinced I spend my weeks jet-setting in stilettos from swanky premiere to high-profile award ceremony á la Brangelina’s “people.”
Yeah, not so much. I trip just carrying books down the hall in my flip flops.
The truth is this: as a publicist, it’s fair to say I spend half my day communicating with media contacts in pitching our books or responding to their own queries; the other half is spent answering questions from authors and internal staff. Lots of questions, and lots of the same questions, about the parameters of what we can do internally to publicize books and authors, and what authors themselves can and should be doing. As you might have guessed, a lot of those questions are about social media.
I hear you over there. “But I’m not really sure what I’m doing. Shouldn’t I get some sort of certification as a social media expert before I jump in and risk… irrevocable writing career damage?” To you, a little relief: there are no true experts. And while “yes, Virginia, there is bad publicity,” for the most part, you’ll only grow more adept at this stuff from placing yourself into the fray. The beautiful, replicable concept here is about community—community of authors, publishing industry folks, media, and readers—figuring it out together. I love this quote from a Harper Collins marketing exec in a recent New York Observer piece on publishers’ involvement with social media:
“Nobody knows what they’re doing—you just have to jump in and work together. What I don’t understand about people who are hesitating is, what’s the alternative? Doing nothing? That doesn’t seem like much of a strategy.”
We’re so excited about the concept of The Back Porch because it’s a small mirror of the community vibe we want to cast as your ultimate goal as an author. Community building=readership building=book sales. It’s a place where we can share the wisdom we’ve gathered by sifting through lots of strong opinions and observations, and can work together set new standards for building readership. Let me make one thing clear: when we say we, it’s not the royal We The Marketing Experts. It’s we the Thomas Nelson Fiction team—each one of you working alongside us and alongside each other, sharing what’s working, expressing frustration about what’s not working, responding with new ideas.
To get you thinking and talking, a couple of helpful links and 101 articles:
• The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter from Michael Hyatt, CEO, Thomas Nelson. Great how-to. Mike raises the bar for our team, authors and publishing staff alike.
• Identifying and Connecting with Influencers from Brian Solis of FutureWorks. At times he’s a little heady, but makes some interesting points on furthering relationship.
• Techipedia: Tamar Weinberg Tamar is a “social media enthusiast” (a lot more believable than “expert,” right?). Her blog’s one to follow and proves a concept I like: if you want to build your community of readers, your postings should be a mix of business and personal musings. The authenticity is refreshing and powerful.
So pass the sweet tea already, and pass along a question or cool find while you’re at it, will you? Let’s get this party started.