Director of Publicity
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
"Director of publicity" sounds impressive, but what is it you do?
Hmmm. I think publicity is one of the more difficult jobs to define. There are so many nuances involved with what we do, and depending on the publishing house you're working for, the job may be more broad or narrow. My job runs the gamut from:
- Dispensing advice on how to get a stray donkey out of one's yard
- Discussing the advantages and disadvantages to having a rooster living under one's kitchen table
- Being asked to inform an author’s old friends about a dead relative
- Protecting an author from unwanted attention as he pees in an alley
- Making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the fly from the trunk of a car for an author's 4-year-old son
- Perfecting the art of a staring contest--and letting an eight-year-old win said contest
- Acting as a therapist, fashion stylist, and speech writer
Then there's the pitching to the media and the coordination and execution of book tours and events.
So you're the person who can get me and my book on Oprah, right?
Oh, I dare say that is the one question that sends us publicists to the moon and beyond.
Sorry. I couldn’t resist. Is it really true there's no such thing as bad publicity?
Good question. I would have to answer that overall, all publicity is basically good publicity. The one caveat would be, say, finding out that a children's book author is a pedophile. While you don't want to generate bad press, getting people talking about your book brings attention to it, and in a crowded market, you want your book's title to stick in people's heads. When you publish a provocative book, for example, we all know that getting it challenged or banned can be a great thing, so in that case, bad press is good press.
What do you desperately wish authors understood about public relations?
Some authors and illustrators are best left to sit in their rooms creating rather than promoting. I think a lot of authors see and hear what others are doing to promote their books and think they need to do that as well, whether it’s public appearances, media tours, or blogging. But, if it’s not in the author's nature or not in keeping with the spirit of the book to do any or all of these things, then they should not be done. Authors can do more harm than good by A) not being true to their nature and B) not talking to and listening to their publicist before coordinating and executing their own plans.
Publicists want to work with authors, not against them. They know what you’re up against and honestly want to help you navigate that big book world, and in the best way possible for you and your book.
What's considered a PR coup in the children's lit world these days?
A morning show like “Good Morning, America” or “Today” or a USA Today feature or NPR.
What's the first thing you do when you get into your hotel room?
See if they have a bathrobe and extra pillows, and what kind of lotion they have in the bathroom.
What mini-bar item do you lust after but never get?
What item do you refuse to live without while on the road?
For work’s sake, the dreaded Crack--I mean Blackberry. But in reality, my sanity.
What about your job makes you think "Wow! I can't believe I get paid to do this!"
Quite a lot, actually. There are times when I'm in a great city, having dinner with wonderful booksellers and media, laughing and chatting and I pause, I really do pause, and think, wow, this is pretty good.
With all that fine dining, how do you keep your girlish figure? Inquiring minds want to know!
Frenetic energy burned keeping the authors on schedule and on point--and my wits about me--while on the road. That and caffeine.
What about your job makes you think "They don't pay me enough to do this"?
See my answer to question 1, above, especially being asked to inform an author’s old friends about a dead relative and protecting an author from unwanted attention as he pees in an alley.
What's your best "quick tip" for an author trying to get her book noticed in an extremely (pessimists might even say *hopelessly*) crowded field?
Aside from holding your book over your head and running naked through left field during a World Series game, you’d do well to heed the advice of your publicist.
I get chilled easily (poor circulation), so running naked doesn’t work for me.
Then listen to your publicist.
I'm not young, famous, or even a cute guy. A pessimist might say I'll never get noticed. Give me one good reason I shouldn't just slit my wrists (metaphorically speaking) and put myself out of my misery.
If it's a good or an excellent book, people will read it, love it, talk about it....and your looks and your personality and status won't matter.
Christine Kole MacLean (www.christinekolemaclean.com)
writes picture books, chapter books, and novels for young adults. Her most recent release is a young adult novel, How It’s Done.