If you’re thinking of hiring a publicist, one of the first questions you’re likely to ask is:
“Do you have good contacts?”
Authors ask me this every day. While it would be easy for me to say, “Of course!” (and to add with a glint in my eye, “if you just sign on this dotted line,you’ll see…”) it would be misleading. Not because I don’t have contacts. Rather, because the very notion that contacts will lead to media placements is a great big myth it’s time to dispel.
Think about it. Our press corps is immense. Far beyond book reviewers, there are bloggers and producers and editors and staff writers covering every topic under the sun from food and travel to fashion, psychology, money, health and gardening — even adhesives. Seriously. My Vocus media database boasts an archive of 1.6 million media contacts and growing.
Like most PR pros, my work, too, spans a wide range of topics. I’ve promoted everything from business books to crime novels and literary fiction. While publicizing Alden Jones’ dazzling travel memoir The Blind Masseuse, I reached out to reporters covering travel and specific Latin American countries. For Lisa Borders’ literary novel The Fifty First State set in southern New Jersey, I was in touch with — you’ve got it — the South Jersey press. (Yes, there is such a thing.) While working on Ashley Warner’s rape memoir The Year After I dug up names of reporters who focus on women’s health. I also figured out who happened to be producing news about the college campus sexual assault stories that were making headlines at the time. The list goes on and on.
Can anybody possibly know all these contacts? Absolutely not. That’s what databases are for. Besides, the media is notorious for high turnover. A great contact who’s here today could very well be gone the next.
Instead, what a good publicist knows is how to find the news angle in any given book or project. Because the single most important factor in garnering coverage is the story itself. Reporters, reviewers, bloggers, producers and news editors are all looking for specific types of news stories presented in fairly specific ways. Mining those stories from each given book and each author’s personal history [Read more…]