Edith here, writing furiously north of Boston.
I’m happy to welcome Skye Wentworth to our occasional Ask the Expert series. She’s a friend and fellow member of the Newburyport Writers Group, and a much-sought-after North Shore public relations expert and book publicist. Take it away, Skye!
Area of Expertise: My services include: public relations and social media strategy, social media marketing, publicity and media relations, media training, public image management, and award research and submission.
Edith: And don’t we all need help with that!
How did you get started in this business?
I took the long route – from librarian to advertising to publishing. I was a librarian at Boston University in the 80s. At that time courses were free to faculty members and I began to take some courses in public relations and communications. One course led to another and I ended up with a Master’s Degree in Media & Technology. When my family moved to Maine, I got a job as Director of Public Relations at an advertising company. An author came to us with her book and I had an epiphany. That’s what I wanted to do in life — promote books!
I later worked for several publishing houses as Senior Publicist before starting my own business, Skye Wentworth Public Relations.
Edith: It sounds like your winding path had a purpose.
What are three things we should know about your area of expertise?
- Every book campaign is different. No two books or two authors are alike. I explain to my clients that each campaign is like going down a raft on a river. We aren’t certain of what might happen around the next bend – but it’s sure to be something exciting.
- Publicists need to be creative. Even if it’s just the subject line. I once had a Navy Seal that dearly wanted to be on a popular religious TV show. My subject line read: Navy Seal Author: A Bible Under Every Beret. We booked the show within 5 minutes.
- It’s important to go the extra mile. I do an interview with each author ahead of time and offer it to editors. I write up “cheat sheets” for producers, which has an introduction for the author/guest and sample questions. The idea is to make it very easy for the media to take your material and run with it. You’ll reap rewards.
Is there a general characteristic that experts in this field all share?
It’s always great fun getting together with fellow publicists and sharing stories about: What works? What doesn’t? What’s brand new to the scene? We might discuss a book that scored, a radio show that took a nosedive, or possibly an author who went on to great fame. For instance, I previously worked for a firm in New Orleans who helped Dr. Michael Roizen, author of Real Age: Are You as Young as You Can Be?, get on Oprah. His life suddenly changed. You may not have heard of Dr. Roizen (who was quite shy) but you have heard of his partner, Dr. Oz.
What do people usually get wrong when writing about your field?
People often ask me what a publicist does and a common response is, “I can do that.”
He/she thinks it’s the easiest job in the world. Anyone can pick up the phone, ask for Terry Gross and book a radio spot on NPR’s Fresh Air, right? Or why not just send an email?
Let’s pretend you do get Terry Gross on the phone. What do you say when she asks you why her listeners would be interested in your book? Or asks what’s the print run of your new novel? She may ask you to send a press kit, including a press release, one-page, sample questions, clips from reviews and audios from previous shows. Are you prepared?
One of the jobs that publicists do on an ongoing basis is to think like a journalist or a producer. It means that we do a little digging to find out who their audience is and what their interests are. From there we develop a strategy/pitch that matches the targeted media we’ll be pitching. Generally it’s not just the book, it could be something happening in current events that dovetails with the author’s novel or perhaps the book is about a renowned jewelry theft and the author is an expert in gems. The idea is to setup the whole scenario and make sure that your pitch is compelling!
Is there a great idea you’d love to share?
It’s an old idea but an important one. Put the relationship back in Public Relations. Be kind. Be personal. Don’t do all the talking. Take time to listen. Once you start getting media, remember to stay in touch with each person who interviewed you. Thank them for the story they did on you and later send quick updates on your other triumphs or comment on other stories they’ve crafted.
Edith: These sound like lessons for life! Create relationships. Be kind, be a good listener, say thank you. Yes.
What are you working on now?
Thanks for asking! I’m writing a book about publicity. The working title is called Zen and the Art of PR. It’s basis is about becoming more mindful in the world of Public Relations and Communications where active and effective listening is huge.
In our pursuit to promote books we need to be aware of the impact that multitasking and technology-based interactions have on our work. When we take the time to slow down and meditate we become more creative, more solution-focused, more productive, much happier – and in turn – get more hits!
And of course I’m still working with clients. My clients are not just on the north shore. I’m presently working with client/authors in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Ontario Canada, Wilton, CT, Newburyport and I just finished a campaign with an author from Mumbai, India.
You can find Skye Wentworth, Book Publicist on her web site, on Facebook, at firstname.lastname@example.org, and at 978-462-4453.
Edith: Thanks so much for stopping by the blog today, Skye! You come very highly recommended by several successful authors I know.
Readers: Questions about public relations, book publicizing, or Skye’s new book? (How to get on Fresh Air? That’s the gig I want!) Ask away.
Thanks so much for joining us, Skye. Here’s another question. How does a debut author, say, (or any author) weigh the costs of hiring a publicist against the likely income resulting from that hire? We writers are creative types, but we are also each running a small business. Do you have any way of measuring the impact of your services? Doing a cost-benefit analysis?
I could write volumes on this subject! I’ll try to condense my answer.
Most PR professionals and clients agree that measuring PR ROI (public relations return on investment) is achievable. The real issue becomes how we should all measure the results of PR.
Publicists are not sales people. However, I realize that we are part of the sales process. It’s the job of a publicist is to get media coverage in order to draw attention, create buzz, generate audience, and impress investors. It’s an attractive option: who wouldn’t want their book featured on the front page?
But how to measure? Here’s the agony, let’s say that a publicist gets a hit in Magazine X, which has a circulation of 1,000. Most PR companies will then have a multiplier (usually 2.5 to capture what they term “pass along readership”) so they then state that their story in Magazine X reached 2,500 people. To me that is highly unrealistic to think that not only did every person on the circulation list of 1,000 read the article but they then passed on this magazine to 2.5 more people who all read it as well. So the science behind capturing a true representation of PR measurement is very difficult. The ad world is in the same boat. No tool will ever really know.
Here’s what I do. I write up a PR campaign proposal for each author. Subject areas may or may not include (depending on what the author requests) creative, press kit, print, radio, TV, online media and special events. On each particular subject I project the number of hours it will take me to, let’s say, procure 25 reviews or 10 radio shows, etc. I then add it up and offer an hourly charge and/or offer a full campaign charge. Authors make out much better with a full campaign charge because it ends up being the better deal all around. There’s no extra charge for each nuance (such as I’m heading out to San Francisco for a conference, can you get me some radio shows while I’m there?) and no extra charge for phone calls, etc. – we usually become a team working for the same goal. We also both sign a contract which provides each party peace of mind.
Wow, thanks, Skye. I’m sure you could write a book on that question alone. I appreciate the considered response.
Excellent information, Skye! Do you have any tips on the next step to take when you don’t get the responses you’re seeking, after hitting the local media with a press release?
Mary, I’m so glad you asked that question! First of all make sure that you have the editor’s name. The next step is to pick up the phone and call. Follow-up is key. Call until you actually speak to the editor. Ask him/her if they received your press release and then ask if they need more information. Tell them that you are available to have your photo taken — maybe even suggest where. Or, if they won’t be assigning a photographer, let them know that you can send one.
It helps if you are going to also be giving a book event. Not only can the editor talk about you and your book but they can tell folks where you’ll be doing book signings, etc.
*Hint. If you can include a local place or more people in your photo (or in your press release) the more apt an editor will cover the story. Ask a bookstore manager if you can put your photo front and center in the book shop. Stand in front of it with the store’s manager/owner/clerk and snap a photo.
Thank you so much for sharing your expertise!
Thank you, Skye, for sharing such valuable tips with us. The points you make are about such common sense approaches, but ones so often forgotten by writers in their rush to the next public relations spot. Saying thank you is so important. People have long memories.
Thanks for your comments Grace. I didn’t mention this but it’s even more meaningful if we take the time to send a thank you note via USPS mail. Funny how receiving actual mail in your postbox has become a refreshing form of communication. 🙂
Great blog, Skye! Thanks for joining us!
Thanks for the opportunity!
Thanks for coming, Skye and sharing your expertise. For those of us who are firmly “mid-list,” do you recommend a publicist? Is there any chance we’ll get enough coverage to make it worthwhile?
I totally forgot to mention that I’m always accepting new author/clients!
There is always more than a chance to make your investment worthwhile. Often times we just need to be more creative. For instance I was promoting an indie book, “So You’re Cremated . . . Now What?” for author Jesse Kalfel. He dearly wanted to be reviewed in the Boston Globe. We created a book launch at sea — a cruise called “I’ve got these ashes and don’t know what to do with them.” As a result, he was featured on the front page of the arts section of the Sunday Boston Globe and on local TV news and many other places. It was a success.
Wow. What a great idea, Skye!
Great information. So much of it common sense in real life (listen, build relationships), but we tend to overlook stuff like that all the time.
And no, I don’t think I could do what you do. At least not without more training, some contacts, and lots and lots of hard work. Don’t worry, I’ll stick to accounting.
Yes, it’s all about reaching out and touching someone. Btw, we publicists need accountants. ) )
Thanks for your comments!
It was a pleasure meeting you last night, Skye. I’ve really enjoyed reading this article. It’s nice to gain a bit more insight on the role of publicists!
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