Here are five publicists I’ve dealt with recently:
Publicist A: Always sends you to the appropriate publicist, even though it’s not in department. Recognizes that all publicity is good publicity. Sometimes asks me what’s out there on the Web, which I’m happy to answer.
Publicist B: Sends not only latest book, but nearly all the backlist titles. Responds to all emails within two hours. Makes interview suggestions months in advance to secure comprehensive interviews with authors.
Publicist C: After brief disagreement, calls me to figure out where I’m coming from. Asks where I’m coming from, and we have a pleasant conversation that clears a lot of air.
Publicist D: Can’t be bothered to return emails. Publicist D’s office claims author is available and then, months later, after not returning calls or emails, changes mind without explanation.
Publicist E: Refuses to book guest based on what I’ve written about the author on the blog (which did not involve the author’s fiction, the subject of the interview), but fails to cite specifics. Strange, because this same publisher booked another guest who was very aware of what I had written about him on this blog. We had a pleasant and quite funny conversation anyway. Insinuates that author will be reduced to a bundle of tears if author appears on program. To date, only one guest has cried and when this guest did, I stopped the interview.
Now if you’re a journalist, which of these publicists would you want to work with? Publicist A’s willingness to track down other publicists has saved me considerable time and helped to secure many interviews on the program. Publicist B’s efforts ensure that my conversation is strongly informed by the text and this improves the interviews. Thus, I’m quite happy to inform Publicist B precisely when the show will go up, however it ends up, so that Publicist B can coordinate his efforts. Publicist C’s willingness to call me, to give me the benefit of the doubt and find out where I’m coming from has resulted in four interviews being booked on the show in the past two months.
And then there’s Publicists D and E. Do I really want to work with Publicist D when the publicist won’t level with me or wishes to string me along, knowing very well how much I prepare for each interview? When Publicists A, B, and C, by contrast, remain transparent, get me the book in a timely manner, and exceed my very minimal requirements (enough time to read the book)? In her defense, Publicist E did clarify the author’s temperament to me and offered what I thought was a reasonable explanation. Nevertheless, if I approach Publicist E for future interviews, will I get the same response that Lee Siegel’s publicist once offered Portfolio‘s Jeff Bercovici? Meanwhile, Publicists A, B, and C impose no such conditions.
I could mention Publicist F, who can’t even be bothered to respond to numerous emails and phone calls or even send a copy of the book to get the word out. After all, if the book’s good, it may be written about. But I won’t. We’re dealing with gradients here. And most publicists are damn good at what they do. Again, I have very few complaints and don’t take any of this for granted.
Now let’s say you’re an author. Perhaps there’s some questions you may want to think about. Is your publicist denying you interviews to specific outlets or stringing a journalist along? Is the publicist doing this with your consent? Has your publicist had a history of doing this? Are you aware that journalists often swap names of publicists with each other?
But, most importantly, are you aware that a good publicist knows how to get repeat interviews? And is your publicist one of the good ones?