Saturday, September 01, 2007

Panel Discussion: Why you need a publicist?


Pam Perry, Marlive Harris, Kathy Carlton Willis, Rebeca Seitz

23 comments: said...

Greetings everyone; I am so EXCITED to be here . . . .woo-hoo! KUDOS to SORMag for hosting such a WONDERFUL online writers' conference and for inviting me to join you as well!

I'm Marlive Harris, a former classroom teacher and school librarian in Texas. It was my fascination with technology, particularly the Internet, and love of literature that led me to launch The G.R.I.T.S. Online Reading Club for adults with good friend, Portia Dowell-Simmons, in January 2000. We started off as a MSN Online Book Club and officially moved to being a full-scale "dot-com" online reading club by October that same year. The success of our adult online reading group, led to the development of the G.R.I.T.S. Kidz Book Club, in February the following year (2001). The kids and parents who assist me with that online reading club are FABULOUS and the reason why we were featured as a "Hot Site" by Technology in April 2004. A month later, May 2004, I left my job as a librarian to launch The GRITS COM Literary Service, a niche service that specializes in online book promotions for authors and publishers!

So now you know why they call me MsGRITS - Ms Girl Reading In The South . .. LOL! I cannot wait to hear from you. So I'll stop by throughout the day to chat with you. Thanks!

Kathy Carlton Willis said...

Hi, everyone! I look forward to interacting with you today about publicity. Feel free to ask any questions regarding how to create buzz for your book. Here's my bio, to introduce myself:

Kathy Carlton Willis grew up in the heartland of small-town America (Louisiana, MO). After marrying at age 18, she attended Baptist Bible College with her husband Russ Willis. They both graduated with honors, and Kathy received the Key Award for most outstanding female student.

Kathy recently served as Director of Publicity for Glass Road Public Relations, before going back to her roots as a freelancer. She has always enjoyed fiddling with words. She works as: writer, editor, publicist, writer’s coach, book doctor, speaker, and more.

Kathy is a sought-after speaker at writers’ conferences, and has a large network of connections in the industry. She has worked on book campaigns for such authors as: Angela Hunt, Dr. Gary Chapman, Karen Kingsbury, Marla Schalesky, DiAnn Mills, Wanda Brunstetter, and others. She serves as publicist for authors and events.

A variety of her columns and book reviews appear online and in print publications. She is somewhat of a grammar guru, with columns for writers appearing in several publications, including ByLine Magazine. She has a background in newspaper journalism, working as copyeditor and feature writer for The Sunday Challenger prior to working from home. She loves encouraging other writers as a writer's coach and mentor, and believes in paying it forward in the industry. Each year she mentors ten writers with hopes of seeing them grow to the next level in their writing.

Kathy and her husband Russ have enjoyed more than a quarter of a century together and share their home with two fur-babies, Jazzy and Libby. They have been in the ministry for over 20 years. Kathy enjoys participating in music and women’s ministries. Others admire her passion and zest for life. Her life is a testimony of God’s sufficient grace in the face of adversity. She is genuinely concerned for the spiritual needs of others. Kathy is also well respected for her practical and often humorous messages full of hope and insight. Audiences are impacted by Kathy’s willingness to be transparent during her messages and also wait for one-on-one time with her after her speaking events.

Her writing resume includes:The Paris News (Paris, TX), Artesia Daily Press (Artesia, NM), Fellowship of Christian Writers, Grammar ‘N Style/The Dabbling Mum, Grassroots Music,The Sunday Challenger, ByLine Magazine, Victorian Homes Magazine, Groovy Chicks Road Trip To Peace, and more.

Kathy is sought after as a speaker/singer for faith-based and secular groups across the country. She also co-moderates The Writers View listserv.

Training and Affiliations
• Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference (workshop speaker)
• Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (workshop speaker)
• Kentucky Christian Writers Conference (workshop speaker)
• Fellowship of Christian Writers
• The Writers View 1 (co-moderator)
• Christian Humor Writers

Bob Medak said...


Is it possible for an author to be their own publicist,or, should the author hire out the job of publicist;

Linda Wattley said...

I am really enjoying this conference. Great ideal LaShaunda! I was wanting to know when should an author consider having a publicist? How does a publicist decide who he or she is willing to work with?

Rae L. said...

Hi Marlive and Kathy!

Marlive, I was wondering how does connect authors with readers?

And for Kathy, what would you suggest to authors who would like to get their books into potential reader's hands but aren't sure where to start?

Thanks in advance to both!

Rae Lindley

Rae L. said...

Oops, I'd like to extend the second question to all the writers on the panel. :-)

Shelia said...

Question for the panel: Do you cater your services to fit the author's needs? For example, what if the author is more concerned about making a splash in print publications than online. What packages do you have available?


Dyanne said...


I love G.R.I.T.S.


Kathy Carlton Willis said...

Bob asked: “Is it possible for an author to be their own publicist, or, should the author hire out the job of publicist; Why?”


I haven’t met too many authors who have the time and drive to spend on successful book campaigns as well as developing author branding along the way. Most want to get busy on their next book! There are many reasons to hire a publicist: they have the connections, the databases, the know-how, the networking, and the resources. But for those who have more time than money, here are a few pointers:

#1-Begin planning PR as you write the book. Write into the manuscript different themes and ideas that will be easy to pitch later. Use various groups in the book you can target later.

#2-Use PR pitches from themes in the book-and you can use nonfiction topics from fiction works!

#3-Write an engaging press release-or at least pay to have this part done for you.

#4-Write up a media list and send out a copy of the book (ARCs if you have them) and the press release. Be sure to hit: television, radio, magazines, newspapers, Internet, etc. And remember some publications have longer lead times (such as glossy magazines). It is not uncommon for the longest lead times to take 6 months.

#5-Use current events as a way to tie in press releases to your book.

#6-Use speaking events, charitable events, book signings, community involvement, etc. as opportunities to send press releases. Don’t send a generic release, but be sure to customize one for each event.

#7-Be more focused on providing a service when you are interviewing, or telling a story, than pitching the book, and you will naturally make good PR for your book. Be sure to engage your audience with your energy, your information, your illustrations, etc. Write up interview questions to give to radio and television producers and hosts, but let them know they can throw any question your way and you’ll be ready to hit the answer out of the park.

#8-Follow up on any pitches you make.

#9-If you can do it well, be willing to try some newer technology: Blog tours, Virtual Book Tours, Book Trailers, YouTube and GodTube, MySpace, FaceBook and Shout!Life, Pod casts, etc.

#10-Even if your publisher has a publicist, and you have an outside publicist-the more you are willing to do to create buzz about your book, the better!

Kathy Carlton Willis said...

Linda wants to know: “when should an author consider having a publicist?”

The best time to acquire a publicist is as soon as you sign a book contract. Many use their advance to hire the publicist, who will want 6 months lead time prior to the release of the book to get the campaign set up.

A publicist is used for other things too-any time you want to create buzz for something. A publicist can help with author branding and when you have many speaking events that need PR.

Linda wants to know: “How does a publicist decide who he or she is willing to work with?”

I look at:
-Is the author or publishing house willing to work hard to work with me as we promo the book?
-Can I pitch this author and this book with a clear conscience?
-Do I connect with this author? With this book?
-Does the author or publishing house have a clear understanding of what I will be offering or do they have false expectations?
-Is the time-line right?

Kathy Carlton Willis said...

Rae asked: “what would you suggest to authors who would like to get their books into potential reader's hands but aren't sure where to start?”

Rae-the best way to get authors to buy your book is to get the book into the hands of media (radio, television, newspaper, magazines, Internet) and reviewers. Create buzz about the book through PR and you will then have a better chance for potential readers to buy the book.

Kathy Carlton Willis said...

Shelia asked: “Do you cater your services to fit the author's needs? For example, what if the author is more concerned about making a splash in print publications than online. What packages do you have available?”

I customize PR packages to fit the author’s requests. Some want a bigger emphasis with a certain media medium, and some request a bigger focus on a certain region of the country. Some want me for just press releases, or for a certain time period. I also get requests to do additional things like help with booking events and speaking engagements, creating author branding, etc.

I have 3 basic packages (you can see them on my Web site at but most authors ask me to customize a plan for them because they have specific requests. I will draw up 3 options, and let them pick the one that fits their needs and their budget the best.

Vicki M. Taylor said...

Really good questions and great answers.

If an author could only afford one medium to promote their book, which would you suggest?

Do you assist the author with setting up book signing events or workshop events?

Do you ever travel with your authors?

Kathy Carlton Willis said...

Vicki asked: “If an author could only afford one medium to promote their book, which would you suggest?”

Wow, Vicki, that’s a hard one! Just like there’s no antibiotic that will fit every infection, there’s no ONE medium that will fit every campaign so that it goes “viral.” Viral meaning the grassroots efforts of getting buzz going catches on like wildfire and spreads.

If you had to pick one medium, I would pick the one for which you as an author have the most passion.

If you interview well on the fly, I would go with radio.

With internet, you can often use the same press release and author interview to visit lots of places, from the comfort of your own home, so if you are limited for time, go this route.

I guess my question would be, why do you have to narrow it down to one medium? Most professional PR packages include a variety of media outlets. And if you are doing it yourself, PR is free-it’s garnering interviews for features and reviews through a variety of media sources.

The more often your audience hears the title of your book, and your name, the more likely they will buy your book! That’s why buzz is so big—why grassroots PR is so important.

Vicki asked: “Do you assist the author with setting up book signing events or workshop events?”

If this is in the contract, I do this. Not all publicists do, so it pays to ask first. Tell the publicist what your specific needs are, and that will help them draw up the best contract for you.

Vicki asked: “Do you ever travel with your authors?”

Yes, if it is warranted. For big events, a publicist can help keep an author calm during those pre-event jitters, can help make sure you get where you are going on time without interruptions, make sure you have a bottle of water, and even tell you if you have lipstick on your teeth or toilet paper on your shoe! ;-)

pam perry said...

Ok, you need a publicist if you don't have TIME and have I tell people either you pay us to do it or you pay me to show you how you can "do it yourself"...once they see how hard it is...they really respect what PR pros do...and are more apt to know why they are hiring a publicist. When they hire us...this is what I give them up front:

How to work with your publicist………
• Tell them your schedule & where you’re speaking especially
• Be grateful and show appreciation of their efforts.
• Tell them things that run across your desk or emails that would help them get the word out for you. They can’t be every where all the time.
• Tell them if you get good response from the interview
• Tell them your “wish” list of media interviews and hosts you’d like to talk to and WHY
• Give them as much background on you as possible: schools, awards, conferences spoken at, places of employment (any place where there have been gatherings of people that know you or about you)
• Help other author friends. You reap what you sow. Look out for others.
• Keep a database. Every where you go and speak – start a mailing list
• Send thank you notes to the media. Keep in touch with them – but don’t be annoying.
• Give them ideas. Discuss new publicity angles. Publicists work with a variety of clients and they appreciate clients that are engaged in their publicity process and can see natural opportunities that they might miss.
• Give them good stuff to work with: a great book cover, a good head shot, a great book title and great endorsements
• Be nice to the media and get rid of the “entitlement” attitude.
• Whenever possible, advertise in or on the media you’re featured. Especially if you get a good response.
• Also remember to say your book title and website several times in the interview.
• Follow the advice, suggestions and recommendations of your publicist
• Let your publicist know your expectations right from the beginning
• Be consistent
• Make a positive confession about your publicity campaign and ask for prayer from your “inner circle” including your publicist. They are your “cheerleader” and intercessor.
• Research & know your market and ask them what “buzz” they have heard about your book and what you could do to improve
• Critique your interviews and constantly improve your “sound bites.”

• Reschedule an interview directly with the producer or reporter. Go thru the publicist
• Ignore interview requests.
• Don’t take credit for your “media” success – know that it’s God that orchestrates everything and a team that helps you LOOK good
• If you have a question about the interview, ask your publicist immediately. Don’t ask the interviewer. They’ll take it as a bad sign that you don’t know your stuff.
• Don’t lie or over exaggerate the truth to the media. They check you out anyway.
• Don’t call your publicist after work hours or on weekends unless it’s an emergency – they’re human too with their own lives – though they love you and your book – give them some space
• Complain to your publicist if they can’t get the media hit you’re looking for right away. It may come in time but won’t come if you’re negative. Faith and patience produces the promise.
• Expect your publicist to know everything and everybody. Give them updates and FYIs via email. Keep in contact but don’t be a nuisance.
• Assume that the media will give you copies of the story or the interview. Ask before the interview begins – or better yet tape them yourself and/or subscribe the periodical/newspaper via the website.
• Be a lone ranger. Connect with other writers/authors/speakers. Go to other’s book signings. You reap what you sow.
• Be antagonistic with your publicist – they can be your best friend or worst enemy. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
• Think you’re a failure if you don’t get on Oprah.

pam perry said...

Who is Pam Perry Anyways...... :)

Detroit Free Press recently called her "a marketing whiz on an almost immortal mission." Known as the “connector and PR coach,” Pam Perry knows how to pull the right people together for the right project at the right time and garner the right publicity. Her public relations and advertising career spans over two decades.

A local Emmy Award-winning professional, Perry and has worked in the whole gamut of media ranging from the Detroit Free Press, various radio stations, and Christian Television Network (CTN). She has even published a 40,000-circulation magazine, Soul Source. Perry has provided PR counsel to clients like McDonald's while at Hermanoff and Associates agency and provided fund development and public relations for Joy of Jesus, Inc. and The Salvation Army.

One of the nation's foremost experts in the African American Christian market, Perry is the chief visionary of Ministry Marketing Solutions, Inc., the public relations and marketing consulting firm launched in 2000. Some author clients include Bishop Thomas Weeks, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Bishop Donald Hilliard, Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, Dr. Fred Price and Pastor Bill Winston.

Her passion is Christian books and assisting writers in becoming authors through the American Christian Writers Association as president/founder of the Detroit Chapter. She hosts weekly teleconferences on various PR/marketing topics with self-published authors and provides PR counsel to ministries nationwide, training church marketing staffs.

Ministry Marketing Solutions, Inc.
33011 Tall Oaks, Farmington, MI 48336

For a free Ebooklet "115 PR to Brand Your Ministry" email me at the email above.

God bless you and write for HIM,
He gives us creativity!

donnah said...

Hey Marlive,
Such excellent advice. Being an author and a publicist the juggling act is difficult. I always find it easier to publicize other authors rather than myself. And it's very true, simply because you have a publicist you cannot expect the publicist to work miracles. Its a partnership.

Shelia said...

Thanks Kathy, I'll go check out your site.

Thank you ladies for all the great tips.

Bob Medak said...

Thank you, Kathy!

LaShaunda said...

I want to thank the panel for coming out to day. I truly appreciate your time.

I learned so much and I'm saving all of this for future reference.

I look forward to working with you and your clients. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have someone to promote. I have three sites that love to promote.

Have a great weekend.

linda beed said...

To each of the paneliss.

Often I see advertisements for eblasts that boasts a list membership from hundreds to thousands. How does the client know what percentage of these numbers fit their market niche? What mechanism is set it place for the client to see what percentage of the blasts sent out were actually opened?


Kathy Carlton Willis said...

Linda asked: “Often I see advertisements for e-blasts that boasts a list membership from hundreds to thousands. How does the client know what percentage of these numbers fit their market niche? What mechanism is set it place for the client to see what percentage of the blasts sent out were actually opened?”

I customize databases for the specific e-blast going out. And I can track how many of my media outlets open their e-blasts and how many click through.

For example: I’m the publicist for the upcoming SomeOne Cares Caregiver Conference with LifeWay, and I have built a variety of databases that fit this conference. First I found all of the media in a 3-state area to target. Then I found media and organizations that have to do with caregiving, seniors, retirement, elder care, adult daycare, etc. I also found a database for the megachurches in the area. It takes a lot of research, but it’s worth it because I know the e-blast is going to the intended recipients. I also developed a database of blogs for caregivers so I can coordinate a blog tour about caregiving. All of this creates buzz for the conference, for the concert, and for the scholarships we are giving away.

This same principle is used for books, authors, and speakers, when it comes to e-blasts.

I give my clients activity reports so that they can see the progress of the campaign. I also let them know which ones I’m following up on and what the replies have been.

Good communication is key. said...

Good evening everyone! Kathy and Pam it is such an honor to be on this panel with you; YOU LADIES ROCK! Okay, let me get busy here; I will respond to everyone in this post. So here goes . . .

Hi Linda Wattley; great questions!

You ask - "When should an author consider having a publicist?"
Authors will contact me to develop an online campaign for them usually once their advance has been received, or upon return from their book tours and offline events. With self-publishers, I find it to be a little different. Experienced self-publishers will actually make preparations to include online promotion work with me during the marketing and budgeting phase. By doing so, I am able to help them connect with readers and book clubs prior to the release of their book.
Also, I recommend authors to always ask for references; then talk to other authors who have worked with the publicist you are considering.

You also ask - "How does a publicist decide who he or she is willing to work with?"

I am involved with online promotions, so I consider:
- is there a website or promotional blog in place for me to work with them?
- is the book a work I feel comfortable promoting?
- is the author someone I will have a good working relationship with?
- will the author invest time cultivating their online presence prior to and during the online campaign as needed?

Thank you Linda!


Hey Rae Lindley!!

You ask - "Marlive, I was wondering how does connect authors with readers?

The maturity of the Internet due to Web 2.0 - with all of it social media networks, particularly the ones for book lovers - has made connecting authors with readers online easier for us than ever before!

Also, started out in January 2000 as an online reading club. So over the years we have developed some really great relationships with avid readers and book clubs (online and offline) that we've been able to connect authors to via online author chats, book discussion conference calls, virtual book parties, and podcasting. Book clubs, in particular, like networking with us and we love them too! As a result of them, I launched "Book Club Central" just to showcase all our reading friends. Authors who sign up to receive email alerts there are finding that blog to be a great resource to them finding book clubs to connect with each month.

You also asked - "what would you suggest to authors who would like to get their books into potential reader's hands but aren't sure where to start?"

Whether you intend to promote online or offline publicity involves analyzing the market. With regards to the book you've written you have to identify and locate your readers. So begin by asking yourself -- Where are my readers? What stores do they frequent? What radio stations do they listen to? What websites do they frequent? What TV programs do they watch? What magazines do they read? What events do they attend? What organizations are they members of? Once you begin identifying and locating where your readers are -- creating a buzz about your book in those arenas where your readers are will get you off and running!

Thank you Rae Lindley!


Hey Ms. Promotion-Machine Sheila Goss! How are you? It's great having your here!

You ask - Do you cater your services to fit the author's needs? For example, what if the author is more concerned about making a splash in print publications than online. What packages do you have available?

Because I am a niche service, I create book campaigns for the Internet only.

Thank you Sheila!


Dyanne Davis, THANK YOU so much for the love sis. . . .woo-hoo!!! There are some serious romance readers in our adult online reading group that LOVE YOU girl!!! Again thank!


Hi Vicki M. Taylor!

You ask - If an author could only afford one medium to promote their book, which would you suggest?

I believe the best medium is always the one the author is most comfortable with! I've worked with authors who love and want online book promotion, but their niche are giving interviews. So my online campaign with them will include more Internet radio, podcast shows and online interviews opportunities than other online activities. Then there are authors I've worked with who simply don't have time for a lot of interviews and just prefer advertising and providing book content for various websites and online publication. So choose the medium that is best for you, but include others as time and your budget allows.

Do you assist the author with setting up book signing events or workshop events?

There has been times when some of the online work I've done with an author led to speaking engagements and/or workshops. In those cases, I will assist the author, if asked, with making sure their offline event goes well. But for the most part, many of the authors I work with have a publicist that assist with offline promotions.

Do you ever travel with your authors?
I travel the Information Highway with my authors all the time -- woo-hoo. . . LOL!

But I have traveled with a couple of authors to events as well as set up media escort for them. But again, that is a rarity for me. My travel with authors is strictly done via the Internet!

Thanks Vicki M. Taylor!


Hi Linda Beed! That is an excellent question, and I'm so glad you asked it!

You ask - Often I see advertisements for eblasts that boasts a list membership from hundreds to thousands. How does the client know what percentage of these numbers fit their market niche? What mechanism is set it place for the client to see what percentage of the blasts sent out were actually opened?

One of the things I like most about online book promotion are the stats and promotion details I am able to provide authors about their campaigns. So whether I'm sending out a press release via the fax, online wires, or posting their information to online literary groups, messages boards, and Listserves, being able to send back stats and data - with regards to click thrus, views, impressions, and hits is what needs to be shared!

Thank you Linda Beed!


Again LaShaunda THANK YOU for inviting me to participate on this panel. This has been WONDERFUL!

Everyone -- have an awesome holiday weekend!

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