When I first began promoting books as an independent book publicist, several prospective clients who were looking for bargain-basement deals said to me, “You only make a few phone calls a day and that’s it.”
Would that it were that easy. A few phone calls is quite the understatement when there are literally hundreds of media outlets to contact in a comprehensive campaign. Way back in the early Nineties, however, when that comment was made, we publicists relied on the phone and voicemail as e-mail was a burgeoning form of communication and most of the media preferred that you contact them via the old-fashioned way.
Slowly that changed. You would call a media contact and some voicemail messages indicated that the editor or producer would prefer you to contact them via e-mail. Nowadays, if you call a media contact their voicemail message often says, “If you are a book publicist, please don’t leave a voice-mail message. E-mail me a press release or pitch.”
What do you do then, when you’ve sent hundreds of e-mails and not one contact has responded? Ah, that’s the challenge of being a publicist. Because most likely, unless you are promoting the latest celebrity or political confessional, one e-mail is not enough to ensure your author receives media coverage. Nor are two e-mails. Sometimes three e-mails are not enough.
Do I send the same e-mail if the first, second or third has not received a response? Of course not. I am constantly reinventing my pitches and rewriting press releases, looking for a new hook that will elicit a response.
Recently, I had to stoop to more subtle means when I had not heard back from producers who had consistently booked my clients throughout the years. So I put in the subject line: Are you still producing for the Morning Show? That did elicit a very quick response. And a positive one at that. “When is your author coming to town? We’d love to have him on our show.”
I do, whenever possible, follow up three or four unanswered e-mails with phone calls on the oft chance that a real live voice will pick up the phone, and that I can engage in an old-fashioned conversation. And when that happens, more often that not, I land an article or a TV or radio interview.
But chatty conversations with the media have gone by the wayside just as relying solely on newspaper coverage for our content has.
And just like in the past when producers complained about the amount of voicemail messages they received and how they could not possibly listen to all of them (one harried producer of a well-known national morning show who was deluged with hundreds of voicemails a day once called to say “please keep your pitches to 30 seconds” when I was a rookie), the media now complains about the amount of e-mails they receive daily, which far exceed the number of voice mails they ever received.
One producer said at a luncheon that she receives more than 200 e-mails a day. And remember, she is not glued to her computer all day. She has meetings to attend to, books to sift through, shows to produce. By the end of the week, she has received more than 1,000 e-mails from book publicists all jockeying like for the very few interview spots that exist. It’s understandable that she can’t respond to all of the e-mails she receives. Just those few books by high-profile authors or books about subjects such as finding “Mr. Right” that she and her executive producers feel will pull the highest ratings.
So what is the day in the life of a book publicist like? Sometimes I compare it to existing in the void of a black hole. I am out there in cyberspace wondering if anyone is even reading my e-mails, much less responding to them. But I persist. Because that’s what a good publicist does. I pitch and pitch again until I have finally caught the attention of a producer or reviewer.
And when I do, the adrenaline rush kicks in and makes all the effort worth it. For me and for my client.