If You’re an Author – You Need PR!

Whether you’ve signed with a major publishing house, a boutique publisher or have self-published your book, there is one constant…
You need to market!
Unless you have very deep pockets and want to try the paid advertising, commercial route, your best bet is going to be a combination of a public relations outreach combined with a social media campaign
Why PR?
Because public relations is the only form of marketing that reaches your target market and offers you the credibility and validation of being featured in the media. You are not in a commercial or an ad. You are featured in the news.
To start, keep in mind that marketing your book, is different than marketing yourself as an author. A book can be an engine that helps pull the train, but the overall train is your image and brand as a writer. One of the problems with publishing houses is that they focus solely on marketing books and often overlook valuable PR and marketing opportunities that can be gained from marketing the writer.
I understand a publisher’s perspective. They’re going to make their return off the book sales and the author might not be with them a year or two down the line.
But as an author, you need to think more long term. Each book is a part of your canon. No one work defines you. Your marketing, PR and branding focus needs to be on your overall career as an artist.
Still, if you do have a book coming out, you’re then working with a specific timeline and need to develop a marketing and PR plan targeting your book release. Write out your plan. Have it include objectives, timeframe, goals and strategies. Whether you’re self-publishing or working with a traditional publishing house will change your approach.
If you’re self-published, you know that the marketing is going to be your responsibility. If you’re working with a publisher, they should give you some guidance, but do not expect them to take care of your PR and marketing needs.
Realize that no matter what your situation, you are going to have to take charge of your marketing. If you can hire a PR firm, do it. If not, there are still steps that you can take to promote and market your work.
Do some homework.
Learn some of the PR basics.
Remember effective PR is effective storytelling.
And who better than an author to tell a story?

Yep, That’s Shakespeare Too.

I was reading about (yet another) pop culture phenomenon who was described as the “be-all and end-all.” I mercifully forget who the article was about, but remembered that there would be no “be-all and end-all” without Shakespeare. He not only came up with unique phrases and word combinations, he created new words. On the high end, there are estimates that claim he created as many as 20,000 new words, others state that the Bard coined between 1,000 to 2,000 words. There is a wide gap there, but regardless, the fact remains that much of what we say, how we say it and what we think are due to the words he introduced.

You have to give the devil its due. Yep, that’s Shakespeare too.

Language shifts and changes organically. Latin, French, and Old Norse brought words which were incorporated into English. But Shakespeare was a force unto himself. He changed nouns into verbs, turned verbs into adjectives, connected words in new ways, added prefixes and suffixes, and created entirely new words.

Why?

Necessity.

He wanted to say what he wanted to say how he wanted to say it and if the words weren’t there, he created them.

Addiction, assassination, eyeball, Inaudible, swagger, uncomfortable, bedazzled, are just a fraction of the words attributed to him. And the remarkable part isn’t simply that he created new words and phrases (people continually try that) but that so many took hold and are now a part of our lexicon.

It wasn’t simply the creation of new words, but also the unique combination of words to express an idea or concept, that made the impact of his works so timeless. People who have never seen, read, or heard a work by Shakespeare have been touched by his writings. In many ways, he has altered and transformed our language. We all now carry the words he created and the phrases he coined.

All that glitters (“glisters”) is not gold.

Bated breath.

Be-all and the end-all.

Brave new world.

Break the ice.

Brevity is the soul of wit.

Devil incarnate.

In my heart of hearts.

Those are but a few examples of Shakespeare at work.

Language is fluid and change is an inevitable and continual process. Not that long ago the phrase “to Google,” or tweet” would seem completely nonsensical. Shakespeare is not alone in creating new English words and phrases, but as to the impact one person has made, he certainly is unrivaled.

He changed how we think and how we communicate, but that was a byproduct of his search to find the language he needed to tell his tales.

For Shakespeare necessity truly was the mother of invention.

So, how does this relate to you?

Glad you asked.

As writers, when we hit stumbling blocks and need to figure out new ways to reach goals. And there Shakespeare is not a bad role model. Whether it has to do with the act of writing, the business of writing or the marketing of your work, sometimes it’s worth following Will’s footsteps and thinking outside of the preverbal box. (No, that’s not his).

I’m not advocating you start work on a new language, but, depending on the problem at hand, it could mean creating new a new approach, system, perspective, or yes, maybe even a new word. Who knows what you’ll come up with by using his unique creative approach to problem solving?

And if you have missteps along the way, that’s fine. That’s part of the process. Not all of his words are with us today; mistempered , attasked and oppugnancy are apparently some Shakespearean creations that did not take hold.

Not even he batted a thousand.

I wonder who came up with that phrase?

An Author’s PR Roadmap

Whether you’ve signed with a major publishing house, a boutique publisher or have self-published your book, there is one constant…

You need to market!

PR, marketing and promotion are not luxuries for authors, they are necessities.

The question authors need to ask is not if you should market, but when and how.
Your best bet is going to be a combination of a public relations outreach combined with a social media campaign.

Why PR?

Because public relations is the only form of marketing that reaches your target market and offers you the credibility and validation of being featured in the media.
You are not in a commercial or an ad.
You are featured in the news. You are the news!
To start, keep in mind that marketing your book is different than marketing yourself as an author. A book can be an engine that helps pull the train, but the overall train is your image and brand as a writer. One of the problems with publishing houses is that they focus solely on marketing the book and often overlook valuable PR and marketing opportunities that can be gained from marketing the writer themselves.
I understand a publisher’s perspective. They’re going to make their return off the book sales and the author might not be with them a year or two down the line.

But as an author, you need to think more long term. Each book is a part of your canon. No one work defines you. Your marketing, PR and branding focus needs to be on your overall career as an artist.
Still, if you do have a book coming out, you’re then working with a specific timeline and need to develop a marketing and PR plan targeting your book release. Write out your plan. Have it include objectives, timeframe, goals, strategies and tactics. Whether you’re self-publishing or working with a traditional publishing house will change your approach.
If you’re working with a publisher, they should give you some guidance, but do not expect them to take care of your PR and marketing needs. Realize that you are going to have to take charge of your marketing. If you can hire a PR firm, do it. If not there are still steps that you can take to promote and market your work.

Do some homework.
Learn some of the PR basics.
And remember, effective PR is effective storytelling.
And who better to tell a story than –
An author!

PR Secrets for Independent Films

I met with an independent filmmaker the other day about his PR needs for his upcoming film.

Why is that news?

Because he met with me to discuss launching a public relations campaign for his film six months before he will start shooting.

We’ve been representing films for over two decades and believe me this is news.

Generally we’ll be contacted by filmmakers once their film has been shot and locked, often a week before the first screening.  These filmmakers have generally put a great amount of thought into the making of their film, but little or none into the marketing or promotion.

And that is the kiss of death. 

You can make an amazing film, but if you don’t find some way to get it in front of the public only you, your family, and your closest friends will know about it.

So, back to my meeting: the filmmaker wanted to launch well before principal shooting began in order to create an early buzz about the project.  He then wanted to do some on-the-set promotion to offer the audience behind the scenes stories and then shift the focus once the film was ready to screen.  He hadn’t locked down distribution, so part of the PR outreach was to interest distributors as well as to begin to build a name for himself in the industry. 

Before contacting my firm, he had been sending out press releases through a wire service and was unhappy with the results.  People commonly mistake sending out press releases with launching a PR campaign and nothing could be further from the truth.  Press releases are a tool, but nothing more.  Sending out a release through one of the paid wire services can help a film’s SEO, but seldom (unless there is a strong newsworthy element or an A-list celebrity attached) will it result in actual media coverage. 

He then brought on an intern and had her try her luck at landing media coverage for his production company and upcoming film.  That was unfair both to the intern and the media.  It placed the intern in a no-win situation since she had no idea how to launch a film PR campaign and it wasted the media’s time.  She was busy trying to sell a product, whereas what the media was looking for stories.  She inundated producers, editors and writers with the film’s one-sheet which is a sales sheet designed to attract buyers and distributors. 

The media hates one-sheets.

I’m repeating myself here, but this can’t be overstated, journalists want stories.  If you try and sell them, you lose them.  It’s as simple as that.   

For a media relations campaign to work:

  1. Start early
  2. Know the right contacts
  3. Develop compelling stories 
  4. Remember less is more
  5. Be persistent
  6. Be creative
  7. Follow through 
  8. Treat the media with respect
  9. Remember effective PR is effective storytelling

 

Breakfast with Burroughs

I met William Burroughs twice. The first time I wasn’t completely forthcoming. It was at a reading he had in downtown L.A. I introduced myself to him after the reading and explained I had an assignment to do an interview with him. I did have writing assignments, but they were all to interview musicians. But I was more interested in interviewing Burroughs, so, the taffy-like stretching of the truth

And, there definitely was a rock connection; Burroughs pretty much wrote the dictionary of rock. The term ‘heavy metal’ first appeared in print in The Soft Machine. One of the characters is described as “the Heavy Metal Kid.’ There was also a band called The Soft Machine. Steely Dan took their name from a steam-powered dildo that appears in Naked Lunch, and Duran Duran based the song “Wild Boys” on Burroughs’ novel. if I had pitched the story this way maybe my editor would have given the green light. Maybe in a Burroughsesque alternate reality I did have the assignment.

Regardless, he agreed to the interview. I left that evening with a confirmed date and time to interview William Burroughs in Brentwood, California; a very tony part of Los Angeles, for a chat with Bull Lee, the infamous writer of Naked Lunch.

One of the original beats, Burroughs helped spark a cultural revolution. Openly gay, his writing shocked and offended. Come to think of it, it still often shocks and offends. The fact that Burroughs accidently shot and killed his wife William Tell-style and was famous for his copious use of drugs, often drew as much attention as his writings.
Although Junkie was published in 1953, Burroughs is best known for his third novel, Naked Lunch, which underwent a court case under the U.S. sodomy laws.
With Brion Gysin, Burroughs popularized the cut-up technique. A literary technique in which words are edited into weird new juxtapositions and sentences, paragraphs and whole pages are cut up and rearranged.

But, back to the interview. It was set for Saturday morning at an elegantly furnished home in Brentwood. Sadly, I forget the name of the poet who was there with Burroughs. The poet answered the door, let me in and then spent the rest of the time frolicking in the outside swimming pool. As I remember he has weird that Hyundai would it was a large pool. A large pool with exceedingly blue water.

As the poet splashed, I sat and waited in the living room. Burroughs entered wearing a suit. Did he ever not wear a suit? He sat facing me and the interview began with him staring at me in silence. I don’t remember ever being intimidated during an interview, or star struck. I had interviewed a number of celebrities, but here I kept thinking that I was sitting in a room with William Burroughs and my mind went blank. Finally, I opened by asking if he ever used the cut-up technique in his writings. He stared at me for a while and then in a very monotone voice explained that he was no longer interested in the technique.
Silence followed.

My next several questions all elicited a similar response without any change in expression. I considered getting up and leaving to save us all further torture.
And then something shifted. He smiled leaned back and a conversation ensued. We discussed God, or in his case gods. He believed in many, always at war. Time travel; he believed it was possible and that in subtle ways we experience it all the time, but are not aware. How Ginsberg had been the PR genius behind the myth and legend of the Beats. The making of On the Road, and on serving as an advisor on the film. This was before the 2012 film by Walter Salles and Sam Riley that finally made it to the screen. (The production Burroughs was talking about remained still-born, as had so many others). He explained that the information that the government released on heroin and addiction was laughable and totally wrong and that heroin addiction was a disease of exposure. As to addiction, he believed that power addiction was the worst kind.
He liked living in New York (this was before his move to Kansas) because to him it was like living in a village. He walked wherever he wanted to go and his version of Manhattan consisted of only a few blocks.

As the conversation continued Burroughs, although never becoming animated, loosened up, laughed and smiled. He walked me to the door and as I left he said, “Come to New York, stop by, I’ll make you breakfast and we can continue talking.”

Fast forward (there is time travel). Burroughs moved to Lawrence, Kansas and since his death in 1997, officials have dedicated a creek, a nature trail, and even a playground to him. A playground dedicated to Burroughs is something that I feel the writer of Wild Boys would appreciate.

And, as to my breakfast with, although I went to New York often, I never took him up on it.

I liked the memory I was left with. of Burroughs in his trademark suit, laughing as he walked me to the door and an image of a future where the author of Naked Lunch would cook me breakfast.

Students Shine a Light where Politicians Have Cowered

“When your children act like leaders and your leaders act like children, you know change is coming.” 

So Tweeted Mikel F. Jollett

 

” We’ve had enough. We are the generation that was born after Columbine. We have lived with is our entire lives and now it happened at my school. I spent two hours in a closet just hiding and I am done hiding. We’re done hiding. America has done hiding.” 

Matt Dietsch, survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

 

At its best, media informs, educates and engages. In this case, some of the coverage of the students speaking out in the aftermath of the shooting has shown the media at its best.

 

Students from Stoneman Douglas High School have sounded the alarm and brought the gun control debate to the forefront days after they survived a mass shooting on campus on Feb. 14.

The suspect, a former student, entered the school with a legally purchased AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and killed 17 people.

 

Over the last few days, we’ve seen the power of voices raised as one. The students of Stoneman Douglas and the other students around the nation who have joined with them have been able to bring an issue to light to shine a light on it that no other group has before.

 

Gun violence in America is an issue that has been one where empty rhetoric has replaced action as countless innocent victims have been senselessly gunned down. On one side of the aisle, politicians afraid of alienating their base, afraid of losing votes and afraid of losing funding, have chosen their political careers over lost lives. On the other side, those who thought this was a losing issue and one not worth the battle, have backed down.

 

But all that is changing, students whose lives have been affected have raised the alarm and as they persevere, they are making a difference. Dubbed the “Never Again” movement, the teenage activists are utilizing the traditional media, being interviewed on television, radio, newspapers, and magazines.  They are also mobilizing on social media, organizing school walkouts, and planning a nationwide protest for March 24.  They are sending a message and those who turned deaf ears to so many in the past are being forced to listen.

 

#BoycottNRA hashtag has taken on a life of it’s on and it is making a difference.  A partial list of companies who have cut ties with the NRA include:

  • Delta Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • The First National Bank of Omaha 
  • Hertz
  • The Semantic Corp
  • MetLife
  • SimpliSafe
  • Wyndham Hotels
  • * Also, Enterprise Holdings (Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Alamo Rent a Car, and National Car Rental) — has chosen to end a discount program for NRA

 

Whether this new movement will continue to have an impact, or whether the political powers that be will be able to shut it down as they have other attempts to raise the alarm, still needs to be seen. Regardless, these students have changed the landscape forever. They have raised their voices, have been heard and they now understand that they can impact society as a whole. The fact that it took this many deaths and children raising their voices to be heard is a sad commentary on where we are as a nation.

 

And now it is up to the rest of us. America now needs to stand with its children and the media needs fulfill its obligation by keeping a spotlight on the issue and not letting it die or become simply another news cycle that passes and is forgotten.

The Most Important PR Questions for Writers & Filmmakers

Quick questions:

Why are some authors and filmmakers featured in magazines, newspapers, and on TV, while others seem to remain under the radar? 

Why do some careers take off while others falter or flounder?

The quality of the artwork; that’s always a good starting point, but that is seldom the complete answer.

We all know of some magnificent artists whose work seems to be stuck in perpetual twilight, while others, whose work might not be quite as amazing, garner media coverage.

This is rarely a simple matter of luck.  Wait long enough and the media will find you, is seldom a good game plan.   Those authors and filmmakers who achieve media coverage have generally taken their career into their own hands. 

One of most important question an author or filmmaker has to ask is:

Do I care enough to give your art a chance to succeed?

If the answer is yes, here’s the next question –

Are you willing to get out of your comfort zone and actively work to promote yourself and your art?

The most successful artists generally see marketing and PR as a part of their job description.  The upside is it’s not about selling, but about telling compelling stories. Effective PR is effective storytelling.

And who better to tell stories than authors or filmmakers?

The media and the public are interested in the process and in the artist’s journey.  That’s not to say that your story needs to be dramatic, tragic, or theatrical to be effective, but that you need to showcase your work within the context of a story.  Everyone has a compelling story.  All artists, whether they be authors, filmmakers or musicians, have taken a captivating journey.  The trouble is that most are too close to their own experiences to see which stories are the most compelling, which is why working with someone who can view you and your story through a fresh set of eyes can help.

Public relations and marketing are nothing new in the art world.  Centuries ago artists had to promote themselves to patrons, now the focus is on the media and the marketplace.

The myth of the artist is that true artist simply create and wait.

And that myth is precisely that – A myth!

Try that approach and you could be waiting your entire life, while no one sees your work.

Since you need to market is a given, the question is –

How?

Those that can afford to hire a PR firm, should.  Those who can’t should learn PR and marketing steps that they can start on their own.  But the bottom line is that you begin to shine a light on your art

And that you start –

Now!

A Writer’s Holiday Gift of PR

Over the past couple of years, I’ve come across an amazingly generous phenomena in the PR world.

Several prospects who have contacted us around the holidays were not looking for a public relations campaign for themselves, but to give a PR campaign to authors they cared for.

A public relations campaign as a holiday gift?

I’ve had my company for over 25 years and this was new for me.  I’ve had people call to research our company and services for someone else, but not to actually have us launch a PR campaign as a gift.

And these calls I’m referring to were not from spouses or parents, or family members, these calls were from friends, from people who wanted to give a unique, special gift and help writers reach their goals.

When I asked one of these unique gift-givers what prompted them to offer a public relations campaign as a holiday gift to his friend, he paused and then explained that he knew how important his friend’s writing and her new book was to her and that he wanted to do something to help her achieve her dream.

He went on to explain, “It’s not a tangible gift that you can unwrap and I realize it’s not a gift that comes with guarantees, but if I can help her get the word out about her and take her career to the next level, that would be the best gift I could possibly give.  I don’t think she’d invest in herself this way, so I decided I’d invest for her.”

So the holiday spirit burns brightly this year and gift givers are getting more creative and thoughtful.

His response also got me thinking.  What are some other unique gifts we could give to others and to ourselves?

What could you give to friend that they wouldn’t give themselves?

Conversely, what truly important gift would you happily give to a friend, but not to yourself?

Maybe this example of holiday giving can lead us all to start considering.

Maybe it could be a New Year’s resolution –

In the coming year, we’ll look for unique ways to give to others and to invest in ourselves.

It could make for one heck of New Year!

Create & Wait: An Author’s Worst Marketing Approach

Many authors, filmmakers and artists, work under a strange type of “create and wait” mindset. According to this approach once a work has been created, an artist has completed his or her work and can’t be bothered with marketing or promotion.
 
Some feel that they shouldn’t have to market their art, others are loath to invest in their work. Those are such strange attitudes to hold around something that is so important. When I ask artists what is most important to them, the response is invariably, their art. If it’s not number one on their list, it is assuredly in the top three. Yet when it comes to caring for their art, which by definition involves marketing and promotion, that importance often seems to plummet.
This a strange disconnect. Not that it’s not understandable. We live in a culture where art is generally seen as an avocation or a hobby. We view those artists who have made it as anomalies. We could never be one of those success stories. When young artists tell their peers or families about their dreams, they are generally told to grow up and find a suitable career. Without support, is it any wonder that so many simply give up their art, or do so in secret? What other venture would have people hiding as opposed to promoting their work?
 
The other trap is when artists believe that marketing is beneath them. They’ve done their work and shouldn’t have to bother themselves with marketing or PR. To those I simply say – join the real world and your chances of success will increase exponentially.
 
If this describes you, change your mindset – now!
 
The best book or film in the world needs a bridge built between it and its audience. From my perspective, building that bridge is something that artists owe to their work. It’s incumbent on them to give their work the best chance it can to succeed, reach an audience, and touch others.
 
The trick here is to view promotion as an art.
 
If you can afford it, hire a professional. If not, don’t wait. There are tools you can learn and implement on your own.
 
Learn the art of marketing; the art of PR.
 
Have fun with it, experiment, be bold.
 
To quote Goethe: “Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
 
And the truth is if you adhere to the “create and wait” philosophy, chances are you will wait and wait and…
You get the picture.
Writers not only need to be bold in their work, they need to be bold in how they market their work.
One artist told me, he was confident his art would be discovered once he passed on. But, waiting to die in order for one’s art to be discovered doesn’t quite seem like the most effective marketing plan for your work.
 
Take action.
And, remember Goethe –
Be bold.

PR & Marketing in the Age of Disruption

From music to film, to publishing, to the world of fine art, the internet has forever changed marketing in the creative industries. This shift has been seismic and has turned what had been thought of as set-in-stone business models on their collective heads.

I began as a music journalist and then managed bands in the early ‘90s, but those days are gone.  The music world was the first to be rocked by the changing communication landscape, whereas many were engulfed by the changes and faded, a new breed of musicians learned to take matters into their own hands and create successful careers utilizing PR, social media and guerilla marketing

The publishing world has also been turned upside down.  No longer do traditional publishing houses hold the keys to success.  Self-published authors are taking matters and marketing into their own hands.  Increasingly self-published authors are landing on the best sellers list and on Amazon’s top 20 list.  Amanda Hocking initially became a millionaire by self publishing her work.  It was only after she was established that she signed with St. Martin’s Press.

The shifts came later to the film industry, but it too is experiencing the change.  For example, as with self-published books, CreateSpace (http://www.createspace.com) serves entrepreneurs in the music, publishing, and film worlds. As an independent producer you can upload your film as part of a digital DVD along with cover art and information on the film.  Your film is then posted for sale.  The company (which is owned by Amazon.com) takes and fulfills the orders and splits the profits with the filmmaker.  That is just one option.  There are several outlets online that help producers sell their films.  There are also new channels of distribution.  Films are now reaching the public by being shown at churches, organizations, schools, museums, and other non-traditional establishments.  Theatrical distribution is no longer the only name of the game.

That said, the most powerful marketing tool available to artists is a combination of PR and social media.  An effective public relations campaign will land you media coverage that offers you the validation and credibility that no other form of marketing can offer.  You are the news!  You can then begin to share and amplify your media coverage on your site and on your various social media platforms.  Compared to other forms of marketing, this combined approach can be extremely effective and affordable.

Whereas the internet has torn down down some of the traditional walls and allowed artists in all fields to take more control of their careers, doing so is not always easy.  It involves creativity, persistence, and an investment of both time and money.  These changes can initially be daunting.  For years musicians, filmmakers, and authors were reluctant to rock the boat and alienate the powers that be by charting a path of their own.  But more and more artists are realizing that the old models have shifted, bringing different challenges but also opportunities.  The upside?  With tenacity and creativity, artists can now carve out successful careers on their own terms.

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