Whether you are published or pre-published, book publicity is something you must be mindful of. The amazing Maryglenn McCombs has graciously agreed to endure an interview with me in order to share some of her knowledge on the subject. Maryglenn has actively been working in the book publishing industry for nearly 20 years. She has served as a guest lecturer for publishing workshops, conferences and events, including serving as a panelist for the Southern Festival of Books. She is a member of the Publishers Association of the South (PAS) and Publishers Marketing Association (PMA).
. What are the reasons an author should consider using a publicist?
I think there are two main reasons authors should consider hiring a publicist. First, it makes a huge difference to have someone who is familiar with the media, understands the timing of when (and when not) to pitch a book, how to pitch a book, knows what reviewers and journalists are looking for, and knows the ins and outs of how to get a book reviewed, covered, or featured. Second, I think it would be extremely hard to try to promote my own book—assuming I had a book to promote. I would definitely want to hire a go-between to do the promoting for me. That isn’t to say that there aren’t a multitude of great authors who also happen to be great self-promoters, but I would definitely want to have someone doing that work on my behalf as opposed to trying to do it myself. I have reviewer contacts who’ve told me they prefer working with publicists and while they love hearing from authors, don’t necessarily want to be pitched by the authors themselves. Sometimes that can get a little tricky, I’m told.
With social media becoming more and more prevalent, how have you seen your job as a publicist change?
Social media has definitely had an impact on my job. Journalists—especially those who have a social media presence—seem to be more accessible (and it doesn’t hurt to be able to know what they’re thinking, blogging, tweeting, or Facebook-ing about). Social media, in some ways, has exponentially increased the value and scope of good reviews. I encourage all of my authors to share good reviews and coverage via social media. Having an outstanding quote or review to share with your social network can be a wonderful way to get people excited about your book—and build momentum.
3 Is there a timeline that an author should consider when it comes to publicity and/or contacting a publicist, and if so, what is it?
In a perfect world, all authors would contact me about 6 months in advance of publication. In the real world, I’m happy to have a little advance notice (at least a month) but do occasionally take on books that are already released. Having lots of lead time can help, but there are ways to promote books past their release dates. In fact, I tend to tell authors that it is really never too late to promote a book. I recommend starting early, though—or at least that authors start thinking about PR early.
4 You have a reputation for “thinking outside the book” when it comes to publicizing your clients and their books. What are some of your favorite things you have done to promote a client/book?
Thanks for asking that question. I have some good stories but my favorite has to be one that happened last December. I’ve worked with mystery writer Don Bruns for years—I think we’ve done 7 or 8 books together now. I begged him for years to include my Old English Sheepdog, Garcia, as a character in one of his books. (On a sad note, I should mention that we lost our Sweet Garcia in June after 11 wonderful and glorious years.)
I finally wore Don down and he made Garcia a character in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, a mystery novel that came out last December.
I had heard through the grapevine that Rush Limbaugh was a proud Old English Sheepdog owner so I sent his dogs (Abby and Wellesley) a pitch letter from my dog, Garcia, telling them about the book and how great it would be if the dogs could convince their “dad” (Rush Limbaugh) to talk about the book –and Garcia, of course—on his show.
And he did! So now I have the distinction of telling people that I was successful at getting my dog (and Don’s book) on the Rush Limbaugh Show. Don and I still get quite a chuckle over that story. Our phones rang off the hook for days…I had no idea just how many loyal Rush Limbaugh listeners there were!
5 In a challenging economy such as this one, each dollar counts. For a pre-published author who has to decide between spending money on conferences, memberships in writing organizations, websites, etc., what advice do you have for the not-yet-published author in terms of where to direct their resources?
Conferences, conferences, conferences. So valuable—and the networking opportunities alone far exceed the price of admission. I’m a big fan of genre-specific conferences and recommend them highly to both published authors and those looking to be published.
6 What book(s) are you currently reading?
I am reading an incredible November mystery, Fever Dream by Dennis Palumbo (Poisoned Pen Press) which I’ll be representing. It is so good it is almost criminal that I get to call this “work." I am trying—trying—to convince myself to pick up The Art of Racing in the Rain but I’m not quite there—yet. In time!
Thank you so much, Heather; I appreciate the fun questions!
Maryglenn's website is http://maryglenn.com/index.html