My New Year’s Resolution last year was to get my oven fixed. Which didn’t get done. It’s been five years. So this year, rather than coming up with a resolution for myself — and being of the sometimes bossy persuasion — I thought I’d come up with some resolutions for … other people. (I can do that, right?) Here, categorized:
— Set up a Google Alert for your book (or all your books if you’re a book publicist). They’re not fool proof, but free, quick to set up and pretty darn effective more or less makes up for that. Make sure, though, that there is *one* person assigned to forward press mentions to editor / author / agent / publicity director — you don’t want to duplicate efforts and have everyone forwarding everyone else the same mentions.
— Set up an RSS reader like Bloglines, Google Reader, News Gator, or any number of others. For a publicist, an RSS reader is an invaluable tool for following numerous publications and websites (and broadcast outlets). For authors and anyone else, it’s a good way to stay on top of the news in general or to keep yourself briefed about a specific topic(s). For more information about RSS readers, check here.
— Make sure an author’s web presence is established early, as in, by the time galleys are sent to the media (typically four-six months before a book goes on sale). Depending on the author, “web presence” could mean any or all of the following: website, blog, social networking profile, discussion group, wiki, etc. Whatever it is, get it up there ASAP because while you’re dithering over fonts and flash, readers and journalists are out there Googling the book. In this day and age when basic sites can be created in a few minutes for free, there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to find accurate information about something. (I’m not advocating throwing together a shoddy site simply so you can lay claim to having one; I am saying think about this earlier rather than later.)
— Set an email signature. On your desktop account. On your PDA. On your replies and forwards. You may know someone, but what if they have to forward your message to someone else? Sending an email message without a signature is akin to calling someone and not identifying yourself. It’s unprofessional. Unless you’re emailing Grandma.
— Don’t be sloppy. Do not pepper your messages with emoticons. Do not write all in lower-case letters. Do not write all in upper-case letters. Don’t use cell-phone abbreviations when you have a full keyboard at your disposal. Punctuate properly. Don’t ramble.
— Use Reply All — when appropriate. We’ve been conditioned to not use Reply All (with good reason). But sometimes, when I email a producer / writer and copy an author (or vice versa) and the contact only responds to me, I’m left simply forwarding the message. Not only is that a waste of my time, but when time is of the essence, it could lead to a missed opportunity.
— Use a “Follow up” tag / tool / label / folder. A few years ago I was working with a very busy author who was pretty much impossible to track down by either phone or email. As a result, interview requests constantly went unanswered and I could barely keep track of who still needed a response. What I learned (in addition to figuring out how not to tear out my hair) was that segregating interview requests in a “Follow up” folder (or using the Follow Up tag in Outlook) made it that much easier to figure out who still needed an answer. Sometimes, when I know an author takes a long time to respond, I email them requests with a blind copy to myself so I can file the message in the “Follow up” folder. Of course, this means you have to follow up on the “Follow up” folder, but at least I can tell the difference between “To Do” and “Done.”
— Don’t waste time by asking stupid questions. What is a stupid question? The definition of a stupid question is very simple: it’s one you can pretty easily answer yourself. Kind of like, “Can you tell me who wrote this book?” If you are asked a stupid question, you can either 1) say you don’t answer stupid questions 2) answer the stupid question or 3) provide the link to the answer to the stupid question. I suggest option 3.
— Try not to ask someone else to do something when it’s quicker to do it yourself. There are exceptions, of course — extreme busy-ness, need to delegate, blah, blah, blah — but sometimes it really is more efficient to do something yourself rather than waiting for someone else to do it. For example, if I want to know whether I can get an author to a city in time to do an event / interview, I could call or email the travel agent asking for possible flight times. Although my travel agent happens to be the World’s Best Travel Agent, it still is faster to hop on to Travelocity and sift through my options.
— Exercise. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. Well, you didn’t think you could get away from that one, now, could you?