The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

Old school

A couple days ago I received a call from someone inquiring about joining the Publishers Publicity Association (of which I am the secretary).  He was publishing a big book in the next few months, he said, and wanted to get some information about the organization.  I asked for his email address so I could send him some membership details.  He said … he didn’t have an email address (but would set up one before the publication of the book).  Was I being punked?  I wondered.

Then, yesterday someone called me to invite an author to a lecture series — when contacting a publicist with a request like that, you always want to *email* information that can be easily passed on to the author — and then she gave me the organization’s URL over the phone and asked (and I quote), “if I was near a computer. ”  Did she think I was taking her call from the ladies?

Please someone tell me I am not in the Twilight Zone.

But this got me thinking.  Even someone who loves technology as much as I do has to admit the phone has its uses.  A colleague pointed out that the phone can be the better means of communication for turning a “no” into a “yes.”  Or sometimes you’ve tried email without success and really need an answer.  Other times, you may be looking for an email address to which to send some information, but failing to find it online, need to call to ask for the address.  Of course, some issues are too complicated or too delicate or too urgent to discuss over email.  And it’s always nice having an actual conversation with contacts / colleagues.  What all these situations have in common, though, is an existing discussion and / or relationship that makes it unnecessary to launch into a lengthy explanation of one’s self or situation.  And that, for me, is what distinguishes the canny callers from the clueless.


January 8, 2009 - Posted by | Miscellaneous | , ,


  1. Over the past 15 years I have done 1500+ author interviews (1200+ on radio) and written 1000+ book reviews. In this day and age there is nobody who isn’t on e-mail or close to a computer with one notable exception: old school, brilliant, eccentric writers who play the Luddite with their manual typewriters. I have seen and heard many thousands of pitches from publicists. Nobody so far has ever pitched a book to me that wasn’t fanatastic in their view. How do I focus on the books that I want to cover? E-mail addresses are a good start. I give priority to pitches from actual publishing houses first. Then I look at those from reputable PR firms. We all know the difference don’t we? Lastly, I look at pitches from actual authors. Many of those are self-published but now and them a gem can be found; the book that gets picked up by a major house somewhere down the road. Phone calls are great but they can be like listening to the radio. Scripted pitches are as unlikely to appeal to me as hearing some bored fundraiser on public radio reading a script that tells me why I should pledge. Do you really have a great project that you are working on? Do you know me, or know about me? Then call me. Don’t read me your scripted pitch. Share your genuine excitement. If I really like the project I might even get it on public radio….please be sincere when calling.

    Vick Mickunas
    Book Reviewer
    Radio Producer

    Comment by vick mickunas | January 8, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hmmmmm. I’ve rarely found the phone a necessity when pitching. There are some producers who prefer it, but it’s getting more and more rare.

    And when communicating with my authors, I generally used a combination of both. Email for anything important: dates, places, times, important things to remember. And telephone for just building a personal connection. A telephone conversation is much better for that.

    The only author I’ve ever worked with who did not have email was Ray Bradbury. We did everything by telephone and fax.

    Comment by Colleen Lindsay | January 8, 2009 | Reply

  3. Phone and e-mail collaborate well: the e-mail is the first volley, to be followed up by the phone to close the deal, and the e-mail is the “paper” confirmation.

    I think publicists use phone more readily when the e-mail address for a certain producer is hard to find. It is much easier to go through the switchboard to find the person’s phone number; e-mail addresses are much more protected.

    Another way of contacting a source is find their FaceBook or MySpace page and querying them there. Sure, it’s an odd solution, but you’d be amazed how often it works, particularly with the under-30s.

    Comment by Kelly Powers | January 8, 2009 | Reply

  4. I think they both have their place, as C. Lindsey said. I like to talk to people to get a better feel, but email is necessary, especially since I don’t even have a cell phone. 🙂

    Comment by legendoftheprotectors | January 9, 2009 | Reply

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