How to use online calendars to manage authors’ schedules
The other day a freelance book publicist wrote in to say how much she loved Google Calendar. That really struck a chord because I’ve just about wrapped up a tour for one book with three authors on the road, three authors conducting interviews and three authors speaking at events. Which could have been a logistical nightmare. But it wasn’t.
The advantage of online calendars — of which Google Calendar is one of the most popular — is that information can be added, changed and accessed in real time by an unlimited number of people. (Unlimited insofar as you can add as many users as you like, although you have the option to password-protect the information so it can’t be publicly viewed.) Some book publicists use their houses’ proprietary systems to generate author schedules, but this information must be downloaded for someone outside the company — like authors — to view. Some publicists use Word to maintain schedules, but only one person can view the document at a time and changes must be sent to authors. Enter Google Calendar.
Any one with a Gmail account can set up a calendar. Those without can download Google Calendar events to other calendars (or they can old-school it and write down the information). Here are a few nifty functions Google Calendar can perform:
— Events can easily be copied from one Google Calendar to another (from the publicist’s calendar, for example, to an author’s).
— Events can also easily be copied from Google Calendar to a Microsoft Outlook calendar.
— Google Calendar will automatically generate a map of any address entered (so authors can easily locate bookstores or broadcast stations, for example).
— Google Calendar allows you to generate PDFs of the information that can be emailed or printed.
I did discover a couple significant drawbacks. (Needless to say, if anyone knows how to work around these, do tell.)
— The time function doesn’t work when users are in different time zones. For example, events I entered at 7 p.m. ET would automatically appear at 4 p.m. PT for my West Coast-based authors. I ended up entering the time in the “What” (i.e., the title) field.
— The “Description” field allows you to enter notes / details about the event you’ve created, but if you print (or save)the calendar, all formatting is lost. I tried using some rudimentary HTML to maintain the spacing of my notes; alas, no dice.
As a book publicist, how do you keep track of authors’ interviews and events? If you’ve used an online calendar, what do you see as the major advantages / disadvantages? And authors, what do you find useful (or not) about schedules you’re provided?
Don’t forget that tomorrow (Wednesday) is the deadline to submit information for the list of freelance book publicists which I will post some time next week. More than 30 freelance book publicity firms and individuals have submitted information (and I’ve already provided one publicist searching for a freelancer with the list when she shot me an email at 10:30 last night just as I’d finished entering all the information I’d received so far), so don’t dally.
Check here for instructions on how freelance book publicists can submit contact information. (I do plan to update the list, though, so feel free to submit information even after February 11.)