The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

How to work more efficiently in publishing

We’re publishing more books today than ever before.  But not necessarily with more hands on deck.  Long gone are the days when mad men could read newspapers at their desks and drink themselves into oblivion on the clock.  Today, we have to get more work done, more quickly.  Here are some tips:

* Specialize (yourself): Don’t struggle to do a mediocre job at something that someone else could do really well, really easily.

For example, book publicists shouldn’t be afraid to ask for an author’s help putting together pitch letters or interview alerts.  As  a publicist, I will never know a book as well as an author no matter how thoroughly I read it, and it’s inefficient for me to be trawling through a manuscript with a red pen attempting to pull out the smoking guns when an author could achieve a better result in a fraction of the time.  Likewise, authors should not attempt to pitch their books to writers / producers (unless they’re already acquainted) — publicists, with expertise and information at their  fingertips, will do a better job in less time.

* Specialize (your applications): To maximize efficacy and to save time, use applications as they were intended.

For example, write press material (and manuscripts, of course), in Word but maintain contact lists in a database such as Excel.

* Network with colleagues.  And no, I’m not just talking about Facebook (although that is a good way to keep in touch with people).

For example, recognize that email can be a cumbersome mode of communication when discussing complicated and / or ongoing issues.  Consider setting up a discussion group like Google Groups or Yahoo! Groups in which questions can be segregated by topic and supporting documents (photos or text) can be uploaded to a central location.

* Sync with colleagues.

For example, if managing schedules and meetings (either internally or with authors) gets hectic, consider using Google Calendar or using the meeting invitation function in Outlook.  I once used Google Calendar to keep track of an author tour involving three people (and three different and often overlapping schedules).  It was a lifesaver. 

* Don’t reinvent the wheel.  There are very few occasions that require information to be retyped.  Not only does that waste time, but it introduces the possibility of errors.  Many of them.  Large publishing houses often have the luxury of creating / buying databases and systems that store and report information.  You can reap some of these benefits with free applications like Google Docs or Basecamp (the latter of which I’m guessing is — or was — used by Crown since they’re mentioned on the home page).

For example, rather than emailing a document — a list of publicity hits, for example — from person to person, you can upload the information to a central location accessible to all approved users (or to everyone, if you so choose).

* Avoid redundancy.

For example, functions such as Word’s “Track Changes” allow you to edit within a document.  Although I know editors grumble about having to use Track Changes throughout an entire manuscript, it is a pretty handy function when you’re talking about a page of two of press material. If you’re reviewing a press release, for example, rather than scribbling inelligible notes in the margins which then have to be interpreted and incorporated into the release, consider using Track Changes that will illustrate exactly what was changed, but allows the publicist to accept all the changes with a click of a button.

* Communicate: There’s nothing like not being able to get the ball rolling because you haven’t heard back from one person.  A message doesn’t need to be urgent to demand the courtesy of a response before, say, three weeks.  Also, be truthful and open — we make books, folks, not nuclear weapons.


How do you save time?  What are your shortcuts?


August 18, 2009 - Posted by | Miscellaneous |


  1. Thank you, thank you for these excellent tips! You really nailed some key points, I’m sharing this post with my clients.

    Comment by Kathlene Carney | August 18, 2009 | Reply

  2. Inefficency is a killer at any job. It causes you stress, and to be overworked. Also some people like to redo everything so they can turn in truely orginial work to their employer. I feel they kill themselves for nothing, I as an employer would be more concerned with quality of the work and bulk performance. Spending hours on one project when you can do two or three things in that time is seems more important that wasting time on originality when using resources the company already has as you mentioned is the smarter way to go. Great article!

    Comment by Pam | August 18, 2009 | Reply

  3. Regarding Track Changes in Word: A great alternative, if you are dealing with multiple, concurrent reviewers, is the PDF Email-Based Review functionality in Adobe Acrobat Professional. You can send a PDF to any number of reviewers, and track whom you’ve sent it to and who has returned markups. The reviewer marks up the PDF with a special set of commenting tools, and clicks a button to send the markups back to you via email. As the initiator of the review, you are prompted to merge all reviewers’ comments into a single PDF. There you can track whose edits you’ve implemented and whose you’ve ignored (and why).

    Only the initiator of the review is required to have Acrobat Professional; recipients of the PDF review just need Adobe Reader.

    Granted, Acrobat Professional is relatively costly for some organizations, but it’s a godsend for people who need to manage feedback from multiple reviewers!

    P.S. I don’t work for Adobe 🙂 – I’ve just used the PDF review functionality for several years as a technical writer, manager, and consultant. I find it makes work a LOT easier.

    Comment by Tilney Fitzpatrick | August 18, 2009 | Reply

  4. I am a newly published author and would be honored to have you read my new book, “Gateway to DreamWorld” and give me a chance to be your guest.

    Thank you,
    Brenda Estacio

    Comment by Brenda Estacio | August 18, 2009 | Reply

  5. “How do you save time? What are your shortcuts?”

    Running a growing website means the possibility for errors increases so I depend on Excel to keep me on track. Right now I have eight separate databases for information I use regularly:

    Book Festivals, U.S. and Book Festivals, International: Both of these track the book festivals I regularly update on our pages.

    Columns is my main database where I track the current year, week number and date, title of columns and its writer, amount due the writer, and the name of that week’s particular column title.

    Contacts is anyone I meet at BEA or other trade events.

    Editor’s Letter Recommendations is where I keep a list of what places I talk about and link to each week.

    Literaria du Jour and Quote du Jour are where I keep my extensive lists of literary factoids for use on the Literary Amusements page.

    Publishers is a list of trade publishers (small, medium, large, university presses), what they publish and their URLs.

    I am beginning to think I need a ninth one for publicists, both in-house and freelance. Without these I’d have no way to keep track of everything. But having databases is not the end. You have to set them up to work for you rather than be to be fancy. Then you have to keep them up. Perhaps it helps that I have a professional organizational background, but even with that I could not run the site without them. They are my best buddies.

    Comment by Lauren Roberts | August 18, 2009 | Reply

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