The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

Aging publicity practices to jettison for the new decade

Book publicity has changed a lot in the 10+ years I’ve been doing it.  Here are some things I try to stay away from these days:

Blind copying pitches.  In an ideal world, all pitches would be personalized.  But there are few (if any) book publicists who have the time to personalize every single pitch.  (Realistically, most of us do some of both.)  Still, nothing screams mass email like a blind carbon copy.  With the mail merge options available today, using the Bcc function seems crude (and doesn’t even save that much time).

Being wedded to one application for all author itineraries.  For years I used Word for author itineraries (and I still do use it for those authors who prefer it), but about a year ago, an author requested I use Google Calendar for her tour schedule and it turned out to be a life saver (given that she and two co-authors were all traveling at the same time, but not always to the same place).  These days, with more and more authors using calendar applications like Outlook or Google Calendar for their appointments, it saves them time if I provide their interview /event information in a format that doesn’t require retyping — and double checking — time that could better be spent networking online, or writing guest blog posts, or just getting some extra shut eye.

Static” data.  Generally speaking, anything stored offline is static (my word — those of you who are more technologically savvy feel free to correct my terminology), while data stored online (on the Web or on a company’s intranet) is live.  In book publicity, we need to transmit data frequently — schedules to authors, publicity hits to editorial and sales, etc. — and we need to make sure the information is accurate and up-to-date.  Sending this information via email (or a Word attachment in an email) is quick, but it’s not long before this static information “degrades” and we’re no longer sure if it’s accurate.

The solution is to maintain a “live” source of data.  Larger publishing houses generally have network applications that allow publicists to input interview / events and other publicity information (that then generate schedules and reports and that can be accessed by others in the company).  But even publicists who do not have access to those applications can make use of free (or cheap) file-sharing applications like Google Docs and others that allow multiple concurrent users to view real-time information.

You may be wondering what that means.  It means that more than one person can access an author schedule without being locked out of a Word document because someone else is using it.  It also means there’s no ambiguity about what information has been added (or taken out of) a tour itinerary.  It means you don’t get confused about whether this version of a press release is an early version or a revised one.  (The key to file sharing, though, is that you, well, share files.  Resist the urge to download information and then save it to your hard drive — you’ve just broken the chain. )


How have your publicity practices changed over the years?


January 19, 2010 - Posted by | Book Tour, Papyrus Files, Pitching Tips |


  1. I’m an author trying to update my antiquated ways, and your blog is immensely helpful. Have already been turned on to Google Reader and Google Docs (thanks to your previous posts) and will have to figure out next what you mean by “mail merge options.” Thanks for putting this out there.

    Comment by Summer Wood | January 19, 2010 | Reply

  2. Thank you Yen, I sure appreciate your posts! As a freelance publicist I’d also love to hear more about the “mail merge options” you mentioned.

    Comment by Kathlene Carney | January 19, 2010 | Reply

  3. You can use a service like MyEmma or Constant Contact to upload a spreadsheet of info (Editor Name, Email, Publication Name, etc.) and then create an email to everyone that automatically inserts the correct field into the email.

    So it would go from:
    Dear Editor,

    Dear [Editor Name],

    for each person on the list. Makes mass mailings seem much more personal. (Unless it gets screwed up. Then everyone can tell you’re just bulk mailing anyway.)

    Comment by SacBookReview | January 19, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for those tips — sounds like those might be good options for publicists who don’t have access to expensive databases that allow mail merging.

      Comment by Yen | January 19, 2010 | Reply

  4. You can also utilise MS Word and Outlook’s mail merge feature – it’s fantastic. I run Office 2007, so I am not sure how it works on older versions. If anyone’s interested in knowing more, let me know and I’ll post some instructions.

    Comment by Tahnee McCrossin | January 19, 2010 | Reply

  5. We use Google Docs at the newspaper where I work to keep a real-time log of what stories we’re working on and which will be in the next edition. Works great.

    Scott Nicholson
    Author of The Red Church

    Comment by Scott Nicholson | January 20, 2010 | Reply

    • I have a fantasy of book editors using Google Docs to list what books they are covering, what books they may cover, and what books they are not covering. This way publicists could just check the lists rather than constantly emailing editors asking if they’re covering a certain book. Interesting to hear that your newspaper is using Google Docs for story assignments!

      Comment by Yen | January 20, 2010 | Reply

  6. well put but i can’t seem to break the habit of dling to my ahrd drive…lol

    Comment by mike donovin | January 29, 2010 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: