In the field of book promotion, we don’t often use Excel, and the truth is that you only need mention “pivot table” or “concatenate” to make my head swim. But even though we don’t need to make use of Excel’s advanced functions, book publicists and authors can use it for one basic purpose: to efficiently maintain lists of names. In fact, storing data in Word is akin to, say, writing a book in Excel.
As handy as Excel can be for our lists of names, it needs to be used correctly so that the information can be easily mail merged and / or imported into various publicity databases and mailing systems. Here are a few Excel issues / questions that I’ve seen arise:
Leading zeros: Excel’s default format causes “leading” zeros to be dropped. For example, if you were to enter “06520” into a cell, it would appear as “6520.” Some users attempt to rectify the situation by replacing the number “0” with the capital letter “O.” This looks correct, but it means the information can’t be imported into a mailing system (or a database connected to a mailing system), because the system does not recognize letters in the zip code field (at least not if you’re in the US).
–> Instead, highlight your column, then click “Format” from the top menu bar, then “Cell,” then select “Text” in the box on the left on the “Number” tab. This will allow you to “keep” all leading zeros.
Address fields: All databases use separate fields for each element of an address, so in order to be able to import the address into any publicity database (to generate address labels) or even to mail merge address labels, you need to separate out the address into its components.
–> All databases are slightly different, but it usually works to create separate fields called Address1 (street number and name), Address2 (Floor / Suite / Apartment number), City, State and Zip. Click here for a template. (One caveat: if you are an author or literary agent working with a publicist who has asked you to submit names, show them the template before you use it; they may ask you to make some small changes to the fields.)
Sorting: If you need to sort your contacts, i.e., some contacts should receive galleys while others should receive books, or some contacts receive personal notes while others do not, do not highlight or use a different color text for those records.
–> It may seem to make sense to highlight certain names — the way one would in a book or on a piece of paper — but in Excel, there’s no function that allows you to sort by color. (Excel alphabetizes, i.e., sorts, by column.) So instead, create a new column, called, say “Personal Notes” and mark off a “P” (or an “X”) next to those contacts who should receive personal notes. Then, when you highlight that column and hit the “ABC” button on the shortcuts menu bar, all your contacts who should receive notes will be in one place.
What are some of your Excel bugaboos / quick fixes?