did you do prior to artist/author representation?
I've worked in book publicity for most of my career. I took a
sidestep into consumer products public relations for two years
in the eighties. Believe it or not, that experience gave me some
valuable insights into working with the media when there is no
book or author involved. When you're handling Weight Watchers,
as I was, the pitch is a lot more challenging.
did you get started in publicizing authors and how long have you
been in the profession?
I moved to New York to be an actor after graduating from college
in 1979. By the end of my first summer, I knew that the theatrical
life had been a total fantasy and I needed to get a job. Having
been an English major, I decided to go into publishing.
After spending a year as an assistant in the sales and library
promotion departments, I decided that publicity was where all
the fun was. I talked my way into the department and stayed there
for eight years.
there a book in your own future, and if so fiction or non-fiction?
Non-fiction. During a brief period of unemployment (yes- it happened
to me and was in many ways the best thing that could have happened),
I worked on a book proposal that did not get off the ground at
the time-but I may return to it at some point.
It concerns adults, myself included, who overcame something in
their childhoods and actually applied the experience toward success.
To paraphrase Nietzsche, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger."
are the books that you read (and read again) that make you believe
that writing is a worthwhile endeavor?
There's one book that I'm constantly recommending to people, because
it literally changed my life. Composing a Life by
Mary Catherine Bateson describes people who find themselves at
turning points. In order to create a new direction for themselves,
they take something from one area of their lives and combine it
with another aspect that may be seemingly un-related.
In my case, I combined my vocation in publishing with my avocation
as a fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
The result was the creation of the Books for a Better Life Awards,
which honors the best self-help books published each year and
at the same time has raised nearly a half million dollars for
the MS Society.
would you tell beginning writers who wish to write?
I won't be trite and say "write what you know"-but, write what
you know. From a publicist's perspective, we can only promote
something that rings true.
beginners hoping to get that first glimpse of reader attention,
what components of short-story awards do you believe are most
helpful to beginning writers: getting the story ready for a deadline,
learning to wait for answers, proper presentation? How does the
process help to promote writes' work?
Anything that brings greater recognition to a writer's work is
beneficial. Even if it only causes one more person to read what
you've written, you never know who that one person might be
(an agent, an editor, a reviewer).
For three years, I handled the public relations for a wonderful
organization called Poets & Writers, Inc. Their mission is to
help would-be authors go about the work of getting attention for
themselves in an intelligent way-to do their homework and focus
on the right publications, how to present themselves, etc.
So, of your list, I would choose proper presentation.
What is your greatest success story?
Probably "Black Hawk Down," but on the lighter side I had a great
time with the re-launch of "Valley of the Dolls." We proclaimed
a Jacqueline Susann revival, and from there it took on a life
of its own.
"Black Hawk Down," did the campaign you planned for the book turn
out as expected?
We all knew we had something special with this book-but I don't
think anyone could have expected what it actually became. I had
the great fortune of being part of a team on this book-and it's
a classic example of how publicity should never exist in a
relying on media ink to sell a book is not enough. By the
time I came along, the book had benefited from strong word-of
mouth in the military thanks to its serialization in the Philadelphia
Inquirer and other newspapers.
addition, the book's publisher, Morgan Entrekin, has an uncanny
knack for creating pre-publication buzz around certain books.
I was able to build upon both these elements by trotting poor
Mark Bowden to practically every God-forsaken military installation
in the country. I think he visited 25 markets in all, signing
books in PXs and bookstores near bases-and slowly building his
credibility with local media outlets.
someone as irreverently funny as P. J. O' Rourke, how difficult
is his work to promote? Were you part of the campaign for his
previous work, "Eat the Rich," released a few years ago?
I've worked with P.J. on four books, including "Eat the Rich"
and his latest, "The CEO of the Sofa." He is not difficult
to promote at all. The art of handling his publicity involves
strategizing about when to say yes to media requests. But P.J.
is more than just good with a one-liner.
On September 11, he had just started his tour for "CEO of the
Sofa." For two weeks, everything was canceled because no one wanted
to laugh. But after that, we picked up right where we left off
because he is expert at striking the right balance between making
people laugh, and getting to the heart of some very serious issues.
He's an amazingly smart guy.
your perfect client.
Someone who trusts me.
the client from hell.
Someone who doesn't trust me. I've been doing this a long time.
If you don't trust me, don't hire me.
you would suggest to our site visitors.
(Poets & Writers, Inc.)
(great resource for everything you need to know about publishing-and
for finding people like me)
thank you for participating in this Q&A, we appreciate your candid
responses to our questions.
It's been a pleasure, Kate.