Since my first YA book comes out this September, I don’t yet have a lot of experience with book publicists from an author point of view. But as a book reviewer, I do. And Julie is, by far, my favorite book publicist to work with. She’s friendly, personable, and she cares passionately about the books she represents, her authors, and people. She’s read all the books she promotes, she believes in them, and she can make you want to believe in the book, too.
Some book publicists just send you press releases or impersonal emails about the books they’re promoting. Not Julie. She always has a warm, personal touch to her emails–which always made me want to respond more quickly as a reviewer. I found her warmth really stood out to me, in a sea of impersonal requests for reviews and interviews–and the more contact we had, the more I grew to like and appreciate her–as a publicist and as a person. I think most book publicists could learn a lot from Julie. If I ever hire a book publicist, I’ll want it to be Julie Schoerke.
You can find Julie at JKSCommunications.
When did you start promoting books? What drew you to it?
I had been in PR of one kind or another for 20 years…not-for-profit management, corporate and celebrity PR, politics, etc. When I started working with authors it suddenly just felt like the right fit for me. I have yet to meet an author who doesn’t have an intellectual curiosity. Book people tend to be thoughtful, considerate and bright…not a lot of crisis management in literary publicity (at least not with my wonderful clients!).
How does a publicist help an author? What are the benefits of hiring a book publicist?
A publicist say can say things about an author and the author’s book that, if an author were to say, would come off sounding very different. Most authors just want to concentrate on writing and are polite and happy to do interviews and appearances, but they don’t want to concentrate on creating a book tour, trading phone calls and emails and jostling for position at Festivals. JKSCommunications takes care of that. It’s awkward and unappealing to most authors to call and book their own events. The advantage to having a publicist is that the publicist can take care of that as well as run interference if there is a (rare) problem with a bookstore or the media. We can take the heat off the author so that the author can concentrate on the creative side, talking about the book, but not the business side of bookselling.
That makes sense to me.
What do you do as a book publicist? Can you take us through a typical day or week? Do you do promotion online, as well as in person, the mail, phone calls?
It sounds cliche to say that no two days are the same — but it’s true! Sometimes I’m on the road with an author doing a book tour and we’re in a different city every day with tv or radio interviews, stock signings at various bookstores and then an appearance, usually at an indepnendent bookstore. When I’m in my office, I check the literary blogs — I never miss GalleyCat at MediaBistro or ShelfAwareness. And I’ll check in on 4 or 5 others. I check on what is being Twittered to have up-to-the-second news on all fronts of book publishing. Most likely I’ll have a meeting each day with one of my authors — in person or by phone — my clients live all over the United States. Then I’m sending out advance reader copies with personalized notes to the media (media folks in the book world are some of my favorite people), following up by email or phone to check on the logistics of a telephone or in-person interview for the authors or getting Q&As back and forth for virtual book tours on-line. I normally email with several in-house publicists throughout the day to be sure we all are up to date on what the author has on his/her schedule. The in-house publicists I work with are amazing. Ava Kavyani at Crown Publishing in particular is a joy — I don’t think “procrastinate” is in her vocabulary! I may work on a book trailer with one of our vendors for a client or networking. I put in 12 hour days and work at least one day a week-end, much to my husband’s chagrin. But it’s in my blood. The pros I work with are the same way.
What are some of the recent children’s and YA books you’ve worked on?
I am very proud of working with Helen Hemphill on Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones. She is such a smart author — she spent more than two years researching that historical novel for middle grade. It’s won several awards now and is currently a 2009 SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) Award nominee. Helen is so generous with her time in helping other authors through her blog about writing–Through The TollBooth–and in the time she spends helping kids connect to reading and writing.
Charles Ghigna, the most published poet for children alive today, is another client who is incredible. He has millions of books in print and more than 20 titles available including a number of the Step-In-To-Reading books. He’s also known as “Father Goose.” I was at the Alabama Book Festival a few weeks ago with Helen Hemphill and Charles Ghigna and it was truly fun to see little tykes pulling their parents into Father Goose’s presenation area. Everyone is charmed by his events. His child-like wonder and enthusiasm makes every day that we’re in touch a brighter day for me. He works in what he calls his “tree house” — the top floor of his house, that does look and feel very much like a magical tree house.
I have two cross-over books right now that are great for teen-agers. Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore will be coming out in softcover on June 9. It was written and marketed for adults, but many parents shared it with their kids and Susan’s in-house publicist, Ava, placed a review in Justine, a cool teen magazine. Since then, schools have picked it up for a summer read (especially girls schools) and it’s popular for mother-daughter book clubs. Although it’s wildly popular for all book clubs. Susan probably has 5 book clubs a week around the country that ask her to join them through phone calls. She has just implemented a cutting edge way to communicate with book clubs that is fun — she Skypes.
Paul Miles Schneider has Silver Shoes that launched in March in hard and soft cover. It’s an updated story based on the Wizard of Oz. Frank Baum’s (the original author of Oz) great-grandson is quite taken by the book. The buzz on Broadway and among Wizard of Oz fan club leadership has been terrific! The book trailer for the book is one of the best I’ve seen (you can find it under the title of the book on YouTube). It’s fun because the protagonist in Paul’s novel is a boy — a twist on the original Oz…the boy comes in contact with the original Silver Shoes (in the books Dorothy’s shoes were silver, only in the movie were they Ruby).
How do your clients find you?
Almost all of my clients come to me by word-of-mouth from another author or an inside publicist or agent that I have worked with. Unfortunately, I’m only able to work with about 1/3 of the authors who contact me for one reason or another. I don’t come into the mix until the writer has an agent who has sold the manuscript and the book is about 4 months away from its pub date. I start talking to authors about a year before the pub date, but the real work starts generally 4 months before. Once the book has launched, most everything should be in place for publicity and if it works right — the book is well reviewed and I have done my job — it’s a matter of the author showing up to do signings and my fielding calls to accept appearances on their behalf based on the buzz.
What’s your favorite thing about working with authors or books?
I love how smart, kind and generous authors are to each other and to me. Working with authors is more like expanding my family than being in a tough corporate PR situation. My clients know, if we agree that we’re a good fit to work together, that I have their back no matter what. And I’m honored to say that without exception, my authors have my back, too…recommending me to other authors and offering to do what they can to promote the other authors in our “family.”
That sounds so lovely!
What’s your least favorite thing about working with authors or books?
I don’t really have anything I don’t like about working with them. I have yet to have an author do a crazy thing that requires all-night calls to police stations, lawyers and the media to try to kill a story, as I did when I was doing corporate and celebrity PR.
Do you have any advice for new authors on how to promote their books? How about established authors? (I know that’s a very broad question–feel free to make it more specific).
This is going to sound so basic to most authors but, GET A WEBSITE! Do not think of not having a blog or website. It’s just like a business card was years ago. It’s a great way to interact with fans and to promote promotions, etc.
I do work with authors on lots of promotional giveaways to their fans. For example, this summer Susan Gregg Gilmore has a promotion going that is called “Don’t Eat a Cone Alone” — fans can receive one of 100 gift certificates from Dairy Queen for sending in a photo of themselves at their favorite DQ location. If you can create a fun contest on your website – do it! Then promote it other places so that people know to come and join in the fun.
Be sure to ask your family, friends, colleagues, whoever you know, to help spread the word about your book. Think about people you haven’t seen for years that live far away — shoot them an email and tell them you have a book coming out, that you’d love for them to buy it, post reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites and to choose it for their book clubs — that you’ll call in and chat after they’ve read the book. Or plan a trip to stay with these folks and ask them to use their connections to set up events for you in their cities.
Be sure to have a card made with a jpeg of the cover of your book that you can pass along to people everywhere you go.
Those are fantastic ideas. Thank you for being so generous to share them with us.
Can you give us a general idea of what an author might pay for your services? I know it probably varies according to how much work you do….
I talk with an author about what his/her goals are. Surprisingly, they are actually almost never the same. You’d think it is “sell the most books possible” — but once we talk it through, the author has to weigh that hope/goal against how much time, energy and money to put into that. I have some clients who will go anywhere anytime to sell books and talk to book lovers. Other clients have businesses they have to run and they can’t take time away to do that. Some clients are really committed to protecting their writing time above all else. We tend to work with authors who like people, because those who don’t generally aren’t going to be seeking out a publicist because of their general nature.
I create a proposal based on what the author says he/she wants: book tour, book launch, book trailer, only radio interviews, only virtual book tours, or the whole shabang. The publicity campaigns that we create are a minimum of 3 months. The price varies greatly. But I can say that I have agents that send a number of clients to us because they think we’re very reasonably priced.
How can people contact you? And is there anything else you’d like to share?
I think that you, Cheryl, are an perfect example of an author and reviewer who is generous with supporting other writers. People reading this interview would do very well to pay attention to how you do your job and emulate it as you are a good role model in the industry.
Although I generally come into the picture after the agent and publisher are secured, I do on occassion pass along manuscripts to a couple of agents — YA and adult.
I can be reached at www.jkscommunications.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and 615.476.1367. You can find me on Facebook or @JulieSchoerke on Twitter.
Thanks so much Cheryl, for this interview! It’s been really fun!
Thank you, Julie–you gave a fantastic, interesting interview! I’m sure many authors and readers will benefit from your generocity.