Playing Off Yen

Today, Yen of the Book Publicity Blog posted about the reasons why authors should not contact reporters and producers directly about their books but instead allow book publicists to do it. Why? Because, as Yen notes, in a compelling argument:

  • As publicists, we spend careers developing relationships with journalists. We meet with them, talk to them, alert them to interesting upcoming books. Our contact with many journalists doesn’t consist of one message pitching one book one time. It’s an ongoing process.
  • We follow up with any combination of mail, email and phone, depending on the contact. We want to make sure journalists are aware of a book, but we don’t want to overwhelm them.  (At least we really try not to.)
  • We’re familiar with the lead times of various television and radio shows as well as with those of newspapers and magazines which vary from the next few minutes to six months and more.
  • We can distinguish the book editor from the economy correspondent from the news assignment manager. There’s very rarely only one right contact at a show or newspaper or magazine (or even some blogs). We can find reporters who cover cruise ships. Or Salem Radio Network affiliates in the top 20 markets. Journalists based in Eastern Europe. Newspapers for the Armenian community. And a lot more.
  • We’re accustomed to hearing “no.”  We’re also accustomed to not hearing anything at all most of the time. The reality is that there are hundreds of publicists pitching hundreds of thousands of books to hundreds of newspapers and magazines and radio shows (and only dozens of national ones). You don’t need to be a numbers genius to see that means there are a heck of a lot more of us than them.

I agree with Yen on this. Authors tend to take a different approach. Those approaches differ depending on  the experience of the author—and by experience I do not mean the number of books they have published. Experienced in this case refers to their sensitivity to  and awareness of the role of book reviewers in the journey of books from manusript to a reader’s book shelf.

I admit I am still surprised by the number of authors who think, or at least act as if they think, that book reviews are for them. This mode of thinking is not restricted to vanity-published authors either. But it’s unprofessional no matter who thinks it. Book reviews are and should always be for the reading public.

Professional publicists understand this, which is why (from my point of view) they are the preferred contact. We at BiblioBuffet do not discourage authors from contacting us, but unless they can demonstrate at least an understanding of Yen’s points they are often at a disadvantage.  

That said, I try my hardest to hold up my part of the courtesy equation, to answer all e-mails, to alert those who send the books which ones might be reviewed, which will definitely not be, and which ones have been. Publicists’ jobs are hard—I know I wouldn’t want to do it—and if some common courtesy, which these days seems to be distressingly uncommon, helps them, good.

Besides, we gotta get the word about those books out.


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