Every day, my e-mail brings me book review requests and notices, queries from potential columnists, press releases, copies of e-mails between BiblioBuffet’s contributors and Managing Editor Nicki Leone, updates from blogs to which I’ve subscribed, return comments from e-mails I’ve sent out, and more. I consider myself lonely if they number less than two dozen. But that’s rare.
Regardless of how many I receive I answer all of them, excluding only spam. Perhaps I learned old-fashioned manners, but I have never considered not answering. I intensely dislike the trend toward not answering if the answer is “no.” To me, that’s rude. If someone has taken the time to contact me, I owe them a polite answer. This is especially so in the case of working publicists who, in my opinion, have one of the toughest jobs in the industry.
In-house publicists like Yen (who works for a major house) have overwhelming jobs. They are responsible for gathering as much publicity as possible for their assigned authors, not an easy thing to do when trade books—those published by commercial houses and geared to a general readership—are published to the tune of perhaps 140,000 per year. There are certain trails the marketing and publicity departments follow: trade publications, book review and magazine book sections, and in the last several years, book bloggers, literary websites and forums, and even book clubs.
In addition to in-house publicists there are freelance ones ranging from single entrepreneurs like Lisa Roe to good-sized agencies. (Even a few literary agencies who sell manuscripts to publishers now have in-house publicists to work with their clients.) Some specialize in genres, others in types of publicity (television, blog tours, article placement, etc.). Most are hired by authors looking to supplement their house’s efforts, and their livelihood depends on being able to produce results for their clients.
And they are all looking for publicity for their books. This is where BiblioBuffet and other literary concerns come in. And these generate a substantial amount of my-email.
They often take different approaches. Some like to develop a relationship so that they know what you like. Others pitch more diversely. Most are efficient, nice, and even funny on occasion. Only a couple have been rough to the point of near-rudeness. But in all cases, I have treated their e-mails with politeness and sensitivity. Their jobs are hard, and in the case of their current client the results they get foretell their own future and livelihood. I understand and appreciate this. Even the publicist who expressed a strong preference that a review of his current client’s book appear on the date of publication was gently albeit firmly notified that we would let him know if we reviewed the book at the time we reviewed it. BiblioBuffet does not, after all, cater to publicists, publishers, or authors. We are there for readers.
But responding to him quickly and politely was the right thing to do. It helped him to get on with his work. It maintained our image as a literary site that believes in respecting other people’s time and work. It is good manners. And perhaps it made his job just a bit easier and his day that much more pleasant.
So to all the publicity people out there who have us on their speed dial (or in their address book), thank you. You have our respect. I wish I had a hundred more reviewers so more of the great books could be reviewed. Alas, it may never be. But our size will never affect our goal of being a place of quality, decorum, and a damn fine place to learn about good books. Thank you for your work.