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Writing Non-Fiction
because I say so
Thursday, 31 October 2013
Reaching the Adoring Public


Shortly after I went to my current publisher I received an email from a woman claiming to be my publicist. Imagine my surprise. Having had my first book published by a ‘boutique press’ consisting of a small, dedicated publishing staff, I was taken aback by the notion of an employee whose responsibilities didn’t include, well, all aspects of publication.

To be fair, I can’t say definitively that having an in-house publicist has directly translated into higher sales volumes for Last Dance than for Deadly Lessons. Which brings me to my inquiry of the week (doesn’t everyone have one of those?): how much value is there to a writer having a publicist?

Now before the flood of publicists starts deluging me with emails about why I need their services (I recognize I'm placing a great deal of faith in this column's ability to draw the readership of hundreds of anyone, let alone the sub-categorgy of readers that are publicists), I acknowledge that for some forms of writing, particularly if the writing is non-fiction and you have an area of expertise to offer, having publicists working on your behalf could really prove beneficial in getting an expert author in front of the appropriate media to discuss the area of expertise and, hopefully, push their book at the same time.

But what about those of us scribes who toil in fiction land?

Principally, this question stems from the fact I did something recently I don't think I've ever done (as a writing device I'm tempted to leave this hanging awhile just to let your imaginations fill in the proverbial blanks). But here's what it is: I followed an advertising link posted on Facebook. In that spooky way social media can do, Zuckerburg and company determined I was a writer (I guess I haven't exactly made it a secret) and targeted their advertisers to me, in this case an advertisement for the services of a publicist.

What can I say? I was intrigued. I clicked. And I found myself reading about the services a large (at least they claim to be) publicist company in New York could do for me and my writing career. Sure, you might be thinking, they'll help to promote you, they'll get you on the Today Show (okay, they didn't exactly promise that but that's what I envision) but at what cost? Can a small time, sophomore author from Vancouver afford the services of a big time publicist?

One would think not. But here's the thing: like so much of the contemporary service industry, this publicist promises to be 'pay as you go.' That is, they only charge you when they get you work, or appearances, or publicity, I suppose.

And so I sent them an email. Nothing fancy. Nothing too detailed. Basically I just filled out an online form to express some interest. And lo and behold, within an hour I had heard back. What was I interested in? Did I want them to call me? What kind of service would I be hoping to get? How many public appearance was I hoping they would be able to arrange and set up?

And, of course, having the answer to none of those questions, I have done nothing in response.

I know, I know. A company advertising to all and sundry on Facebook does probably not carry the kind of clout that would have me sitting on the sofa next to Matt Lauer any time soon. But would engaging a publicist, especially one who I don't have to pay any  kind of retainer up front, get me more oppportunities to sit on someone's couch, or radio studio, or magazine office guest chair, and help promote my writing?

And what, exactly, would my publicist be promoting me as? Mystery author? Gotta think there are bigger names than me to get interviewed. Author with an educational bent? Expert on hate crimes, at least in part the subject of Last Dance?

So while I stew over those possibilities, my email sits unanswered and the publicist has surely moved on to other potential clients. But what if? What if I know enough to be considered a guest with sufficient expertise in an area to be a worthy client?

I have to think more exposure could only be a good thing.

On the other hand, P.T. Barnum probably would have bought shares in Facebook.

Next week: motorhomes and other muses.

Posted by davidrussellbc at 12:01 AM PDT
Updated: Thursday, 31 October 2013 9:24 AM PDT
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