For the sixth day of the Summer Book Talk, I have another publicist post for you guys. I’m so happy to have Alexis Saarela from Tor Publishing here today as a part of the Summer Book Talk. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions, Alexis! And in such detail too.
1. As bloggers/readers, we only know our side of it - the part involving ARCs. Could you please tell us more about your role as a publicity manager and what it involves?
We start planning our publicity and marketing campaigns for books many months (or even a year) in advance. In addition to sending out a big ARC mailing to key reviewers both online and in print, we are also deciding whether to do any events with the author, either bookstores or libraries, or many other venues, coordinating author travel if we do send them on book tour, writing press material, sending out pitches to media for both reviews and interviews with our authors, and working with marketing to come up with fun extras like book trailers and giveaway items. We also are responsible for making sure our sales reps (and in turn, the stores) know what is going on with each book, what media it is getting, etc. Publicists also often attend the events they set up, have meetings with bookstores and media, and on occasion, travel to represent the company and assist authors at big conventions (I just returned from San Diego Comic Con, where we had a booth and many authors doing panels and signings).
2. How did you get into the publishing industry? Is it as glamorous as it seems to us bibliophiles?
I spent a summer during college living in NYC and interning at a publisher so I got a real feel for the way that publishing is exciting, always changing, and made up of very great colleagues—definitely things I wanted in a workplace. At the time I worked in the marketing/publicity department and felt that it was a good fit for me, so when I graduated, I looked for jobs as a Publicity Assistant. Having an internship definitely gives you a foot in the door when you’re looking for a position. I definitely would say that I am happy to go to work each day – though I don’t know if I would describe it as glamorous, per se, I DO get to work in the historic Flatiron building though, which certainly looks beautiful, but our offices are constantly full of boxes of books –sometimes it looks like a fort in here!
3. What’s a typical day at work like?
Generally each member of our publicity department is responsible for 3-5 books per month—but you are not just working on them the month they are released, but starting your planning very early on. In addition to checking emails and answering questions from reviewers, bookstores, and more, I usually am doing any of the following: getting a mailing of ARCs or finished copies ready to go out, attending sales/marketing meetings to update our publicity plans for upcoming titles, making sure a blog piece or author trailer has gone up on our website, deciding who we will send to regional independent booksellers annual trade shows, writing and getting out a press release announcement on a cool upcoming project from Tor, scheduling tour stops and travel for authors, or, if the author is already on tour, making sure they’re where they need to be! Oh, and there are a million other spur of the moment things that come up that need to be solved, so there is always something new to be working on – it keeps me on my toes!
4. How is it decided on how much publicity a book requires before its release? Is it sometimes the same for both published authors as well as debut authors?
A combination of smart people in sales, editorial, marketing, publicity, and even art decide pretty early on what kind of campaign each title will receive. A debut that we are really excited about may get the same type of campaign as a bestselling author might get – but it is always changing, especially as we are now exploring more and more creative ways to use online resources. And certainly it varies by genre – who we will send to, who will cover the book, etc.
5. How is a media kit usually put together?
When I first get to read a book I’m assigned, I generally put together a brief ARC letter that tries to express the uniqueness and main buzz angle of the book and author. This will later be fleshed out into a longer press release, and will often include some talking points for interviews or a Q and A with the author, especially if they have a unique background or expertise. Some authors will often write a piece that we can use as supplementary material as well. Before the final book mailing goes out we often have fun with putting some graphics or fonts on the press kit to make it stand out!
6. How do you discover new authors?
I read trade publications like Publishers Weekly every week, as well as a number of blogs, and that helps me see what’s getting great reviews. I also often chat with folks at other publishing houses and they’ll always give me great recommendations. I also think just exploring on Goodreads can be a fun way to find something new!
7. Tell us your top 3 favorite books!
It’s so hard to narrow it down! I’m going to go with 3 books that were my favorites growing up:
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
8. Could you tell us about a few exciting upcoming titles from Tor?
I am very excited for GIRL OF NIGTHMARES, the sequel to ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD, by Kendare Blake. She is on tour in August as part of or Tor Teen/”Girls Nightmare Out” tour – check out: http://www.tor.com/features/series/girls-nightmare-out
Also coming up this fall: IRON SKIN by Tina Connelly, THE INEXPLICABLES by Cherie Priest, RIVER ROAD by Suzanne Johnson, and from our Forge imprint, the great new thriller THE OTHER WOMAN by Hank Phillippi Ryan!
Don't forget to enter the Summer Book giveaway I am currently hosting. It's international, and there are some AWESOME books to choose from!