Edith here, writing furiously north of Boston.
I’m happy to welcome Skye Wentworth to our occasional Ask the Expert series. She’s a friend and fellow member of the Newburyport Writers Group, and a much-sought-after North Shore public relations expert and book publicist. Take it away, Skye!
Area of Expertise: My services include: public relations and social media strategy, social media marketing, publicity and media relations, media training, public image management, and award research and submission.
Edith: And don’t we all need help with that!
How did you get started in this business?
I took the long route – from librarian to advertising to publishing. I was a librarian at Boston University in the 80s. At that time courses were free to faculty members and I began to take some courses in public relations and communications. One course led to another and I ended up with a Master’s Degree in Media & Technology. When my family moved to Maine, I got a job as Director of Public Relations at an advertising company. An author came to us with her book and I had an epiphany. That’s what I wanted to do in life — promote books!
I later worked for several publishing houses as Senior Publicist before starting my own business, Skye Wentworth Public Relations.
Edith: It sounds like your winding path had a purpose.
What are three things we should know about your area of expertise?
- Every book campaign is different. No two books or two authors are alike. I explain to my clients that each campaign is like going down a raft on a river. We aren’t certain of what might happen around the next bend – but it’s sure to be something exciting.
- Publicists need to be creative. Even if it’s just the subject line. I once had a Navy Seal that dearly wanted to be on a popular religious TV show. My subject line read: Navy Seal Author: A Bible Under Every Beret. We booked the show within 5 minutes.
- It’s important to go the extra mile. I do an interview with each author ahead of time and offer it to editors. I write up “cheat sheets” for producers, which has an introduction for the author/guest and sample questions. The idea is to make it very easy for the media to take your material and run with it. You’ll reap rewards.
Is there a general characteristic that experts in this field all share?
It’s always great fun getting together with fellow publicists and sharing stories about: What works? What doesn’t? What’s brand new to the scene? We might discuss a book that scored, a radio show that took a nosedive, or possibly an author who went on to great fame. For instance, I previously worked for a firm in New Orleans who helped Dr. Michael Roizen, author of Real Age: Are You as Young as You Can Be?, get on Oprah. His life suddenly changed. You may not have heard of Dr. Roizen (who was quite shy) but you have heard of his partner, Dr. Oz.
What do people usually get wrong when writing about your field?
People often ask me what a publicist does and a common response is, “I can do that.”
He/she thinks it’s the easiest job in the world. Anyone can pick up the phone, ask for Terry Gross and book a radio spot on NPR’s Fresh Air, right? Or why not just send an email?
Let’s pretend you do get Terry Gross on the phone. What do you say when she asks you why her listeners would be interested in your book? Or asks what’s the print run of your new novel? She may ask you to send a press kit, including a press release, one-page, sample questions, clips from reviews and audios from previous shows. Are you prepared?
One of the jobs that publicists do on an ongoing basis is to think like a journalist or a producer. It means that we do a little digging to find out who their audience is and what their interests are. From there we develop a strategy/pitch that matches the targeted media we’ll be pitching. Generally it’s not just the book, it could be something happening in current events that dovetails with the author’s novel or perhaps the book is about a renowned jewelry theft and the author is an expert in gems. The idea is to setup the whole scenario and make sure that your pitch is compelling!
Is there a great idea you’d love to share?
It’s an old idea but an important one. Put the relationship back in Public Relations. Be kind. Be personal. Don’t do all the talking. Take time to listen. Once you start getting media, remember to stay in touch with each person who interviewed you. Thank them for the story they did on you and later send quick updates on your other triumphs or comment on other stories they’ve crafted.
Edith: These sound like lessons for life! Create relationships. Be kind, be a good listener, say thank you. Yes.
What are you working on now?
Thanks for asking! I’m writing a book about publicity. The working title is called Zen and the Art of PR. It’s basis is about becoming more mindful in the world of Public Relations and Communications where active and effective listening is huge.
In our pursuit to promote books we need to be aware of the impact that multitasking and technology-based interactions have on our work. When we take the time to slow down and meditate we become more creative, more solution-focused, more productive, much happier – and in turn – get more hits!
And of course I’m still working with clients. My clients are not just on the north shore. I’m presently working with client/authors in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Ontario Canada, Wilton, CT, Newburyport and I just finished a campaign with an author from Mumbai, India.
Edith: Thanks so much for stopping by the blog today, Skye! You come very highly recommended by several successful authors I know.
Readers: Questions about public relations, book publicizing, or Skye’s new book? (How to get on Fresh Air? That’s the gig I want!) Ask away.