Dear YPG #3: Quote Seeker and Pondering Publicity

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Welcome to the third edition of our monthly Dear YPG series! If you have questions for our knowledgeable columnists, email them to–all questioners’ identities will be kept anonymous!


What is the process for getting blurbs, and how do you decide if you need to get a blurb for a book?
—Quote Seeker

Dear Quote Seeker,

Blurbs are like fine chocolate truffles–it’s never wrong to have as many as you can get. Blurbs really make a difference to consumers, especially if the endorser is someone they know and respect. For instance, I respect Godiva. Let’s say I picked up a book with this endorsement:

“This book will make you skinnier, richer, and more beautiful than your wildest dreams! This book may actually be better than chocolate. Even our chocolate.”—The Master Chocolatiers at Godiva

I would buy that book in a heartbeat. But if the book had this blurb:

“This book was pretty good. You know, it had words.”—Jack Jones

Not so much.

So ideally, if you can get relevant, rave quotes from a person or media outlet that will be meaningful to your target audience, then stock up! But if all you can manage to get are endorsements that are either tepid or from unknowns, then it’s just not worth the time or effort.

Now, to actually get the endorsements can sometimes take a bit of finagling. If you have other authors in-house who would be willing to look at a galley and offer praise, that’s always amazing. It gets the endorsee an impressive blurb from an author who knows their stuff, and it also gets the endorser more visibility and credibility as an expert. Sometimes your author will have their own connections—personal friends, celebrities, colleagues in their field, media contacts, etc.—and they may be willing to offer some glowing praise or get the book in the hands of someone else who could help.

The actual process of requesting blurbs usually falls to the editor, who drafts a letter about what the book is about, why it’s relevant and important to the recipient, and why the recipient should pretty, pretty please offer a quote. At some houses where I’ve worked, the editorial team will actually write the quote and offer it as a suggestion to the potential endorser, especially if the person is a really big name who has 12 million more important things to do than write blurbs all day.

So go forth, brag on your book, and cross your fingers that others want to put their name on it, too!

—Maria Ribas
Editorial Assistant, Harlequin Nonfiction and Harlequin Kimani Press


How do you decide what publications, TV shows, or other outlets to solicit for publicity reviews?
—Pondering Publicity

Dear Pondering,

That’s a great question, and it really gets at the heart of what in-house publicity teams do. The first thing a publicist will do is read the book to get a sense of the style, genre, and age range the content falls into. Is the book literary fiction? Is it a dystopian-paranormal-romance novel? What are the different angles and ways that the book can be read? From there, the publicist will create a media list of all the contacts in her database (compiled over the years by many publicists before her!) who she thinks might enjoy the book. For instance, if you have a celebrity author, you would be more likely to pitch the book and the author to Good Morning America or The Daily Show than if you were creating a campaign for a debut novel. Similarly, if you are working on a picture book, you would not solicit reviews from Seventeen magazine. As my boss likes to say, it’s all about fitting the right pieces of the puzzle together to try to get as many media hits as you can.

Another useful resource is the author herself. I recently received an extensive media list from an author who already has a brand, as well as specific media contacts that have covered her in the past. When I look at my list and her list next to each other, I am able to discern where she is most likely to get reviewed based on where she has been reviewed in the past. This is especially useful if my usual media contact at, say, the Chicago Sun-Times is the Book Editor there, and my author already has a relationship with an editor at the Times. I can start a relationship with the editor who has reviewed my author in the past by pitching my author’s book directly to the editor, instead of sending the book in the mail and crossing my fingers.

In general, there are many ways to get an author’s name and personality out into the world: sometimes an author is already famous for another reason (as an expert, a TV star, a chef) or by having an active social media life (for a great example, check out R.L. Stine’s Twitter feed @RL_Stine). An active author is more likely to get more unsolicited media attention, which can taste just as sweet as solicited reviews. Additionally, an established author who has a large fan base can benefit from visiting bookstores and schools across the country. These events benefit both the author and his readership: the author gets a chance to meet his fans and sell more and more books, and the readers get to meet their writing superheroes. Being at a signing with well-known children’s authors is particularly rewarding—kids wait in line for ages just to take a photograph and shake the hand of their favorite writer.

So what happens if an author is not celebrated around the world? Not everyone can be J.K. Rowling, which is why it’s great to start locally. Local bookstore events and signings are great to plan for authors who are growing their readership. The same is true for local media. Smaller newspapers, radio stations, and TV shows are often interested in hometown connections–whether the author lives there, grew up there, or the book is set there. And local events and press can lead to national opportunities.

Ultimately, a publicist’s job is to grow a book and an author by being savvy about with whom or where the book will get the best reception. It involves a particular kind of creativity, one that has lasting implications for the author’s career.

—Rachel Howard
Publicity Assistant, Scholastic

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2 Responses to “ Dear YPG #3: Quote Seeker and Pondering Publicity ”

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