#60: An Interview with Book Publicist Diana Franco, by Maria Gagliano
October 22, 2014
When I think of Encounters in Publishing, I’m always drawn to the secrets of how a book is created–that is, the years of writing, editing, and revising that go into making a beautiful book. But there is another department of book nerds who are also sweating over these projects, and they rarely get the spotlight: Book Publicists. I chatted with Diana Franco, a Publicity Manager at Penguin Random House, about the love, stress, and emails (so many emails) that help get the word out about a book. It turns out, it’s not just the editors and writers who obsess over making a book perfect.
So, what does a typical day in the life of a book publicist look like?
A book publicist’s day is never the same one day to the next. But typically, I’m a bit glued to my email, for many reasons. I’m usually waiting for responses to media pitches, keeping track of any authors on tour (last minute travel emergencies, any local media, and correspondence with the bookstores/festivals they’re visiting), as well as internal correspondence with editors, the sales department, the marketing department, and my own managers. Book publicists not only pitch media–television and radio producers, magazine and newspaper editors, and bloggers–but we handle all aspects of any given title’s publicity campaign. This usually means pulling media lists and physically mailing lots of books from the office, setting up bookstore events where appropriate, sending authors on tour when appropriate and doing everything from picking the stores/markets to handling all of their travel arrangements, attending media and events with author when they’re in town, and sometimes traveling with authors to events in other cities. I often attend proposal meetings with editors and publishers when we are considering an acquisition and I offer my perspective on what I think the media response could be for that particular author/project. Other days I am writing–pitch letters for galley mailings, press releases, announcements for big acquisitions, and email pitches for following up on mailings I’ve sent.
What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done for a book/author/publicity opportunity?
I don’t think I can pick just one crazy thing I’ve done in my line of work! Sometimes we think of great gimmicks for our publicity mailings, whether that’s sending the books out in a particular special colored mailer (like black for a thriller, etc.) or sending a small gift. I worked on Loving Frank by Nancy Horan (which later became a huge bestseller) and one of the things we did was send galleys with a set of beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright postcards.
What advice would you give to emerging authors when it comes to promoting their book?
The best advice I can give to a new or emerging author for promoting their book is to cultivate a great network. Prior to release, pull together a list of people you know–whether friends or acquaintances–who are part of the media or authors themselves. Personal connections are so important for publicity; a person you know in the media might put your book to the top of their reading pile. Other author friends are a huge help as well, because if you connect on social media, one tweet or Facebook post from them can help get more eyes on your work (and don’t forget to return the favor when they have a new book out!). Create a website where people can find you–a landing page including a bio, the book cover and synopsis, links to your social media pages, and links to retailers so in one click visitors can find your book to pre-order or buy at their favorite retailers. Also take note of your own surroundings in your hometown. Did you write your book at your local coffee shop or sitting in your neighborhood bookstore? Go talk to the manager, and thank them for letting you hang out while writing. More often than not your local bookstore and businesses will be willing to support in some way. An author of mine wrote most of her book at David’s Tea, in NYC. When her book came out, they offered to host a meet-and-greet with her at their store. Get your friends, family, and community–both physical and on social media–involved. Word of mouth can be worth more promotion than any money can buy–and your personal connections cannot be manufactured by any publicist.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
I have a few favorite things about my job. One is that I learn new things absolutely every day. I get to read really great novels and share passion for the writing in a professional setting. And I work on nonfiction as well, so I’m always learning about something I never knew about. My other favorite thing is that I always loved media growing up–I loved watching TV, reading magazines and newspapers and listening to the radio. But I also loved books. And in my job, I get to combine my passion for media with my love of literature. Nothing makes me more excited than seeing my author on TV or hearing them on the radio, or seeing a review of their book in my favorite magazine! Especially since I helped make it happen.
What are some things about book promotion/publicity that often surprise authors once they enter this part of the book-publishing process?
I think what surprises authors about publicity is how much the review and bookstore event landscapes have changed in the last 10 years. Book review sections in newspapers used to be large and abundant–now they’re tiny or nonexistent. Book review blogs are very popular, which also surprises authors, and they are so popular that we have to pitch the reviewers months in advance to ensure a review spot. Bloggers are huge supporters of all authors and their review/support in numbers can really make an impact. As for bookstore events, many authors don’t realize how much lead time the stores need to prepare (1-2 months, minimum) and that bookstores only want to set up readings and signings they know will be profitable for the store. It takes a lot of extra manpower–and advertising/promotion dollars–to prepare for a reading/signing, so making sure that all of your friends and family will attend (and buy copies of the book at the event!) is super important. I also think authors are surprised by how much they have to do on their own–even keeping an active social media/online presence and website dedicated to their book–leading up to and after it has been published. Publishing a book is a huge, exciting, significant accomplishment–but the journey is just beginning when the finished product comes off the press!
Diana Franco is currently a Publicity Manager at Penguin Random House’s Berkley, NAL, and Celebra imprints, working on both women’s fiction and narrative nonfiction, including celebrity memoirs and self-help. Previously, she worked in the publicity departments at Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, as well as Random House’s Ballantine Books and Bantam Dell.
Maria Gagliano is a writer, editor, baker, and Business Director of Slice. Her writing has appeared in BUST magazine, the Huffington Post, and Salon, among other publications. You can find her on Twitter and at mariagagliano.com.