Meet In-house Publicity Assistant Kathryn Tumen

- by BlogMistress

Meet Kathryn Tumen, one of five publicity assistants for Berkley and New American Library.

Tell us something about yourself and your publishing house

While I assist one of three associate directors of publicity at Berkley/NAL, I am the publicist for most mass market romances and a slew of the trade paperback romances that Berkley and NAL produce each month. Both of these imprints produce mass markets as well as trade paperbacks for The Penguin Group, which operates out of our New York offices and is owned by the international media company Pearson. The imprints I am responsible for include Signet Eclipse, Berkley Sensation, and Berkley and NAL Heat.

What exactly does an in-house publicist do?

While the role of in-house publicists is bound to vary by house and imprint, I work to obtain review coverage for paperback romance novels. The following is a basic timeline for publicizing romance novels at Berkley and NAL:

A few months before publication, I usually receive about 30 galleys or bound manuscripts, which I send to media with a long lead time, like the monthly magazines. We have relationships with all of the major romance publications (like RT BookClub) and websites and their reviewers, and they will all receive copies.

I work a few months in advance to set up local signings for authors who are interested. It’s a great opportunity for friends and family (and new readers!) to come out and support our authors! Once the event is set up and confirmed, I’ll send out alerts to all local calendar listings, and contact local media.

About 6 weeks before publication, I will send out a review copy mailing of finished books. The mailing targets shorter-lead publications like local papers, review websites/blogs and other appropriate media outlets. This list is much more extensive than the one used for galleys and usually includes three to four times as many contacts. Shortly after shipping, I will again follow up with them to gauge interest and set up coverage.

As an assistant, I am responsible for performing a variety of departmental duties. These include reading trade publications and distributing reviews to the appropriate publicist, ordering books, and attending and taking notes at our sales and marketing meetings. We also communicate with Sales to alert them of any national media we obtain for the books on which we’re working so they can make appropriate changes.

In your house, how does an author get to work with you? (e.g., does the editor or marketing director set it up?)

Seasonally, books are assigned to a particular in-house publicist by the managerial staff within the department. They produce assignment grids, which also outline our plans for publicizing a particular book.

What can an author do to help an in-house publicist?

That’s a great question. We love it when authors take an active role in promoting their books and view it as positive supplementation to our efforts in-house. Here are a few things authors can do to help us:

First, set up a website. Promoting your book online has never been more important. While your publicist works to secure online reviews, you’ll want to set up a website so that your readers can find you online. Your site should include: Book jacket images alongside info about your new book on the home page, an “About the Author” page, your appearance schedule (for book signings and other events), great quotes from reviewers and other authors, contact info to let readers know how to get in touch with you (many authors create an email address specifically for this purpose), your publicist’s contact information for media inquiries, links to online booksellers (always include Amazon, BN.com, and Booksense). You might also consider setting up a blog on your website, linking to other websites, creating a “Press Room” page for media who want access to photos, video clips, press releases, etc. This is best for those authors who receive many interview requests. Also, create a mailing list sign-up form for sending fans the latest news!

Once your website is up and running, create an email signature that includes a link to the site to help drive visitors there. Publicists will also include the link on all press materials s/he sends to the media.

Secondly, blog on Amazon. Amazon has created a special program called AmazonConnect that gives authors the opportunity to post messages to their readers directly on the site. Evidence shows that authors who blog here sell more books there than authors who don’t. (Note that the Amazon blog doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment; one posting every month or so is fine.) If you already have a blog, you can link it directly to Amazon. One added bonus is that the content you post to Amazon doesn’t have to be exclusive to Amazon. If you already have a blog, you can hook up an RSS feed so that your posts to your blog feed into Amazon. You get double the exposure this way!

Create a MySpace profile! MySpace is an online networking community that allows you to connect with a growing number of people online. Sign up for free and create a personal profile. You can include your book cover, an author photo, a blog, book description, links to your website, links to Amazon, a countdown to your book’s release, audio of the first chapter-the sky’s the limit! Some authors have created a profile in the voice of their recurring character! Once your profile is set, invite friends to join your personal network. Reach out to friends and family, and anyone whose interests indicate that they may become a potential reader. MySpace is most valuable as a marketing tool the more “friends” you have. You can search user groups and connect with thousands of people this way.

Research your niche media! Typically, your publicist will coordinate your review copy mailing, which will reach over 100 reviewers and editors at major magazines and newspapers across the country. Online reviewers and local media are also included in the mailing. While we try our best to make our mailing lists as tailored and comprehensive as possible, we may not have information on all of the niche publications that might review your book. For example, if you are writing about cycling, we’ll need your help hunting down information about magazines and websites related to that hobby. Help your publicist get the word out by researching media that might review your book. We’re willing to send review copies to any appropriate publications, provided that you can supply us with the contact name and address of the publication (or website).

Build Relationships with Booksellers and Librarians. It’s a good idea to stop into your hometown bookstores, or those you pass in your travels, to sign copies of your books. We call these “drop-in stock signings” or “drive-by stock signings.” Introduce yourself to an employee or store manager. Explain that you’re an author and would like to sign any copies of your book that they have in stock. The stores are always happy to oblige, and may even put “Autographed by the Author” stickers on your books, or move them to a special “Signed Copies” display. This will help the books move faster! If you have major travel planned, with enough advance notice your publicist can often call ahead to let bookstore managers know to expect you during your trip.

Don’t be put off if you learn that the store doesn’t have any copies of your book. The value of drop-in stock signings lies in meeting booksellers-this is your opportunity to get them excited about your book!

Something also often overlooked: Introduce yourself to your local librarians – especially if you are a regular browser! Libraries are a good avenue of promotion and it helps if you can build a relationship with them.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! We love it when authors take an active interest in promoting their books, and we’re willing to consider any ideas you bring to us.

5 comments

  1. This was very interesting. Do you have much luck getting romance reviews in local/mainstream press? I live in the DC area and can only think of one time that Bookworld ever included romance reviews – though they do occassionally review other genre fiction.

  2. Wow! A lot of work goes into promoting a book.

  3. Hi Kathryn, I ‘m so glad to see this interview. I’ve been with Berkley for over three years now, and have only ever had contact with in house publicity once. (And that was you actually, just recently.)

    In the question above about how does an author get to work with you, you replied that scheduling is done in house. Does this mean that if I’ve never been contacted before, and it’s never been suggested by my editor to contact anyone in publicity, that I just leave it alone?

    Also, if an author is spending a fair amount on publicity, like magazine ads and such, does that effect what /how you do things on your end?

  4. Hi Michelle – Mainstream papers and publications, especially those in large metropolitan areas rarely show any interest in genre romance, unless the author is very popular and local to the area. We do, however, have great luck with several popular trade publications like Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Romantic Times Book World. Online media outlets have also shown a huge interest in genre romance lately.

    Hi Sasha – I’m glad you dropped in to comment. You are always welcome to contact your in-house publicist! We love to work with authors and appreciate their feedback. As an author, you have the right to know what’s happening on the publicity front. Regarding your question about advertising, it usually does not have an affect on our publicity efforts. We’re going to work to promote your book whether you advertise or not. I hope this helps!

  5. Great post! Thank you for sharing!=))