Most publishing houses have a publicity department. It does not follow, however, that all authors and books get publicity organised on their behalf. The author who suggests angles that could be exploited, finds media vehicles to be pursued, and is cooperative in the process (without overdoing it and becoming a nuisance), is more likely to obtain the attention of the house publicist. Remember that in any single month it is likely that your publishing house will be promoting at least 30 titles. There is not enough time, energy or resources to go round.
Who does what – publicists and journalists
Publicists deal with journalists, and try to persuade them to cover the author/book they are promoting. They may be working for the house that is publishing the book, or as a hired hand – perhaps employed by a firm of publicity specialists or as a freelance. To get the most out of both publicists and journalists, it may help to know what kind of people you are dealing with. Characteristically (and this is a generalisation), publicists are:
If the book is really strong in its own right (great read, won a significant literary prize, first novel that has huge potential) they may be able to generate coverage for your title on its own merits. Even then, the accompanying story will be relevant (think of Zadie Smith and Arundhati Roy – both hailed as wonderful novelists, but their looks and personalities still used extensively in the publicity process).
Again, these are generalisations, but journalists are:
‘The relationship between interviewer and
interviewee has changed over the same period [the last 45 years – since he
began writing]. What used to be a rather bland and deferential conversation has
become more probing and aggressive. Interviewers want blood – the blood of new
and personal revelations – in exchange for the free publicity they offer their
subjects. They want to assert their own personalities, and to demonstrate their
own literary skills. They can become minor celebrities themselves in
consequence. The interviewees, on the other hand, are apt to feel wounded and
betrayed by such treatment.’
David Lodge, afterword to Home Truths, Penguin
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