JKSCommuncations, founded by Julie Schoerke, is an established freelance literary publicity agency. Julie and agency publicist Marissa DeCuir specialize in providing publicity and promotion for YA/MG books and authors. JKS also has associate professional freelancers who provide custom project-by-project speciality services.
Julie generously allowed me to ask her a limitless number of questions for posting at The Elevensies. I’ve also included questions submitted by members. The interview is in three parts. Each section of the interview begins here and is continued through the links below.
Part I, General Questions.
Julie, I know that you were a successful and well respected public relations professional before specializing as a literary publicist. Why drew you to promoting books and authors?
JKS: I had been in PR of one kind or another for 20 years…not-for-profit management, corporate and celebrity PR, politics, etc. When I started working with authors it suddenly just felt like the right fit for me. Every author has an intellectual curiosity. Book people tend to be thoughtful, considerate and bright…no crisis management issues in literary publicity (at least not with my wonderful clients!).
Generally, how can a publicist help an author? Can’t I do all this publicity stuff myself?
JKS: One thing that is tough for most people to do, and just about all self-deprecating authors, is to toot their own horn. A publicist can say things about you that you can never say about yourself. For example, I’m really lucky that I get to work with books and authors that I really like and believe in.
Since I don’t work for a specific publishing house, my team and I are not assigned specific books. As a result, we are honestly enthusiastic about a book we’re pitching the media or for book tours. I can say, “I stayed up all night reading this book –you’re gonna love it!” An author just can’t say that about their own book.
Part I, Publicist Interview, BOOK PUBLICITY 101, Julie Schoerke, continued: More.
Part II, Senior Seminar, questions from Elevensies members. All your questions are here (follow the jump below).
[Alissa Grosso.] My question is (and this may be a trade secret that the publicist does not want to reveal) what strategies are employed to reach the teen market? I think this is a market that is unique from the traditional adult market and distinct from the children's market as well, and I would be interested in seeing what the thoughts are on reaching these readers.
JKS: Hi Alissa. This is a great question!
Absolutely the teen market is different from the adult market. For example, book tours to bookstores probably won’t work as well for YA authors because their readers aren’t going to show up on a Thursday night or Saturday afternoon for a meet and greet unless the author is pretty famous.
So, doing stock signings at bookstores and talking to the people who will hand-sell your book (especially in independent bookstores) may be a better use of your time. Getting on panels at educational conferences attended by librarians and teachers is a good idea.
While 70% of all adults now get their reading recommendations from Internet sources rather than print publications, teens almost exclusively get their recommendations from the internet rather than through magazines and newspapers. So you better have a great presence! For example, Cynthia Lietich Smith does a wonderful job of connecting with her teen fans as well as librarians through her Cynsations blog. She just hit the New York Times Best-seller list. Cheryl Rainfield is another great example of an author who has built a strong platform as a book reviewer (recently named one of the top 30 on the Internet) and has a large fan base for her books as a result.
Part II, Publicist Interview, SENIOR SEMINAR, Julie Schoerke, continued: More.
Part III, Book Publicicty, GRADUATE DEGREE, questions from Elevensies members. Specific questions concerning book publicity for FIRST-TIME MG/YA authors.
[Randy Russell.] Why would I need a publicist for my first MG/YA novel? Since the publisher will create a base number of sales for the book, and they don’t anticipate a debut author getting much attention (and they didn’t invest a lot in the book) to begin with, wouldn’t I be better off to wait until Book 2 or Book 3 is out to spend resources on publicity and promotion?
JKS: If you blow the doors off the sales numbers for the first book and the publisher has to go back for second and third printings, then you’ve made them money and they’ll want a second and third book. You’ll have their attention and you’ll probably get more of their resources the next time around because you’ve proved you’re a “winner.”
If your first-book sales are weak, those numbers will follow you forever, and will make it harder to sell your next books, even to a different publisher, and your advance will likely decrease if you get a deal. You have ONE CHANCE to be a debut author and receive the attention for that hook. Don’t squander it!
Do you actually read a book you are hired to promote? Does the content of a novel have anything to do with the way you would approach publicity and promotion for the author? Or do all MG/YA authors fit into the same pattern of steps you take to garner publicity?
JKS: 1. I absolutely will not do publicity for a book unless I’ve read it. We’re really fortunate that we get to choose which books we work on since we are able to represent about one out of every five books we are sent.
A few months ago an author contacted us about doing publicity. A number of large publicity firms contacted him because his book was getting some really early buzz from the publisher. He had pretty well decided on an LA firm when he and I got the opportunity to talk by phone. I told him that although he was ready to make a decision, I couldn’t give him a proposal until I’d read his book and knew whether we’d be a good fit for him.
Part III, Publicist Interview, GRADUATE DEGREE, Julie Schoerke, continued: More.
Knowing that not all first-time authors will be able to hire a publicist for a complete publicity campaign, Julie Schoerke kindly laid out all aspects and steps of an entire campaign for a first-time author's book within this interview. Please click on the jumps above (links to my LiveJournal pages) for the entire inteview. Thank you.
Thank you, Julie. I could ask a hundred more questions, but I know how busy you are right now. If any of our authors have specific questions for you, would you mind if we contacted you directly?
JKS: Thank you so much, Randy, for inviting me to The Elevensies. This is a great support service you provide each other and I am honored to be here! I also admire the support you are providing other authors at your blog, Randy. I can’t wait for DEAD SCHOOL to be published. I think you may have a game-changer on your hands and plenty of people will be scrambling to jump on the new dimension your book will be bringing to YA literature.
[ Randy Russell notes: I left this last bit of Julie’s comments in as an example of how a publicist can talk up your book in ways you can’t. ]
JKS: I’d love for authors to contact me with questions. We all have to work together to keep the book business vibrant and help readers find new voices in literature!
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or 646.318.1193 or 615.476.1367.
Or visit www.jkscommuincations.com for more information. Follow me on Twitter at @JulieSchoerke and find me on Facebook, Shelfari, GoodReads and JacketFlap.