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Julie Schoerke Interview, Part I, Book Publicity 101
Mars&Jana
randyrussell

Interview with Julie Schoerke, JKS Communications. Part I. Book Publicity 101.

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 few questions for posting at The Elevensies.    I’ve also included questions submitted by members.  The interview is in three parts.   Parts II and III appear in subsequent post (scroll down). 

I.                    Book Publicity 101

II.                 Book Publicity Senior Seminar

III.               Book Publicity Graduate Degree


Julie, I know that you were a successful and well respected public relations professional before specializing as a literary publicist. What 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.

The other folks at JKSCommunications can be equally effusive. One of the publicists now tells the media that a book we are representing is her second favorite book of all time – think that book is getting good traction? You bet!

Also, a publicist calling on behalf of an author and his/her book makes the project seem more professional and that it has a bigger campaign behind it (which it most likely does) than when an author is sending out their own information.

On another level, an author specializes in writing gripping, fascinating, entertaining, enlightening books. While authors are busy doing that, publicists are busy doing what they do best – networking with reviewers, bookstores, book festival organizers, producers and editors in the media. So when the time comes to allow the world to experience the book, the publicist (hopefully!) has the contacts, enthusiasm, and expertise in pitching and positioning the book to help as many readers who are the most likely to buy your book find out about it.

Being an author can be a lonely business. We are confidential sounding boards for an author when they become concerned about something and don’t want to go to their editor or agent yet. There are ups and downs and we’re there for the author through the “birthing of their baby.”

The past three or four years have seen tremendous changes in the publishing industry and in the promotion of books. We were among the first publicity firms to put our authors on virtual book tours (having authors “visit” book blogging sites through interviews and reviews of their book being posted during the week before and two weeks after the launch). 

Now there are Twitter, Facebook Fan Pages, Skype, author blogs, book trailers, and new opportunities present themselves all the time. Lots of authors don’t want to mess with setting up their own social networking or they don’t know how to make it work for them once they have the accounts. Publicists do that for you. Of course, there are some authors who are brilliant at doing some of this themselves. While we do lots of things for our author Susan Gregg Gilmore, LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN and THE IMPROPER LIFE OF BEZILLIA GROVE, she is absolutely brilliant at promoting her book through social networking and is often asked to speak to groups on that very topic.

Julie, I noticed I am sending my interview questions to you in Washington, D.C., this week. Whatever are you doing there?   And, uh, couldn’t you do it by telephone or email? 

JKS: I have been in Washington, DC meeting with the producers and correspondents for the NPR programming nationally. I walked in to the headquarters with a stack of books and support materials and spent some great time talking to some of the nicest people in the world about our clients’ books that will be hitting bookshelves over the next year. It was great to see the enthusiasm! I’ve also been meeting with bookstore managers and pitching them books for national book tours that we are creating. And while I’m here, I always drop some books by school librarians who make decisions on author visits.

We do lots of email and phone calls to our contacts throughout the year, but there is nothing like a face-to-face chat.  So when we have the opportunity, the publicists at JKSCommunications get out of the office and spend time with people all over the country who are good to our authors.

When do you get involved with promoting and publicizing an author’s book?   Can you tell us briefly how you spend your time as a client’s book approaches publication?  

JKS: An author can never call a publicist too soon after learning the publishing date of his or her book. We like to hear from authors as soon as they have signed the contract with the publishing house.

That way it gives us time to read the prospective client’s book (yes, we do read every book ahead of time to see if we’re the right fit for the book) and to talk with the author about what their goals are for the promotion of their book – it’s never just as simple as “sell as many copies as possible.”

Early contact also provides us time to keep our ears open for opportunities that may come along months before the actual campaign may start. We like to work with the clients three to six months before the launch of the book and the month the book is in bookstores.

Sometimes our clients like to have us stay on and work with them for up to a year afterward – right through the launch of the soft cover – and sometimes the authors decide that they’ve put as much of their heart and soul into promoting the book through personal appearances and media interviews that they want to and that they’re ready to go back to writing full-time.

What are some of the recent books you’ve worked on? 

JKS: We have the most amazing books coming out in the next few months! The fiction list includes:

ONCE UPON A BABY BROTHER by Sarah Sullivan (Children’s)

SCARS by Cheryl Rainfield (YA)

CROSSING by Andrew Fukuda (Cross-over YA)

BY ACCIDENT by Accident by Susan Kelly (Adult fiction)

IN THE BELLY OF JONAH by Sam Brannan (mystery, thriller series)

THE IMPROPER LIFE OF BEZILLIA GROVE by Susan Gregg Gilmore (Adult fiction, probably cross-over YA)

LONGBOURN’S UNEXPECTED MATCHMAKER  by Emma Hox (Adult fiction – Jane Austin inspired)

We have great non-fiction books launching as well. If you visit our website page at  www.jkscommunications.com  you can see the wonderful books that have already been published.

Before I get to specific questions from Elevensies members, do you have any general advice for new authors on how to promote their books, whether or not they hire a publicist? 

JKS:  This is going to sound so basic to most authors but, GET A WEBSITE!  Do not think of not having a blog or website. It’s just like a business card was years ago. It’s a great way to interact with fans and to create enthusiasm with promotions, etc. Also, get a FaceBook page and start “friending” people you know all over the country and keep them up-to-date on your book’s progress – when it comes out, when you’ll be doing book signings, etc.

I do work with authors on lots of promotional giveaways to their fans. For example, we’re working on a project right now that includes a novel, a CD of music and a stage production inspired by the book and music. In order to get more FB fans for the project, we’re offering a grand-prize of a stay in Washington, DC for the world premiere of the stage production, VIP tickets and backstage passes, second prize is a membership for a year to the winner’s local zoo and third prize is a signed copy of the book.

These are great prizes, but don’t cost a lot of money. An author can do contests and giveaways on their own through their website and by asking people they know to help get the word out (which drives traffic to the website and builds excitement). We’ve also done contests in which kids can write a short essay about a topic that relates to the author’s book and the author chooses a winner that receives a gift certificate to iTunes or an iPod – the promotions can be as simple or complicated as the author chooses.

Talk up your book with your family, friends, colleagues, whoever you know, to help spread the word. Think about people you haven’t seen for years that live far away. Shoot them an email or friend them on FaceBook and tell them you have a book coming out, that you’d love for them to buy it, post reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites, and to choose it for their book clubs — that you’ll call in and chat after they’ve read the book. Or plan a trip to stay with these folks and ask them to use their connections to set up events for you in their cities.

Be sure to have a card made with a jpeg of the cover of your book that you can pass along to people everywhere you go.

What does a publicist charge to promote a book?   Can I afford you?

JKS: Publicists charge in all different kinds of ways and have different levels of fees.

I like to talk with an author about what his/her goals are. Surprisingly, they are actually almost never the same. You’d think the goal is “sell the most books possible” — but once we talk it through, the author has to weigh that hope/goal against how much time, energy and money to put into publicity and promotion.

We have some clients who will go anywhere anytime to sell books and talk to book lovers. Other authors have family or businesses commitments that keep them close to home most of the time.  Some clients are really committed to protecting their writing time above all else. We tend to work with authors who like people, because they are the ones who are actively looking for ways to connect with their readers and are interested in hiring a publicist.

I’m often asked what genre we specialize in. We pride ourselves on specializing on creating publicity campaigns that are specific to the needs and strengths of the individual author and the individual book. No two proposals that we create are the same, because no two books or authors are the same.

I create a proposal based on what the author says he/she wants: book tour, book launch, book trailer, only radio interviews, only virtual book tours, or the whole shebang. The publicity campaigns that we create are a minimum of four months. The cost varies depending on the estimated amount of time we will spend. We’ve had agents and publishers that send a number of clients to us because they think we’re very reasonably priced.

It’s a good idea to set aside some of your advance for publicity expenses The expenses could include a publicist, website design, travel costs for a book tour, printing costs for posters for your events or postcards to send to librarians, fees to attend conferences for your own networking, buying additional copies of your book if your publisher is set on only providing a certain number of copies to you (I’ve only met one author who hasn’t gone through all of the copies their publisher provides and bought more). I’d suggest putting aside $5,000 - $10,000 for all of this depending on how aggressive you decide to be in promoting yourself.

This is the end of Part I.   In Part II of my interview with Julie Schoerke, Book Publicity Senior Seminar, she answers specific questions provided by other members of The Elevensies. 



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