Ever wonder how a publicist thinks?
Megan Kelley Hall, her sister, Jocelyn Kelley and their mother, Gloria Kelley, started Kelley & Hall. (Now, imagine a photo of Megan here. Because blogger won't let me post it. Grr.)Megan says it’s because Maeve had been working in publishing and became aware of the number of books that were garnering virtually no attention in the media.
Anyway, the company—went through the roof. In a good way. They handled the campaigns for the self-published first novel of Brunonia Barry (The Lace Reader). (And you know how much THAT sold for!) Also self-published author Lisa Genova’s Still Alice, as well as New York Times best-selling authors Jacquelyn Mitchard (Deep End of the Ocean), Michael Palmer (The First Patient and Extreme Measures), Brenda Janowitz and Susan Mallery. And that’s just a few. K & H are soon starting author seminars.
But guess where you’ll get the scoop first? Here on Jungle Red.
Megan—tell us everything.
MEGAN: Well, not everything. But here are a few tips we think work.
When I write a book, I consciously tie in a journalistic hook to the story. It doesn’t have to be the main theme of the book but one that will be newsworthy and universally intriguing. As a publicist, I know that it’s much easier to get press if there is something newsworthy – a news angle – about your novel.
For example, THE LOST SISTER and SISTERS OF MISERY are about mean girls, bullying and hazing.
HANK: Wait, sorry, pause. Megan is the also the author of two young adult suspense novels, Sisters of Misery and The Lost Sister. Her work has been described as "chilling," "shivery" and "gothic," "nail-biting thrillers." (Just like book promotion.)
(Of course, imagine book covers here. But blogger won't let me post them. Grr.)
Okay, Megan. Back to you.
MEGAN: Through research, I found that almost 6,000,000 kids, nearly 30% of all children, are either bullied or are doing the bullying in this country. The American Academy of Pediatrics is stepping in with recommendations. There are several current news stories about the subject: the alleged hazing at Miss Porter’s, cyberbullying and a recent study out of the University of Maine saying 50% of college students admit to enduring some form of hazing in high school.
I would then take this news angle and approach editors with this “hook.” It may not lead to story, but it will certainly garner attention and make an editor pick up my book.
HANK: How about balancing writing and promoting? The muse versus the marketplace?
MEGAN: There is a great debate regarding the artistic process of writing and the business end. You don’t want to think about the business side when you are creating your art, but you can bet that the minute the time comes to start promoting your work, you are going to be sifting through your manuscript looking for angles and hooks that will get readers to pounce.
When we worked with Michael Palmer on The Second Opinion, he already had a strong fan base but was working on widening his readership. His latest novel dealt with a doctor and her brother who both live with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. Leading up to the release of The Second Opinion, John Travolta’s son tragically died and the questions surrounding his death were whether or not he had not been treated correctly for autism. This question is at the center of The Second Opinion and one that Palmer, a doctor himself, researched thoroughly.
We pitched his expertise to various news outlets and secured him an interview in the Metro papers nationwide. Millions of readers were able to learn about Michael Palmer. It is this tactic of reaching out to new audiences that can help build your fan base and give you a wider reaching audience.
HANK: How about trends. Follow—or run away?
MEGAN: My debut YA novel, Sisters of Misery (Kensington, July 2008), explores the disappearance of a young girl in Hawthorne, a small New England town just a stone’s throw from Salem, Massachusetts. At the same time, there were a number of other books being released that were highlighting witchcraft, the town of Salem and New England history. By focusing on this “trend” (remember trends come in threes or more) Kelley & Hall was able to secure coverage in Publisher’s Weekly, features in USA Today and Boston magazine, as well as wide-reaching national reviews.
Writers often fear that books with similar themes or subjects will be released at the same time as theirs, instead of fearing it, Kelley & Hall says: embrace it! We suggest authors pay attention to trends in publishing and stay on top of what is coming out or has been purchased by editors. Visiting sites like Publishers Marketplace and Media Bistro are great ways to stay in the “know.”
HANK: SO what's next for you all?
MEGAN: Kelley & Hall will be bringing our book marketing advice to writers in upcoming seminars! Just a few of the topics--
· How to be pleasantly persistent.
· Finding the news peg in your own back story
· How to deal with the shrinking book coverage in the media and where to turn to help increase your visibility.
· The power of the blog and social networking.
HANK: Thanks, Megan. Questions, anyone? Wait. I have one. What do you mean, trends come in threes?