Wednesday, August 26, 2009

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?


  1. I like the trends idea. I know that when I read a certain type of book and enjoy it I begin to look around for more book with a similar theme. I didn't realize this until I read this interview. I love getting a peek inside the world of all of you.

  2. Oh, is this our first spam? HOw interesting...

    Again, sorry for the lack pf photos..please click on Megan's links for all the scoop.

    I wonder, too, Megan, if an author could do one thn,g what should it be? Facebook? SIgnings? newsletter?

    And readers--what do you think works? What makes you decide to buy a book?

  3. Hi Megan, thanks for visiting Jungle Red! Lots of interesting tips...along with Hank's question, how important do you think social media are for spreading the word about a new book?

    ps Hank, can you nip back in and eliminate those spam comments?

  4. Hi Megan:
    I'd also like to know your take on when you think a writer should invest in an independent publicist.
    It has been my experience that there is little point in spending serious money unless the publisher is also investing time and money in promoting, but you've taken self published books and gotten attention for them.

  5. Hi everyone,
    If I were to pick one social networking or media site, I would select Facebook over a newsletter, blog post, etc. Hank has set a pretty good example by having a website, blog, and Facebook presence. All of them feed into each other.

    When we work with an author, we work hand in hand with the publishing company's publicity department. This enables us to cover all bases and make sure that no opportunities are missed.

    We recommend working with an independent publicity company anywhere from 2 to 6 months ahead of time. It's also important to keep the momentum going once the book is published. Most authors tend to stop their efforts once their book is out, but we recommend that you continue.

    Hank, in terms of three or more making a trend, the editors we've worked with have said that two is a coincidence, but three marks the beginning of a trend. This is why having similar books coming out at the same time is not a bad thing, and can only work to your advantage.

    Keep those questions coming, and we'll try to answer as much as we can.

    Megan, Jocelyn and Gloria
    Kelley & Hall Book Publicity

  6. Ah, so interesting! Do you think Twitter matters?

  7. It can't hurt. But sometimes Twitter gets so overwhelming that many of the *tweets* get lost in the shuffle. Better to focus on building your own personal web presence and brand (through FB, websites, blogs, etc.) than posting on Twitter, which will spread your message to a wide audience very quickly, but then just as quickly disappears.

  8. Hi all,
    I thought I would weigh in on Hank's Twitter question.

    Twitter is a great way to open up a dialogue between you and your readers. It is also a wonderful tool to help advertise your biographical information. Your Twitter page allows you to post your website address and a brief bio. The key to making Twitter work for you is by providing interesting content that will have readers seeking out your Twitter posts (or "tweets") because they know it will be something entertaining. Did you find an interesting article online? Are you being interviewed somewhere? Is there "big" news that you want to share? Links are key! You should be using Twitter to promote your own work, but also to bring things that either relate to your book or that you find captivating to the attention of your followers. The more people you follow, the more followers you will attract. By interacting with the @reply function (for instance: Congratulations @MeganKelleyHall for the release of THE LOST SISTER) you are not only opening up the dialogue between you and Megan Kelley Hall, but also increasing your Twitter ranking and building followers.
    Hope this helps and keep the questions coming!

    -Jocelyn Kelley