Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Publicity: An Interview with Maryglenn McCombs


      Whether you are published or pre-published, book publicity is something you must be mindful of.  The amazing Maryglenn McCombs has graciously agreed  to share some of her knowledge on the subject.  Maryglenn has actively been working in the book publishing industry for nearly 20 years.  She has served as a guest lecturer for publishing workshops, conferences and events, including serving as a panelist for the Southern Festival of Books. She is a member of the Publishers Association of the South (PAS) and Publishers Marketing Association (PMA). 

.       What are the reasons an author should consider using a publicist?

I think there are two main reasons authors should consider hiring a publicist. First, it makes a huge difference to have someone who is familiar with the media, understands the timing of when (and when not) to pitch a book, how to pitch a book, knows what reviewers and journalists are looking for, and knows the ins and outs of how to get a book reviewed, covered, or featured. Second, I think it would be extremely hard to try to promote my own book—assuming I had a book to promote. I would definitely want to hire a go-between to do the promoting for me. That isn’t to say that there aren’t a multitude of great authors who also happen to be great self-promoters, but I would definitely want to have someone doing that work on my behalf as opposed to trying to do it myself. I have reviewer contacts who’ve told me they prefer working with publicists and while they love hearing from authors, don’t necessarily want to be pitched by the authors themselves. Sometimes that can get a little tricky, I’m told.

            With social media becoming more and more prevalent, how have you seen your job as a publicist change?

Social media has definitely had an impact on my job. Journalists—especially those who have a social media presence—seem to be more accessible (and it doesn’t hurt to be able to know what they’re thinking, blogging, tweeting, or Facebook-ing about). Social media, in some ways, has exponentially increased the value and scope of good reviews. I encourage all of my authors to share good reviews and coverage via social media. Having an outstanding quote or review to share with your social network can be a wonderful way to get people excited about your book—and build momentum.

3       Is there a timeline that an author should consider when it comes to publicity and/or contacting a publicist, and if so, what is it?

In a perfect world, all authors would contact me about 6 months in advance of publication. In the real world, I’m happy to have a little advance notice (at least a month) but do occasionally take on books that are already released. Having lots of lead time can help, but there are ways to promote books past their release dates. In fact, I tend to tell authors that it is really never too late to promote a book. I recommend starting early, though—or at least that authors start thinking about PR early.

4       You have a reputation for “thinking outside the book” when it comes to publicizing your clients and their books.  What are some of your favorite things you have done to promote a client/book?

Thanks for asking that question. I have some good stories but my favorite has to be one that happened last December.  I’ve worked with mystery writer Don Bruns for years—I think we’ve done 7 or 8 books together now. I begged him for years to include my Old English Sheepdog, Garcia, as a character in one of his books. (On a sad note, I should mention that we lost our Sweet Garcia in June after 11 wonderful and glorious years.)
I finally wore Don down and he made Garcia a character in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, a mystery novel that came out last December.

I had heard through the grapevine that Rush Limbaugh was a proud Old English Sheepdog owner so I sent his dogs (Abby and Wellesley) a pitch letter from my dog, Garcia, telling them about the book and how great it would be if the dogs could convince their “dad” (Rush Limbaugh) to talk about the book –and Garcia, of course—on his show.

And he did!  So now I have the distinction of telling people that I was successful at getting my dog (and Don’s book) on the Rush Limbaugh Show. Don and I still get quite a chuckle over that story. Our phones rang off the hook for days…I had no idea just how many loyal Rush Limbaugh listeners there were!

5       In a challenging economy such as this one, each dollar counts.  For a pre-published author who has to decide between spending money on conferences, memberships in writing organizations, websites, etc., what advice do you have for the not-yet-published author in terms of where to direct their resources?

Conferences, conferences, conferences.  So valuable—and the networking opportunities alone far exceed the price of admission. I’m a big fan of genre-specific conferences and recommend them highly to both published authors and those looking to be published.

6       What book(s) are you  currently reading?

I am reading an incredible November mystery, Fever Dream by Dennis Palumbo (Poisoned Pen Press) which I’ll be representing. It is so good it is almost criminal that I get to call this “work." I am trying—trying—to convince myself to pick up The Art of Racing in the Rain but I’m not quite there—yet. In time!

Thank you so much, Heather; I appreciate the fun questions!

Maryglenn's website is  If you have any questions for her, she will be checking in.  She is an amazing source of information, and a really cool lady.  I am so happy she agreed to let me interview her for our blog.


Chris Bailey said...

Thank you, Heather and Maryglenn. I couldn't agree more with Maryglenn's advice about self-promoting. I worked full-time in PR for at least 20 years, and believe that I know enough about publicity to put myself in someone else's hands for that all-important phase of the work. When the time comes. . . .

Maryglenn said...

Thanks for the comment, Chris. I know there are plenty of authors out there who do self promote--and do it well--but I know I would freeze up at the thought of it. You'd better let me know when you need me!

Karen said...

Thanks Heather and Maryglen, for the information on using a publicist. I have a couple of questions.
How does a publicist differ from an agent?
What about authors who go the self/ePub route?
How much does it cost to hire a publicist?

Okay, make that three questions.ummobe


RedPeril said...

Thanks so much for those tidbits! Marketing has been a part of the writing world I'd admittedly been putting off until recently. (No reason to count my copies before I had a finished product!)

So, I have a question. You mentioned triplicate. (I sense some enthusiasm, and I -really- appreciate that you stressed the value of genre-specific conferences. :)) I'm about to attend my first one, and I wondered how you might recommend I maximize my networking opportunities while I'm there. My current plan involves calculated eavesdropping and chatting up folks at random. >.>

~Angela Blount

Maryglenn said...

Hi, Karen -
Thanks for the great questions! As a publicist, my role is to create media awareness for books and authors, by getting books reviewed, author interviews and feature stories. I differ from an agent in that I am not the person trying to "sell" an author's book to a publisher.
As far as self-publishing goes, I think it's crucial that all authors--whether they're published by a large house, and independent press, or are self-published--need to promote their books.
Publicists ary as to how they charge for their services--some work on a retainer, some work by the month and some (like myself) work by the hour.
I customize all of my proposals based on the individual book or author, so I don't have a set list of pricing I can provide. I do encourage anyone who is interested to get in touch with me with more information about the book project.
Thanks for the great questions!

Maryglenn said...

Hi Angela -
I love your strategy! And yes: I am a big fan of conferences.
The best piece of advice I can give you is don't be shy. Introduce yourself to other attendees, panelists, organizers, etc.
My strategy is to wear a smile and a name tag!
It's also a good idea to take advantage of as many of the panels, workshops, and mingling opportunities as possible.
When all else fails, just hang out at the bar...
Hope you have a wonderful time!

Karen said...

Thanks for the quick response, Maryglen. I don't have a finished book yet, but hope to by the end of the year! I'll keep it in mind.


Gail Barrett said...

Maryglen, I thoroughly enjoyed your interview. Thank you for the valuable information. And I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your dog. They leave such a terrible void in our lives when they're gone!!!

Maryglenn said...

Hi, Gail -
Thanks so much for your kind words. It is so hard to lose a beloved pet, but I am so grateful for the 11 plus years we had together. May his Royal Shagginess rest in peace!

Lexi said...

As a newly published author, I find the media/publicity part of the equation especially daunting. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us, Maryglenn.

Misty said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing. :)

Suzanne Johnson said...

Great post! My publisher has assigned a publicist to me, but I know a lot of the promotion will fall to me. Is it awkward to have both a publisher's publicist and a private publicist working on the same book, or is that a no-no? (Yep, new to this game, can you tell?)

Maryglenn said...

Hi, Lexi -
Thank you so much for the compliment! Glad you enjoyed!

Maryglenn said...

Thanks, Misty!
Appreciate your reading the blog.

Maryglenn said...

Hi, Suzanne -
What a great question! Having two publicists work on a book isn't necessarily a no-no, but can be tricky unless both of the publicists are clear about who is doing what. For instance, if I am working on a project with another PR person, I just need to make sure that we figure out the specifics on the front-end, as it doesn't help to have two people pitching the same book to the same contacts. This can easily be accomplished as long as the responsibilities are divvied up as to whom will contact whom. I've worked on plenty of books where other PR people were involved and working out the details on the front-end makes all the difference in the world.
And congrats on your new book, by the way!

Jamie Mason said...

Nicely done. I hope very much to have the concern of book promotion some day. :)

Carla Swafford said...

Oh, I agree with you so much about conferences, Maryglenn. I love meeting new people each time I go and so many have shown their kindness to me since I sold my first book this year by passing on the word.

Great post.

And thanks, Heather, for inviting Maryglenn.

EldonHughes said...

There are very few people in the industry as professional, classy and gracious as Maryglenn.
Thanks for sharing her insights with us.

Louisa Cornell said...

What a great and valuable interview! Thanks Heather and Maryglenn!

Deepest sympathies on the loss of His Royal Shagginess. I read Don's book and enjoyed Garcia's role in it!

Lisa Dunick said...

What a great interview! Thanks for sharing your insights about PR and promo work. :O)

Maryglenn said...

You all are the sweetest most gracious group! Thank you all so much for the kind words--and for reading my blog. Special thanks to Heather for hosting me!

Heather said...

I want to thank Maryglenn for being so generous with her time. She is an amazing lady!

Maryglenn said... are making me blush!
Thank you all again; guesting with Romance Magicians was SUCH a pleasure and an honor!