What sells books? Electronic media? Print? One answer could lie in Kathryn Hall, Publicist’s unique National Print Media Tour which some publishers and authors have come to regard as a highly effective approach to media coverage.
NCBPA: How did your National Print Tour come to be such a major focus of your work?
KH: The one-size-fits-all approach to promotion is rather narrow. Personally I have never subscribed to the Ten-Cities-in-Ten-Days concept of touring for authors, and even in New York, this is becoming out of vogue, unless you are already a high profile bestselling author. It was always a marketing strategy with New York roots that only now, with shrinking local programming, coupled with more limited budgets is beginning to be re-evaluated. Lesser known, but wonderful authors who had been on these whirlwind burnout tours kept showing up in my office wondering why their publisher wasn’t “doing more”. I was quick to reassure them that their publisher had done a lot, and that, really, expecting that their publisher would make their book a bestseller was like giving birth to a baby and expecting that the obstetrician would parent the child. I began counseling authors to take more responsibility for ensuring the ultimate success of their books. There are those rare books that will take off on their own, but one must remember that, with the advent of self-publishing, there are now over 700,000 titles published each year in this country. Imagine the competition that only a few years ago was limited by publishers vetting projects. No more. Most authors now know they must take responsibility for getting the results they envision.
The services of Kathryn Hall, Publicist extend almost exclusively to what I call socially responsible nonfiction, usually written by corporate coaches and consultants, or therapists, who are often folks with PhD’s whose books represent the culmination of years of work--major insights on the findings of their long careers put down in writing. I am particularly interested in these kinds of projects. These authors will best succeed by finding a skilled professional who believes in their work and who makes a serious commitment to the promotion of their work. Their books often lend themselves to readers, not viewers. So the National Print Tour developed. I have been conducting National Print Tours for authors for nearly thirty years, so it has stood the test of time.
"Kathryn, I've always seen you as much more than a straight business book publicist but someone who really evangelizes core philosophies that are embodied in a book. That's not just another business how-to, but something that could become a movement and help shape and shift business culture worldwide. Countless times, I have told Bob [Burg] that YOU have been my best decision in the past year!"
Thom Scott, Managing Partner - Burg/Scott Communications,
Marketing Architect for The Go-Giver book launch
NCBPA: Has the National Print Tour adapted to the changes in the media industry?
KH: Absolutely. Fortunately, I love those changes. They suit my early adoptive nature and I have readily, easily and happily adapted. I find media far more fun than it used to be, frankly.
NCBPA: What exactly does the National Print Tour entail?
KH: Basically the structure is this: I create electronic press materials for each book I represent and send copies of my authors’ books to hand- selected lists of print media. I am very personal in my approach. I hand address packages, and tape little post-it notes on covers of books to my editors. I am never using a boiler plate list. I ask where I want this book to go, which editors? How can I broaden the appeal, the audience? It’s a highly creative process which I enjoy. The list is comprised of targeted magazines, business journals, major and local newspapers, online sources and newsletters. Each book is different. And I dedicate myself to turning as many of those contacts into media opportunities as I can, being as creative and collaborative as I might be with each editor. My job is to provide appropriate high quality content in a professional manner to those who need just that, for books I love.
NCBPA: How long is your National Print Tour?
KH: Originally the National Print Tour was built around a one-year commitment. As the publishing and media climates have changed I’ve adapted to working on some projects for less time, but it is not in my nature or within my professional wisdom to work on a serious book for less than six months, minimum. For any serious really good book I’d far prefer to have a one-year window. Many magazines and newsletters are still being published four, six, or twelve publications times each year. They are working with a minimum of a three-month lead time. It is not reasonable to expect to maximize results in any less time. Given the nature of the books I do, messages will be just as valid over time, and they warrant this time commitment. Any less of a time commitment does not honor the nature of the information and shows a limited understanding of how print media works in America today. And, yes, it’s true there is a concurrent stream of online media cranking out content on ?a daily basis. And, indeed, all forms of print media are included in my considerations and efforts.
NCBPA: What are you seeking when you approach media?
KH: I’m looking for any way to get my clients into publications: reviews, features, profiles, articles—if the author is available to write--or frequently offering my authors as experts for articles. And with the increasing demand of daily content some placements can turn on a dime, but it’s also true that the process can take several conversations with an editor over several months to collaborate on those kinds of creative decisions.
NCBPA: How do you keep an editor’s interest over time?
KH: From the very beginning I’m looking for the level of interest of an editor in a particular subject. If he or she really is not interested, I will trust that. I invest my time where there is some interest, and, I’m looking for fit. If I’m looking for a straight review I bow to the discretion of the editor. In that case my job has been about bringing the book to the editor’s attention, sorting it out for them from the other two to three hundred books sitting on their desks that were largely computer generated by generic lists, and about which no one is going to email them. You and I know that this is done every day by publishers. Then the in-house publicist (if there is one) says to her author, “We sent your book out to 250 publications.” And I say to those authors, “Yes. But are they doing any followup?” Some of them are, but most simply don’t have the people power to follow through over any extended amount of time. They have another glut of books coming down the pipeline. Add to this the fact that only certain books have been designated as important enough to warrant much attention of an in-house staff, possibly even a junior publicist. Even authors with huge advances most likely need help.
NCBPA: Do you include trade journals, those that require galleys in your tour?
KH: At times I’ve been hired by authors who need to supplement what their publisher has already done, and by that time it’s too late to send galleys to trade journals. If I begin a project early enough then I have the luxury of working with galleys, too. Then I know for sure that the trade journals were handled and that follow up contact was made to help facilitate a review. I actually prefer being included early, and I’m quite skilled and experienced in coordinating with the efforts of an in-house team, so as not to duplicate efforts.
NCBPA: Who hires you?
KH: I’m mostly hired by authors to supplement what their publisher has done or not done. I’m also hired by publishers who want to give special attention to a particular book, one that lends itself more to print than to electronic media. Self-published authors seldom see much media support from these new presses, so they need help from the start. Those projects need to begin ideally at least three to four months in advance.
NCBPA: We’ve heard you are very discriminating in selecting titles. How do you go about deciding what books you want to promote?
KH: I am, in fact, very selective. This is a boutique firm handling a choice group of books each year. I really am a personal publicist. No book chosen by this company is subcontracted out to anyone else. The author or publisher is working directly with me, and benefitting from my decades of experience both as a publicist and an author myself. I look for alignment of purpose. Why did the author write the book? If his/her intention was to somehow make this world a better place to live we might well have something in common. I’ve worked primarily on business books, and some psychology books. But also I worked with wonderful artist’s biography that an editor at Abbeville Press wrote, which I loved. I got a half page in the New York Times for that book as well as lots of urban coverage. I also worked with the extraordinary poet, David Whyte. I even agreed to work on an unusual book featuring the letters of the first governor of California, as I was interested in that period of history at the time and was motivated to secure coverage. So while exceptional thought leaders who are making a big difference are my primary focus, sometimes a project will surprise and delight and inspire me and I’m happy to sign on to those.
NCBPA: So you’ll work with self-published authors?
KH: Only if they have really done their homework and created a professional, attractive product and also have distribution in place. I’m not going to encourage promotion if an author does not have a legitimate outlet for sales.
NCBPA: So you only do print tours these days?
KH: My focus is still mostly on the National Print Tour, or a select group of retainer clients for whom I do more extended and tailored services. There are some few business authors who do have books that lend themselves to broadcast media, and I can negotiate to include in a contract.
Note: This interview originally appeared in the Northern California Book Publicists and Marketing Association publication and has been slightly edited to bring it fully up to date for this site. KH