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PR by the Book - 10 Years

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The Life of a Book Publicist: The things we’ve done—and learned—in the last 15 years by PRBTB team

POSTED BY prbythebook ON December 20, 2017

As PR by the Book celebrated 15 years this year, the team looked back at the funny and cringe-worthy moments of our careers in the book industry. (We may have joined this industry with visions of glitzy rooftop parties in New York, but that doesn’t mean we won’t complain about the blisters we got while running from meeting to meeting that day!)

The Costumes

“When I talk to other book publicists, at some point, a story about wearing a character costume will come up—I think we’ve all had to do it. My family owned an indie bookstore and in high school I logged a number of hours during our summer tent sale as Bob the Tomato from Veggie Tales. You could just barely see out of the mesh eyes to try to not step on the little kids flocking to you. I needed a helper to squeeze me through doorways. It had a fan blowing air inside, but it was not a fun costume to wear in the heat of summer! I was one roasted tomato.” —Elena Meredith, senior publicist

Media meetings

“My very first media meeting in the Big Apple was with the editor-in-chief at Scholastic magazines. We chatted for maybe 30 minutes, then she graciously gave me a tour of their offices and took me up to their rooftop cafeteria to see their stunning view of New York. I thought wow, this is amazing! Everyone in New York is so nice. However, it left me very unprepared for my next meeting with The New York Times—I had five minutes to pitch my books to the editor and get out!” —E.M.

“During a media trip to NYC back in the spring of 2001, it rained nonstop. After buying a little umbrella at the corner pharmacy, I sloshed my way to each of my meetings, which were not planned out well geographically. I’d only been a book publicist for 4 years and I was going to meet with Charles McGrath, the current book editor of The New York Times. He urgently ushered me into his office, showed me about 20 stacks of books, all piled about 20 high, listened to me spew pitches for about 5 minutes and then ushered me out. I quickly realized that if I could handle that meeting, I could meet with just about anyone.” —Marika Flatt, founder

Awkward moments

“One of the parts of my job that I’ll always find weird and awkward is going through headshot selections with authors. I’ll never forget being on the phone with Bill Mulcahy (yes, I’m naming you!) clicking one-at-a-time through 30 or 40 photos of him, while we discussed the finer points of which one his face looked best in. (‘Um, you have a constipated expression in this one…’) I still laugh thinking about it.” —E.M.

“I was with an author in the green room of a major cable news show (who was getting the first interview with this author), when I had the furious booker inform me that a pre-taped piece on a major network—that was supposed to run during the evening news broadcast—had instead just run on their morning show, scooping the cable network. To this day, that booker brings this up (and—surprise!—the producer I worked with at the major network never returned my calls about breaking our agreement).” —Judy McDonough, senior publicist

Keeping your cool

“I had provided everyone on the client’s team with an updated version of the media schedule, yet about every 30 minutes, a very junior member of the client’s team (who seemed to have no real purpose as we went from interview to interview) kept saying, ‘now, where do we go next?’ or ‘how long are we here?’ as I’m dealing with schedule changes, ground transportation issues, etc. At one point in an elevator, after she said, ‘Now, what is this place, again?’ she had the nerve to look at me, with a little smile, and say, ‘I know you gave me all of this information . . . but it’s just so much easier to keep asking you.’ One of my greatest accomplishments as a publicist might be that I just smiled—and didn’t slug her.” —J.M.

“Thank heavens for Google maps now! Before we could rely on them, I flew out to Los Angeles with one of our publicists to accompany a client—with her celebrity son, of course—to be on ‘The Ellen Degeneres Show.’ The cabbie dropped us off, we got out and paid him, and realized we were at the wrong studio lot. He was gone. We had to hoof it about 3 miles because there were no cabs, and that was before Uber. But, the heavens were shining down on us, because we showed up at the wrong gate of the right lot and the gate attendant let us hop in his golf cart so he could drive us to the right building, meanwhile giving us a tour of the studio lot. After getting to meet Vince Vaughn, I was reminded why it’s always good to be friendly to everyone you meet. His buddy walked in and I got to chat up Peter Billingsley, ‘Ralphie’ from ‘A Christmas Story.’ A banner day!” —M.F.


“A very valuable piece of advice I got from a former ‘Today’ show producer: ‘Tell your author to tell a story from the book that paints a picture. If I hear a good story, I’ll give him a longer segment. If he’s too practiced and rehearsed, with talking points that mean nothing, he gets 2 minutes. Maybe.’ —J.M.




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