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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Diana James and P.R. Me!

DIANA JAMES is a publicist based in Los Angeles who also manages a select list of authors. Through her firm, P.R. Me!, she provides promotional expertise to authors, artists and event coordinators. Diana has worked in publishing for more than 15 years for such firms as United Advertising Publications and the LA Times. At the latter she worked as General Manager and oversaw all functions of the Real Estate Magazine division. She is the past President of Sisters In Crime/LA.

Thank you for being here with us today!

Diana, authors can get an exact list of services by going to P.R. Me!, but could you explain, generally, what your firm, P.R. Me!, does for an author?

Since I work with both new authors as well as those who are established, I help each person with their specific needs. I find that many newer authors are learning their way in the publishing field and are in need of information and guidance. So I find that quite often I am consulting with authors to provide information about the market and the ways in which they can best reach their target readership.

Established authors are dealing with the constraints of time and seek out my services to reach a broader reader base and to tackle the marketing chores for which they don’t have the time or desire to do.

Much of our world now resides on the net, so e-newsletters and viral marketing are a must. I offer e-newsletter design, and distribute them to readers, librarians, and bookstores across the country. As for Facebook and Twitter, I work with those who need training or assistance in learning about, setting up, and/or managing their Facebook page and Twitter accounts.

What do you look for in a client? And what commitments do you, as the publicist, expect from your author clients?

First and foremost, I look for fiction writers in the mystery and thriller genres (I steer away from other genres and non-fiction). Second, I must be able to read and appreciate their work. This limits who I take on, but we are going to be working closely together, so it helps greatly if I love what I sell.

Third, the book must be a traditionally published novel. I’m not a book snob, I read self-published works. But when it comes to business, I must be matter of fact. When arranging signings and events for a self-pub’d work, it takes 4 times the amount of time and effort to get the results of a traditionally pub’d work.

Most importantly, the author must be motivated to work hard right along with me, it’s a partnership, we’re a team. The author has to have a desire to be seen and heard. It’s a much larger challenge to promote someone who does not wish to be out in public or who feels a bit too shy to be interviewed or sit on a panel with fellow authors.

In my fantasy, a publicist would handle every scrap of action related to publicity--from inception to execution to follow up. In reality, the author does bear some responsibility. What is the “division of labor”?

That’s a great question. A publicist is NOT a personal assistant. Anyone who thinks they will never have to respond to emails again because they hired a publicist will be in for a rude awakening.

For me, it is rather straight forward. I talk with a client first to find out their needs. After we’ve had time to chat about what the client's true needs are and what they are willing to pay for, I prepare a quote and general timeline. This way it is clear up front what duties I will perform, and also shows the timeframe of the campaign so that the author has realistic expectations

As for “division of labor”, I look for each author to put their own skills to work for them, as well as their own personal contacts. For instance, an author’s “warm circle” is extremely valuable; a publicist can’t pack your launch party as well as you can.

At what point in her career would an author benefit from a publicist?

From the first-time novelist to the established author, all can benefit. The new author benefits from the experience of a publicist who has contacts and can take initiative immediately so as not to waste a minute of that precious few months that a novel is a new release.

The established author is more concerned about time, the time to write while now dividing his/her time between the demands of marketing, travel, appearances, etc. Its very difficult for an author to do it all, one or more of these endeavors can suffer without adequate support.

If an author has a publicist, do they also need a manager? And what is the difference between a publicist and a manager for those who might not know?

If an author uses a publicist, they do not necessarily need a manager. The author must weigh what is needed for their career, and that need may change over time. A publicist is generally sought out to help an author for a limited period of time, that being for the launch of their book or a specific campaign.

A manager is generally involved with an established author and works closely with them on a year round basis. A manager’s duties are consultative as well as marketing and promotions related. They may also handle their client’s mail, email, website, travel schedule, bill payments, or other such personal tasks. Managers are compensated based on a percentage of the author’s earnings, whereas publicists are paid based upon quoted services and when those services are completed, they move on to the next client.

You also offer collateral materials, such as bookmarks, postcards and promo sheets. What’s the advantage of having a publicist handle this over ordering from, say, Vista Print?

There’s nothing wrong with an author creating his/her own materials and going thru Vista Prints. We are all quite cost-conscious these days. Many writers are quite talented graphically and do a great job. Not all are, however. Then there’s the established author who wants a more refined look or something more tailored to the look and feel of their work. That’s where I come in, when the look and feel of your materials takes on added importance. Does the look of your materials convey who you are now and where you are in your career?

Your publicist will also consult with you about the purpose of your materials. For instance, are you planning a mailing campaign? If so, do you know what the post office’s current size and weight restrictions are for postcards, what about the amount of area that should be kept as white space for postage metering and barcoding? Do you want a message imprinted on the back describing your book? What if you want the message on only half the run so that you can use the other half to imprint as you need …such as to promote an upcoming signing or share the latest review? How would you find the best rate on this split run? What weight of stock do you need? 10 pt, 12 pt, 16pt? What if your layout requires a bleed? Will Vistaprints accept this type of layout? If so, is there an added charge? Would it be of help to you to work with someone who has worked in the printing/publishing field and who also works to regularly find the best rates in marketplace?

Good gad! I had no idea there was so much to consider.

If an author wanted to consider using P.R. Me!, does your firm charge an hourly rate? A flat, annual rate? And are the collateral materials charged for separately?

I offer a set rate for most services and collateral pieces. Authors can contact me for a rate sheet, which lists a la carte pricing. Hourly rates for training, consultation, and graphic design can vary. Feel free to ask questions, contact me at diana@prmeinc.com

“Thank you for allowing me this opportunity. I’ve enjoyed my visit!”

Don't forget to visit Diana at P.R. Me!

7 comments:

  1. What an interesting interview. I think most of us authors would love to have a PR person. Unfortunately, I've never felt that I had the money to spend on one. It does sound like your services could possibly turn someone's career around.

    Marilyn
    http://fictionforyou.com

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  2. This is a great overview of what a publicist does. Very valuable information. Diana comes well recommended, too.

    Thanks for explaining the difference between publicist and manager. I think what you offer is more in line with what MOST authors need these days.

    Still hoping to work with you one day soon!

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  3. Aha! I was finally able to get a live "post a comment" link.
    Anyway, nice interview, Jackie. You always dig out the best questions to throw at your guests. I learned a lot about publicists from Diana ... now if I just had something to be publicized! LOL Love your blog site!

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  4. Having a publicist would be such a help! Even though I split PR responsibilities with my sister, Loni, it's very difficult to keep on top of things! Also it's nice to hear someone differentiate what PR does as opposed to management's duties. I'm sure many new and some established authors need clarification there. Great interview Diana and Jackie!
    Patti

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  5. Thanks everyone for your comments! And also, a big hug to Jackie for allowing me to spend some time with all of you.
    Pam - I'll know we'll have a chance to team up soon!
    Jackie - you are such a talented lady, I love following your blog.
    There were a number of you were kind enough to contact via email rather than via this blog, so I wanted to let you know I'm returning messages today.
    Keep on writing everyone and best wishes!
    Diana

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  6. I'm proud to say Diana is MY manager! You do a kick-ass job, Diana. THANKS!

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  7. Hi,

    Thank you for your nice article on.A Writer's Jumble, I like it. It will help me for my research.

    thanks

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