5.03.2006

Nitwit of the Day!

Dear Miss Snark:

What if, after landing an agent (but before landing a publisher), a novelist hired a publicist to get publicity for a book, pre-sale. Yes, bass-ackwards you would say. But say the book involved current issues and a premise that drops jaws. (The Secret Lives of Dentists perhaps?)

Assume the writing ain't never gonna win no Pulitzer Prize, but has been edited by a freelance editor who's name all publishers will recognize. (all. ya, right)

Now say that the publicist actually managed to get some press for this (yet unsold) novel. Not NYT, but solid bites from a variety of regional newspapers. Is that the sort of thing that would help convince publishers that the book might actually sell?



What kind of press do you think you can get for an unsold novel? What you're describing here is getting press attention for a current issue. Unless your "jaw dropping premise" book is about orthodontia, I assure you that your sense of what's gonna get press attention and what IS gonna get press attention are two entirely different things.

Do you think editors read regional papers? Miss Snark may know the lovely folks at the PI; the Freep; the Rampage, and various incarnations of The Trib - not to mention the hunky guys at Cattle Today; that doesn't mean anyone else in the 212 does. And "read this feature/news/filler item, it's jaw dropping, in Cattle Today" is NOT a persuasive pitch for a novel. Not now, not ever.

Remember, novels take a year or more to be published. What's on everyone's hot list today is old news tomorrow.

Publicists START at $10,000. You're going to spend that before you have anything to sell? Yes, you are the nitwit of the day.

Clue: Write well. That's all.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that the "nitwit of the day" just finished watching Capote...and thinks he/she is going to write the great American "non-fiction novel."
Back in the good old days of 1959 until In Cold Blood was published, there were actually happenings that could make the public drop its collective jaw. No more...nothing surprises.

Elizabeth said...

If ONLY public relations was as easy as sending a press release to a few regional papers. People like me would make seven-figure salaries for one or two years, then retire in some charming place with white sand beaches and crystal blue water.

A. J. Luxton said...

Huh? I don't get it. The person says they've landed an agent: isn't it the AGENT'S job to promote the book?

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

PI? As in Post-Intelligencer? Oh my great aunts goat! You do know entirely too much about the great Pacific Northwest!

Let's meet in that great metropolis of Walla Walla and have steak and French onion soup! We'll sit and read the Union-Bulletin. Or we could go to Portland and read the Oregonian. (Does anyone really read the Oregonian?) Or we can meet at the Red Lion and read the Tri-City Herald and watch the steam cloud over the Columbia Generating Station. Do they really glow in the dark there? One wonders.

None of those to your liking? There’s always Klamath Falls or my personal favorite, Benton City. Let’s do lunch. Have KY email Bill E. Goat and set it up.

Anonymous said...

$10,000 a day? That's nearly as much as orthodontists make!

litagent said...

I'm not sure that I'd give nitwit of the day status to this one. While the unpublished book doesn't need a publicist, it's possible that the author himself could be of enough interest that a publicist could help manage the way his story is told. Platform is so important these days that I can see where having a good publicist might be valuable. Yes, it's expensive, and it may not help one bit, but if the author has money to burn, it's not necessarily a nitwit idea. Sadly, writing well isn't always what sells books.

Miss Snark said...

Platform for a nonfiction book yes, sure, but a novel? I've had editors say "this topic is in the news, that's good" when I've talked about issues that appear in a novel, but I've never had one ask if the author himself is prepared to talk about it. I've sent press clippings with a novel submission but they've been about the author's previous books not "this topic is HOT this week in Dubuque"

Ig said...

My dentist is a rockstar!

David Baker said...

Miss Snark, I detected a dash of sarcasm in your reference to "Cattle Today," which, in actuality, is a fine publication. They've reviewed all of my novels and said reviews have measurably increased sales in Peace Pipe, North Dakota, among other locales.

Otherwise, your advice, as always, is right on the mark.

Writers' Block said...

The lineal descendants of Jesus Christ walk among us, hidden by a vast Catholic conspiracy that dates to the first century.

An airline pilot on a routine transcontinental flight looks back in the passenger cabin and finds it empty, because the Rapture has called all the passengers to the hereafter.

Radical environmentalists cause a man-made tsunami in the pacific, whose disastrous impact on SoCal metro areas will coincide with their global media blitz warning of the consequences of man-made climate change.

All three of these novels really kinda suck. But they also sold out the wazoo. Nitwiterry aside, how is a writer, or an agent, for that matter, to frame their judgements about what will catch the word-of-mouth wave?

Mark said...

It depends on what the nonfiction is. My narrative about endangered species work, a travel place piece memoir of sorts was regarded by one agent just yesterday as "fitting for a small independent press not requiring an agent."

Exactly what is commercial depends on who is doing the determination. The market accepts similar efforts all the time.

Mark said...

David Masiel wrote an op-ed for the NY Times to help promote "2182 kHz" in 2001. It concerned a topical issue and the same one in my book: drilling in ANWR. His position was yes, mine is no; he oil, me wildlife. It worked for this novel, but the second one tanked.

Anonymous said...

I grew up 30 miles from K. Falls! Oh, wow I haven't heard anybody talk about it but me and hubby.

bookfraud said...

i am impressed just for citing the seattle post-intelligencer and the det. free press by nickname.

maybe the jaw dropping premise is that he's going to kill himself. or others. fictionalized, of course. that could generate some publicity.

litagent said...

You're right, Miss Snark, I missed the novelist part of the letter. I assumed that a book involving current issues and jaw dropping premises was a nonfiction book. Clearly it was too early this morining for me to even consider weighing in. I take it back. Nitwit, indeed.

Lauren said...

"What if, after landing an agent ..."

Oh dear god, I hope this writer hasn't landed Bouncin' Bobby Fletcher as an agent.

MaymovetoKlamathFalls said...

omg I need to know more about Klamath Falls! Possible job there for DH. Sha'el, anonymous, Miss S, anyone who knows - would you like to live there with two small children? I'm a city chick and it's slightly scary prospect for me.

Bernita said...

Speak to him Sternly, Miss Snark.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear MaymovetoKlamathFalls,

I haven't been to Klamath Falls since my gramma died. When I was a child we used to travel trough each year. Gramma lived most of her adult life in a little village in Northern California. Klamath Falls was "on the way." I can't tell you anything useful about the place now.

Visit before you move. Small town life has its pleasures, but it is different. We live in a "small town" of about 170,000. The pace is slow. You find your own entertainment. People are easy to talk to, but it requires effort to get them started.

When one of our local business people saw a family with NY plates on their car, he said in his best "cowboy" style: "Welcome to the West!" On another day, you may be totally ignored.

This princess (Princess of France, rightful queen of Scotland, Queen of Goats, Princess Royal of Pixies, etc.) is very comfortable in the American west. So, I talk "funny" and they think it charming. I'm short, and they think it "cute." They even laugh politely at my jokes ... and people I don't know stop to let their children see my goats! Is that life for you? Dunno. Check it out in person.

maymovetoklamathfalls said...

Thanks sha'el. And LOL - I think that KF only has 60,000 residents, so you're in the big city compared to that!