The 5-Question [Publicist] Interview: Claire McKinney

by Meredith Resnick

Claire McKinney PR, is a publicity firm that works with traditional, hybrid, and self-published authors in marketing, branding, and publicizing their books. Claire specializes in campaigns for books, authors, educational programs, websites, art, film, and other intellectual properties. The agency also has a blog on which they share knowledge and experiences with authors who are interested in book marketing and promotion.

Meredith: Is there a different way that the media-shy author/writer can view promoting his or her book when the constant “putting it out there” feels out of line with their inner calling/sense of self?

Claire: If you are a novelist in this position, the best thing to do is rely on the internet and social media outlets.  You will have to at least write to bloggers to see if they will review your book, but you don’t have to constantly be on Twitter and Facebook. It would be a good idea to also have a website for the book as a destination for when reviews of your book are posted.  Ask family and friends to read your book and post reviews on Amazon, that will help with your profile there.  You can also set up an author page on Amazon and Goodreads.  For a non-fiction author, you probably need to have an interest in putting yourself out there because in your case, your expertise and credentials are going to help get the book noticed.

Meredith: I’m hearing less outward chatter about “platform building” than I did five years ago. Does that mean it’s really gone? What does it mean?

Claire: I think the reason you are hearing less chatter is because it’s become a part of the promotion process as a whole.  Everything people are doing these days online and in other places is helping to build a platform.  Individuals and their works have to be recognized “brands” out in the world or at least to their target audiences.  So, no the “platform” is here to stay and actually “branding” may be what’s replaced the term.

Meredith: Is bad publicity really good publicity? (As in the adage, there is no such thing as bad publicity)?

Claire: It depends a bit on the kind of publicity you receiving.  Negative book reviews are never good, but a public argument or controversy about your subject or a tangential topic can be good for raising awareness about you, the book, and your ideas in general.

Meredith: With so many people using various communication methods (YouTube, Constant Contact, websites, texts, Facebook) what can authors do to set themselves apart? And when should the process begin? 

Claire: I think the way to set yourself apart as an author is to decide what it is YOU are sharing with the world with your work no matter the genre.  Are you trying to help people? Enlighten? Entertain?  Then consider what you feel comfortable doing.  You might like writing in 140 character blocks or love to be on camera or writing personal essays, speaking in front of an audience, etc.  Pick your media forms and then either feed them content or approach them from a place of integrity–with the work and with yourself.  People can tell the difference between someone who is faking it and someone who is real.

As to when the process should start?  As soon as you are finished with the book if not before.  It depends a bit on which media you choose but no matter what, starting to build yourself and your “brand” will help to set you apart.

Meredith: Has self-promotion interfered with real promotion of books by overexposing a person or a work to the extent that people are sick of receiving word? I think this is a question on the minds of a lot of writers.

Claire: I think again, if you consider your promotion as a way of sharing ideas, you will be perceived less as a salesperson. Keep you and the book a bit separate at first so that the awareness of the subject and/or story can build out from what you’ve started.  Don’t start marketing the book specifically, until about four months ahead of publication.  Also, if you have a contact list that you are going to enlist to help you get the word out, divide those names into groups: People who will want to know you have a book coming; People who may be interested in the book; People who can help you get media attention; Colleagues/Professionals.  The first group will want to know right away; the second and third closer to the book’s publication; and the final may only want to receive a note about the book when it’s finished or even a signed copy with a personal note tucked inside.

[Thank you, Claire!]

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Alexandra

This was especially interesting to me because I just self-published my dad’s memoir, a book that deserves to be read, and am now struggling with the organization of its promotion. I would love to hire someone like Claire, but money is an issue. So, I make do. Lots of ideas, just so much energy and time. Also, the whole challenge of figuring out the self-publishing process the first time. For instance, just learned writers should post Amazon previews three weeks before publication. Every little bit helps, so thanks to Claire, for sharing these tips, and to you, Meredith, for interviewing her!

Sheryl

I will hold onto all of this good advice if I ever go ahead and publish the book that’s been in my head for ten years!

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