I want to tell you that my book, Fault Lines: Journeys into the New South Africa (University of California Press), was so irresistible that the pop culture mavens took one look at the title and sprinted for the phones to book me for shows. And that the reason I was interviewed on Fresh Air, Talk of the Nation and in other national media is that I am brilliant and good looking.
But I can’t.
The truth is this: without the publicity efforts of Gail Leondar-Wright, my book might well have suffered the sad fate of so many titles- dead on arrival. The best thing about Gail is that she was as enthusiastic about my book as I was. So when she picked up the phone to contact media outlets, I knew that she was conveying just as much (if not more) energy and excitement about me and my work as I would have. The result was a wonderfully hectic schedule of interviews following publication of my book. That, in turn, led to selling out the first printing of Fault Lines in eight weeks, and the all-important chance for me to leverage this exposure into pursuing interesting future projects. It was, frankly, just about everything I hoped for.
There are many reasons not to hire Gail. I know, because I considered them all: I can’t afford a publicist. I can do this myself. Or the in-house publicist will do everything for free. We all have these thoughts. Just don’t make the mistake of believing them.
The magic publicity window for a book is three months following publication. Miss it at your peril. The reality was that I did not have the time or know-how to make the myriad contacts that Gail made for me in that insanely brief time period. The publisher’s staff publicist had to divide her energy among 90 titles that spring; I greatly appreciated all 1/90 of her attention. As for money, Gail worked with me to tailor a publicity program that fit my budget. Sure it was a stretch — by the time our books are published, we authors are all broke. But I had worked for three years on Fault Lines. Hiring Gail Leondar-Wright and ensuring that my book got attention, and not just published, was one of the best investments I’ve made.