I was just sitting down to write this blog post about how I feel like the cobbler’s child — you know, I do public relations all day so I don’t always feel like doing it for myself — when I received two inquiries from journalists asking for me to comment on breaking news.
In addition to PR, I write books. And as every author knows, it is more incumbent than ever on the writer to promote his or her work themselves. With publishing houses strapped and the traditional media landscape shifting daily, marketing departments cut authors loose soon after their book gets launched.
Grove/Atlantic released my first book, Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born, in 2006, when Twitter was three months old, Facebook was still for undergrads and publishing houses were still willing to send authors on 20-city tours even though buyers already were abandoning bricks-and-mortar book shopping. At the time, I started a blog, was delighted to be favorably reviewed by The New York Times, and do an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, whose impact on book buying could literally be seen by watching real-time Amazon rankings when the show aired. Her power in this regard still holds.
Today’s press inquiries that arrived in my personal inbox were related to that first book. Having spent so long positioning myself as an expert on childbirth trends, the press calls have now become unsolicited, which was the point. And here they were: French President Nicolas Sarkozy did not attend the birth of his daughter. What did it mean? What did you think? Quick, I need a good quote.
I went through the usual PR checklist with them both: Whom are you writing for (The Guardian in the UK and Newsweek/The Daily Beast) and when is your deadline (now), etc. I compiled my three keys messages before getting on the phone and made sure that, at a minimum, everyone spelled my name and the book title correctly. Easy.
What’s more difficult is maintaining the steady drip – the blog posts, the strategic tweets, the speaking opportunities – all the work that needs to be done when the media is not calling. It’s the stuff that falls to the bottom of the list when one already has a full time job (and three kids), all of which have priority over the books.
My next book, on Jacqueline Onassis, is due out next March. I feel like I’m ahead of the curve building buzz, launching a new blog and a new twitter account for that release. But the guilt is already creeping in. Did I tweet 10 times today from that account? When was my last blog post? I also need to set up an audience development platform on Facebook from Odyl (even more so because they are a new client) to help me find, engage and grow my potential audience and build sales. That’s on the list for next week.
PR has changed. But it is still a full-time job. I think I need to hire someone.