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Friday, January 27, 2006

Interview with Publicist Rebeca Seitz

First off, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us.

No problem! I can talk about publicity all day long. Thanks for the opportunity!

You’re a writer as well as publicist, is that right? What do you write?

I began my career in the CBA world as a writer. I wrote for newspapers, magazines, and anthologies while working on a southern novel in my spare time.

The phenomenal author Eva Marie Everson took me under her wing and showed me the ropes in the industry. With her guidance, I got my first real bite from a publisher for my novel. Trouble was – Eva seemed way more excited about the possibility of my novel being published than I was.

That was my big clue that perhaps I was supposed to do something else in the publishing industry. I put writing to the side and started learning about the other job paths I could take in publishing.

How did you get started in publicity?

It seems the people around me were much smarter about my future than I. My high school journalism teacher, Mrs. Pam Harris, told me I had the gift of writing. She encouraged me to major in communications when I went off to college, so I declared that major alongside my true love at the time – political science. (I wanted to be a U.S. Senator.)

When I began attending college, Drs. Jerald Ogg and Robert Nanney opened my eyes to the possibilities of a career in communications and encouraged me to concentrate my studies in the area of publicity. Years later, the guidance provided by these people would prove helpful when I went to work at WestBow Press, the fiction division of Thomas Nelson Publishers. I applied for the publicist position at WestBow not long after having the epiphany that writing a novel wasn’t my particular calling at the time. My background in publicity, coupled with my absolute love of fiction, provided the perfect preparation to be WestBow’s publicist.

Would you like to tell us a little about your company, Glass Road?

Again, God placed people in my life to steer me down the path He had for me. I was very happily serving as the publicist of WestBow Press, loving the team I was working with and the authors I represented. Four months into my marriage, my husband and I discovered we were expecting. I knew I couldn’t keep up the pace I had set for myself in the office and still be a mom.

Some women are remarkably adept at handling the workplace and motherhood. I’m not one of them. I knew I would need to change my schedule so that I could be at home with the baby and continue to be a publicist. After months of searching and praying, Jennifer Willingham – then VP of Marketing and Publicity at Thomas Nelson and my boss – asked me if I had considered forming my own firm.

I scoffed at the idea. Leaving my beloved authors and team at WestBow hadn’t occurred to me.

After a few more weeks with no solution for being able to spend time at home with my new son, Jennifer again brought up the idea. I took it to my father-in-law, an amazing man who proved his acumen in the business world as a Vice President for Northern Trust Bank and someone who has always been very honest with me regarding his opinions.

I asked if he thought I would be suited to running my own business and he didn’t hesitate. He cheered me on from the sidelines and still calls me every couple of weeks to find out what exciting new things we have going on at the firm. He loves it when we get clients on Good Morning America or we have Oprah taking a look at our books.

I opened the doors of Glass Road on May 1, 2005. By that Fall, we had clients from nearly all the major publishing houses. It just exploded. I had no idea there was such a demand for a firm that specializes solely in publicity for novelists. Once again, God knew my future and put people in place to point me in the right direction.

What’s the difference between marketing and publicity?

There is an easy way to tell if an initiative is marketing or publicity-driven. If you have to pay for the placement, it’s marketing. If you don’t, it’s publicity. For example, purchasing advertisements in a magazine is the responsibility of marketing directors. Getting reporters to write features about authors and trends in the marketplace is the responsibility of publicists. When the two areas work together, huge effects can occur.

Do you find publishing companies are doing most of the publicity work or are authors taking on the bulk of their own campaigns these days?

It’s different at different publishing houses. I think authors are becoming more savvy regarding the opportunities open to them. They’re learning the importance of publicity and marketing and are asking their publishers how they can partner with them to achieve greater results. We’ve contracted directly with authors, with publishing houses, and a combination thereof.

What can an author do to make your job easier?

Route all ideas through us. I love it when authors have ideas for publicity or relationships with media that they’d like to use to garner publicity. However, it reflects poorly on everyone involved when the primary publicist isn’t aware of contacts the author has made and goes to the same location.

Also, we truly appreciate it when authors are clear about their expectations on the front end. If you’re expecting to get your book considered by Oprah, then say that in the beginning so that we can talk about the realistic expectations of that happening.

What would be a dream campaign for you?

A blank check and twelve months lead time with an unknown author who wants to be a bestseller and has a well-written book.

How difficult is it to get good publicity?

More difficult than one would think, I’d bet. As with any profession, there are good and bad publicists out there. Just as authors research their agents and publishing houses, they should research publicity firms. Ask where the firm has achieved hits, what authors it has represented, and what it would do if given your campaign. A good firm will be able to point to its relationships and results to bolster its claim of credibility. Also, be certain to ask what books the firm has represented that are like yours. If you write novels and the firm only represents nonfiction or just dabbles in fiction, then recognize that you might need to look elsewhere.

Is it true that there is no such thing as bad publicity?

That depends on what result you would like your publicity to produce. If your goal is to achieve name-recognition, then there is no such thing as bad publicity. If your goal is to create a specific persona and achieve book sales, then bad publicity is anything that counteracts that persona or negatively affects book sales.

What seems to be the most effective media for novelists to get word about their books out to the public?

Print and internet. Broadcast outlets – radio and television – still remain rather closed to novelists, though we are making inroads.

I've heard of authors spending their advance on publicity. Is this something more first-time authors should consider?

If the author’s choice is to buy food or publicity, by all means head to the grocery store. If, however, the author is in a financial position to invest in his/her writing career, then I would encourage the author to invest that money in a publicity firm.

Our firm can even work with authors on a retainer basis. For a monthly fee, we cover all of the author’s publicity needs so long as the contract is in place. This is a good scenario for authors who plan to release multiple books in a year since the retainer fee is less than the cost of two campaigns and having the same firm handle all of the authors’ interests ensures continuity from book to book. I would also suggest that the author approach his/her publishing house to discuss a possible sharing of the publicity firm’s fee.

How much marketing/publicity should an author with an upcoming novel be prepared to do for herself?

Be prepared to do it all – and be pleasantly surprised when a bit of the burden is lifted by your publishing house.

How can an author gauge if what they’re doing publicity wise is working?

If the author is achieving regional hits, then the author can ask his or her publisher if sales are increasing in that particular area. Higher sales numbers would indicate that the publicity hits are driving customers into stores to purchase the book.

What is a typical day like for you?

Warning – this could scare some people. I get up sometime between 6 and 8 depending on how often my child was awake through the night. After a quick shower, I’m at my desk with South Beach Bar and caffeine in hand, checking email, calling media, and developing press materials.

If it’s Friday, I’m also reading all the publications that came in the mail through the week and preparing activity reports for clients. I take a break about three hours into it to walk around, hug my kiddo, and check in with my husband. Then it’s back to the office to communicate with publishers and authors, return phone calls, and research media outlets. I usually finish up sometime around 7 or 8pm.

I spend an hour or so with the hubby, help bathe the kiddo and put him to bed, then read novels for a couple of hours. I read every book our firm represents and many that are getting publicity hits, so there’s always a book on my bedside table. This routine is typical for every day but Sunday – we have a strict No Work Policy on Sunday.

How expensive is it for an author to hire a publicist?

Depends on the firm you hire. Expect to pay a few thousand, at least, for a comprehensive campaign. Some firms also require the client to pay expenses to a point. We don’t – the one fee covers it all – but it’s important to know that some do and that doesn’t mean they’re not legitimate firms. It’s a standard practice in the business. Also keep in mind you can ask your publisher to partner with you in hiring a firm.

What are some basic things a novelist can do to help publicize their own work?

If you do not have a publicist working your book then do the following – if you do have a publicist, he/she will probably handle these things for you. Make a list of all the media within a 50 mile radius of your home. Also list any alumni publications from schools you have attended, organization newsletters of which you’ve been a member, and church contact information for your current church and previous churches.

Ask your publisher for advance copies or actual copies of your book to send to this list. Work with your publisher to create a press release for your book and, perhaps, a canned interview with you. Include both of these, along with an introductory letter, to each of the entities on your list. Also consider doing a debut event in your hometown to highlight your book’s release.

How soon after an author hands in their manuscript to their publisher should they be planning their publicity campaign?

The day you hand it in, start thinking about publicity. Ideal publicity campaigns begin 6-8 months prior to the book’s publication.

Do you see any hot trends that novelists should be tapping to help get their work noticed?

Novelists writing from a Christian worldview are the trend right now. The Christian fiction industry topped $2 billion in sales last year – a statistic that media reps do not take lightly. I highly recommend that Christian novelists recognize their growing status in the market and capitalize on it by making their local media aware.

What’s something you wish more authors knew about your business?

I wish novelists understood that getting publicity for their books isn’t the same as getting publicity for nonfiction books. The two require completely different mindsets. Fiction publicity revolves around entertainment – which creates a much different media database than nonfiction publicity, which centers around breaking news.

Parting words?

Thanks for the opportunity to chat about publicity. When I discovered this passion of mine, an entirely new world opened up to me. I’m like a kid in a candy store most days. Finding new ways to get the word out about great novels and making new people aware of the great fiction being written by God-driven hands gives me a high like no other. Anytime I get to talk about it is a thrill!


  1. Very cool indeed. Can't wait until I actually need your services.

    Good stuff, ladies...

    Rebeca, I really dig the way you prioritize your work.

    Gina, did I mention that your site rocks?

  2. Girl, this was good.

    I've ran across so many publicists contacting me about how to promote their clients works. Not a good sign. I also provide book reviews and magazine articles for other publicists. Better for me. :)

    I really appreciate how Rebecca showed the difference between creating copy for a novelist over a non-fiction author. Great as usual.

    Mike, you are everywhere. :)

    And oh, my new site is running. The design is being tweeked. Christian Fiction Blog is running as well. I will discuss how the two shall meet later. But great work as usual.

  3. GREAT interview! Thanks, Rebeca and Gina! So informative. I really hope someday I'll need your services, too!


  4. Awesome interview full of great information! Thanks Gina and Rebeca!

  5. Thanks for sharing all this insight, Rebecca. It's always fascinating how we as authors can learn to be better stewards of our time and money for promotion. You're doing a great thing!

  6. Very informative. So this interview was like...publicity for a publicist. Very nice.

    Gina and Rebeca, thank you.

  7. Yes, perhaps I will learn to look closer when spelling names, Rebeca. And here I was thinking R.K. had it wrong ...

  8. Thanks for sharing with us, Rebecca. You gave some great information. I enjoyed meeting you in Nashville at the ACFW conference. In your interview, you said Christian fiction topped $2 billion in sales. What entity/organization/whatever said that? Reason I'm asking is, I'm gathering info on our market for a presentation, and I'd like to quote that.

  9. This was great information. Thanks, Rebeca and Gina! It was great to get a handle on what you can do for us before I need your services.

  10. Great interview. And so timely for me. Thanks.

    Like Kristy, I'd also like to know the source of the $2billion in sales last year. Also, how does that compare to years past?

  11. Great interview. It's wonderful to get an inside perspective on publicity.

    Thank you for the insights, Rebeca. If I ever need a publicist, I know where to turn to first. :-)

    Thanks for doing this interview, Gina!

  12. Great interview, Gina and Rebecca. Meeting Rebecca was a highlight for me at Nashville. She is one special and talented lady. And her kiddo is a cutie!

  13. Thanks for the kind words everyone. Rebeca did a great job. It was nice of her to give us a mini-seminar.

  14. You're all so kind! Thanks for your wonderful comments. For those wondering, the $2b statistic can be attributed to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. It's been referenced in many places. Check these out: AND
    Happy writing, everyone!!


  15. Whoops - CBA is also reporting the $2b statistic now. CBA is Christian Booksellers Association.

  16. Sorry I'm so late today, but I was busy setting up local ACFW chapters for my Zone director, Rebeca! LOL

    Great interview. I always wanted to know the whole story of your journey. Eva Marie is a fantastic encourager, isn't she?

  17. Rebeca, thanks for the insight. Like the others, I can't wait till I need/can afford to get some real kickin' publicity out there.

    Deb Kinnard

  18. Great interview, Gina and Rebeca! With the dozens of reviews I write each year and my ever-present love of fiction, this is a topic of much interest for me. I did have a few questions, though. Is a degree in communications necessary for success as a publicist? And can you become a successful freelance publicist without working for a publisher first?

  19. Katie - a degree in communications would be extremely helpful if you're interested in a career as a publicist. As many success stories will attest, though, you can achieve your dreams without a college degree. You'll simply have to deal with some roadblocks that are removed with a degree. As for working for a publisher first - no, it's not absolutely necessary but it is highly beneficial. There are things about the industry that you can learn nowhere else other than working for a publisher. My time at Thomas Nelson proved invaluable in opening my eyes to all the various aspects of publishing projects. If you're going to work in this industry, I highly recommend working for a top ten publisher prior to going out on your own.


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