Interview with a publicist (Chastity Lovely, Henry Holt)

Chastity Lovely, who currently works for my publisher Henry Holt as a publicist, was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions.

Let’s start simply with how does one become a publicist?

Man, I don’t even know how to answer that one. I think a lot of people fall into it. They find something they love and want to do, but the obvious positions may not be that appealing. Like in book publishing: I love books, but knew that I never wanted to become an editor, so I looked for the other options and there was the publicist—glamorous and stressed out. And I thought, that’s what I want to be.

How many books/authors are you in charge of at any one time, generally?

Normally I am working with 6-8 authors at one time. Because publicity campaigns begin about 4-5 months before a book goes on-sale, I’m always working with a number of authors in varying stages of the publishing and promotion process.

With the changing landscape of media and publishing, I imagine a publicist’s job is continually evolving. I know you haven’t been a publicist for eons, but what changes have you already witnessed? What changes do you foresee?

Hands-down, I’d say the disappearance of newspaper outlets. Even within 3 years, tons of regional papers have folded or cut their book review sections entirely. Each paper use to write their own reviews, now they rely on reviews from the major papers that come on the wire. Its gotten even worse this year with the major papers cutting back as well—like the disappearance of the stand alone Washington Post  Book World and the reduction of the San Francisco Chronicle’s review section. This has also meant searching out new ways to push for books, like online and social networking sites; a lot of big name freelancers have started or now write for new book blogs and it has been great to maintain some of those connections. But, at the end of the day, everything is just a lot harder—we still have the same number of books but far fewer outlets to cover them.

If there was one thing you wish all authors knew going into a publicist/author relationship, what would it be?

This is a tough one. I think a great thing that authors should know is a lot of publicity is about waiting and patience. A publicist’s job is to take information out to the media and try and garner their interest. But, there can be a lot of lag time during that conversation—and even though your book is a priority for your publicist, reviewers and producers are working on their own schedule, so its as much about being patient as it is to be vigilant. So, definitely being a patient but helpful author will be a godsend for any publicist.

Your office is in the flatiron building. The building technically isn’t flat, and I didn’t see a whole lot of iron. What gives?

Is it awful to admit I have no idea why this building is called the flatiron? I know it was a technological wonder in 1902, with beautiful hydraulic elevators to reach its 21 floors—which apparently were still used until the late nineties and would on occasion flood the basement. I’d say it’s more terracotta than anything else, and its best feature is definitely the façade and of course, its economical use of space.

What’s it like working with the fabulous Paul Tremblay?

Are you allowed to ask that question?

Yes.

I was pretty disappointed in your general pleasant disposition and reasonableness. It really throws one off to have a talented and nice author to work with. I kept asking people, when is he going to go nuts? And it never happened. In short, you ruined my spring. Thanks, Paul. Thanks.

Aw, shucks.  And thank you, Chastity, for taking the time to answer the questions!

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