Monthly Archives: April 2015

Interview with a Literary Publicist

Back before HARPER Voyager purchased Beyond Redemption I both heard and read a lot about what it was like to be published by a major publisher. Most of it was bad. Here is the super-fast summary: Unless you are already famous, they don’t care about you, they won’t talk to you, they won’t promote you, you will have no say in anything, you are doomed, you should self-publish, everything is going to hell, fire and brimstone.

I can’t talk for other big publishers as this is the only one I’ve had experience with, but my experience has not been like that at all. I was consulted regarding the art cover, and choice of artists. During the editing David Pomerico (Editorial Director) and I were in constant contact. Now that we’re past that stage I chat weekly with publicist Caroline Perny and we’re still a few months off from the release date when, apparently, things will get really nuts. The staff, particularly Rebecca Lucash, have been amazing about answering my questions (what the heck is a cover mechanical?) and walking me through the entire process. They’ve shared early drafts of cover art and book covers, and even let me rewrite the back of book blurb!

They even took the time to mail me a print copy of the Publishers Weekly issue the Beyond Redemption starred review appeared in! Like, how cool is that!

I know far more about publishing now than I did, and they are the reason. That said, there’s still a lot I don’t know.

This is a cover-mechanical!

This is a cover-mechanical. I should also add that this is the first draft.

This interview was really an excuse to ask a bunch of questions I really didn’t know the answers to.

And so…

Who are you, who do you work for, what do you do there?

I’m Caro, I’m a publicist at HarperCollins Publishers, and I work in the William Morrow division on mostly genre fiction. Namely, romance and SFF, in our (extremely excellent) Avon and Harper Voyager imprints. I get to spread the nerd love!

What does the job entail?

This is kind of a broad question. In very general terms, publicity handles things that you pitch, rather than things you pay for, like ads (that would be marketing). I interact with traditional media like newspapers, radio, TV, etc., but also with a lot of online, genre-focused outlets, and a lot of blogs.

The fun does not stop there, though—there’s event planning, too! That goes for anything from a signing at a bookstore, to appearances at conventions. Side note: I LOVE conventions, and getting to attend them as part of my job is the cat’s meow. Then there’s also a mishmash of other things, like coordinating social media stunts, interactive events, and working with our super-readers, to name a few.

I see myself as an advocate for the books I work on. It’s my job to get them out there to the right readers and the loudest voices in the genre. I talk about books to the people who will then talk about them to more people, and get more people to read them.

How many books do you work with at once?

Ermmmm…a lot. In any given month I’m usually assigned to about 4 books, but we work on books for much longer than just their on-sale month, so it varies. When I first started, my boss told me I’d have to learn to juggle—but it’s never boring.

How do you handle interesting books that contain things not for all audiences (you know, like sex-fiend cannibals…) Do you have to change a few tactics in order to cope with less family friendly books?

Generally speaking, I don’t work on so many books that would be considered “family friendly,” whether it’s a choose-your-own-adventure style erotica novel, or a grimdark novel starring a certain infamous sex-fiend cannibal. I always try to pick out what about a book it is that I love so much, what it is that stands out about it. That helps me position it to myself, and figure out what my personal publicity goals are for any given title.

We don’t really do one-size-fits-all campaigns at Harper Voyager and Avon, so I always change my tactics. Media changes every day, and so does the industry, and so should publicity plans. The more I can analyze the book in my head, the more I can mold my campaign to be the most effective. I wouldn’t send a historical romance to an epic fantasy reviewer, despite the fact that I happen to love both.

Do you bring your work home?

Yes. All the time. I have always been a big reader, and that hasn’t changed since I started working in publishing. I read on the subway, when I can’t sleep, when commercial breaks bore me to tears…all the time. It so happens that a lot of what I read is either for work, or related to my work. So in that sense, I definitely take my work home.

Also, publicists can never really be “off.” If I have an author travelling, and she gets delayed for an event, then I need to deal with that. Ditto for a media opportunity. It’s one of the weird side-effects of the internet age that you don’t completely disconnect all that frequently. I do try not to answer emails over the weekend, though.

Do you actually read every book you work with?


You work with authors to promote them. What is the one thing you wish they’d do/say/ask?

There’s one BIG thing: talk to me! The most successful campaigns I’ve worked on, there’s been a lot of communication between the author and publicist. I like knowing who you’re reaching out to, as an author, so that I don’t double-pitch. I like to know if you’ve planned an event on your own, or an interview.

It’s nice to know what the author I’m working with really is looking for, what will make them happiest. I have an author who is especially excited any time she gets local press from the area she grew up in, because it means a lot to her. That’s not to say that I won’t reach out and try to get as much of a variety of press as possible, but prioritizing does help. Talking with my authors also gives me more insight into how they came up with and wrote their book, who they are as a person. That’s helpful in pitching, but I’m just a nerd girl at heart. I like talking to my authors because it’s the coolest kind of backstage pass.

Thank-you Caro for taking the time to do this interview!

Uh…how does one normally end a blog post?

A Starred Review from Publishers Weekly

Beyond Redemption just got a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Cool, I thought, but what is a starred review and who the heck is Publishers Weekly?

And so, after thirty seconds of googling:

Publisher’s Weekly: (lifted from Wikipedia): Publishers Weekly (PW) is an American weekly trade news magazine  targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents.

This is one of the (if not the) main magazines booksellers and librarians look at when deciding what to stock on their shelves. In theory, such a review might result in increased book sales. Here’s hoping.

A Starred Review: (lifted from Publishers Weekly) A starred review indicates a book of outstanding quality.

Whu? My mad little novel, outstanding? Bah ha!

PW Starred Review

A Novel in Three Months

While writing The All Consuming I happened upon Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It struck a chord in me in a way that no other book on writing had. And I’ve read my share. King talked about the need to gather momentum, to ride the wave of inspiration until the first draft of a novel was finished. He said his goal was always to finish a first draft in three months. To me, this sounded like madness.

As I contemplated attempting this madness, a few things became immediately obvious:

  • There would be no watching TV/movies during writing time.
  • There would be no playing computer games during writing time.
  • I would need a lot of coffee.


It took me a year and a half to finish the first draft of my first novel, 88. I spent two years editing and rewriting as I tried to find a publisher, and another year editing and rewriting once I’d signed a deal with Five Rivers.

My second novel, Beyond Redemption, took a year to write and another year to edit. After HARPER Voyager bought the book I spent several months working with Executive Editor, David Pomerico to further polish the manuscript.

My third novel, The All Consuming, I wrote in nine months and I was amazed. It was suddenly entirely possible I could write and edit one novel a year.

And then I read King’s book. Three months. Madness. But everything else King said rang true. Like me he write without much of a plan, allowing the novel to take him where it would. I had to try. I would write When Far-Gone Dead Return, the sequel to Beyond Redemption, in three months.

I set a goal. I did the math. Ten thousand words a week. If I did that, I would have 120,000 words in twelve weeks. Here is what the reality of that looked like…

Date Start Count
EndCount Daily Count
Jan 15, 15 3350 5797 2447
Jan 16, 15 5797 8879 3082
Jan 17, 15 8879 10525 1646
Jan 19, 15 10525 12080 1555
Jan 20, 15 12080 13763 1683
Jan 21, 15 13588 13992 404
Jan 22, 15 13992 17000 3008
Jan 23, 15 16084 20249 4165
Jan 24, 15 0
Jan 25, 15 0
Jan 26, 15 19050 21987 2937
Jan 27, 15 21799 25703 3904
Jan 28, 15 25236 28937 3701
Jan 29, 15 28669 30491 1822
Jan 30, 15 29733 32491 2758
Jan 31, 15 0
Feb 1, 15 0
Feb 2, 15 31956 35424 3468
Feb 3, 15 33943 36251 2308
Feb 4, 15 35048 37252 2204
Feb 5, 15 36881 36881 0
Feb 6, 15 36881 38733 1852
Feb 7, 15 38733 40355 1622
Feb 8, 15 0
Feb 9, 15 40355 42800 2445
Feb 10, 15 42800 45808 3008
Feb 11, 15 45415 47843 2428
Feb 12, 15 47320 49949 2629
Feb 13, 15 49308 52936 3628
Feb 14, 15 0
Feb 15, 15 0
Feb 16, 15 52173 52173 0
Feb 17, 15 52173 55718 3545
Feb 18, 15 53466 57559 4093
Feb 19, 15 0
Feb 20, 15 57559 60301 2742
Feb 21, 15 0
Feb 22, 15 0
Feb 23, 15 58596 60206 1610
Feb 24, 15 59981 61701 1720
Feb 25, 15 0
Feb 26, 15 0
Feb 27, 15 61701 64227 2526
Feb 28, 15 63170 65540 2370
Mar 1, 15 0
Mar 2, 15 65540 68654 3114
Mar 3, 15 68654 70540 1886
Mar 4, 15 70540 73893 3353
Mar 5, 15 0
Mar 6, 15 73893 76393 2500
Mar 7, 15 0
Mar 8, 15 0
Mar 9, 15 76393 77979 1586
Mar 10, 15 77979 78039 60
Mar 11, 15 78306 81616 3310
Mar 12, 15 81616 81783 167
Mar 13, 15 81783 86590 4807
Mar 14, 15 0
Mar 15, 15 0
Mar 16, 15 85988 90003 4015
Mar 17, 15 87987 91620 3633
Mar 18, 15 90641 94567 3926
Mar 19, 15 94567 96104 1537
Mar 20, 15 93550 98306 4756
Mar 21, 15 0
Mar 22, 15 98306 98319 13
Mar 23, 15 98319 103197 4878
Mar 24, 15 102076 107748 5672
Mar 25, 15 106075 108499 2424

You’ll note it’s a tad shy of 120,000 words, but that I finished in ten weeks instead of twelve. There remain some descriptions and scenes to flesh out a bit (I call that editing, not first draft writing) and I’ll probably write a ‘What has Gone Before’ for folks who haven’t read Beyond Redemption recently. I will also write an Epilogue.

If you really have an eye for detail and actually studied the above chart you will have noticed that some days started with a lower word count than the previous day ended. This is because for this novel I sketched out a rough guideline for the upcoming few chapters before writing them. I planned, but never more than three or four chapters (and this is a ~36 chapter novel) in advance. I wrote over my notes, and deleted them after tallying my daily count. My actual total word count for those twelve months: 121,772.

For the most part I wrote Monday through Friday and weekends were for my family. The odd time they left me home alone, I dashed for the office to squeeze a few words in. During the week the earliest I could start was often 9am, and I rarely was able to write later than 4pm.

Did I hold down a real job while doing this? Uh…no, not really.

Am I happy? Oh fuck yes.