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A WHOLE PLANNER GIRLY
in which I talk about short leads and long leads, a year-long view, organizing a publicity campaign, and share my planner essentials.
While my life is truly a series of following-up and discovering new ways to say HEY, DID YOU MISS THIS? and HEY, REMEMBER ME? (No shame=no game). I thought I’d talk logistics today, which is one of the things I’m very much still learning about book publicity.
With book projects I’m constantly thinking months in advance to whatever I’m working on (while thinking about the day to day of books I’m currently pitching), and this is why book publicity always starts anywhere from four months to a year out from a publication date. It’s a lot to keep in your brain, so I simply don’t keep it all in my brain, I use a turducken of planners and organization methods to keep momentum. A publicist’s job (or an author’s job if you’re reading this with your own book in mind—you can do it!) is to think of a book from every angle, and from every degree and length. I really want to make a six degrees of separation joke, but alas.
Long lead refers to media that needs to be pitched 3-8 months out, or media with longer production times. This would be something like a glossy magazine or print magazine, a mass audience book club (Reese’s Book Club), gift guides & anticipated lists, some podcasts (y’all David Naimon of Between the Covers was into 2024 a few months ago, so I bet he’s in 2025, as he should be—that show is incredible). Some of your industry reviews (Kirkus, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly) are also in the long lead camp. Your national newspapers are often long lead (NY Times, WaPo, Boston Globe). From an author’s perspective, sometimes folks aren’t even reaching out to me that far in advance to talk publicity campaigns, so if you want to hire someone be thinking about the time they need to make your book a sucess. Long lead is two to three seasons ahead.
Short lead refers to something that can be done 6-12 weeks out. This would be your local newspapers, your local NPR station, some podcasts, weekly magazines, daily newspapers, or online media (including those that also have a glossy magazine). Short lead is also breaking news, current events—anything you have to pitch in the moment. Publicists try to predict the trends, or create them, but often we are trying to work with a news cycle. Short lead operates under a fast-turnaround.
Here’s a longer video explanation of both from Jennifer Berson of Jeneration PR.
For instance, if I want something to be considered for a Mother’s Day list, I’m pitching that in February (long lead). In October, I’m pitching long lead Valentine’s Day lists, and short-lead holiday gift guides.
Because no one really taught me this, I wanted to spare you the personal education. I learned from diligently reading guidelines and editorial calendars, and from finding Hearst media kits, only to realize they were picking the themes in each issue a year or more in advance. If you’ve ever wanted to see your book on an anticipated list, your publicist is already thinking about that at least the season before the list is set to arrive.
That being said, your publicist doesn’t want that long lead coverage right away—they’re pitching in advance in hopes that they can target most of your coverage in the month window of your book coming out. A year out doesn’t serve the rule of sevens and it doesn’t create a ton of buzz (unless you’re getting a big write-up in Bookseller or Publishers Weekly about how big your deal was—$$$, or how you’ve sold rights for film or foreign. And even then, we want to use that coverage to fuel more coverage closer to the pub date).
Right now, a year out from a few projects, I’m pitching one Fall 2023 book to museum speaker series; I’m organizing media lists for Summer & Fall anticipated lists (which I will have to vet closer to pitching because staff writers, journalists, and freelancers are always shuffling around in media); I’m working on a pitch for a big interview to align with a Kickstarter campaign for a new press; I’m creating a timeline of writing conferences, comic cons, bookseller alliances and writing festivals across the US for 2023; I’m working on pitches for celebrity book clubs; and I’m gathering materials for sales meetings.
I’m currently pitching books forthcoming in February and March. Gayle Brandeis’ incredible essay collection, drawing breath, comes out February 7, 2023 so in September / October, I’ve been pitching long lead & anticipated lists, I’ve sent to all industry reviews (there are … eight outlets for this on my list), and I’ve sent to the national newspapers and magazines that do strong book coverage.
In November, I’ll be pitching a specific story to a few larger radio & broadcast shows. Three(ish)months out I’ll be reaching out to bookstores for events & asking them about carrying the book (the timeline on this was WILD in 2022 because bookstores were handling books that came out from 2020-2022 and it felt like a free for all). Since the book has quite a few essays about mid-life desire, I’ll be pitching some Valentine’s lists in November. I’m also working on pitching a few companion essays that Gayle has written. Since the book has quite a few previously published essays (it spans 20 years of Brandeis’ writing), I’m not pitching excerpts for this one.
I’m working on a poetry collection, Hillbilly Madonna by Sara Moore Wagner that comes out in November, so I’ve been doing endless follow-ups for that in October, and timing the coverage that she has coming up, as well as finding editors & outlets to promote or invite to her launch events. She’s also been working on some craft essays that we’ll try to place soon (they are in response, so they are coming later than we would normally pitch these). We’ve been submitting the book to awards in the quiet time of follow-ups, and looking at poetry festivals where Sara can speak and promote the book in 2023.
Alice Kaltman’s story collection, Almost Deadly, Almost Good, also pubs in November (the 22nd!), and we’re finalizing details for her launch event at P&T Knitwear, I’ve been pitching reading series near her, and doing follow-ups using her sins and virtues preorder campaign.
I have a few other poetry collections coming out in March & April that I can’t share yet because they are just getting cover reveals now—so exciting, more soon!
Meanwhile, Lessons & Carols by John West comes out May 2023 and is on my mind as he’s working on a data essay about how he wrote a fragmented memoir (the visuals are *so cool* y’all, I can’t wait to share), we’re pulling excerpts to start placing, and for the last two months we’ve been reaching out about blurbs. I read the book in August, took too many notes, and have been working on his media lists. This is maybe a hint at how far in advance you should reach out to a publicist you might like to work with. (I hear all you MFA folks really like Maggie Nelson, so West’s Lessons & Carols should be your new obsession).
As you can imagine, sometimes I don’t sleep.
But that’s where being a meticulous (particular) planner-person comes into play for me. I was an elite swimmer growing up and it taught me everything I know about time management (because I didn’t have time for bullshit. Which also makes me very bad at relaxation, pluses and minuses, you know?). The elite sports to planner-girly timeline is probably steep for so many of us.
So, here’s how I organize these timelines:
I have a giant wall calendar in my office with every single day of the year on it. I need this huge view or I will truly become so stressed my eyes start twitching. I love this one & this one from Once Upon a Tuesday UK, and also this one which breaks down by month because I usually hang three months at a time on my closet (office) door. Poketo has something similar here. Schoolhouse (endlessly hipster) has one as well. Before I knew these existed, I just used a butcher paper roll with to-do lists for the month I was in, and I’ve seen people use white boards in the same way. I’ve been tempted to use my big window as a sort of white board, but then even the view to the outside would be work and that sounds miserable.
This year I’m going to attempt to use a Laurel Denise Project Planner, it allows four project spaces a month, and then the back pages look like the image below, which I really love. Honestly, I would probably just buy restocks of these project pages and put them in my own binder (hey Laurel Denise!). They’re already so helpful for remembering each major task for a book’s publicity campaign, and the dates I’m working through each.
My everyday planner is also Laurel Denise because you can see your month, weekly, and notes all on one page which is a game-changer. I used this task planner in 2022, but I found myself wanting to fill the task space, and I don’t need more to do than I already have.
If I was a time chunking person, which I sort of am—I would buy this planner probably. I use the Forest Focus app to Pomodoro my way through a day (and keep myself from trying to answer every email as soon as it comes in).
In my most particular stance of this post, I only use these erasable .38 Pilot pens. I definitely got sucked into the Tiktok study aesthetic highlighter and I love them. Everything else I use, and I mean everything, comes from MochiThings. Best sticky notes. The notebooks I use to track meeting & call notes. I have also used these to track all my calls for a year. I haven’t figured out how to use these 24 hour pads yet, but I absolutely would. It would be cool to track something in them, especially for writers. And when all else fails, get yourself a weekly or daily desk pad and just jot everything down there. Papier has them too, as does Ink & Volt.
On the interwebs, my Google calendar is a god in my life, and I don’t know how any of you have that Calend.ly thing—my current rule (boundary!) is that Wednesday’s are for meetings and I don’t schedule meetings on any other days. It’s worked so far. It means I have five meetings every Wednesday, but I get work done on actual other days. I use Trello to look at every campaign for the year, color code publication dates, color code who’s working on what books (between Zoe and I) and analyze each month’s work. I use Air Table for anything I would do in excel (media lists, arc requests, galleys, social media schedules, notes to myself about reviewers or authors, etc). I use the free version of Buffer to schedule out social media (they give you ten posts for free and that’s plenty, I’m not a social media manager). Here’s another planner thread if you need more.
See what I mean about a Turducken? I wish I could have ONE thing. I thought maybe I could with Google Calendar and the tasks & reminders, but I am someone who has a brain that needs to write things down to remember them. If this is you, I’m sending love & paper products.
One of my favorite new writers Mike Nagel wrote about Amy Fusselman’s The Mean$ for his Little Engines column, “The Unintentionalist”
Upcoming Pine State events:
Anne K. Yoder & Amy Fusselman at Volumes (in Chicago) on November 10, 2022
Anne K. Yoder & Exhibit B 312 Reading Series on November 16, 2022 (Chicago)
Erin Langner with Jen Graves at Seattle Town Hall on November 30, 2022
NKU English presents (girl)hoods & hollers with Sara Moore Wagner & Pauletta Hansel
Hillbilly Madonna by Sara Moore Wagner release event with Roebling Books in Kentucky