But first, you can always request a Pine State book for review or interview here. And know more about our projects here.
My mother-in-law signed me up for a ton of magazine subscriptions when she was still teaching in the NC school system (you know, fundraising!), and I used to throw them on top of our toilet for #2 (powder room) reading (does this make it sound fancy?) and not think twice about them. Sometimes my mom would rip out a recipe from Southern Living, I would admire or scoff at the newest cover of Vogue, or BJ would half-complete a New Yorker crossword, but that would be the extent of our reading tour. I’ll admit I signed up for the New Yorker when it was *cheap* around the holidays just so I could get past the paywall online (you would not believe how many subscriptions you need just to get access to a byline as a publicist, but I digress).
And it’s worse with those local magazines full of Domino’s Pizza coupons. We always think, ah yes, let’s save those, and then we remember that we live out of range for all delivery and neither of us is driving into town for carryout.
Those coupon-magazines, local brochures with realtor faces, and neighborhood pages usually go flying into the recycle bin at our house. I don’t even walk down the garage stairs, I just open the door and fling. Except, last week, I got a copy of North Carolina Field & Family and thought Huh! I bet Sara Johnson Allen would make a rad interview for this one. Allen is a farmer’s granddaughter (from a little town outside of Wilmington) writing about so much, including the constant change of scenery for rural farmlands and rural communities. From wheat stalks to strip malls. I grew up where a whole highway used to be cows and this tumble-down gas station. Anyway, for Field & Family, she fits right in. So, I took pictures of every interview for the byline, sent them to Zoe and we got to work on a pitch.
Why am I telling you this, you might be asking? Well, because I think sometimes publicity can get a little stale. With everyone sending books to the same twenty national magazine and newspaper editors, the same list of two-hundred folks at the same media outlets, pitching the same bookstore event coordinators in the major cities—staying inside the “literary landscape” can feel a bit like watching a soda can be crushed in slow motion. But that “stay in your lane” mentality also means staying within a predetermined audience, no tentacles, just a slow poke of the same ol’ bear.
(An example of staying in my lane and fumbling. I saw Jon Roth wrote about Jac Jemc in Esquire on Jemc’s pub date. I would have never pitched him a book because it looks like he is mostly a fashion writer. And yet… the next turtleneck-friendly book I come across for Pine State, he’s getting a copy. I already followed him on Twitter, I’m ready).
I’m going to be honest, it’s not our thing at Pine State to stay in a lane usually—though of course we pitch that usual media. But really we’re always trying to find the next weird avenue, the next challenge, the place that maybe hasn’t even spoken to an author before but would be open to an interview. The place to BROADEN the audience for BOOKS. You know, the audiences publishers are always saying, “don’t read.”
Here’s an example of another attempt: this week, I’m chatting with a bunch of communication officers at national sorority offices to see if they want to start book clubs for their chapters. It’s for a specific book on our list, of course, but also because if colleges can have freshman reads and books of the year, then sororities and fraternities might also like the optics (and the books). Let’s sell some books! (I’m probably far from the first publicist to do this, but I think it’s going to be fun). Notice I said “attempt” because everything we do, literally everything, is trial and error.
Zoe and I aren’t in the NYC publishing scene—we’re never going to run into a literary editor at The Atlantic with a glass of champagne in our hands. Sometimes we pitch books with memes and tweet screenshots, our press kits are … pizazzy instead of industry-standard, our pitches change iterations and pivot constantly when we have a new, best idea. And this is what you want from a publicist, I think. I’ve never had one, so take this with a grain of salt—but do you really want someone who’s just going to e-blast one pitch out to the same contingent and hope it hits? And what spots are you missing in your own DIY book publicity? Think past, present and futures.
Zoe and I are working on a book by the first author I ever, ever did a solo publicity campaign for, Kerry Chaput (love her, love her work—it’s gritty, and adventurous, and nostalgic without being stagnant or stuck in the past—she’s also very cool on TikTok), and when I tell you Chasing Eleanor is the *perfect* YA novel for any girl who wanted an American Girl Doll growing up, or read the American Girl Doll books, knew of the AGD universe, whatever-whatever + like mad adventure & whatever the opposite of Ford tough is & fortitude. But it’s our job to figure out how to reach that audience, to find them and pursue them. How to refresh the stale: scheme, team up and scheme.
Now this doesn’t always work for us. The game is hard to change up, and publishing in general is nothing without its “traditions.” Some people probably don’t like to see us in their inboxes (whoops!) and sometimes our pitches are too long or too short or too odd or too conversational or too many adjectives or our ask isn’t close enough to the top, but my hope is that in finding ways to challenge the status quo of publishing, we make the net wider for people coming up. I’m constantly fighting the urge to make my pitches read more like the pitches that land in my own inbox. Where’s the fun in that? All we can do is learn as we go, try to build on connections, and continue being warm, opening, and sometimes bizarre. That’s all any of us are doing, right? Making space for the what-if.
SOME GOOD THINGS:
Eugenia Leigh’s harrowing essay, “Mental Illness Made My First Year as a Mother Excruciating, I’m Just Lucky it Wasn’t Worse” came out in TIME.
Pine State had an author in every genre on this month’s SPD Bestseller Lists, including (fiction) Anne K. Yoder, (poetry) Emily Stoddard, and (nonfiction) Erin Langner.
Gayle Brandeis released her 20+ year collection, Drawing Breath with interviews in Shondaland, Hippocampus, Oldster, and The Rumpus (+ more forthcoming!) an event at City Lit, reviews in Chicago Review of Books, Publishers Weekly, and New City Lit, shout outs in Buzzfeed, Library Journal and Publishers Marketplace, a forthcoming essay, and two forthcoming virtual events, and an event with Emily Maloney at the Book Stall on May 18. There’s so much more happening here and I can’t wait to share it with you all.
KB Brookins had four poems in the newest issue of Poetry Magazine
Jenny Sadre-Orafai’s collection Dear Outsiders has sold out of its first print run and isn’t even out! (Amazing, congrats Jenny!) It’s received really great reviews in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Poetry Question, and Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Books too!
Pine State clients have almost fifty events between now and end of May, so we hope to see you in cities across the US—check out the calendar here (does not include AWP).
I can't wait for the day I can hire y'all.
Everything sounds like fun and excitement at Pine State Publicity. Keep it up, and you will never be "stale".