Why Your Publicist Should Think Like a Novelist

It probably happens each time you sit down to write: You have a plan, an idea of where you want your story to go. But as soon as the words start to flow, your idea changes slightly or another one pops into your mind. Since you’ll be obsessed with it unless you at least explore it, your plan has to change.

This is a lot like the process good publicists go through when planning and leading a campaign. That’s because fundamentally, PR is a creative story-telling exercise. Think about it: a publicist’s job is to find ways to tell the media and readers about your book.

The first step is crafting a brief but grabbing story about it. But this writing project is just the beginning of the creative journey involved in figuring out who among the gazillions of reporters and readers out there might want to hear this story, which particular aspects of it some might be more interested in than others, and how to re-tell the story in various ways depending on this.

Most often, ways to retell and re-frame a story come to mind only after a campaign has begun, once real reporters and real people have become engaged in live conversations about your book. And with each new conversation, new ideas spring up about other people or news outlets to contact beyond the initial list built for this purpose. For yes, there really, truly are gazillions.

Soon this creative process takes on a life of its own. Just like with novel-writing, it can give publicists a terrific buzz, wake us up in the middle of the night, drive us to email ourselves notes while standing in line at the supermarket or yell, “Shut up, I’m busy thinking!” to our kids when outwardly, we seem to be doing nothing more than washing dishes. And just like with novel-writing, there is potentially no end.

Some PR firms manage this potential for infinity by setting rigid parameters on campaigns before they start. They pick one or two written pieces to use (usually a press release and/or email pitch) build a press list, send out the release or pitch, make some phone calls and then move on. From a business point of view it makes perfect sense: after all, each hour has a price tag and there’s only so much any individual or organization can do.

But as the publishing and media environments continue to transform, we publicists, too, need to innovate – every minute of the day. More than ever, it is our creativity – our near-obsessive passion for exploring news ideas and our equally obsessive, fiction-writerly love of telling stories – that in the end will make all the difference for your book.