Today I bring you guys a very special treat in the form of an interview with my dear friend Ayelet Gruenspecht, Publicist and Marketer at the Crown imprint of Random House, the biggest publishing house of them all. As you can see, Ayelet’s not only been in the business a while, but she seriously knows her stuff, especially when it comes to working with social media and author branding. (Of course, all opinions are Ayelet’s own and are not a reflection of any employers, past or present. However, Ayelet and I both share the opinions that Gilmore Girls and Now and Then and steak are all really good things, so if she happens to express that in here know that those are opinions of both of ours.)
What do you do in publishing, and how long have you been doing it for?
I got my first job in publishing 4 1/2 years ago… with Dahlia’s help! Now, I do publicity and marketing at Random House. Previously I did publicity and marketing at Simon & Schuster, but I did them separately. One of the great things about my new job is that I get to do both.
What genres/books have you read as part of your job that you would never have picked up otherwise?
I actually keep a clear distinction between what I read for work and what I read for pleasure. One genre I never would have picked up on my own is romance. I had never read a romance novel before I got into publishing. I have to say that over the past few years, I have become such an advocate for them and have introduced new people to the genre, and now have a real fondness for them.
What should authors know about how to use social media to their advantage?
Now that there are new ways to measure what goes on on the various social media platforms, Twitter and Facebook are more important than ever. I used to encourage authors to join and could only provide anecdotal evidence to support why it was so important. Now there are stats. I’m still waiting for the day when we can show exactly how many books are sold as a result of all this hard work, but in the meantime, authors should focus on voice and persona. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me “but no one wants to know what i ate for breakfast,” I could buy breakfast for all of my Twitter followers. You are right that what you eat isn’t important and isn’t newsworthy. But people do want to know what interests you and what you enjoy doing. People want to connect with their favorite authors and expand the experience beyond a book. So let us know what you are reading, share a link to an article you read, and show us that you are a real person. And remember to respond to questions. It’s fun to get a notification that an author liked/replied/mentioned you or something you did.
And please, if you are writing under a pseudonym, please please please do your tweeting under that same pseudonym.
How can an author do his or her part toward his or her own publicity campaign?
Not every author has an established platform or huge blog following. But every author has friends– make the most of them. Use your contacts to your benefit and work to expand your circles. Talk to new people and have them get to know you. Don’t lead with “will you buy my book?” Once someone gets to know you, they will be interested, and ideally, want to support you.
Having good relationships with other authors goes a long way. You have a built-in community of people who know what it is like to have a new book and most authors, even the New York Times bestselling authors, are willing to support you. Before you know it, you will have people giving you shoutouts on social media and offering a place to guest blog.
What are some major misconceptions you’ve noticed people have about publicity and/or publishing as a whole?
I don’t know if I would characterize this as a misconception, per se, but a lot of people don’t understand that a bestseller list doesn’t mean “these are the best books this week.” The books don’t get on the list for being better than other books; they get on the list for selling more than the other books. (This of course brings with it its own set of issues, as no one knows exactly what formulas are used to calculate the lists.)
In the past few years, people have assumed that eBooks mean books as we know them will cease to exist. And perhaps even scarier (at least for me, but maybe not for aspiring authors) is that with self-publishing successes, publishers will cease to exist. I don’t think either is true.
Got any book recommendations?
Of course I have book recommendations! Since I know Dahlia’s genre of choice is YA, I will lead with those:
WONDER by R.J. Polacio
Seeds of America series by Laurie Halse Anderson
LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER by John Irving
THE ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach
WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GO TO WAR by Karl Marlantes
CINDERELLA ATE MY DAUGHTER by Peggy Orenstein
You can read my reviews of these books and other on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4688706-ayelet
And yes, you should be on Goodreads, too.
Thank you, Ayelet, for being awesome and letting me pick your brain. Readers, if you have any questions for Ayelet, please leave them in the comments!