Mavis Sanders

Mavis Sanders is Corporate Publicist for Tyndale House Publishers, where she has served for eleven years. She began her career on the editorial staff of Decision magazine, also managing their writers’ conference, followed by editorial positions at Christian Booksellers Association and High Flight Foundation. Mavis developed the PR department at Scripture Press/Victor Books and is the past president of the Chicago Chapter of the Religious Public Relations Council (RPRC) and past president of the Evangelical Press Association (EPA).

Vicky Lynch

Vicky Lynch is a Publicist at Tyndale House Publishers. She previously held positions at Sourcebooks Inc. and Barnes & Noble Booksellers.

Book Publicity: A Labor of Love

by Mavis Sanders and Vicky Lynch

As much as we would like this to be the case, not every Christian book has crossover potential...

The other day my friend and I were talking about book publicity through the years, and I believe it’s important to pause and think about how much the publishing world has changed. Mavis has been working in the industry with Christian authors for the past thirty years. I’ve been working with faith-focused authors for just over one year and in book publicity for five. So comparatively, I’m just starting out.

Mavis took me back to a time that, frankly, scares me. I would rather not think of a day when no computers were used to write a breaking news pitch and no e-mail existed to effortlessly send that pitch to desktops hundreds of miles away.

Everything was done through snail mail and endless phone calls. It was rare for a Christian book to be on a mainstream best-seller list. The media stayed in their jobs for years, and your Rolodex, not your Outlook database, was your most treasured possession.

You didn’t have to dream up angles that would make your author rise above the many pitches to Oprah or Focus on the Family, because those programs didn’t exist. “In studio” interviews were the modus operandi. Unless an author was in a particular city, he or she had no opportunity there for radio interviews. Except for a few “tried and true” authors, Christian novelists were not considered even to be in the same league as Christian nonfiction writers.

In this new world of blog tours, abundant writers’ groups, and big advances, it’s hard to imagine this other world. But just as changes are everywhere, many things have stayed the same.

Relationships are still the most important aspect of book publicity. You are still and will forever be as good as who you know. Now it’s just easier to seek out those contacts with Cision and Burrelles Luce. You still need a point to your pitch. It needs to be exciting, concise, and timely. As much as we

would like this to be the case, not every Christian book has crossover potential, and overall “word of mouth” is primarily the main factor for creating a best seller. All the media in the world means nothing if those efforts can’t create a buzz.

And one of the biggest differences today? Author self-promotion is vital, no matter who your publicist is, and an author’s commitment to promoting a book can add to a book’s successful launch and staying power. A successful author’s work has just begun when the last rewrite of the manuscript has been completed.

An author who stands out creates a Web site that contains media praise, book covers and photos, FAQ, sample chapters of the book, a personal blog and, of course, contact information—all presented in a visually pleasing and sometimes technologically advanced way.

Authors who stand out reach out to their local communities and bookstores to build a personal community around their books. I know an author who single-handedly turned his book into a national best seller by courting his local Barnes & Noble.

Authors—especially fiction authors—who want to do broadcast media must build a platform for themselves. This may mean signing on with a speakers’ bureau and sharing their expertise at churches, civic groups, and educational institutions.

Authors must be active in the blogosphere, whether they have their own blog or visit other blogs and leave hints and comments to point readers back to their books.

It’s a brave new world, but for many book publicists, we wouldn’t trade our jobs for anything. The book review sections in major newspapers are dwindling, and while it sometimes seems like a lot of the world has stopped reading, myriad readers are still out there, waiting to discover a great new book. They are the ones we strive to reach. For us, whether we’ve been in the job thirty years or just a week, book publicity is a labor of love.

Dogwood by Chris Fabry