Social Huh?

A while back, this publicist for one of the Big 6 contacted me.

Not about me, alas, but about her client, Ms Thing, a big name author who had an Exciting New Book coming out. I happened to be president of a special interest chapter of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) that is especially interested in the genre Exciting New Book was in. Publicist Gal asked if we’d just love to put up an ad on our website for Ms Thing and her Exciting New Book. In exchange, she’ll send us a copy of Exciting New Book, so we can read it and talk it up.

Now, RWA is a big writers organization. Upwards of 10,000 members last I checked. One of the rules for all RWA chapters is that, as a non-profit organization, we can’t be in the business of selling books. This is an IRS thing and no one messes with the IRS. So we can’t post book covers or ads for our own members on our chapter website, so as to avoid the appearance of being a mall or bookstore and thus competing with for-profit businesses. Ms Thing, incidentally, is not a member of our chapter.

This might be somewhat arcane, but I kind of thought a publicist wanting to use social media like a chapter website or blog hosted by an RWA chapter, and where RWA is pretty much synonymous with romance in publishing, would know this kind of thing.

Okay, no. So, I’m a nice person. (Oh, hush up. I try to be a polite person.) I explain this to her, but I make her an offer. Our chapter has hundreds and hundreds of members (somewhere between 500 and 1,000, last I checked), who read and write in this genre. I offer to host a special chat for her on our site. Ms Thing could hang for an hour, answer select questions, talk up her Exciting New Book and give a copy away. This would really be the idea way to expose her to a whole bunch of people at once, who would then buy and talk up her book.

This would be an effective use of social media, to my mind.

Alternatively, I offered that Ms Thing could put something up on our chapter blog, a short article or what have you.

Publicist Gal emails me back and informs me that Ms Thing is Far Too Busy to do either of these things. It was a fairly snippy thanks, but no thanks. She says maybe she’ll send me a copy. If she had, our blogmistress could have given it away there at some point.

But no.

I really wonder if Ms Thing ever even knew about this conversation. Was she really Far Too Busy to spend an hour chatting with a potential audience of hundreds online? People who, if won over, would likely talk it up to hundreds more? What struck me most was that this professional publicist was attempting to use social media in such a ham-handed way. I know it’s a rapidly changing world and it’s not easy to keep up, but Publicist Gal was clearly still thinking in terms of billboards and magazine ads.

Now, maybe Ms Thing is bigger than that. Maybe she didn’t need us, which would be lovely for her.

Still, I think the lesson is, even if you are lucky enough to be Mr or Ms Thing, and you have a Publicist, I would be looking pretty carefully at how they’re handling social media. Really, the whole idea of social media is personal contact, not interaction via your publicist. I realize not everyone is good at this, but having your publicist engage in personal contact on your behalf is, um, not really the point.

That’s it for today. I’m afraid I’m Far Too Busy for any more of this bloggity stuff.

8 Replies to “Social Huh?”

  1. Whoa. Seriously? That's ridiculous. So sad to think if she treated you–who understands the point of your chapter/service–this way, who else s/he may be turning off to his/her client before the book is even out.

  2. Absolutely. Were I that author, I'd be pretty pissed to read this about someone I'd hired. Oh. Wait. I was going to go off about how if this publicist is preventing said author from talking to readers directly when that's one of the great joys — but what if said author is painfully shy? The publicist isn't a gate keeper…publicist is a shield. Interesting. Still. Treating other people badly makes that publicist a very poor publicist indeed.

  3. That's surprising. The authors I've contacted over the years always had time to shoot me an e-mail back, or whatever. I wonder if that publicist still has ajob? If she did that to a writing chapter, just imagine what she probably did to bookstores, etc.

  4. I wonder that, too, Linda! I thought about trying to contact the author, but she's difficult to reach.

    I'm not terribly shy, Marcella, but I'd think the online chat thing would be less stressful? But yes, that was my take, was that the publicist might not be opening many doors.

    I hate to think, Danica!

  5. If she was shy or busy, she still could have done the blog post and given away the book. No one would have been the wiser to her painful shyness or her difficult publicist.

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