An Exclusive Authorlink Interview With Leading Publicity Director Lissa Warren
Author of the forthcoming book, The Savvy Author's Guide to Book Publicity:
A comprehensive Resource From Building the Buzz to Pitching the Press

By Doris Booth

November 2003

Buy The Savvy Author's Guide via

The Savvy Author's Guide to Book Publicity —due for release in February 2004 by Carroll & Graf—is an essential reference for writers-—from the self-published to those published by major houses. Author Lissa Warren is Senior Director of Publicity for Da Capo Press, a member of the New York-based Perseus Books Group. In an exclusive Authorlink interview with Lissa we get a sneak preview of the valuable resources in this book. Authorlink specifically asked Lissa to comment on Chapter 11: Ten Things to Do If Your Book's Not Getting Media Attention.


"Ask yourself questions. Has it been done before? Is this a new topic that will appeal to the media?" —Warren


AUTHORLINK: How does an author honestly assess a book's media potential?

WARREN: Ask yourself questions. Has it been done before? Is this a new topic that will appeal to the media? Is it fresh? What is my personal media potential? Am I an expert in my field? If I'm writing a science book, for example, am I a scientist? If not, it's likely to be harder to get media attention, even for a journalist. Sometimes a journalist can pair up with a specialist and offer a complete package. Also, ask yourself if you or the topic could be overexposed.


"An opinion piece can sometimes get published in a major market newspaper . . . " —Warren


AUTHORLINK: You suggest in your book that the author write an op-ed piece. How does one go about this?

WARREN: An editorial opinion piece (op-ed) can sometimes get published in a major market newspaper such as The Boston Globe or the Washington Post, or even a national paper like USA Today. The competition is fierce because these newspapers run only three to five op-eds per day, but it's worth a try. However, don't query the editor first for an op-ed. Instead, write and submit the full piece—about 750 to 1,000 words. At the bottom of the piece note that you are the author of such-and-such book.


"Look for a current events hook." —Warren


AUTHORLINK: You suggest that an author try to get interviewed for something other than his or her book? Can you give an example?

WARREN: Look for a current events hook. For example: the World Series provides an opportunity to talk about a non-fiction book on the business of sports, or chasing a dream, or Major League player who started in small town. Peg the book to something going on in the news today. If you find yourself sitting there one day having trouble getting media, listen to NPR. Read the newspaper. Study events going on around you that you can speak to. If you've written a fictional work it's a little tougher. Perhaps your character is going through something that is happening in the real world. For example, your character may be going through a bad divorce. The David Guest/Liza Minelli break-up may give you a vehicle to talk about your book. Start your pitch to the media outlets with the topic that has been in the news Then describe how your book ties in. Then ask the producer or contact person if they'd be interested in having you talk about the topic on their show.

AUTHORLINK: You say in your book to examine the kind of media you're targeting? How?

WARREN: If you're not having success, say in radio, perhaps the topic is too visual and would be a better fit for television. Or perhaps a three-minute TV segment wouldn't give enough time to cover the topic. If so, maybe a half-hour radio show is the best medium. Perhaps your topic is not suited to broadcast media at all, but to print or online instead. You can do a chat or write an article for a website. Also look at the way you're approaching the media. If pitching them primarily by phone doesn't do the trick, maybe an e-mail pitch with press material is better, or vice versa. Do what works for you. If you're nervous on the phone, perhaps mail is a better way. If you're articulate, pitch by phone. And it is crucial to target the right person at the show. The web makes it easier to find out who the producers are. If you can't find the information there, call the station switchboard and ask who covers that particular topic.

AUTHORLINK: You tell us to think about whether we're using all of our Ammo. What do you mean?

WARREN: Think of coverage you've already received? Are you making good use of that? You may have gotten good reviews. Are they part of your press kit? Are they in the e-mails you send out? If you're not using them, you should. If you have accomplished a lot as a writer, is it all spelled out in your bio.

AUTHORLINK: In your book, though not in Chapter 11, you explain the rates. Tell us how they really work?

WARREN: Say your book has an sales ranking of

7,400. This does not mean 7,400 copies of your book have been sold.. What the number means is that of all books sold on Amazon, your book is the 7,400th best selling book for them. The best way to use the Amazon rankings is as an indicator that some publicity has hit. Amazon updates the top 1,000 titles hourly, the next 100,000 daily. The best way to know how you're selling at Amazon is to ask your editor. They usually receive weekly sales reports from Amazon.

AUTHORLINK: What brought you to write this book?

WARREN: At Da Capo, we have many first time authors asking questions. There was so much I wanted to share with them, but not the time to walk them through the process. I wanted to show both our own writers and others what they could do to help promote their book and how best to work with a publicist. This seemed like a good way to do it.


"I love books. I wanted to be around them." —Warren


AUTHORLINK: Your book is truly comprehensive. At the age of 31, how did you learn so much so quickly?

WARREN: I have an MFA in creating writing. But I learned through working, by doing. I really didn't have a mentor. I was just thrown into the frying pan. I started as an unpaid intern in 1994 for David R. Godine, a literary press in Boston. Eventually, a publicity opening came and I had one of the more familiar faces, so I landed the position and was eventually promoted to director of marketing and publicity. I think you can sometimes rise faster in a small company than in a large one because you learn all aspects of the business. Four years later I joined Houghton Mifflin, and then four years after that, I came to the Perseus Books Group, first as publicity director for Perseus Publishing, and now as publicity director for Da Capo Press.

AUTHORLINK: And what is life like outside of work? Where do you live?

WARREN: I live on an apple orchard in New Hampshire with my cat, a Korat named Ting Pei. I teach a graduate course in book publicity at Emerson College in Boston one night a week. I'm single and my boyfriend lives in New York, so I try to get there as often as possible.

AUTHORLINK: And why did you get into this business?

WARREN: I love books. I wanted to be around them. It's a continuing education for me. I never thought that I'd be promoting a book about theoretical physics one day and jazz music or how to toilet train your child the next day. That's what I do.

AUTHORLINK: How did you find your publisher?

WARREN: One of the editors at Da Capo helped me find my agent, Peter Rubie, and he sold the book to Carroll & Graf. It will be in bookstores in February, and I'm extremely excited.


—Doris Booth