The invisible link

<p>When a book sells well it's all down to the editor's astute judgement. But when it fails to sell, then it must obviously be due to a lack of good publicity. <br />
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Bemoaning this popular wisdom the other day, a colleague of mine pointed out that the publicist is the invisible link in the chain that leads from author to agent, editor to bookseller. Rather ironic, given that the publicist's job is to make the book visible. Every effort is directed at &quot;getting the book out there&quot; and securing the author a mention, in as many ways and across the widest range of media possible. Yet publicists rarely figure in their author's acknowledgement speeches. <br />
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But, this isn't a chip-on-the-shoulder rant. Quite the opposite. I think I work in the best area of publishing and relish the advantages that come with being &quot;invisible&quot;. <br />
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To succeed in publicity you must be a mass of contradictions: creative, but organised to the point of obsession; a formidable socialiser with an equally formidable work ethic; and unfailingly polite but more than capable of taking a hard line when necessary. You've got to enjoy the challenge of building a campaign, managing the expectations of the author, editor and agent, and then go about exceeding them. <br />
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Whether you're on the phone to yet another journalist explaining why this book is perfect for them, or serving food waiter-style at a launch party (as a senior colleague of mine recently had to do, much to his chagrin), this job is about making books public: reviews, interviews, launches, festivals and signings. The organising, plotting and scheming are all about promoting a product that has such inherent variety that it demands your creativity.<br />
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Working with authors is fascinating, but if you're already in this line of work, you'll know that they can sometimes be the bane of your life.&nbsp;One publicist recently&nbsp;spent an entire evening in an exclusive restaurant with an author who greeted her, then opened his newspaper and remained behind it for the duration of the meal. Not the most comfortable of experiences. Elsewhere, there can be the clingy author&mdash;frantic emails and texts at four a.m., and the inevitable sobbing phone call when the first bad review comes in. <br />
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Like the authors, no publicist likes &quot;getting the book out there&quot; and then seeing it slated. But learning to manage the fallout from a bad review or two, and turn it around, is the first step towards becoming a master of the trade. The colleagues I admire are not simply those who get lots of publicity: uber-publicists can quietly ride the wave of bad press and then pull a seamless stunt that turns the tide and brings their author out on top. I've seen them at work and it's impressive. <br />
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In the end, nothing beats the thrill of seeing words in print that you have helped to put in place, and the high-pressured, occasionally glamorous, and sometimes unpredictable publicity office is, as far as I'm concerned, a place to be seen in.</p>
<p>For more information on the SYP and its events visit http://www.thesyp.org.uk.</p>