Meet Publicist D. Kirk Cunningham

Today we have a guest blogger with us, Head Publicist for Jolly Fish Press D. Kirk Cunningham. I asked him some really tough questions and he came up with some great answers! 🙂 I hope you enjoy.

kirkcunnighamTell us a little about yourself. How did you get started in this business? As the head publicist for Jolly Fish Press (JFP), I supervise both our publicity and marketing departments. On the other hand, as a founder of the company, I work with my partners to be sure business is running smoothly and growing rapidly. With this in mind, I first started in the publishing industry as a businessman, and after months of research and experience, I became a publicist.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field? In publicity, you need a healthy supply of education, experience, and drive. Degrees are good, but an education in the book business is essential, especially through experience. You need to understand marketing and business. But most of all, you need to be personable and socially skilled. We work with authors. Authors are some of the most brilliant, interesting, and insane (no joke!) group of people out there. It’s a pleasure working with them, but you need your own supply of insanity to work with them.

What’s a typical day like for a book publicist? Emails. Emails everywhere. 90% of the job is answering and drafting emails. The rest is spent drafting press releases, marketing plans, performing research, attending signings and conferences, and social networking. Then we start emailing again.

What’s your usual workload of authors, and what are the types of things you do for them? This can vary from press to press and even from author to author. It varies so much that I can’t really give you a reasonable estimate. What I can do, however, is give an idea of what we do. Most importantly, at least for JFP, we work with our authors to be sure their social networking is in tip top shape. On top of that, we make sure book tours and blog tours are scheduled, reviews are solicited, ads are set up, campaigns are developed, a whole bunch of other publicity stuff, and books are sold.

What do authors need to do these days to market their books and push sales? Social networking. #1 most important. #2? Face to face networking. All I ever want my authors to do is network and write.

If authors want to do it themselves, what are your 3 top tips on how to get publicity?
1) Social Networking
2) Face to face networking
3) Hire a publicist… no. Not really, although it won’t hurt. Number 3 would have to be events. Planning events is crucial for traditionally published and self published authors. Interviews, signings, guest posts, you name it.

What changes have you seen to the book publishing industry over the past several years and where do you believe the book industry is heading? Most of the changes over the past several years have, of course, been digital. And it will only become more so. Even the printed book has become digitized via POD and other techniques. In the future, I only see books becoming more available and desired. It’s up to publishers and authors to quickly provide the market with the books they need in the way they want. They need to make money along the way, as well.

What challenges or advantages does the new media landscape pose to authors? Advantages? It’s easier to publish the written word now more than it ever has before. The downside? This is well known, so it’s much more difficult to stand out.

Are blog book reviewers good to use? How do you use their reviews to promote a book? Yes! I’ve spent many an hour researching reputable book bloggers. The amount of buzz they can provide is substantial. Sure, everyone loves a review from Publishers Weekly or Kirkus Reviews, but several positive reviews from a large number of bloggers can drive a book to the top of the lists.

What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job? Hmm. It wasn’t necessarily strange, but it was surprising/exciting. I was getting ready for work and about to hop in the shower when I got an email. I took a quick glance to see who it was, and it was from… Oprah. Okay, not really, but it was from one of her representatives. I ran to my computer to reply the moment I saw it, neglecting to cover up and ignoring the glares from my roommates.

What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of? It’s all about the authors for me. Whenever I take a step back and look at all the improvements and sales an author is making, it warms my black publicist heart.

How do you publicize a debut author compared to a bestselling author? Similarly, but on different levels. We build a debut author’s following, and we expand a bestselling author’s following. We brand debut authors, and we publicize/market the brand of a bestselling author. Of course, there’s much more, like differences in budgets, planned events, etc—but you get the picture.

What is the difference between PR, advertising and marketing when it comes to books? For a young publishing house, it all meshes into one field that we call “selling books.” Of course, we know the differences, but that’s what it comes down to. A good rule of thumb is to think that PR is for authors and marketing (including advertising) is for books.

Do you have any unique ways of marketing your books that are different from how others market their books? There’s only so many ways to market a book, but we do it better. I know, I know, everyone says that, but we believe it. Unlike many young houses, we make sure our authors get the whole package. Beautiful covers, full functioning publicity websites, social networking assistance, ARCs, press kits, book tours (online and physical), worldwide distribution, a publicist to lead the way, and much more. As a businessman, publicists, and book fanatic, I make sure our authors are treated as partners in the book business. That, I feel, is what makes JFP special.

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6 Responses

  1. teriharman says:

    I can attest to his awesome publicist skills! Great interview, Kirk and Rebekah!

  2. bcallor says:

    This post was fun and insightful. Mr. Cunningham’s responses were helpful to this hopeful author. Thank you.

  3. amie borst says:

    kirk is da man! as an author who writes with her 12 year old daughter, kirk has really been sensitive to the needs of our unique situation. any publicist that can manage balance like that is doing an awesome job!

  4. Kirk is awesome! I’m glad I got to see him this weekend. Great interview! 🙂

  1. February 24, 2013

    […] A blogger interview with Jolly Fish Press co-founder and publicist D. Kirk Cunningham. […]

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