Interview with Stella Connell, Book Publicist

Stella Connell is a book publicist and the founder of The Connell Agency. We asked her about her experiences in the industry as well as the ways in which she promotes authors. Here's what she said:
 
WHAT SPECIFIC CRITERIA DO YOU CONSIDER WHEN DEVELOPING A PLAN TO MARKET A BOOK/WRITER? 

I typically go through a series of questions with the author such as where they have lived, where they went to college, where they grew up, what media contacts they have, and what kind of budget they have for travel.  After I have concluded with these questions, I try to put together a reasonable plan for us to work on together.

WHAT ARE THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAYS A WRITER CAN MARKET HERSELF/HIMSELF? 

To start, they need to go with what they know locally and build from there.  For instance, try to write an editorial for the local paper, get to know the editor, see if they will cover the book.  Then, take that coverage a little wider, to say, their college alumni magazine.  These things aren’t sexy, but typically they work.  A first-time novelist spending all their efforts trying to get a mention in the New York Times is very risky.

IN YOUR OPINION, WHY DO SO MANY AUTHORS FAIL AT MARKETING THEMSELVES/THEIR BOOK?

Because they don’t do the things I suggested above, and they don’t put away money from their advance to pay for third-party help. They also have a tendency to wait until the last-minute when nothing can be done.

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS NEGATIVE PUBLICITY? WHAT SHOULD AN AUTHOR AVOID WHEN TRYING TO SELF-PROMOTE? 

There isn’t too much negative publicity involved in books other than a bad review.  Of course, if someone plagiarizes or does something stupid at a party, that is being covered by the press, that can cast a negative light on the writer’s integrity.

As for what to avoid, I would say avoid being negative about what didn’t happen on a previous title and focus on what their goals and expectations are for the future.  And, then have a clear sense of what they would like to see happen on the project and convey that in writing that doesn’t go on forever.

WHAT SUGGESTIONS WOUD YOU PROVIDE TO WRITERS LOOKING FOR A PUBLICIST? 

Know what you can afford and have reasonable expectations. And be nice to the publicist because he or she really is working for you and wants good results as much as you.

Stella Connell

About Stella Connell

Stella Connell, previously of Doubleday, Random House, Inc. and G. P. Putnam Sons, founded The Connell Agency in 1998. She has over 15 years experience developing and implementing successful public relations and marketing campaigns for some of the most well-known writers in America today. Connell has been the sole publicist for over 100 books, including many New York Times and regional best-sellers, and has been referred to as “the best book publicist in the United States,” by a major independent bookseller. Connell has conducted campaigns for Pulitzer Prize-winners David Halberstam and Michael Chabon, Zadie Smith, Caroline Kennedy, Loretta Lynn, Brenda Lee, Junot Diaz, Marianne Williamson, Kaye Gibbons, Sara Nelson, Nuala O’Faolain, Lee Smith, Kathleen Norris, Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays among many others. She has served as a panelist for the Oxford Conference on the Book, the North Carolina Writers’ Conference, the Ferguson Lecture Series at the College of William and Mary, the Southern Festival of Books, the Jackson Hole Writers’ Conference, and the MFA programs at the University of Florida and Virginia Commonwealth University. She is a member of the Women’s Media Group in New York City and was named one of the “50 Leading Business Women” in Mississippi in 1999. She was also the recipient of a Rotary International Group Study Exchange Scholarship in March 2000 to Australia to study the book publishing industry “Down Under.” News articles and mentions about her work have appeared in Publishers Weekly, Mississippi Magazine, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Clarion Ledger, and most importantly, the Oxford Eagle, the local newspaper in Oxford, Mississippi, where she was born and raised. She received both B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Alabama and attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course at Harvard.