Writers always ask me about agents, but there is another person who is absolutely critical to the success of a book or an author … the publicist.
I was fortunate recently to be able to interview a top publicist, Sandy Frazier, based in New York. She is affable, likes what she does and gets results – not a bad combination in any PR person.
I asked Sandy a variety of things, and I think there will be some things for you to glean:
Writer’s Bloc: Given the economy, and anxiety among publishers, how is the PR business?
Sandy Frazier: My business has grown like crazy; it doesn’t matter what the economy is doing!
WB: How did you get started? How did you become a publicist?
SF: I started working for NewsMax. Working with Chris Ruddy (CEO of NewsMax Media), he called me in the late ’90s. I was just starting to build websites – there was just an explosion of websites during that time. Chris had an idea to do NewsMax, and heard I had some background in talk radio.
I have the greatest respect for him; he’s a genius.
WB: So you started from a nice vantage point.
SF: Definitely. Chris wanted to know if I wanted a job and I said yes, anything to do with the Internet. Early on I saw the value of the Internet. I knew it would be a huge explosion. I built my website in ’96. With NewsMax, I was the exclusive publicist for them for eight or nine years. We changed directions after 9/11, and I was then handling publicity for writers.
I was trying to keep the site going through the .com crisis, but I figured out that I had a knack for it, websites.
WB: People began to see the value in promoting their platforms in that way.
SF: Yes, I started combing blogs and various technologies. It just exploded. The new apps, etc. – you just have to stay on top of it.
WB: And about this time, you began another transition, right?
SF: Yes. Around 2007, Newsmax went in a different direction (early on, they focused on talk radio; they then went more toward magazine work) and I took off with my freelance work in publicity. Built my business from there. I started out charging people pretty cheap prices, and it’s just grown from there.
WB: Are you a native New Yorker?
SF: I’ve lived here a long time. I’m actually from Chicago.
I love being in New York, working with all the major publishers, and I specialize in doing radio tours for authors. Most of my authors are political pundits. Current events, financial – that kind of thing.
WB: What about your own political views?
SF: I consider myself not middle-of-the-road, toward the right. I try to stay apolitical. I developed a reputation for some reason of being conservative, since I work with conservative people.
WB: How many authors do you work with at any one time?
SF: You mean , how exhausted am I all the time?
I usually do 2-3 book tours at a time. My pundits program is interesting, because I originally started it to give authors a way to stay in the media in between book tours.
I place bloggers, authors and writers on talk radio.
WB: Publicity is really 24/7 isn’t it?
SF: Yes, it’s a huge responsibility. I get up at 6 a.m. and listen to all the news sources.
WB: Writers are now able to find more work online, correct?
SF: In the beginning, news sites weren’t paying their writers. That’s changed.
WB: Do you take on established authors or case-by-case?
SF: I take it case-by-case, because although I work with established writers, I also take on new authors. I have to read the book. It depends on the quality of the project. The person has to be a quality author.
I do a lot more for my authors and charge a lot less.
I use YouTube; when they re on TV I record them. I work with them on their web presence, which is the most important thing. I actually have a staff that helps me with that.
They need someone to help them build an image.
WB: So that includes book tours?
SF: A book tour is very involved. Believe me, I have a stack of books on my desk, and I can’t take on every person who contacts us. Everybody today thinks he’s an author, and very few actually make any money. I let authors know right up front what they can expect. Experience tells you that. I won’t take on a book or author if I don’t think it will work. Mostly my clients come by word-of-mouth; I feel I must be dong something right!
WB: You are also filling a need for more than just individual authors.
SF: Publishers hire freelancers to save money because it’s cheaper than paying their in-house publicists.
WB: What does a typical campaign for a book look like?
SF: I write the press release, work with radio and then hopefully we get some TV. Mostly, all me, doing all the work. I generally have my author sign up for a month at a time; they usually sign up for another month. I also have a web person who handles all of that. She’s an expert at it, and she builds a web presence, links, social networking, etc.
WB: I’ve heard it said that a publicist’s rolodex is more important than, well, most things.
SF: It’s the biggest part to my job. Sometimes I go to Fox News Channel and shake hands and keep up appearances. Without my contacts … that’s what people pay me for. You have to be a people person, but you also have to be organized and keep up with the technology.
WB: I’ve heard a few notorious stories of publicists forced to re-schedule.
SF: Even some lesser-known authors and pundits have day jobs, so you have to keep on top of them, too. The first 10 years or so, I was working day and night, it was ridiculous. I now take off on weekends, check my emails, etc. I take some down-time, flush it out of my mind. You have to be prepared on Monday morning, though.
WB: But you also obviously enjoy what you do.
SF: I love the work because I feel very blessed. For years I prayed, “Give me a job where I can showcase my talents.” I’m a self-taught person. Finally I was blessed with this wonderful job. It really is rewarding. When your clients call up and love you, it’s great. It’s great how you can change a writer’s career, getting them on an important show …
WB: With all the new technology out there, what is the best way for a writer to disseminate his or her message?
SF: Talk radio is the No. 1 way to promote anyone. I can’t say enough about it. Even though a lot of people are going to satellite … talk radio is huge.
WB: Sandy, thanks for giving us an insider’s view of the PR world; we appreciate it.