Just before she set off on a road trip this past summer, writer Christina Parisi pitched this interview with book publicity expert Caroline Sun to me. I enjoy getting life updates via Christina’s blog posts, and now I am happy to share her guest post here today! In her interview with Caroline, Christina asks important questions. And, perhaps, the most important question of all: What is the biggest challenge in publishing today?
Interview With Book Publicity Expert Caroline Sun
By Christina Parisi
As the director of publicity for HarperCollins Children’s Books, Caroline Sun is one busy woman. Caroline worked odd jobs after graduating college with a bachelor’s degree in English until she landed a Publicity Assistant position in adult books at Penguin Group. She went on to work for various publishing houses until ultimately transitioning to children’s books, where she has spent the bulk of her career.
When Caroline is not working in PR, she’s a mother to a toddler and wife to Newbery Medal-winning author, Matt de la Pena. A saying Caroline keeps in the back of her head is something her husband once said to her years ago, “We’re not landing planes.” It helps Caroline keep things in perspective as she navigates the busy life of being a director of publicity at one the most renowned publishing houses.
Write Naked: Why is public relations important to book publishing? What role does it play in a book release?
Caroline Sun: Publicity is vital to the life of a book. PR has proven to not only move the needle on sales in real time, but also lay the groundwork for a long-tail success story. Publicity and Marketing work hand-in-hand to take a book that has been years in the making and introduce it to the consumer. The publicity side focuses primarily on media exposure and author appearances. It’s all about exposure for the book and author and spreading the word. After editorial, I would say the publicist has the next closest relationship to the author.
WN: How has the business changed in children’s and Young Adult (YA) as some reports show more readers turn to digital over hard copy?
CS: In the children’s and YA world we have not seen e-books “take over” the business, but rather, they have pleasantly coexisted with print. As you can imagine, picture books and the parent/child reading experience is hard to translate to digital, and YA readers seem to love physical books too, so we haven’t seen as much of a shift as perhaps the adult side has experienced.
WN: What do you think is the greatest challenge to the publishing industry at this time?
CS: I’ve been doing this for more than 12 years, but that is a blip on the radar in publishing time, and I only see a slice of it in my publicity world. When it comes to publicity, one of the growing challenges is shrinking books coverage in the media – outlets are downsizing on staff and usually one of the first places they cut are arts/books people. The era of digital media is exciting and has a lot of potential, but there’s so much of it, and so much content pushing out every hour, that it’s almost impossible to know what has an impact. We call it the “Wild West.” There are a ton of books being published every year, so being able to cut through the noise is extremely difficult.
WN: What is something writers can do to help promote themselves before they get to you?
CS: There are a few things an aspiring author can do. One is to create good will in the community by networking with other authors both in-person and on social. Support other newly published authors by reading their books and posting about them, attend events, and form genuine relationships of mutual respect. Frequent your local bookseller and buy books, attend their events, introduce yourself to the staff. Build a comprehensive website that is easily updated with useful information (contact, bio, work in progress, photos). There’s only so much you can do prior to having a contract, but having a network of other authors to turn to for advice and support is always a good thing.
Christina Parisi began making films in 2006 while working as a freelance script/book analyst for Imagine Entertainment. Her short films have played at film festivals throughout the world and can be found on Amazon and GaiaTV. Her feature script Driving Your Mind has been named a finalist in screenwriting contests throughout the world. She currently spends her time as a freelance writer while she raises the money to make her feature film. Find her film company Parisi Productions on Facebook.