Not long ago I compiled a list of Six Things Book Publicists Love to Hear. I'm now adding a seventh:
"How can we leverage this?"
This is generally asked by an author, agent or editor when a book has garnered a nice bit of media exposure that falls along the decent-to-boffo range of the publicity spectrum. It's a natural reaction and a perfectly reasonable question—how can we use this break to generate more publicity?— so it's hard to say why this query can be so irksome to a book flack.
Perhaps it's because it often leaves the publicist feeling the way the master of the workhouse felt in Oliver Twist: You want more?! But that's the nature of publicity—it's never enough. In all the years I've been doing it, I've never been told: "Great media break! Your work is done here. Please stand down, take a well-earned rest, and accept the thanks of a grateful nation." It's always: "What else you got?"
Or perhaps it's because, in the excitement of the moment, the question is often posed without first taking a brief pause to simply appreciate the current success. Any good publicist should be thinking about whether a media break can be exploited to generate more publicity. But if they're at all like me, their first inclination will be to take just a moment to savor this particular accomplishment. Celebrate this media break for its own merits. Get down on one knee and sacrifice a white bull to whatever capricious publicity god was smiling down upon them that day. Because getting a great media break is one of the few sources of genuine satisfaction the job has to offer.
Or perhaps it's because the question can become a knee-jerk response to every development. "My book is ranked 103 on Amazon! How can we leverage this?" "My book has its own website! How can we leverage this?" "I've been named Author of the Year by my high school alumni association! How can we leverage this?" Those are all fine accomplishments, but the answers to these questions, in order, are: We can't; we can't; and we can't. We need to be selective. We need to make sure the break we're trying to leverage is major, substantive, and potentially useful to the journalists, reviewers and bloggers we'll be approaching.
Or maybe it's just that word: "leverage." There's something inherently irritating about it, at least in this context. How can we leverage this? Well, first we're going to need a fulcrum…
Whatever the source of your irritation, book flack, get over it. You've got work to do.