Pleasantly Persistent PR Blog

Looking Back on My Life (So Far)
as a Successful Book Publicist
September 29, 2021
Today I turn 40 years old. I have a mix of emotions - I'm not young anymore, but I'm not old. My dad sent me an email that helped me to process the meaning of this auspicious day, arguably the beginning of mid-life.

He said that when he turned 40 years old decades ago, he took measure of himself and all that he had. He reminded me of the continuity of health and happiness connecting the generations of my family - with me now squarely in the middle of the family tree, being younger than my parents and in-laws (all of whom are fortunately still with us), but older than our school-aged and quickly growing nieces and nephews.

So I'm taking this momentous birthday as an opportunity to look back on what I've accomplished so far in my adulthood, focusing on my professional life. Hopefully there are some career pointers in here for the younger crowd, especially those wanting to break into book publicity. For current or prospective clients, this article offers valuable insight into my professional approach and the skills I have to offer.

So here it goes - my retrospective on my life, thus far, as a successful book publicist.
Green, But Growing in a Sunny Spot
It all started in sunny San Diego. I graduated from SDSU with a BA degree in Communication in 2005 and began working for Booth Media Group (BMG) in 2006.

I had worked plenty before, but not in a position that I envisioned becoming a life-long career. I knew I had much to learn, so I put in the effort. I usually stayed late. Before I left the office I always asked my boss, "Can I do anything else for you before I leave for the day?"

Fortunately, I caught on to new ideas and skills pretty quickly and I soaked everything up like a sponge. I also took criticism well, which was especially important in the early months when various skills, such as crafting press releases, had a lot of room for improvement and needed constructive feedback.

My work ethic quickly turned what started as an admin position into a publicist job within six months. I continued to take on greater responsibilities and was eventually promoted to office manager and then senior publicist within two years. After working at BMG for nine years, I left the company as interim CEO.

I attribute my continual growth to being disciplined and conducting myself with integrity. My rigorous Catholic school environment (attended K-12) instilled a great deal of discipline in me, as did the guidance of my parents. While cutting my teeth in the industry during these early years, my father told me daily that he was proud of me.

What guided me then, as now, professionally and personally, was to behave in a way that makes me proud of myself, makes my husband proud of me, and even still, makes my parents proud of their daughter.

Here's what my old boss at BMG wrote to me onceā€¦
"Thanks so much, Julia. You are the best. I have to tell you that out of the 24 years that I have been doing PR, one of the best and smartest things I ever did and was fortunate to have happen to my business was to have you join BMG!"
Becoming My Own Boss
In 2016, I did what I always dreamed of doing: I started my own business and became my own boss. The name of my business, Pleasantly Persistent, was born from a comment a producer once made about how much I followed up for a client. He used the term pushy. I didn't like that so much.

"No. I'm pleasantly persistent," I explained to him.

I've beat the odds and kept my business going, and even expanded it, because:

1. I believe strongly in providing value to my clients and really listening to them and collaborating with them.

Unfortunately, not all publicists work this way and they can make a bad name for us successful book publicists who really care about our clients. I mean, I even take my clients' wins personally.

Okay, you can file this under slightly embarrassing secret: I do a happy dance when a client lands a big interview. It's not a particularly cool look. Think of the famous Elaine dance from Seinfeld. But I can't help myself. In fact, I just did my jolly jig earlier today when FOX News Channel agreed to interview a client.

2. I leverage contacts I have made over the years at national media outlets and local bookstores for my clients.

These connections cannot be easily replicated and not at all faked. It takes a long time to nurture these contacts and build trust with the right people in the right places.

3. I am committed to learning.

I know a lot about book publicity and I bring a wealth of knowledge to what I do, but as the old adage goes, I learn something new everyday. I want to learn something new everyday. It keeps me sharp. It grows my skill set. It fine-tunes my approach and makes me more effective as a professional.

My commitment to learning and doing my work with integrity can work wonders for clients. Laurie Watkins, a client who has become a regular commentator on national media outlets, once sent me flowers with a card saying,
"You have helped put me on the map; on the TV, tablets and phones of millions. We are just getting started, but I wanted you to know how much I appreciate you and your good work. Thank you!"
Key Learning Experiences
There is what you can learn in a book, and then there's what you learn from life. Here's a few lessons that only a successful book publicist will ever get the chance to experience:

1. When pitching, be 100% certain you are contacting the right person at a media outlet.

Duh, right?

Well, it's not always as easy as it sounds.

Staff at media outlets vary greatly. They may employ editors, writers, producers, assistant producers, assignment desk people, etc. In other words, there's a whole host of professionals you might contact for an interview or event. All your hard work organizing and pitching is completely meaningless unless you are reaching out to the right person.

Back in my agency days, I tried to schedule a press conference for a client on a non-newsworthy topic.

Mistake #1 - I invited all the producers at the news networks instead of the news editors and assignment desk people.

Mistake #2 - No one showed up to the press conference.

Outcome? One understandably unhappy client.

2. There's no such thing as being too organized in PR.

That's pretty self-explanatory, but here's an illustrative scenario I once endured.

I once accidentally emailed a reporter using the wrong name because I wasn't as organized as I could have been. This has the same effect as the first point above about not contacting the right person; you are going exactly nowhere despite all of your other efforts.

Essentially, there's no such thing as over-documentation or being too organized in PR. You want to be organized - like obsessive, A-type personality organized.

3. Carefully select your clients.

But don't you just want to throw a wide net and earn income off as many clients as possible? Some folks might think this way. For me? Nope. Not at all.

I have learned to restrict my client list to five at a time. This limited clientele allows me to perform at my highest level for every campaign. I will also only take on a client who has written a book that I personally like and on a topic that genuinely interests me. This makes the collaborative process with the client more enjoyable, and makes me even more invested in their success.

4. If you are going through something traumatic, or are very stressed, consider taking time off from work.

This is one lesson in the bunch that goes for any field.

I know this first hand because I once made a pretty embarrassing error early in my career when I didn't take time off and should have. My mistake? I actually cursed at a client. It's a horrible thing to have done and there is no excuse for it and I've never done anything like it again.

My best friend - my dog of 16 years - had died the night before. I was completely distraught and out of sorts and did not have any patience that morning, much less for a client who was not being kind to me. I said something unfortunate to him and hung up the phone and immediately ran to my boss crying. She told me to call back and apologize. I did. He accepted my apology.

While everything turned out fine, it's a lesson I'll never forget. Be mindful of your mental state. If you are really stressed, it's more productive to take the time off to regroup, rather than push through and hurt yourself or someone else.
Me and my hubby, Ryan
Grateful for Today and Tomorrow
Looking ahead to my next 20 years as a successful book publicist, I am as excited about it as I was when I first entered the industry two decades ago. I remind myself every day for all of my blessings:

  • My health
  • My marriage
  • My family
  • My business

I'm so fortunate to be my own boss, making my own rules, and actively creating the life I want to live. Not everyone has this. I'm in a unique position and I am ineffably grateful for it.

Happy Birthday to me!
Need help publicizing a book?
Reach out to me - a successful book publicist of two decades.
Feel free to contact me
Julia Brown
Book publicist
Phone: +1 619-888-7956
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