Rosemary Vestal is the publicity manager for UNP and accepts praise in the form of coffee, wine, or gold stars.
In an age of instant gratification and impersonal emails, is it too much to ask for a little common courtesy?
My grandmother was the editor of the Waupaca County Post and the first woman to be a newspaper editor in Wisconsin. She fostered her networks of people by talking with them, meeting their families, and inviting them for drinks at her house. Journalism and publishing weren’t about instantaneous results but about people and getting their stories correct.
The most popular portion of the Post was a column she created called “P.S. By Rosemary” and it was the most-turned to and most coveted section of the paper. She was well liked, a hard worker, and if you were good to her, you could assume that the karma would come back around to you.
The online world gives us the opportunity to connect with millions of people who otherwise would remain too distant ever to be in touch with, especially from a marketing perspective. Lately, there has been an influx of people in my inbox who are demanding of my/marketing’s time. Neither good nor bad necessarily, just A LOT of requests. Some are small suggestions on advertising, some seeking advice on social media, some demanding an instant response that seems small to the requester but in reality is much more involved than they think.
Book publicity, like any public relations position, is often about doing the most in the shortest amount of time. Almost always this requires dropping one task for another depending on the time sensitivity. While this action would seem to say one task is more important than another that is not the case. Time management is the key, but it cannot be achieved if all requests are treated equal.
Authors and editors, I understand your book is your baby. I understand that it’s the first of its kind. I understand how important it is and its significance in the field of study. While I may not respond instantly, I want the same things you do. I want to show your baby to the world and I want it to grow up and succeed. However, please note while this is your new pride and joy, it’s also among the 100+ other babies in the marketing maternity ward.
“P.S. By Rosemary” became the town’s favorite section because my grandmother cared about the people she wrote about. Her stories were her babies. She took the time to listen to people’s situations and made it a priority to make her deadlines. She didn’t demand people answer her questions but she could sweet talk them if needed. If someone wasn’t available for comment, she would be patient or find a different source. She was resourceful.
I’d like to think she passed along those same qualities to me. And, I’d also like to think if I was demanding of someone else’s time I would be kind, patient, and understanding. I’m not sure at what point authors, agents, and others leave Earth and assume higher roles that make them more important than their publisher but I can guarantee we are all in this together. Neither one of us is more important than the other. We’re in the same family; even if that family connection is twice-removed on your mother’s side from her friend at university who once worked as a publicist at a local business whose motto was, “If you’re not happy, neither are we!”
Full disclosure, if you are polite, good karma will come back to you. Niceness attracts nice and being less than so will attract the same. Email has made human connection easier, but also more robotic. It’s easy to think that email should be answered immediately, but we’re not robots. Publicists are people, just the same as authors, and we have 100+ metaphorical babies of our own. We can only do so much at any one time. So if you ever find yourself talking to your friends, agents, family, or partner about why you think your publisher is ignoring you, give it a couple days. You may be surprised.
As my grandmother always used to say, “It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.”
P.S. By Rosemary: I’m not suggesting you sweet talk your publisher, but I’m not not saying that either.