For the LA Review of Books, Katherine Taylor (my client) wrote a paean to Vivian Gornick and her new memoir, The Odd Woman and the City. This piece is so good I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it. Most importantly, it does two things: #1. Makes me want to read everything by Vivian Gornick (who I feel lame saying it but I haven’t read before). And #2. Makes me like Katherine Taylor, and her writing, more than I already did, which was a lot.
You can read the essay, How Vivian Gornick Saved My Life, here.
If you are feeling lazy and didn’t click the link, here is part of the essay to entice you, (the first paragraph from Gornick, the next two from Katherine):
On Upper Broadway a beggar approaches a middle-aged woman. “I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, I just need —,” he starts. To his amazement, the woman yells directly in his face, “I just had my pocket picked!” The beggar turns his face northward and calls to a colleague up the block, “Hey, Bobby, leave her alone, she just got robbed!”
No good can come from leaving the house. I love to say this, and I tend to pick friends who agree with me. What good could come? Embarrassment, boredom, death? Instead: have your groceries delivered, climb up and down the stairs for exercise, find a hairdresser who does house calls, use the telephone if you must or — much better — text and email and never speak to anyone unless they’re funny. Live your life inside books (or TV, or whatever).
Unfortunately, there are not enough books so good that you want to live your life inside of them. When you find one, one that helps you live, one that reminds you how to engage with the world when it’s impossible to engage with the world, you must read it over and over, because it has instructions for you.
The Odd Woman and the City by Vivian Gornick
An appreciative shout out to The Millions, one of my favorite sites about books and the book industry, for making this list of Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview. The Fall season is notoriously a busy time in publishing – but good lord, look at what’s coming in September alone. I knew it was going to be packed but I’ve never seen anything like this. Have you? There are 82 books on The Millions list and every single one is note worthy. Every single one! Be kind to your local bleary-eyed literary publicist who will be vying for the already limited book media space and even I feel a little bad for book critics having to choose what to cover and what to pass on. So many books, so little time! (My client Bill Clegg‘s debut novel, Did You Ever Have a Family is in the scrum and comes out September 8th. I cannot wait for this book to get out there!)
The publishing world’s equivalent of a grand slam and as rare as the transit of venus:
4 out of 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ pre-pub reviews for Bill Clegg’s DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAMILY
“Sorrowful and deeply probing debut novel…Clegg’s deft handling of all the parsed details – missed opportunities, harbored regrets, and unspoken good intentions – that make the journey toward redemption and forgiveness so memorable.” — Publishers Weekly, “Pick of the Week,” ⭐️ STARRED REVIEW
“An attempt to map how the unbearable is borne, elegantly written and bravely imagined.” – Kirkus, ⭐️ STARRED REVIEW
“Clegg is both delicately lyrical and emotionally direct in this masterful novel…Both ineffably sad and deeply inspiring, this mesmerizing novel makes for a powerful debut.” — Booklist, ⭐️ STARRED REVIEW
“A propulsive but tightly crafted narrative… reveal[s] the fine-grained sorrows of the human condition, rendered in polished, quietly captivating prose. As the stories emerge, so do their connections—and the idea of connection itself…. Readers may come to this debut novel because of agent/memoirist Clegg’s reputation, but they’ll stay for the stellar language and storytelling. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal, ⭐️ STARRED REVIEW
Did You Ever Have a Family goes on sale September 8, 2015. Pre-order from your local independent bookseller or on IndieBound.org
Media, if you’ve yet to receive your advance copy, let me know: KB (at) BroadsidePR (dot) com.
For more info, visit: BillCleggAuthor.com
Announcing BROADSIDE: Expert Literary PR
A new literary publicity collaboration between
Kimberly Burns, Whitney Peeling, and Michael Taeckens
New York (May 21, 2015) – Literary publicists Kimberly Burns, Whitney Peeling, and Michael Taeckens announce the formation of their new full-service publicity group, BROADSIDE: Expert Literary PR.
With over fifty years of combined experience working with the finest imprints and authors, and decades of mutual professional admiration, Burns, Peeling, and Taeckens have united to elevate and empower today’s top writers and thinkers.
BROADSIDE will specialize in publicity and marketing for publisher-backed literary fiction and narrative nonfiction, as well as literary and mission-driven organizations and nonprofits.
“The three of us are overjoyed to be working together in this official capacity,” says Taeckens. “We each have a distinct style and set of interests, as well as varying areas of expertise, that complement each other in the best of ways.”
“With the media landscape changing so quickly, it makes perfect sense for Michael, Whitney, and me to team up,” says Burns. “All of our current and future clients will benefit from our collective experience, brainstorming, and network of contacts.”
“All three of us have countless successful campaigns under our belts,” notes Peeling, “and we believe collaboration always trumps competition. When we found the name BROADSIDE—which, among other things, means the ‘simultaneous firing of all guns from one side of a ship’—we knew it defined our approach.”
The books that Burns, Peeling, and Taeckens have worked on have regularly landed on bestseller lists; won Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, and National Book Critics Circle Awards; moved and shaped the literary landscape; and catalyzed social movements. In addition to years executing exceptional campaigns independently, the BROADSIDE team has in-house experience at Alfred A. Knopf, Algonquin Books, Graywolf Press, Houghton Mifflin, W. W. Norton, Pantheon Books, The Penguin Press, PublicAffairs, Random House, and Vintage Books.
Notable in-house campaigns they’ve led include: Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation; Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants; Zadie Smith’s White Teeth; Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams; Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus’ Creating a World Without Poverty; W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz; Amy Stewart’s Wicked Plants; Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon; and Charles Morris’ The Trillion Dollar Meltdown, among many others.
Notable campaigns they’ve led independently include: Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer Prize–winning The Sixth Extinction; novels by Booker Prize–winning author Salman Rushdie; Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s international bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow; New York Times bestselling novels by Sara Gruen and Tim Johnston; Los Angeles Times columnist Meghan Daum’s The Unspeakable; Vikram Chandra’s NBCC-nominated Geek Sublime; New York Times investigative journalist James Risen’s national bestseller Pay Any Price; and publicity campaigns for The American Booksellers Association, The Moth, The Kirkus Prize, and The Whiting Foundation.
Broadside blends independence with collaboration. Clients can choose to hire one, two, or all three members for a campaign—although every project benefits from Broadside’s collective experience, brainstorming, and network of contacts. All three Broadside partners handle publicity campaigns; Michael Taeckens also handles all aspects of marketing, web design, and social media.
Further information on BROADSIDE and Burns, Peeling, and Taeckens can be found at broadsidepr.com.
Follow on Twitter @BroadsidePR & Instagram: @Broadside_PR
BROADSIDE logo designed by Ben Schott
Kimberly Burns has led literary publicity campaigns for Ann Beattie, Meghan Daum, AM Homes, Yiyun Li, Natalie Merchant, Molly Ringwald, Jon Ronson, Salman Rushdie, and Marisa Silver, as well as for The Moth, NYU, The Story Prize, PEN World Voices Festival, The 92nd St Y/Unterberg Poetry Center, The New Yorker Festival, and Granta. Before starting her own company in 2003, she worked at Knopf, Random House, Pantheon, and The Penguin Press – where she led campaigns for, among others, Amy Bloom/A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, Zadie Smith/White Teeth, WG Sebald/Austerlitz, and Adam Gopnik/Paris to the Moon. She is proud to serve on the board of directors of the Housing Works Bookstore and the Happy Ending Music & Reading Series, and as a consultant for Creative Capital’s Literature Grantees.
Whitney Peeling has seventeen years of experience in nonfiction book publicity. Before starting her own company in 2010, she worked at Houghton Mifflin, W.W. Norton, and PublicAffairs. As an independent publicist she has led campaigns for emerging and established authors including bestsellers Daniel Kahneman/Thinking, Fast and Slow, Adam Grant/Give and Take, and Elizabeth Kolbert/The Sixth Extinction. Clients include publishers such as Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Perseus Books Group, PublicAffairs, W.W. Norton, Henry Holt & Company, Wharton Digital Press, and mission-driven organizations like The Whiting Foundation, The New Girls’ Network (to promote What Works for Women at Work by Joan C. Williams), and Partners in Health (to promote To Repair the World by co-founder Paul Farmer).
Michael Taeckens has led publicity and marketing campaigns for the American Booksellers Association, Vikram Chandra, Tim Johnston, Sara Gruen, and Edward Carey, among others. Before starting his own company he was Marketing Director at Graywolf Press, where he worked on Leslie Jamison’s New York Times bestseller The Empathy Exams, and for twelve years he was Publicity Director at Algonquin Books, where he led the campaigns for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie/Purple Hibiscus, Sara Gruen/Water for Elephants, Robert Goolrick/A Reliable Wife, and Amy Stewart/Flower Confidential and Wicked Plants. He also launched and managed Algonquin’s social media presence, growing its Twitter fan base to over 110,000 followers, and created the “Algonquin Book Club,” pairing Stephen King, Edwidge Danticat, Anne Lamott, Judy Blume, and others with Algonquin authors for live events. Michael pens the “Reviewers & Critics” column for Poets & Writers.
I came across this blog post from literary agent Carly Watters: How much do you know about hiring an external publicist for your novel? There are a lot of these kinds of columns to be found, including a few written by publicists, and they always seem to get something massively wrong. This post though hits everything right and I urge all authors to read it, (although the ballpark figure for pr on literary fiction is on the extreme high side – I hope it doesn’t put writers off from exploring the option).
There’s one point in Carly Watters’ post that I want to drill down on because it comes up for me every day and it just…there is no other word…sucks. I’ve received around ten calls for freelance publicity this week. I’ve referred every one of them to other freelancers or advised them on how they might work better and more closely with their in-house publicist. Three of the calls I got were for books that have already been published. Two of them were for books publishing next month. Carly Watters mentions this in her excellent post but it’s a point that deserves highlighting: If you are thinking of hiring a freelance publicist, start looking 8 to 12 months before your pub date. Not only because, as she notes, it helps everyone to be on the same plan, but also because A) the better publicists fill up for projects months in advance, B) you should give yourself time to find the publicist who is the right fit for you and your book, and C) a good freelance publicist will want to work with you and your publishing team to help develop and hone the message for the media as well as book buyers. Why this book? Why now? What does this book do better or different than other books? Etc. It’s all important in a fast moving media environment and will especially help the author as he/she talks about his book leading up to publication.
Meanwhile – No Kidding! In the middle of writing this I received a call from an author whose book had been published several months ago and didn’t receive the attention it might have. I explained the difficulties he is facing since the book came out so long ago (including that most media people are looking right now at books that will be published in June/July/next fall), told him I’m full for projects and referred him to the Publishing Trends Freelance Publicists list.
So. Forewarned, forearmed. The time to start thinking about book publicity is at least 6, ideally more, months before your publication date.
While I’m on m’soapbox, this post on author and publicist collaboration from the UK is well worth reading too: Ask Not What Your Publicist Can Do For You…. Note this part: “When a book is taken on, publicists are involved from the very outset, and the author should also be part of the team from the beginning.” And “no author ever became hugely successful without working in partnership…It’s never enough just to write a great book.”
Years ago one of my mentors said, “A good book always finds its way.” I believe this. But in our overcrowded, noisy, extremely competitive publishing landscape, why wouldn’t you give your book, as well as your career, a leg up.
I’m so happy to be working on publicity for Valley Fever, Katherine Taylor‘s first novel since her widely acclaimed debut, Rules for Saying Goodbye, came out seven years ago. People: it was worth the wait. Set on a family-owned vineyard in sun-baked, drought-stricken Central California, Valley Fever is a sharp, deeply intelligent story of love and betrayal as a young woman searches for her place in the world. It almost goes without saying, this is the perfect novel to be read with a glass (or two, or three) of your favorite California Red.
And massive kudos to FSG’s art department who designed this gorgeous wine grape laden jacket:
FSG will publish in June – if you’re interested in an advance copy, just let me know.
“Valley Fever goes straight to the heart of it: How are we supposed to live? How to jump through those hoops of fire known as love and work and family, and hopefully emerge with body and soul more or less intact. Or even–dare I say it?–to come through with some measure of peace in ourselves. Katherine Taylor’s unflinching novel takes on the big stuff, and does so with an empathy and insight that reward the closest reading. This superb book succeeds on every level.” – Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
“In Katherine Taylor’s stirring and sneakily capacious novel, what begins as a family romance widens out to be nothing less than a portrait of the knotty, complicated relationship between land and the people who make it their life’s work to nurture and sometimes exploit it. Heartbreak comes in the form of relentless heat, ravaging dust, and a perfect grape left to wither on the vine, and the undoing of a once proud family vineyard becomes as potent a tale of love and betrayal as any I’ve recently read. Taylor’s prose is sharp, rueful, hilarious and crackling with life. Her characters’ raw, unsentimental affairs with one another and with the earth they till will stay with you long after you’ve left the book’s pages behind.” – Marisa Silver, author of Mary Coin
Bonus fun thing I love: Check Katherine’s little dog, Littles, tumblr page: The Daily Littles
I’ve been sitting with a secret for MONTHS and happy, finally, to be able to announce the launch of Scout Press, a new imprint dedicated solely to publishing literary fiction. You can read about Scout in the New York Times here – it’s an excellent piece which includes interviews with Scout’s Publisher Jennifer Bergstrom and the author of Scout’s lead title, Bill Clegg. Bill’s debut novel, Did You Ever Have a Family, will be first out of the gate and published on Sept. 15, 2015. The next novel is In a Dark, Dark Wood, a debut literary thriller by British author Ruth Ware. And just this past week Scout acquired Molly Prentiss’ debut novel, Tuesday Nights in 1980, which, especially since I lived in SoHo for so long, I can’t wait to read – it’s about an author on the brink of success and an art critic just as NYC’s downtown arts scene is exploding in the early 1980’s.
It is a happy occasion to have a new publishing program devoted only to excellent fiction and I am over the moon to be working with the people at Scout Press and their authors.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux will publish Meghan Daum‘s new collection of original essays, The Unspeakable, this November 18 and it is starting to get a ton of attention. It’s been on all the “Best Books for Fall” lists, including the one from the smart people at Refinery29 who say, “Meghan Daum might just be the new Joan Didion: a whip-smart, incisive, and often hilarious cultural commentator whose personal essays will stand the test of time. Better pay attention.”
This week The New Yorker has the first serial of Meghan’s essay, “Difference Maker” – where she writes about her work as a foster care advocate and her reluctance to have children of her own. Pull up a chair and read it here.
There are a ton of great advance quotes for The Unspeakable – from Leslie Jamison, Geoff Dyer, Hilton Als, Sigrid Nunez and this one, from one of my favorite brilliant people, Bernard Cooper:
“Here’s the skinny on Meghan Daum: she’s one of the most humane, entertaining, and articulate contrarians you’re likely to encounter in any book. She challenges our assumptions—and her own—in the bracing, unsentimental manner of great British essayists such as William Hazlitt and George Orwell. Her precision is Didion-esque. Her humor detonates unexpectedly. She writes with a candor that is never indulgent because she effortlessly extrapolates from personal experience the ways of the world at large. In page after page, Daum pinpoints aspects of love, grief, and daily survival that you’ve sensed vaguely but have never found the words for. To read this book is to begin to grasp the intricacies of living in a fresh and penetrating way. I solemnly promise, lucky reader, you are about to be changed.” —Bernard Cooper, author of The Bill From My Father
And in case you missed it – Meghan’s phenomenal cover story about Lena Dunham that ran in the September 14 issue of the New York Times Magazine is here. And the interview with Meghan about doing the interview ( ! ) is here.
Pre-order The Unspeakable from your local independent bookstore or from one of the sites on Meghan’s website here.
Some nice things have happened lately. I’m just home from a completely relaxing, completely unplugged, vacation during which I read books for pleasure (!) and had time to take stock on projects I’ve been working on. Back in May, The Moth celebrated the year with their annual Moth Ball which was their most successful fundraiser to date. The event was especially nice because it featured two writers I did publicity for when I worked in-house, who have also become my good friends. Nathan Englander, a prince among men, presented Zadie Smith with the Moth Award. In his remarks, he talked about how years ago I came tearing down the hall at Random House to give him a galley of a novel, saying “You have to read this.” The novel was White Teeth and it was so great to hear Nathan talk about not only how blown away he was by Zadie’s debut novel (as were we all), but how she became one of his best friends. Zadie accepted The Moth Award with one of the most jaw-droppingly brilliant and, honestly, love-filled speeches I’ve heard. She talked about the role of storytelling in her life and coming back to appreciate stories since she’s been reading to her young children: “For the first time since childhood I am back in the realm of stories and storybooks — three stories read out loud to a four year old, every night, on pain of death — and this practice has reawakened in me something I thought I’d misplaced a long time ago, on book tour, perhaps, or in the back row of a university lecture hall. This feeling of narrative possibility and wonder — this idea that every person is a world. How could I have forgotten that?”
She also gave a shout out to me, which I freely admit, made my heart swell. You can read her remarks here.
Also in May, just before BEA (the book industry’s annual trade show) got under way, some stunningly good publishing industry news (that I’d been sitting on for months!) was announced: the creation of The Kirkus Prize. I’m thrilled to be doing publicity for Kirkus on this project. Ron Charles at The Washington Post covered the story: here. Kirkus, the nation’s leading prepublication journal of book reviews, has created three new literary awards of $50,000 each. The Kirkus Prize, for fiction, non-fiction and young readers’ literature, will be one of the largest annual cash awards for writers in the world. All books that receive a starred review in Kirkus are automatically nominated for the prize. We’ll announce a short list of 6 finalists in each category on September 30th. And the three winners will be announced on October 23rd. Watch this space!
And in continuing good news, I’m currently working with the scorchingly talented Meghan Daum who has a new collection of essays coming from FSG on Nov. 18: The Unspeakable. Meghan has a weekly column in the LA Times and is the author of three previous books – one of which, My Misspent Youth, has achieved near cult status. This new collection is summed up perfectly by Geoff Dyer who says, “The Unspeakable is a fantastic collection of essays: funny, clever and moving (often at the same time), never more universal than in its most personal moments (in other words, throughout), and written with enviable subtlety, precision and spring.”
And by Leslie Jamison, “The Unspeakable speaks with wit and warmth and artful candor, the fruits of an exuberant and consistently surprising intelligence. These are essays that dig under the surface of what we might expect to feel in order to discover what we actually feel instead. I was utterly captivated by Daum’s sensitive fidelity to the complexity of lived experience.”
I can’t wait for this collection to be unleashed upon the world in November. (If you’re media and want a review copy, let me know.) All of the essays here are new and The New Yorker will excerpt one of them in September — Preorder it from one of the links here.
The news of Craig Ferguson stepping down from hosting The Late Late Show is a loss for many reasons, and not only because his interviews are consistently so smart and funny. He is the only network television host to regularly book authors onto his show. Esquire Magazine talked to me and got quotes from authors, including my client Salman Rushdie, about why we’ll all miss Craig Ferguson. Esquire says, rightly, “Few modern media personalities short of Oprah have done more to promote reading and literature.”
You can read the Esquire article here.