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Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Interview with Publicist and Author Doug Johnston

I have a great friend named Doug Johnston and he is a publicist. For over a year, he's helped me fine tune my image and writing. His professional suggestions have greatly advanced my resume (Thank you, thank you , thank you, Doug). He's constantly looking for unique and fun ways to promote his business and his clients. A few years ago, he had an idea to raise money for a skate park in his small Utah town. He contacted a local band and arrange for a community fundraising event. In order to obtain more publicity, he took his idea a step further. In his weekly newspaper column, he committed to walk from the Idaho to Arizona border if enough funds were raised. Extreme? Yes. Crazy? Perhaps, but great publicity; for sure.

I asked Doug some specifics about publicity and he had some great ideas. If you're an author, blogger, artist, or anyone else who's super cool and wants the world to know about it, read on to see what he had to say in my interview.

  1. What are some effective ways for an author to get publicity?

First, have a great book. Second, have a book that people want to talk about. People send me books all the time and want me to work with them, and after reading the book, I shake my head and know if I walk into any book store I can read almost the same book as the author wrote. That is not going to sell many books. Third, you have to have a story, a good story. The story might be how you wrote the book, or why you wrote the book, or how the character had a certain problem and how you did the research and how it changed you! Lastly, you have to be able to do a lot of your own publicity. If you are afraid to speak, you won’t go far, because if your book takes off and you do a lot of television, radio, book signings, and interviews you need to be able to speak and be able to keep the listeners attention. There are so many others: A blog, a website, a social networking page, Facebook is my favorite!

  1. Why is important to hire a publicist?

Unless you have one of the best book publishers as your publisher, and even if you have them as your publisher and your book isn’t one of their top books, you will most likely be doing all of the publicity yourself. If you don’t know how to do all of the publicity, you will need help. Getting on television, radio, in magazines, newspapers etc, you have to have contacts. There are a lot of publicists out there, and it is easy to sign a huge dollar contract with a publicist and they will do nothing for you. Some are great, but some of the big ones will take you for over $3000 a month, on a minimum of 6 month contracts and you may see NOTHING from it.

  1. What are some common mistakes authors make when trying to publicize a book?

Being in the newspaper business for over 11 years, the one that always bugs me is when I get a cold call, and they don’t know my name, or my position, or they ask for the editors email, and when we get their press release, it has my name spelled wrong or it says, Dear Sir or Madam (PLEASE). Most of them are so poorly written that I hit delete before reading them. If you don’t know how to write a press release, look it up. If you have a good publicist, they KNOW who the editors are, and what the editors want and they know what producers of radio and TV. want. I get between 20 and 30 press releases on new books a week, and if I decide to ask for the book, you would be amazed at how many people will send the book, with no contact information. Nothing other than the book. How do I contact them again? I am not going to go looking through my emails that I deleted a month ago.

  1. When is bad publicity actually good?

When you are a celebrity and you shave your head? Miss Spears! How about John and Kate? Many people don’t know of their show that was on, but they know plenty about them. Watch TMZ, People get bad publicity every day. Usually when a television, music or movie star write a book, they sell very well. That is not always the case though.

  1. What is the most extreme thing you’ve done to promote a book?

It will be coming up when my book comes out. I have so many stunts that will get my name out there. I am a person that knows how to get publicity.

  1. What is your favorite publicity story?

I can’t just name one. One of my favorites was a Jewish woman that was at Book Expo America (BEA). Every hour on the hour she would hold a sign up for five minutes that said something like “Jewish author looking for a book agent or a date. She ended up with a lot of agent’s numbers and even got a few dates. One of my favorites recently is by a very funny author. Her name is Libba Bray. She recently came out with a book called Going Bovine. If you Google Libba Bray Going Bovine you will see a great book trailer. If you get a chance try to find Libba’s bio. You will laugh about that one too. Like her glass eye, how her name really isn’t Libba, and so many more.

  1. Who in the publicity industry impresses you most?

The people in the publicity industry are the ones that say they are the best and they usually are not. The ones that impress me are the little guys that are not getting rich but they change lives. They change lives by first believing in the books they market and they help the author get the books in the hands of people that need to read great writing.

  1. What’s next on your professional resume?

I hope New York Times bestselling author. I recently went back to being a managing editor at a weekly newspaper. I love the work, and I get to help a lot of authors. I am very selective of whom I take on as a client, and now that I am at the paper, I only take one or two clients at a time.

Authors are naturally passionate about their work. What makes your work special? How can you get your novel recognized? Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone? Publicity is a must for any new author. In today’s tough market and good writing is not enough. Stand out and push your writing to a whole new level.

Thank you Doug, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to help us desperate authors. For more information on Doug Johnston and Little Red Ride Promotions, visit


  1. Thanks for the interview. Doug, all I can say is I can't wait to see what you zap the world with when your book comes out. Wish you hadn't been so busy working on said book when you were in town for the ANWA Conference! We didn't get to see much of you.

  2. Thanks for the interview, Doug. I needed that encouragement. Your talk at ANWA conference was a good boost too. I get tired of tooting my own horn, but nobody will do it if I don't! Toot-toot! Haunts Haven and Chocolate Roses (my novels)--go!