August 12, 2008

Interview: Mary Lewis, Publicist

I got to know Mary Lewis a little bit a few months ago, when she contacted me to find out if I'd be interested in reviewing a few books that she was publicizing. She's the lady behind Blog Stop Book Tours, for whom I read (and loved) Springtime on Mars. Mary has a brief bio up on her site, but I always want to know more about people -- and so I asked if she'd like to be interviewed.

If you've ever wondered what exactly it is that a publicist does, there might be some answers here for you. And if you're interested in reviewing for Mary, you can write to her at blogstops[at]gmail[dot]com for more details.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I'm a coffee fiend with an addiction to words. Nothing made me happier than when bookstores partnered with coffee shops. I read constantly.

I have four children - ages 18, 17, 11 and 6. The oldest is my only girl. I'm married to my best friend, who never ceases to amaze me. Cooking (from scratch), gardening, hiking and bicycling fill what little spare time I have.

I want a Kindle, but I'm waiting for the bugs to be worked out and the price to come down. The new Iphone has caught my eye, as well, but I'm not sure I need ALL those features just yet. And I'm probably the only audiophile on Earth who doesn't own an Ipod. I swore I would never be a "gadget girl", but the idea is growing on me. I'm just your average everyday geek.

How did you get into the book publicity business?

I got into the book publicity business because it seemed like a natural fit. I'm an avid reader and insatiably curious, I write, and I've been learning a lot about the publishing business. I've worked in marketing and promotions, off and on, for the last 15 years. It just so happens that everything came together now for me to focus on promoting books.

Do you seek out authors, or do they generally come to you?

The short answer is both. I actively look for books that grab my interest, but I've also been approached by authors.

Are you associated with certain publishers, or do you work strictly freelance?

I am not associated with any one specific publisher. The beauty of what I do lies in working with authors signed with big name publishers, small presses or self-published.

What's a typical day like for you?

I don't know that I ever have a typical day. With four kids, there are always surprises. My routine is usually to be up by 7 am, grab a cup of coffee and check emails. I get the kids off to school half an hour later, and then I blog. The rest of my day is spent networking, promoting, researching and reading for review or book tours. I spend time with my family from around 3 in the afternoon until 7 in the evening, then I finish up household stuff. I read for about 20 minutes before bed to wind down from the day.

How did Blog Stop Book Tours come to be?

Blog Stop Book Tours was born out of necessity and inspiration, with a little serendipity thrown in for good measure. I needed to create a business I could run from my home office, with the flexibility that would afford me. The inspiration came from many different sources. A friend and I had talked about the very beginnings of the concept of a virtual book tour four years ago. And it's stuck with me since. Then, I saw other people doing them. I let the idea sit for awhile until I had narrowed down how I wanted to do it. My son started Kindergarten. I had time to write, and plan and think, for the first time in a very long time. And then the Web 2.0 thing happened. All of a sudden, there were tons of ways to get the word out about new products to thousands and thousands of people in a very short time.

Last year, I read a news story that said that one in four of all Americans hadn't read a book, at all, in the last year. This left me dismayed. How could people not be reading books? I am extremely pro-reading. I've seen the joy in my children's faces when they begin reading a book that hooks them from page one to the very last word. I also thought about the 75% who are reading, and the fact that it's incredibly difficult for new authors to get promotion and/or shelf space at the bookstore. My purpose for starting Blog Stop is first and foremost to promote reading. In the process, I'm promoting books and authors and publishers and bloggers. That's a lot of bang for a very small buck.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to work as a publicist?

I wouldn't, mostly because I consider what I'm doing to be a vocation. My advice to anyone is figure out what your innate talents are and do what you love.

How much choice do you have when it comes to the books you publicize? Have you ever had to champion a book you didn't like?

The only things that limit my choices are time and the need for some sleep every day. I haven't championed a book I don't like. If I read a book I can't believe in, I won't review it or tour it.

Are there any book tours coming up that are particularly exciting to you?

Every book tour is exciting! Ellen Meister is touring her book, The Smart One, this month. I consider Ellen a good friend and I'm thrilled to be part of her promotion plan.

Three books are touring in September...

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

The River, By Moonlight by Camille Marchetta

Midwife of the Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins

I'm excited about them because they are all versions of Historical Fiction, which I didn't find all that interesting when I was younger, but now I love the genre.

And there you have it. If you have any questions, I'm sure that Mary would be happy to here from you. Go check out her website and give her a yell!

6 comments:

Jessica said...

Great interview!! I'm working with Mary to promote both Midwife of the Blue Ridge and The River, By Moonlight. Look for reviews on my blog in September.

Publishing Your Book—What Way is Best For You? - Part 2 said...

[...] Interview: Mary Lewis, Publicist [...]

kegsoccer said...

Great interview. I have the "The Heretic's Daughter" in my TBR pile, and I have a copy of "Midwife of the Blue Ridge" coming soon, so it'll be interesting to see what everyone else thinks of them.

Christine said...

I just got a copy of The Heretic's Daughter yesterday -- actually, it probably arrived at my house just around the time I was publishing this interview (at work... shh!).

kegsoccer said...

Oh and I've tagged you!

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