Lissa Warren is the author of The Good Luck Cat: How a Cat Saved a Family, and a Family Saved a Cat and The Savvy Author’s Guide to Book Publicity: A Comprehensive Resource—From Building the Buzz to Pitching the Press. She holds a B.S. in English Education from Miami University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Bennington College. She works in Boston as Vice President, Senior Director of Publicity at Da Capo Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. She’s also an Adjunct Professor in Emerson College’s Writing, Literature, and Publishing graduate program.
1. Why did you choose to go the path of publicity in book publishing?
Ha! I didn’t. When I started interning at David R. Godine, Publisher in 1994, I assumed I’d be what all English majors who enter publishing assume they’ll be: an editor. But what they needed was publicity help, and to my surprise I took to it like a duck to water. In the years since, I’ve come to see that, if you like writing, you’ll get to do more of it if you’re in publicity. In editorial, you fix someone else’s words—provided they let you. In publicity, you have the freedom of the blank page for every galley letter, every press release, every succinct and persuasive email (and god knows publicists have to send a lot of them). I love that. Twenty years in, and it never gets old.
2. Are there any projects you wish you could have worked on?
I’ve gotten to work with so many amazing authors over the years—Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, Dr. Susan Love, John Kenneth Galbraith, Alan Arkin, Tony Iommi—that it’s hard to complain. Some of the country’s best historians, too—Harlow Giles Unger, Thomas Fleming, Stanley Weintraub, Charles Bracelen Flood. And people who are perhaps lesser known, but who deserve wide audiences and are an absolute delight to work with—people like Justin Martin, Martin Goldsmith, Gerard Koeppel, Douglas Whynott, and Steven M. Wise. So, really, I have no regrets…though I’ll admit I sighed a bit when giving a lost novel of Kerouac’s to a member of my team to promote. It would have been fun to be able to say I was Kerouac’s publicist.
3. What are you reading right now (for personal reading, for fun)?
I’m a member of a writer’s group for women called Tall Poppies, and I’ve been reading a lot of their books lately. Greer Macallister’s new novel, The Magician’s Lie, is on my nightstand, ready to read soon. So is Heather Webb’s Rodin’s Lover. And I loved Sonja Yoerg’s House Broken. She and I will be doing a joint event at Cambridge’s Porter Square Books on March 10th.
4. How do you utilize Twitter? How do you believe it has changed the way we go about promoting books in publishing?
Well, I’m adept at using it as a form of procrastination! As an author, I use it to spread the word about my TV and radio interviews and my bookstore events, and of course I tweet links to the print media coverage my book has received. As a publicist, I do pretty much the same thing—but using @DaCapoPR instead of @Lissa_Warren. In the lead-up to the holidays, at work we tweeted gift ideas for various types of readers on people’s lists: the economist, the worrier, the vegan. You get the idea. We included both frontlist and backlist books. It was fun, and we got a lot of retweets.
As for how Twitter has changed how we promote books, it hasn’t changed it, really. It’s not like there are things we’re no longer doing because of Twitter. But it has definitely added to our workload. Now, you don’t just get the review—you pull a (brief) quote from it and tweet it with a Bitly link, making sure you include your author’s Twitter handle so that they receive a notification and can retweet it. It sounds easy, and it is—but it’s time consuming…and publicists aren’t people with a lot of time to spare.
5. If you had a crystal ball, where do you think (or hope) book publishing will be in 5 years?
The “think” is probably above my pay grade, but the “hope” is that it will be like it is now except with stronger sales, especially at the indies.
Thanks so much Lissa! For our readers, we highly encourage you to to check out her books.