THE BLOG
06/24/2010 10:07 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Something Book Publicists Love to Hear: "Did We Know This Was Coming?"

When a publishing company's publicity department announces that a major media break has occurred, many an editor, publisher, and sales director will exhibit a unique two-stage reaction. The stages occur sequentially. Stage One is usually along the lines of: "Yay!" Stage Two, which follows just milliseconds later, is invariably: "Did we know this was coming?"

It's a fair question. If a publisher knows about a big media hit in advance, they can consider their stock situation and perhaps push a few more copies out to retailers in anticipation of the crushing demand they hope the publicity will generate. They might even have a discussion about whether going back to press is warranted.

But paranoia lurks deep in the heart of the book publicist, who may think the question is accusatory. "Did we know this was coming?" can sound like "Are you doing your job, or did we just get lucky?"

Book flack -- relax! The question almost certainly isn't meant that way, but even if it were, there are just three possible answers:

  1. Yes, we knew it was coming and we knew it was coming today.
  2. Yes, we knew it was coming but we weren't sure when it was coming.
  3. No, we had no idea it was coming.

Any of these answers is acceptable. If it's number one, you're obviously in the clear. If it's number two, chances are you gave everyone some kind of advance notice that something was coming at some point, date TBA. You can't reasonably be expected to know the exact date every publicity break will hit. Media outlets are notoriously squirrely about alerting publicists to run dates, and boy do they hate to be nagged about it.

If it's number three -- congratulations! It means your campaign has taken on a life of its own. You've got it right where you want it -- bubbling along just beyond your direct control. You don't want to have to work for each and every break -- you want the publicity to develop some momentum and generate new publicity for you. That's how publicity works, ideally.

Your colleagues may still pull long faces about the surprise factor -- that there was no time to think about getting out more copies or going back to press. So what? The truth is, media outlets with the potential to move the dial to that degree can be counted on one hand -- one of those four-fingered cartoon character hands. Or, you know, the Hamburger Helper hand. And you still have to sell through the copies that are already in the marketplace, right?

By the way, if anyone ever does ask you "Are you doing your job, or did we just get lucky?" be sure to tell them they don't know what they're talking about. Anyone who thinks luck doesn't play a role in a successful publicity campaign is out of their tiny little mind.

For more things book publicists love to hear, see Six Things Book Publicsits Love to Hear and Something Book Publicists Love to Hear: "How Can We Leverage This?"