“Interview: Stephanie Barko, Literary Publicist” by Joan Y. Edwards
Thank you for being a guest on my blog today, Stephanie. Your life, your tips, your book publicist services, and your DIY Book Platform app will inspire authors and help them decide the best way to publicize their books.
You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure to be here and to share book publicity ideas with authors.
Where were you born?
In Houston, and I have the lungs to prove it. (Houston has the worst air quality in the US.)
What qualities of your parents do you admire the most?
My dad lost his dad when he was three and had to commit his mom to a mental institution when he was 10, so he was effectively an orphan raised by his brothers. He was the only one of five brothers to go to college, which he did on a football scholarship. My mom was a swimmer who went to Olympic trials and missed getting in by one-tenth of a second. Her shoebox full of medals blows my mind. The year I was born, my parents started a business that is still going today–sales, service and rental of industrial equipment. My people are a little OCD, but we’re driven to achieve. Failure is not an option.
If you go to an amusement park, which ride do you head to first?
Which ride do you avoid at all costs?
Roller coaster or anything that sends my neck into the chiropractor.
How did you do in English in high school?
Splendidly, despite being a slow reader.
What were three books you loved when you were a child?
The Cat in the Hat, The Velveteen Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland
What are three of your favorite books to read today?
Anything by Anne Lamott
Where is your favorite place to visit? Why?
Alaska because it’s the way the planet would look without us around to mess it up, although it started melting after my last visit.
Who or what has been the most help and inspiration to you in your life?
My middle school English teacher whose motto was “Take initiative!” which dovetailed with the entrepreneurial spirit in my household. And my mom’s best friend, who is 96 this year, a naturalized American from Versailles.
From my meeting you and seeing you at the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation Inc (OWFI) conference in May, 2016, it seems that you enjoy being with people. You are very friendly and outgoing. This is a great quality. Do you require a lot of alone time? How do you get it when your job as a publicist may require a lot of interacting with others?
On Myers-Briggs I am 50/50 introvert/extrovert, so as much as I put out, I spend putting back in. I am a mole in a hole on my laptop, just like a writer, until I go to a conference.
How do you keep yourself physically fit?
These days I walk or go to PT.
Do you set dates to meet your goals? Do you celebrate when you reach them?
I set goals every year, either in November or January and then I revisit them in June to see where I am. I usually nail the physical goals (I’m a minor health nut), and have mixed results in the other categories. Celebration for me usually involves a gluten-free menu on a white tablecloth with an adult beverage.
Who do you go to when you’re feeling low and about to give up?
I learned a long time ago that my pen and my friends are my family, so I either hit my journal or the phone.
When did you decide to become a literary publicist? Why?
I began this career in 2006 after an editor noticed me marketing other writers in our writing circle. Before that I marketed semiconductors, so it only took me a short while between careers to figure out that once a marketer, always a marketer. During 2005, I was simply changing products.
What has been your most exhilarating moment as a publicist?
Presenting in front of my peers in Denver at 2014 Author U Extravaganza. I never worked so hard on slides in my life!
What kind of research is necessary to develop a publicity plan for a client?
With ten years of experience, it’s the most fun thing I do, but I’m not going to give that away.
What are 3 tips you can give writers/authors?
1. It’s never too early to create your platform. 2. Agents look for craft first, so get it right and get it edited. 3. Know your audience and already have them identified before you query your manuscript.
What are three things that an author needs online?
1. Website 2. Blog 3. Social Suite
Wow! What a great number of clients you have with big publishers and small publishers and self-published authors! What three qualities helped you be a successful publicist?
To do the work I do, you have to be organized and persistent. I hear “no” as one step closer to the “yes” I’m going for. And you’ve got to be able to ask for what you want. I’m always amazed how long it takes women to articulate what they want. If you can ask for what you want, you’ll find that you get it about 75% of the time. Men just take what they want–they don’t even ask.
On February 9, 2016, Brian Jud stated in Inside Publishing Marketing & Publicity that successful book publishers market their books using an assorted mix of promotional media. The four parts to an assorted communication mix are publicity, advertising, sales promotion and personal selling. What are the essential ingredients of a good publicity campaign? Does it include advertising and sales promotion, as well as publicity? Do you do personal selling? Or is that for the author to do?
Some authors are good at hand selling. I promote. I never sell anything. I don’t believe in advertising novels, but I think advertising is okay for some nonfiction. A good PR campaign is specific to the subgenre and the author’s background. I don’t find it to be formulaic.
What are three books you would highly recommend to authors to help them learn how to market and sell their books successfully?
You can’t go wrong with John Kremer. If you write YA, I recommend Cynthia Leitich Smith’s website. I think it’s critically important for all authors to understand the impact Google has on us, so anything you can learn about their algorithm changes, about SEO, optimization and integration is important. I watch that more than I watch what Amazon is up to.
How do you recommend writers go about finding a good publicist for their book?
You want one who routinely handles your subgenre, has no law suits against her or black marks on Preditors & Editors, and someone who has the connections you’re wanting to make. The level of vetting I recommend is somewhere between how you would investigate a surgeon vs. a housekeeper—you want to see both skill and integrity.
When is the best time to hire a publicist?
4-6 months PRIOR TO release date. Most authors approach me too late.
Could you give me a ballpark figure for the cost of having a publicist?
A full campaign runs $5K – $20K, depending on whether there’s media training, social media maintenance, or advertising rates rolled into the contract. Most of my contracts run $5K-$8K for 3-4 months of specific deliverables.
What is DIY Book Platform?
DIY Book Platform is an app I created for authors of genres I don’t take and for authors who can’t afford a publicist. Purchase a 45-day pass to use it. Download it from www.diybookplatform.com.
It’s interesting that publicists have different genres they work with, similar to how agents choose different genres to represent. How did you decide that non-fiction adult books was your preference?
I like reality. I read nonfiction. Historical fiction is the other genre I take, and to me, that’s just reality redone as entertainment.
Do you do book reviews for nonfiction books?
Sometimes I will rate books on GoodReads that I read in my Austin book group.
What qualities does a nonfiction book need for you to consider representing its author as a publicist?
It needs to be well edited, well designed, with a goal of being published in more than one format.
How do you plan events for your authors?
I give advice on which events are worth their time.
How should authors/publishers contact you to ask if you’d represent them as a publicist?
Via email, stephanie (at) stephaniebarko (dot) com.
What is your website? Blog?
How can others connect with you on social media?
Links for DIY Platform (Stephanie Barko’s App for authors who can’t afford a publicist or who write in the genres she doesn’t serve)
Download DIY Platform app: www.diybookplatform.com
Facebook Page facebook.com/diybookplatform
Stephanie Barko’s award-winning clients include traditional publishers and their authors, small presses, and independently published writers. She promotes nonfiction & historical fiction exclusively, including how-to, history, career, business, biography, self-help, and memoir. Debut authors and spiritual nonfiction are especially welcome.
Ms. Barko was invited into the publishing industry after many years in high tech marketing. She has presented on book marketing & publicity at Historical Novel Society North American Conference, Oklahoma Writers Federation, DFW Writers, and Women Writing the West. Her articles and book reviews have been published in Western American Literature, Roundup Magazine, Southern Writers Magazine, San Francisco Book Review, and the Texas Book Marketing Directory. She has been quoted in Writer’s Digest and was selected to Mentor at 2017 SXSW Interactive.
She was a Finalist in More Magazine’s Reinvention Story Competition, nominated by her peers as Book Publicist of the Year, and voted Preditors & Editors Best Book Promotion Service. Stephanie has served as a Recommended Associate at Author U, an Industry Expert at Author Learning Center, and an Instructor for the Writers’ League of Texas. This year her agency was voted Best Resource in the Small Business Book Awards.
Development was completed in 2015 on DIY Book Platform, a web-based app that Stephanie conceived to serve authors who could not afford a publicist.
In 2014, Stephanie was profiled by both Environmental Defense Fund and National Audubon Society for her commitment to the earth. Since 2005, she has moderated a nonfiction book group that has hosted such nationally known authors as journaling expert Janet Conner (Writing Down Your Soul), genocide survivor and professional athlete Gilbert Tuhabonye (This Voice In My Heart), and Paul Woodruff (Reverence), a TV guest of Bill Moyers. Stephanie has degrees in Business & Sociology and is based in Austin.
Thank you again for being a guest on my blog today, Stephanie. You are a very talented, helpful, and energetic lady.
Thank you for reading my interview with Stephanie Barko. I hope you’ll leave her a little note. Feel free to ask a question. To comment, click below and scroll down to the very bottom.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2017 Joan Y. Edwards