About Joan Stewart

Publicity expert Joan Stewart, a PR mentor aka The Publicity Hound, works with small business owners who need free publicity to promote their expertise. She shows you how to establish your credibility, enhance your reputation, position yourself as an expert, and sell more products and services. To receive her free DIY publicity tips twice a week, subscribe here. See all the ways you can work with Joan. Or contact her and ask a burning question about PR, self-promotion or social media.

What to expect from a literary agent — free call tomorrow

Beth Vesel literary agentAuthors who are thinking they might need a literary agent can hear many of their questions answered during a free call tomorrow, July 24, 2014.

Edward Vilga, author of the best-selling novel Downward Dog, will interview his literary agent, Beth Vesl, senior vice president at the Irene Goodman Agency, at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. The Q&A call is on “5 Things You’ve Always Wanted to Ask a Literary Agent.” Register here.

You will learn:

  • Whether authors need an agent.
  • The best way to find one and what you can expect once a contract is signed.
  • How self-publishing differs from the vanity press.
  • The importance of having a platform on social media.
  • How publishing has changed and how that affects authors who are just starting to write.
  • The worst mistake aspiring authors make over and over again.

Full Disclosure: Edward is one of my customers, and I featured a sample chapter from Downward Dog in Quick & Easy Media Kit Templates for Indie Authors, as an example of how to present a sample chapter in a media kit.    

Ebook publicity idea: Name fictional characters after your fans–they’ll help you promote

Chris Kennedy sci-fi novels

When sci-fi novelist Chris Kennedy writes an ebook, he names characters in his novels after real people, many of them his fans.

He calls the characters “Redshirts,” a term that originated with the Star Trek TV series. Starfleet security personnel who frequently died during episodes wore red shirts.

“If you want to be in one of my ebooks, tell me something about yourself,” Chris says. “I already have 20 people lined up who will be characters in my sixth ebook.”

One of his fans is Father John Zuhlsdorf, a Catholic priest and Internet personality better known as “Father Z” who has a huge following.

Father Zuhlsdorf wanted to be a Redshirt, and Chris named a fictional chaplain after him.

“He managed to survive the Redshirt process and made it into the next ebook as well,” Chris said.

How Publicity Builds

Father John Zuhlsdorf“Father Z has mentioned the ebooks at least a couple of times in his blog, and I’ve heard many readers tell me they heard about my books from him. He’s also on Facebook.”

All the other people who are named in those ebooks tell their friends, too…and they tell their friends and so on…

“I hate having to come up with new names for characters so it’s a win-win for me,” Chris says.

“Not only do I get people who will give me their names, but I also get free publicity and guaranteed sales for using them!”

More Ebook Publicity Ideas Tomorrow

Naming characters in your ebook after real people is one of the sales tricks I’ll discuss tomorrow—Thursday, July 17, 2014—when I host the paid webinar How to Promote Your Ebooks for Maximum Visibility and Sales. It’s from 4 to 5 p.m. Eastern Time and I’ll record it. So if you’ve made other plans, register anyway. I’ll send you the video replay and all the bonuses within 72 hours.

Most of my tips apply to both fiction and non-fiction authors. When I asked readers of my ezine this week to share with me their best tips for promoting ebooks, I was inundated with responses! Some of them are incredibly clever, and others so easy! I’ll show you how one ebook author ended up on the cover of a magazine. Register now and make marketing your ebooks a lot easier.

‘Cut and paste’ software eliminates tedious typing, makes marketing easier

5 Way Macro Software Saves Time Marketing500By Barbara Florio Graham

One of the ways I keep a diversified business running smoothly is to have carefully-crafted responses to common questions and news items pre-writtten.

Years ago, this would have meant a series of separate documents on my computer, but now it takes just a few seconds to locate what I want to include in a letter, press release, email or social media post, and paste it in.

Several programs allow you to do this.

Joan Stewart uses Shortkeys, a keyboard macro utility for PC or Mac. She says it takes her less than 30 seconds to create a Shortkey and assign to it copy that she can use over and over again, by typing only a few keystrokes.

Beware of Free Programs

Like most good programs, ShortKeys offers a 30-day free trial before you have to pay for it.

You can also find free macro programs and clipboard extenders, but, like most free software, when I downloaded these they automatically installed other programs I didn’t want. That triggered pop-up ads urging me to buy something. Annoying! They were actually installed, without my permission, into My Programs. I had to manually remove them.

I’m working on a PC, but all these functions also exist on a Mac, although they may be called by a different term.

Why I Love Clipmate

I’ve used a program called ClipMate since it was first launched in 1991. It allows me to highlight anything I choose – a word, phrase, URL, paragraph or entire letter or article – and copy it to ClipMate.

The program sits on my task bar, so all those clips are instantly available. I just highlight the one I want and paste it into a document, web page, email or any social media.

This allows me to fire off a comprehensive reply to a query about any of my services. Or I can offer my bios in whatever length the publication needs, or letters to the editor. I also use it for posts to blogs or other social media that discuss a variety of topics related to writing, publishing, cats, and many other issues that concern me or where I can offer expertise.

For example, my award-winning article, “Training Your Cat Like a Dog,” appeared in publications in the U.S. and Canada. I keep a description in ClipMate to send to any pet publication I hear about in other countries. As I write this blog, I’m waiting to hear back from magazines in Germany and India. Sending these queries took just a few minutes.

ClipMate has several key advantages. You can create “Collections” and have any number of finely sorted clips available. For example, I have a collection called “Tags” where I store unique URLs for individual pages on my website, my mailing address, book titles and ISBNs, and several different letterhead templates.

I have another called “Responses” where I keep messages answering requests for mentoring, a description of my Canadian Libraries list, ordering information for my books, etc. Another collection contains my credits, in 20-word, 50-word, 100-word and longer versions.

You can modify a clip by just hitting “View” in ClipMate, changing whatever you want, and then closing the clip. Collections can be sorted, items moved or copies from one to the other, and retrieved (if they’ve been accidentally deleted) from the trash bin. Because there is no limit on the number of clips in any of the collections, you never lose a clip unless you deliberately delete it.

Only the trash bin is eventually emptied. In some other programs, items are deleted from the bottom as “fill” the collection.

Use It for Marketing, Publicity, Promotion

Free Publicity Tip 39--Use a Macro Key ProgramClipMate streamlines my marketing and promotion. I can store testimonials and reviews written by others, which I’ve copied from an email or website, without opening a document.

Since my company is named after my cat, I need to keep a great deal of information about Simon Teakettle readily available. He has his own collection in ClipMate, with descriptions of varying lengths, short and long bios, information about his MEWSical Society and Fan Club, and several clips describing his book, including the full Table of Contents.

Once you copy a clip from ClipMate, you can select only the portions you want to use, and then, if you wish, copy just those portions back into ClipMate as separate clips. I often do that when I need the number of a loyalty card (like AirMiles). I have this filed under a ClipMate collection called Data. I’ve sorted this alphabetically, so it’s easy to find any of the loyalty programs or other numbers I need to type into email occasionally. And when I retrieve it, I can copy only the number.

I have a “secret” collection in ClipMate containing my credit card numbers, passwords and other sensitive data. Because I store so much in ClipMate, anyone who might obtain unauthorized access to my ClipMate collections would have to search a long time before finding them.

Take It with You on a Thumb Drive

Like ShortKeys, ClipMate is portable. You can copy the program and your data to a thumb drive and take it with you.

ClipMate allows you to set automatic backups to whatever folder you select. Since since it provides a unique name for each back-up file it creates, you always have a few previous back-ups available, in case you want to retrieve something you mistakenly deleted days or even weeks ago.

But your most recently deleted clips are always available from the trash, or the “virtual” folder, which shows you everything you copied today, this week, this month, or even further back.

ShortKeys also has an automatic back-up feature, the ability to create an unlimited number of files and to sort macros into categories.

You can do all these things by simply creating a “To Copy” folder on your desktop, and creating your own collections. But since ClipMate only costs $35 and ShortKeys $25, you might try them both and see which you like best.

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Barbara Florio GrahamBarbara Florio Graham is an author and publishing consultant. Her website includes free resources for writers and publishers, contract advice, and interesting facts about science, history, food, animals, culture and inventions. Simon Teakettle, the cat that “owns the company,” has his own blog, and offers free information about cat ownership and training.

Would you dare fact-check a journalist’s article in red pencil and post it online?

In the old days, if a journalist wrote a news article or opinion column that you believed was inaccurate or unfair, you had only three options:

  1. Write a letter to the editor or column responding to it, and hope they print it.
  2. Ask for a face-to-face meeting with an editor and the writer.
  3. Cancel your subscription, an option that does nothing to help your cause. 

Back then, only newspapers, magazines, TV and radio were the media. Today, you are the media too. Your platform might not be as big as theirs, but you have tools to fight back. 

That’s what Walmart demonstrated after Timothy Egan, a columnist for the New York Times, wrote a June 19 opinion column spanking the retailer for low wages, part-time contracts and other sins that have resulted in “public disdain for the company.”

That same day, Walmart responded by fact-checking the entire column in red and posting it on their blog. Here’s part of it:

walmart rebuttal  

Whether you not you agree with the Times column, this is an excellent example of one way to fight back if you feel the media has treated you unfairly. Walmart’s rebuttal had much more reach than the Times column. It was covered by Forbes, Fox News,  Business Insider and a variety of conservative media outlets. 

You Will be Fact-Checked Too

Walmart’s rebuttal was clever and effective. But here’s the danger in a public fact-check. Someone, somewhere, will probably fact-check you, too.  

Mark Gongloff, a columnist for The Huffington Post, responded by Fact-Checking Walmart’s Fact-Check of The New York Times.

And the debate probably won’t stop there.

This is Why You Should be Blogging

If a journalist or blogger treats you unfairly, one of the best places to respond is at your own blog where you have full control of the message. You can then pitch other media outlets and point them to your blog post.

The Walmart-New York Times battle is one more example of why most companies should be blogging. If you want to respond but you don’t have a blog, you’re forced to rely on an expensive press release distribution service.

You can respond on social media sites like YouTube and Facebook, but the message will be lost on those noisy platforms.        

What Would You Do?

Would you publicly fact-check a journalist’s or blogger’s article about you? If not, why not? I’d especially love to hear from PR pros and business owners. 

Employee recruitment, retention booklets still available for bulk orders

employee recruitment and retention bookletsIf you’re looking for clever ways to find qualified employees and keep them, you’ll find more than 200 tips in my two tips booklets “113 Tips for Finding Valuable Employees” and “107 Tips for Keeping Valuable Employees.”

I took them off the market a few years ago because I first published them in 2000 and some of the links are outdated. I have a few hundred of each and no plans to reprint them.

They normally sell for $5 each but if you’re interested in buying 10 or more, I’ll cut the price in half, with deep discounts for larger quantities. 

A reader contacted me last week and said his bank, in Pennsylvania, included a blurb about the booklets in its latest newsletter.

If you want to place a bulk order, please call my assistant, Christine Buffaloe, at 619-955-5772 or email her and she’ll give you a great deal.  :-) You can pay by check, credit card or PayPal.   


Meet editorial board members of 3 Chicago newspapers at Publicity Club July 9

Many business owners and PR people spend so much time pitching reporters and section editors at newspapers that they often forget about another important consideration: the newspaper’s editorial board. That’s the group of top editors who meet daily to decide the position that the newspaper will take on its editorials and set other newsroom policy.

It’s usually comprised of a few top editors and the editorial page editor. A face-to-face meeting with the editorial board can be ideal for letting them meet important people like your new CEO, or explaining your side of a controversial issue that they might not already have discussed on the editorial page. I wrote about other reasons to meet editorial boards.

When I worked as a newspaper editor, my editorial boards sometimes agreed to meet with newsmakers who were concerned about media bias, or with others who wanted to let us know about background information before a story broke.

But those meetings can be difficult to arrange because of the board’s other duties. And they don’t agree to meet with everyone who asks.

Chicago area business owners and PR people can meet one member from the editorial board of the city’s three major newspapers at the July 9 meeting of The Publicity Club of Chicago. A panel discussion will feature:

  • Bruce Dold, Chicago Tribune Editorial Page Editor
  • Ann Dwyer, Crain’s Chicago Business Deputy Managing Editor
  • Tom McNamee, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Page Editor

I’ve attended these luncheons and their panels are excellent. There’s usually enough time for many questions from the audience, and you can introduce yourself to the panelists afterward. But this isn’t the time to pitch!

The PCC monthly luncheon program will be held at Maggiano’s Restaurant, 516 N. Clark Street, Chicago. 

It begins with registration and networking  at 11:30 a.m., followed by a family-style lunch at noon. The program ends at 1:30 p.m. Register here.

Early registration rates are available for $40 (members), $55 (non-members), or $25 (students) through 5 p.m., July 7.  Late registration rates of $50 (members), $65 (non-members), or $25 (students) apply through 3 p.m., July 8.  Walk-in rates of $55 (members), $70 (non-members), or $30 (students) apply the day of the program. Students can also register for either the program only (free) or the program with dessert and beverage for only $10. Student ID must be shown. 

Start a book publicity campaign at least 6 months before launch

 Kate Bandos book publicity chart


I wish all authors would refer to the chart above, a complete timeline for book publicity campaign,  a full year before they start writing their books.

It’s courtesy of book publicist Kate Bandos. When she showed this to me a few years ago at an authors conference, my jaw dropped because it’s such a handy cheat sheet for authors.

It’s the very best document I’ve seen that lays out in precise accuracy exactly what to do, and when, to market your book. Here’s the PDF document, perfect for printing and hanging in your office so you are well aware of all the work you have to do.

Launch date is that red line down the middle. All items to the left of it are tasks you must do starting 28 weeks before.

You Can’t Start Too Early

When it comes to planning your book publicity campaign, you can’t err by starting too early. But most authors who call me, sometimes in a panic, leave themselves too little time. I’ve spoken with authors who give themselves only three weeks to do a publicity campaign. They don’t have a media kit or other marketing materials, and they don’t know where to start.   

I’m sharing Kate’s chart here, along with answers to frequently asked questions about book publicity and publicists. They will give you a good idea of why you must leave yourself enough time to do the job right.

FAQs About Book Publicity and Publicists    

Q. I’ve been thinking about hiring a publicist for about 10 hours to try and get articles in the U.S. Is this realistic?

A. If you can afford a publicist, you should hire one primarily to get you top-tier media attention: in major magazines and newspapers, major news websites, big bloggers, etc. bloggers, etc. You can work alongside her and pitch smaller media outlets, do outreach for guest blog posts at smaller blogs, etc. Ten hours won’t get you very far, however. Your publicist will need to spend significant time learning about you and your book before she starts pitching.

Q. How much does a publicist cost?

A. You should expect to spend several thousand dollars minimum. Kate Bandos and other publicists have a la carte services for authors on a budget. Other book publicists charge about $2,500 a month, and some want a six-month commitment.

Q. Does my publicist pitch all the book reviewers?

A. It depends on much you can spend. I recommend your publicist only target the major reviewers and other top-tier media. You can pitch the other 90 percent of the reviewers. I hosted a webinar several months ago on exactly how to do that. It even includes templates for emails you can send to reviewers asking for reviews. See How to Ask for Book and Product Reviews from Bloggers, Journalists and Consumers. 

Q. What if I’m not very well known? Can I still start book publicity six months before launch?

A. Ideally, if you aren’t well known, you should start building platform a full two years before you publish. It takes that long to build profiles on social media, learn the lay of the land, and build traction. In some cases, you need two or three years to position yourself as a recognized expert in your field.

Q. What is author platform?

A. I like digital publishing expert Jane Friedman’s definition of author platform: “Someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience.”  She explains what platform is and what it isn’t. Many authors miss this critical step of building platform, and then wonder why they can’t sell books.

Q. How to I find the best publicist for me?

A. Ask other authors for recommendations.  LinkedIn has several excellent Groups for authors and publishers. I like Author U, moderated by Judith Briles. Never hire a publicist unless you have spoken with at least three authors who have worked with your candidates.

Q. Who builds my media kit—me or my publicist?

A. Use a publicist for targeting top-tier media. Use my Quick & Easy Media Kit Templates for Indie Authors. Your publicist can make suggestions for other items you need to include in your kit, depending on what she has planned for your publicity campaign. But building the kit yourself according to my instructions will save you a lot of time and money. 

What burning questions do you have about book publicity that I’ve missed? 

Pitching tips Thursday on how to get on Rachael Ray, Live with Kelly, Wendy Williams Show

 tv talk show host on the set giving guest free publicity


 Here’s a short list of unsolicited junk that publicity-seekers send to TV shows where they want to appear as guests: 


  • Bulky media kits
  • Books they’ve written (sometimes multiple copies for everyone on the staff)
  • Envelopes stuffed with marketing materials
  • Press photos
  • Press clippings 
  • Long letters explaining why they want to appear on the show
  • Videos that show them speaking to the local Rotary Club
  • Even gag gifts accompanied by pitches that  they think are clever, but fall flat

Guess where most of this stuff ends up? In the trash bin.
Why Producers Don’t Want This Junk

Producers are too busy to wade through mountains of materials. So the publicity seekers have nothing to show for it except crippling postage costs.

If producers and guest bookers don’t want THAT, what do they want?

For starters, they need to be pretty sure you’re going to be a compelling guest. That means not withering under the lights. Or upstaging the show’s host. Or telling long-winded stories that viewers don’t care about. Most importantly, they need to know that your story is interesting.


Free Call Thursday on How to Pitch 

Four producers and guest bookers for major TV shows will tell you EXACTLY how to pitch them, when to pitch them and what—and what not—to send when they’re the guests on a teleseminar hosted by my friend, Steve Harrison, on Thursday, June 12, at either 2 or 7 p.m. Eastern Time. Register here. Even though the call is free, I promote it as a compensated affiliate because I think the very best way to know exactly what producers want is to hear them explain it.

You’ll learn lots of insider tips from those who book guests for ABC, NBC and CBS. They include:

  • Mariann Sabol, “Live with Kelly”
  • Tommy Crudup, “Rachael Ray”
  • Dan Fitzpatrick, “The Wendy Williams Show”
  • Stacy Rollins, Telepictures Productions
  • Others to be announced.


If You Can’t Attend

If the time is inconvenient for you, register anyway, and Steve will notify you when he hosts similar programs. Or recruit a friend or assistant to listen for you and take notes.  

Important: Steve will not offer the replay after the call.

11 ways to use this publicity cheat sheet with your PR team


 Publicity Primer

 I found a gem of a little publicity cheat sheet I know you’ll love.

Actually, it’s a big cheat sheet which is all the better because it’s one of the most thorough at-a-glance summaries I’ve seen anywhere on how to get publicity. It’s called simply a Publicity Primer and it was written by Kirk Hallahan who works in Journalism and Technical Communications at Colorado State University.

Here are 11 ideas on how to use it.

  1. Give it to PR and marketing interns who are working for you this summer.
  2. Nonprofits, make sure everyone on your team sees this, not just people who work in PR. It will encourage them to start thinking about publicity long before you launch your next event.
  3. Small business owners, share this with your employees. Award an Amazon gift card or other prize to any employee who comes up with a publicity idea you end up using.
  4. Give it to anyone who writes press releases. There’s an entire checklist of tips for press release writing.
  5. High school and college journalism teachers, give this to your students. Plan an entire lesson around it.
  6. If you do PR or publicity for a community group, church or synagogue, use it as a discussion topic at your next board meeting.
  7. PR pros and publicists, you can share with your clients. It will encourage them to start identifying publicity ideas you might not know about. And they can use your help turning their ideas into publicity.
  8. All these tips are perfect for sharing on social media. 
  9. Bloggers, if you write about publicity, PR or marketing, offer this primer to your own readers. You can also choose a section and discuss it in-depth in a blog post.

  10. Authors, you’ll find lots of ideas to use in a book marketing campaign.   
  11. Regardless of what business you’re in, you’ll find at least three great ideas on this list for generating publicity. You can do some of them immediately.  

 What other ways can you think of to use this list? 



How a Pittsburgh pillow company used a marathon to tell its cause marketing story

Cause marketing publicity success


By Hollie Geitner

We frequently advise clients—using a statement coined by leadership expert Simon Sinek—that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

It couldn’t be any truer in the case of American Textile Company.

Last year, the company, headquartered in Duquesne, Pa., just outside of Pittsburgh, produced and sold 40,000 Americana pillows at retailers across the country. The pillows are part of American Textile’s bedding line, which also includes its popular Aller-Ease® brand mattress and pillow protectors.

The Americana pillows are branded with a patriotic theme and are the same high-quality grade as American Textile’s other products. What makes the Americana brand unique, though, is its mission and purpose. The pillows support U.S. veterans.

It’s not just support for their heads as they sleep—25 cents of every Americana pillow purchase goes to Team Red, White and Blue, an organization dedicated to enriching the lives of veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activities. Here’s a video that explains how Team RWB helps vets. 



American Textile’s commitment to veterans is personal. Jack Ouellette, American Textile’s former CEO and current Chairman, is a West Point graduate. His leadership has helped the company grow tremendously over the past two decades.

And here’s an interesting historical tidbit about the company. In its early years, American Textile had 50 full-time sewers dedicated to manufacturing plastic buckles for gas masks and disposable bags for airplanes during World War II. It’s a far cry from the pillows and bedding it makes today, but that work shaped the company and its mission.

To help tell this story, American Textile sought assistance from our PR firm, WordWrite Communications.


How We Did It

In discussions and brainstorming, we learned that the charity team running in the Pittsburgh Marathon for Team RWB would be participating in a “carb-loading” spaghetti dinner the night before the big race. Knowing the marathon buzz would be intense leading up to the race, this presented a fantastic opportunity for a program that the media might be interested in covering.

As we put the details together, we invited key local dignitaries to speak including a state representative and the county executive as well as veteran members of Team RWB. They joined leaders from American Textile.

The focus was not on the company but on the veterans—and this was by design. The story isn’t about the pillow or American Textile. It’s about how lives are changing for the better because of the support of corporations like American Textile.


Telling the Story

An engaging interview with a veteran member of Team RWB running in the marathon was translated into a short pitch shared with key contacts at local media outlets in advance of the marathon. The pitch tied his story of overcoming obstacles from service-related injuries and a struggle to re-engage with his community to American Textile’s commitment to veterans and the company’s public presentation of a $10,000 check to Team RWB.

The result was positive pre-event coverage, including the front-page lead story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and a drive-time radio interview and online story with KDKA Radio. KDKA-TV sent a cameraman to cover the event and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (@ACE_Fitzgerald) attended and sent a tweet of a photo of the check presentation to his 4,450+ followers.

The veterans and the charity runners received a pillow, compliments of American Textile. It’s truly a great story and one that needed to be shared.


Why Telling Your Story Matters

Free Publicity Tip 38--Tie a Product to a CauseA 20-year study of consumer attitudes, perceptions and behaviors around corporate support for causes confirms the idea that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

In fact, well-thought-out and strategically communicated cause marketing efforts have a measurable impact on sales. The 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study determined that 93 percent of U.S. consumers have a more positive image of a company that supports a cause, and 54 percent actually buy products associated with a cause and have done so in the past 12 months. That’s a 170 percent increase from 1993.

As the report found, supporting a cause is no longer enough. With much more noise, and consumers inundated with messages across multiple platforms, companies must consistently and authentically tell their cause story to validate and prove it isn’t just lip service.

The ultimate challenge is determining the best way to share the story with the most appropriate audiences and telling it in a way that is meaningful and memorable.


Go Beyond Donations, Sponsorships

In American Textile’s case, their support of veterans through Team RWB went beyond simple donations or a sponsorship. Leadership fully committed by tying a product and its branding to the cause. They demonstrated proof through a public check presentation and told the story through a real-life beneficiary—a veteran.

The actual tactics aren’t as important as the message and its authenticity. Today, consumers are much more cynical and can see through flashy stunts that lack true meaning. Sometimes the best way to tell your story is through someone else.

With appropriate guidance and the right timing, the story will resonate with those who matter most.

*     *     * 

Hollie Geitner WordWrite Communications headshotThis guest post was written by Hollie Geitner, director of client services for WordWrite Communications in Pittsburgh, Pa. Email her and follow her on Twitter. If your PR firm has a success story to share and you’d like to write about it here, read how to pitch a guest post for The Publicity Hound blog.