Monday, May 7, 2007

An Interview with Brent Hartinger - Part Deux

(If you missed Part 1, go here.)

12. Was there a book that you read as a child that helped you feel comfortable with your introverted self?
I loved *The Great Brain* books, about a brilliant, outgoing older brother, told from the POV of the ignored, seemingly "average" younger brother. What do you know? That was basically my story. Go figure.

13. How do you recharge after a big promotional output?
I don't talk to anyone except my partner for a week or more. Seriously. Not even the people in my exercise class at the gym.

14. If you could be any extrovert in the world for a day, who would you like to be?
You know, I love who I am. Extroverts kinda annoy me.

15. How about favorite introverts? Who would you most like to dine with?
All my favorite authors. These are the ones I've met and liked a lot: Ursula le Guin, Charles M. Schultz, Jack Gantos, Judy Blume, and Octavia Butler. I saw Jamie Lee Curtis speak once, and she didn't work for me at all. She was very "charming," but it was all Hollywood glitz, "me, me, me!" Very insincere.

16. What's the best piece of promotional advice you ever got?
I heard a variation on this when I was starting out, but I've honed it into my own promotional advice. I call it My Golden Rule of Publicity. Here it is:

Never "ask" anyone for anything; only offer to "give" people something. Publicity where you *ask* for something does not work (at all--it's wasted energy). Publicity where you *give* someone something, does.

And I don't just mean lip-service: "Oh, I'm going to *give* you the fantastic opportunity to buy my book!" When it comes to publicity, you have to give people something real, something they actually want and need.

Example. When approaching a newspaper or radio show and you say, "Please write about my book event, or have me on your show!" you're *asking* for something. They don't care what *you* want (and why would they? Do we authors care when people email us and ask us to do their homework?). But when you closely study what they do, read or listen to it, and you then give them a perfectly honed newsy angle that is exactly the kind of thing they are desperate to run, and which will be of actual, great interest to their actual readers/listeners, you're *giving* them something, something valuable. That *will* work (not always, but a surprising amount of time).

And by the way, this is how I think you should approach everyone, even your own editor and publicist. For example, when you approach a publicist and say, "Will you buy an ad in *Publishers Weekly* for my book?" or "Will you send me on a book tour?" you're *asking* for something. When you come to them with a clever, fresh, new idea, mostly implemented but not yet paid for, that, incidentally, *they're* going to get
the credit for in-house (especially when it's understood that you're not going to tell anyone that it was your idea, but what the hey, wink, wink), well, then you're *giving* them something. And if it's cheap enough, often they'll go for it, or at least help you implement some of it.

Does this make sense?

17. How do you feel about hired publicists?
If you've got the money, great. But keep in mind that publicity is intense, time-consuming work. Ten hours of publicity is nothing, and yet it will probably cost you $500 or more.

That said, it can be worth hiring a publicist if they have good contacts that you couldn't get on your own: radio and television producers, for example. But always ask for references, and check them out! Googling the publicist is essential, because boy, do people bitch.

Remember: no one cares, or knows, as much about your project as you do. You are *always* the best person to represent it.

18. What promotional advice do you have for writers who are having a hard time coming to grips with their new role as marketers and promoters of their books.
Get over it. It's not that hard. Really. And it gets easier and easier. I now think of it like a game.

I will say this, though. I've seen some authors who are just so uncomfortable and awkward public speaking that they do themselves more harm than good. the Oracle at Delphi said: know thyself.

19. Final thoughts?
Well, if you're not completely sick of me, there's lots more of me at my website:

Oh, and don't forget my books either! Hey, I gave you something right? Some good advice? So now go out and buy one of the books in the Geography Club series (about gay teens), or perhaps my latest book Dreamquest, a fantasy about a girl who wakes up in "Slumberia," the place inside her own brain where they "film" her dreams.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful, wonderful interview!

And Brent looks good in spy-wear!!!

-- Lisa Yee

Anonymous said...

That was very helpful.


Anonymous said...

Great interview, Brent. Lots of helpful advice. Thanks!

Dianne White

C. K. Kelly Martin said...

I love Brent anyway but reading this just made me like him more:

"Extroverts kinda annoy me."

Smiles. Yep.

Brent Hartinger said...

Thanks, all!