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Interview with Paul Crichton, Director of Publicity at Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Our guest today is Paul Crichton, Director of Publicity for Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing, who has been working with our own Albert Borris to get the word out about Albert's debut novel, Crash Into Me (Simon Pulse, July 2009).

 

Thanks so much for joining us, Paul.  First, could you tell us a little bit about your background and what it is like to be the Director of Publicity at Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing? 

I was an English Major in college and attended Tulane University in New Orleans. My first publishing experience was as a “copy boy” at the NY Post during the summer of my junior year in college. When I graduated from college I attended the Denver Publishing Institute and got a job right after college at HarperCollins as a Publicity Assistant. I worked there for 2 years, before leaving to be one of the first 25 employees at BarnesandNoble.com, where I helped launch the site in 1997. In 1999, I left book publishing and moved to San Francisco and worked in the dot-com world (for companies like Hasbro), but ultimately decided I wanted to move back to NYC and get back into books, so I left California in 2001 and got a job as a publicist at Putnam/Riverhead where I stayed till 2003, at which point I left to work for HarperCollins where I was the Director of Publicity for ReganBooks, an imprint at HC’s adult division. I left HC in 2005 and came to S&S where I thankfully got into Children’s Publishing Publicity. I have been the Director of Publicity at S&S Children’s Publishing since 2006 and have been loving every minute of it!

 

Crash Into Me has a very unique, high concept premise - could you tell us a little bit about it, and what it's been like to publicize the book?  Do you generally take a different approach to publicity for high concept books as compared to others?

Crash Into Me is a YA book by first time novelist Albert Borris about a group of “friends” who have all attempted suicide, failed, and are now taking a nihilistic trip cross country. We try to bring a unique publicity approach to every book written and this book definitely has a unique publicity hook, both in the story of the book as well as the author.

 

Before we discuss Crash Into Me more specifically could you tell us if the rumor is true that publicists are perhaps the busiest people in the publishing industry?  What is a typical day like for you? 

Book publicity is definitely a busy job. I get about 300-400 new emails per day, and during busier days, my phone doesn’t really stop ringing. Just looking at the numbers tells a lot. I oversee a publicity department of 6 people, myself included. And S&S Children’s puts out about 650 new titles per year, so that means on average each in my department oversees the publicity on more than a 100 titles per year. An average day entails meetings, conference calls, escorting authors to interviews and book signings, writing press materials, pitching press, writing up marketing and publicity plans for potential books we are trying to acquire etc. There is no real average day in book publicity and this can be both a blessing as well as a curse…

 

Could you give us the "big picture" of how publicity works for children's books at Simon and Schuster?  How do publicists work with other divisions, such as school and library marketing? 

The big picture is the amount of resources provided to books somewhat depends on the first print run and house expectations. However, publicity is a very fluid concept and I personally am a fan of altering plans depending on the market conditions. If we only devoted resources to books that we thought were going to be big for us at the start, we would be neglecting all of the books that could have great potential! OLIVIA originally had a small print run and if we didn’t adapt to the marketplace as well as the trends in publishing, it wouldn’t be smart publishing. Publicity works very closely with Ed/Library marketing and we are in constant touch about coordinating library events as well as bookstore events. At S&S, Publicity handles SLJ, Horn Book, Booklist, while I know at some houses those publications are handled by Ed/Library.

 

What are the different challenges children's book publicists face, as compared to publicists for adult books? 

I think publicists for adult and kids are both facing a changing world of publicity. With many of the print newspapers cutting their book sections, we all face the fact that the internet and blogs and online book sites are increasing in their value to publicity. Also for YA titles, the challenges are different then middle grade or picture books. While we target parents with picture books and some middle grade books, we tend to target the actual teens with YA titles and we go where the teens are, which is online. I think the biggest difference in adult and children’s books is the power of the library and librarians in children’s publishing, while in adult publishing there was very little or no focus on them.

 

Many of our blog readers know that the Class of 2k9's beloved co-President Albert Borris suffered a serious, life-threatening stroke in late December, 2008 at the age of 49.  We want to reassure everyone that Albert has made miraculous strides in his recovery - we are all very, very proud of him and the amazing attitude that has brought him so far already!  But we also know that Albert's journey has made it more difficult for him to promote Crash Into Me.  There are probably some special challenges that you and Albert have faced in publicizing his book as a result of his stroke.  Could you discuss some of these, and tell us how people in the children's book community can help?    

Yes, I am thrilled to hear about Albert’s strides in recovery. What we are doing with this title is doing a major online focus, as well as sending it to a larger review mailing list then we would normally send review copies to. I am thrilled with some of the early buzz the book has been getting, not to mention the great Kirkus review that compared it to Jay Asher’s THIRTEEN REASON WHY. I am also so happy that Albert has the 2K9 people supporting both him as well as his book. Between you and Suzanne Williams, I know Albert has many great and talented authors in his corner. I think just talking this book up with whoever you come across will only help garner the exposure this book deserves. It goes on-sale in July and I expect to see many more great reviews and coverage in the upcoming months.  

Thank you so much, Paul!  

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