Dawn Michelle Hardy:
The Publicist You Should Know
by Yvette King
Dawn Michelle Hardy is no newcomer to the world of public relations (PR). If you heard of author Teri Woods, then you are probably familiar with the work of public relations maven, Dawn Michelle. She was instrumental in the release of Dutch I and Dutch II and was also responsible for the promotion of the mystery novel, Tell Me Your Name by Eric Enck. Michelle initially worked in the PR arena with an independent record label and a swimwear line.
Destined to fulfill her purpose and set the literary world and beyond on fire, Dawn Michelle Hardy founded Dream Relations, Inc., a PR & Literary Consulting Agency in 2004. DREAM is an acronym meaning: Divine Relationships in Entertainment And Media.
Dawn Michelle began building her clientele with Essence Magazine bestselling author, Miasha. Michelle elaborates, “Miasha and I hooked up after she was advised to hire a publicist. Miasha hired me to launch her publishing career. She was featured on Black Entertainment Television and syndicated radio show, The Wendy Williams Experience the first week of her Secret Society book release back in 2006. From the work we did with her for 3 years, so many authors have approached me to represent them. To date, I am proud to say, every author that I’ve worked with has learned about me from my reputation and work with Teri Woods and Miasha.”
Working with Michelle is not a given. It's a partnership. She is selective in who she chooses to work with because she looks for clients that have a basic understanding of the industry. “I want clients who will work as hard as me if not harder for their own book. Some wanted overnight success so after 1-2 months I would let them out of their contract because I knew they didn’t get it. When folks come to me, they already have seen or heard of my work, but I need them to show me what they are working with as well.”
No two days are the same in the day and life of a publicist. Dawn Michelle shares her routine and tasks she sets out to accomplish. “Day-to-day, I spend a lot of time on the phone talking to editors, talent bookers, bloggers about creative ways to showcase the client and the book. Tons of emails go out a day to bookstores, book clubs, and special event coordinators to coordinate a book tour. A typical day when preparing for a new release can change frequently. When I first sign authors to Dream Relations, we work on getting all the facts about the book and the author to enable us to write biographies (bios) and press releases, Q&A, copy for book trailers and promotional items, etc. After all of the publicity materials and pitches are put together and marketing collateral is printed, we do mass mailers and send out ARCs (Advanced Read Copies or galley) if the project has them. We now suggest all authors whether they are self-published or not have ARCs. We find that without them the project is at a disadvantage against those authors signed to the big houses that do send these out. We brainstorm on what top 5 cities the authors would like to attend and what big events they want to participate in that will be good promotional opts for the book.”
Standing out in the crowd is essential for authors. The most well written book could go unnoticed without the right amount of exposure to promote it. Dawn Michelle sheds some insight on the difference between being a publicist and a literary consultant. Michelle explains, “A publicist works on getting you in the public eye via special events outside of the bookstore and garners on and offline media placements. Literary consulting is usually for self-published authors and those who are aspiring who are a bit green about the workings of the industry. I have learned from my veteran colleagues that a publicist gets there clients in the media. Literary consultants aid self-published with distribution, editing, cover design, and book tours.”
Authors have to be mindful of how they spend their money as they try to establish themselves and reach their audience. They must try to get the most bang for their buck. Often times, authors are more inclined to try to go it alone. Michelle discusses when authors should consider hiring a publicist. Michelle stated, “I think an author should consider having a publicist if they are signed to a big deal and are new to the industry, like Miasha was. Hiring a publicist should be considered if you have been in the industry for years, like Niobia Bryant and have a great selling catalog and are releasing more books. A publicist can bring great attention and raise your profile outside of the book industry and increase your reading audience. Hiring a publicist should be considered if you have an amazing real-life story that has never been told and closely relates to your book like Michele Fletcher author of Charge it to the Game.” Dawn Michelle would suggest that self-published authors working with minimal funds should first consider scheduling a consultation to determine their best options.
2010 is just really getting started but Dawn Michelle has not stopped. She remains hard at work on book campaigns for My Husband’s Fiancée by Kaira Denee, Message from a Mistress by Niobia Bryant, Fabulous by Simone Bryant, which is a young-adult novel. Niobia Bryant aka Meesha Mink has 3 books coming in 2010 and will celebrate her ten year anniversary as a published author. She will also be working with LaVonda Howard to introduce her D-Cup Divas Series; a series where the main characters are fabulous, intelligent and sexy plus size women.
Dawn Michelle is living her dream one book at time.
Do you think it is possible to successfully market a book with a limited budget?
Yes, a 'good' book can be marketed on a limited budget. For example, when I worked with Teri Woods and we released Dutch for the first time, it was bookmarks and postcards only at first. I carried around and gave out postcards everywhere I went, bank, supermarket, hair salon, post office, etc. I do the same with my clients today. Publicity is about getting the product in front of the targeted audience, so if you are marketing urban fiction—bring your bookmarks to a Jay-Z concert. I do that all the time. Consider teaming up with a Hip-Hop party promoter and working out an arrangement to co-promote, where you can have your book cover on the party flyer and an e-blast about your book goes out to their database. You have to be creative. Those who are creative come out on top. Not everything is about spending a lot of money. You can buy car magnets for $100 and have your book cover on the side of your car door. Think outside of the box and outside of the bookstore.
How do you get your authors the necessary visibility by way of national or international exposure? Can you tell us why some books are heavily marketed and others are not? For example: Some authors get their books placed everywhere, billboards, posters, public transportation, etc. while some authors get only marginal promotion.
It’s all about the money! If you have money to spend on billboards, then you can have a bill board pretty much anywhere you want. I worked with a self-published author from Cleveland who did billboards in her city because she could afford to. Money is tight now-a-days so publishing companies aren't putting money into marketing and promotion so heavily. It’s up to the author to once again think outside of the box and spend a little of their own money to promote. Most big publishing companies don’t even do postcards. I’ve noticed that authors purchase and design their own postcards 99.9% of the time since I’ve been in this industry.
What do you think drives the success of a book, the author’s story, topic and writing or the marketing and promotion?
A story has to be captivating to be successful. It has to be well written to be comprehendible to most. Good products will sell themselves. Marketing and promotions are vehicles to inform the public of the existence of the book, but once they read it, if it’s garbage they are not passing it on or recommending it to anyone. So I say, a good story drives success, it may take a bit longer without promotion, but when something is good you have to tell someone about it.
Do authors have any say in the marketing of their books and the book cover design and development?
When clients self-publish, they have complete control, but when they are with a major publishing house, their opinion is only considered but the final say is left to the publishing house, not the author.
Is there any chance that authors of small independent houses can compete with those that have larger houses with mass marketing backing them?
In my experience, there is no way a small house can compete with the big conglomerates. What a small press deems as successful may just be a blip on the radar for a major house. Selling 50,000 copies of a book is a good look for a small house, but if that book can’t be found in every Barnes and Nobles, Borders, Waldenbooks, Wal-Mart, Kmart, etc… then how many more books could have been sold if that title was released with a major house who has unlimited domestic and even international channels of distribution? Fifty-thousand may have had a shot at being 500,000. What can happen is that an editor can get wind of this title that is producing good numbers for an independent project and a publishing deal may be offered to re-release the book. Some independent books may have a greater appeal to the targeted audience due to the real and rawness of the content, but overall I have not seen any small press make more money than the more established reputable publishing house that have been around for 25+ years.
With the current recession and economic meltdown, what impact has it had on you and publishing?
Since the recession, I have taken on less literary consulting projects with those looking to break into the industry. I am also doing less PR work with first time self-published authors, because they just don’t have the money to spend to learn the business first. I have also seen that it has become a bit more competitive as folks have less money to spend they don’t buy 4-5 books at a time, so they really need to hear some buzz about a title or be a fan of the author to buy. The major publishing houses are not given lucrative deals the way they use to, because folks are spending less money and sales have fallen in respect to previous years. Currently, Dream Relations is looking to work with career authors, those with at least 2-3 books out and plans to release a book annually. Until the economy changes, we are less likely to sign someone with no experience at all in this book game, unless it’s an amazing project by our standards.
Contact Dawn Michelle Hardy at: www.dreamrelations.com
Yvette King is a contributing writer for The Urban Book Source.
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