Madison Furr: Publicist

An exciting interview with an associate publicist at Macmillan Children's publishing group.

August 27, 2020

Madison Furr is an associate publicist at Macmillan Children's publishing specifically its imprint First Second. Madison started her career majoring in Communications at the University of Memphis then later got her Masters of Science in Publishing Digital and Print Media at the prestigious New York University.

Jonah: So, Madison, I guess to start just tell us a little bit about yourself. What you do and your career path up to this point.

Madison: Yeah. Absolutely. So, you all see my name. It's been said a million times, but I'm Madison. I am an associate publicist at Macmillan children's publishing group. And for your benefit one of the specific imprints I work for is First Second, which is a graphic novel imprint. And yeah, so basically, I’m from Memphis Tennessee, that’s where I am right now. I went to the University of Memphis and I actually started out as a biology major. I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician. I was wrong. A couple of semesters in college I realized that it just really wasn't for me. And so, I changed my major to Communications, and when I called my mom to tell her that I wanted to do that she was like, “What can you do with a Communications degree?”. And the first thing I said was like, “Well, I don’t know. I could maybe work it like a publishing company”. But then I never said it again, I was like now, that's dumb if I ever if I did that I'd have to move to New York and I would never happen and blah blah blah. So, I graduated from school still wasn't sure what I was going to do. I was applying to jobs at a bunch of different 
Communications roles at major companies in the city and it's just really hard to get that kind of job without any kind of internship experience or whatever. So, it wasn't really working out and then I got my graduation present from my mom and it was tickets to see “Aladdin” on Broadway in New York. And so, it was like a trip to New York with my best friend. We went it was just the best trip ever and my best friend who went with me is obsessed with like architecture that I know this feels like it's totally awesome trip, I'm sorry. But she is obsessed with like architecture. And so, we and old universities and so we went to NYU campus to kind of and it's not like really a full campus but whatever. Washington Square Park and we kind of roamed around and we went into the NYU bookstore and I kind of just fell in love with the whole thing. It really just kind of seen it felt right in some ways. And I know a lot of people when they go to New York, they're like, “Oh that was awesome, but I could never live there”, and everything about me just felt like home to me. And so that night while we were in our hotel room in New York, I kind of just looked up New York University to see what kind of masters programs they had and I saw Masters of Science in publishing digital and print media, and instantly I was like, “That's what I have to do”. And so, I got home I registered for lid whatever I can't even remember what the test is anymore that you have to take to get into grad school. I signed up for that. I took it I applied for early enrollment. And my mom is like, “Well, what are you going to do if you get in if you don't get in?”. I was like, “I have to get it in”. Like that's all it is. That's what I have. And somehow, I got in and I moved to New York. Like I think I went my trip was the Fourth of July. I applied in September/October. I found out in November. Moved to New York in January. So, it was like a very quick, six months really. And so, I started NYU in January and from there, you know, I had no idea what I wanted to do in publishing. I just knew I wanted to do publishing. Most people think that the only thing there is in publishing is editorial and so I was like, “I don't know, I want to be an editor”. But one of the first classes they make you take is an intro to book publishing and every week they would have a guest speaker, kind of like this, where somebody would come in and tell them about their job. And when the publicist came in, I was like, “That's what I got to do”. And so, I was in my classes, started taking classes, started applying for and I was working full-time at another job too. It was a MediaRadar, I was an account manager, so it wasn't like I was just going to school full time. I was going to school at night, working full-time at a non-publisher place. And so, in my classes, I started applying for jobs. And one of my teachers knew of an opening and so I applied, I didn't end up getting that job, but they called me a couple of weeks later. It was like, “Hey this position just opened up. Are you interested?”. And it was for the publicity assistant position at Macmillan children's. And I instantly was like, “Yes, please. I would love to come and interview for that”. And so, I came and interviewed for that job, and I got it. And that was in 2017, that was late 2017. And so, since then I've just been kind of working my way up. I'm now the associate publicist.

Jonah: That's so cool. So, what was it about publicity or you know what that publicist said who spoke to you where you were like, “Yes, that's what I want to do”. Like, what was that moment where you really fell in love with that particular kind of work?

Madison: It just kind of felt like every single thing that I did in my life fell into place. When I was in college, I was like was very active in all of the like clubs and things. And I was like the PR exec for this one specific club and I was like the person in charge of planning events and getting members for my sorority and like everything else that I was doing it just kind of felt like, “Wow, this is what I've been doing my whole life. It sounds right for me”. And I know that that feels like that's not a helpful answer but when I just when I heard her talk about what her day-to-day life was, I was like, “Wow, that sounds like exactly what I should be doing”.

Jonah: And has your actual experience of the day-to-day sort of square with that first glimpse you know, how has it been the same or different?

Madison: Yeah. Well, it's a lot harder than I thought it probably would be but it has completely surpassed my expectations. It really, I say this all the time and nobody really is like, “Okay, Madison, whatever. But I love my job and I really, really hope that I never actually have to leave. The team that I worked with they’re or at Macmillan or anything like that I just kind of keep working my way up but I probably won't be that lucky. Truly, it’s just the best job ever. It's so much fun. It's again it's a lot of hard work, but it's totally worth it when all of the good things start to happen.

Jonah: Totally so there's a question in the chat which is, “What exactly a publicist does”, which segues also into my next question, which is about the difference between publicity and marketing. But maybe you can lay out like, you know, the specifics of your day-to-day and of the publicity department day-today and then compare that to the marketing department because I think that sometimes you know, it can be easy to confuse those two departments.

Madison: Absolutely. And that's actually, it's one of the hardest questions that we get asked all the time because the lines are so blurred but for my team specifically publicity, we plan events for authors. So, author tours, launch events all of the virtual events that you're seeing authors doing now, stuff like this, we would plan this. That's Cons, San Diego Comic-Con, I've planned author schedules for that, all those kinds of things. And then also media is the other kind of figure half of my job. So, author interviews, if you see an author on a TV or hear them on the radio, that's a publicist planned that and coordinated that. If you see those listicles on BuzzFeed that's like, “These are the 10 books you should read this summer”. They know about those books because we pitch those people our books, we’re like, “You should include this book in like a summer reading roundup”. And so that's how they know about the books and then can then choose them for themselves. But yeah, so basically for publicity specifically we have to main jobs and its media & events. Marketing, well, okay. So, advertising. It's all one big team. We publicity, advertising, marketing and then we also have school and library marketing since we are a children’s publisher and we're all one big team. A lot of our day-to-day things collide. We work on a lot of projects together. But so, publicity media & events are just kinds of under those umbrellas. Advertising anything that's like a paid promotion, you know, obviously like advertised like Facebook ads and Instagram ads and things like that. But also, if you see a sponsored article on a website if you say like this is sponsored content that wouldn't be us, that would be advertising. School and library marketing does basically everything but they target it specifically to teachers and librarians. And then marketing, I want to say that they basically do everything else but it's a little bit more complicated than that. They work with bookstores trying to make sure that bookstores know about the books and want to have the books in their stores. They work very closely with sales on that. They do all of the promo items. So, if we like you see a pre-order campaign on social media that's like, “If you buy this book now and submit your receipt, you'll get this awesome promo item from the book”, marketing handles all that. It's so hard to answer because it's, I mean we all do everything but if you were to give me like a specific thing, I'd be like, “Oh, well, that's this team”, but kind of spewing it off my head it's just like, Oh gosh, there's just so much”.

Jonah: Got it. So, what is I guess a task that is completely unique to publicity? And what is a challenge that's completely unique to publicity?

Madison: Yeah, so I would say pitching media, it’s probably completely unique to publicity because you know, when it comes to events marketing plans be like booths at cons and advertising plans like the advertising things that cons but we plan the author schedule. So, like we all kind of work together on those things. But pitching media is something that only we do. Unless somebody goes rogue. But yeah, so reaching out to the media contacts making sure they know about the books trying to schedule these interviews and excerpts and art reveals and different things like that is it's pretty unique to us. And I would also say that that is the biggest challenge for publicists as well because we could for one book we could pitch like 20 people, we would pitch more people than that, but like just for numbers, we could pitch 20 people to try to get them to cover this book. Five maybe I'm being generous might answer, might respond and that's after multiple follow-ups. Calling, emailing multiple times over and over. Five people might respond and out of those five, you might get like three yeses, maybe. And again, I'm being very generous. It also depends on the book. It also depends on the author. It depends on a lot of things but just kind of standard we barely get responses and if we do it's usually no. And it's kind of what's it for us, you know, it's not like, with marketing if one tactic doesn't work, they can kind of pivot and do something different. If we get like a no if we need to do a trailer reveal. a book trailer reveal. And we pitch, it needs to be on like a giant, you know major media outlets, if we pitch all of the major media outlets that we know to do book trailer reveals and they all say “No” then it's like, “Okay. Well I can do it on like this media outlet it's not really reaching the goals that we wanted to reach”. But so, it's kind of like if we try and it's a no then it's a no, there's nothing really else we can do. So, we do try to come back with more like they say no few months later will be like, “Do you remember this? I feel like you should do it now”. You know.

Jonah: Is there a difference between that sort of media pitching that you do and pitching a book for like a straight-up review? Is that something that publicity handles as well or is that “Okay, got it”.

Madison: Well, okay. So yes, but with like trade reviews the school and library marketing team, at least at Macmillan handles most of the trade reviews. Publicity handles like Publishers Weekly, New York Times, and Shelf Awareness. But School and Library Journal handles or School and Library handle school and library Journals, Curtis, those kinds of reviews. But if you're saying like we reviewed this book that was probably publicity. Yeah.

Jonah: Gotcha. So, pivoting a little bit to the relationship between the publicist and the author, you know, I know that resources and publishers are limited and some authors get a lot of help from publicity and other authors get less help or less support. So how is that consideration usually made and if you're an author is there anything you can do to increase your chances of getting you to know more publicity backing?

Madison: So, I can't speak for other publishers, but at Macmillan, every author gets a publicist. And we all care about our projects very much like we get to request which books we want to work on. So, if you get a publicist as we care and we're going to do everything we can to make sure that the books are getting what they can get, what they deserve. Again, I can't speak for other Publishers. There are freelance publicists that you can hire. I know I've worked with a freelance publicist and the past. Some authors have several books with several Publishers and so they just go ahead and have a freelance publicist that kind of works with everybody. And so, I'll work with those people as well. And again, if you want to like self-publish or if you have something else that you want people to publicize like there are freelance publicists that you can search for and higher. But at Macmillan, everybody gets a publicist.

Jonah: Cool. So, if the publicity assignments are sort of based on passion at least at Macmillan, which is super cool. If you're an author and in Macmillan says “Okay. Here's your publicist. Now, go to town”. How does the relationship proceed from there? You know and like what is sort of a typical interaction between a publicist and an author, you know if you want to tell like a particularly good story or particularly terrifying story that would also be fine. But I'm curious about that.

Madison: Yeah, so it's different for every author because it really depends on how much the author is interested in being a part of it? You know, there are a lot of books that we can publicize without author input because technically, we are the book's publicist and so we’ll do what we can for those books. Sometimes, we don’t have to actually meet the authors. But most of the time how a typical relationship would work is that we would get our assignments and about five months out, we could be introduced to the author via email, most likely. And we could share our plans with them. If they have any questions or ideas, they can share those with us and we can kind of go back and forth between them if we want to do a call, we can. If it is like a full team where there's a marketer assigned to it and an advertising person assigned to it all of that jazz then it's probably better to do a call because it's just a lot of people to wrangle. But from there, it would be any time the author had a question, they are always welcome to come to us. Anytime we get a media hit or a request for an interview or anything like that or a request for an appearance at a festival that we pitch them for something like that. Then we would reach out to them. Let them know that we found this exciting opportunity for them and see if they're interested and if they're interested then we can coordinate between the two parties. And that's I feel like that doesn't sound like a lot but that's pretty much the extent of it. You know, we tour with authors if they go on tour if it's the first time that they've been on tour or if it's like a giant tour with like five different authors on it then will have a publicist assigned to the tour. All those different kinds of things. Yeah.

Jonah: Here’s my follow-up question to that. Yeah, I guess that I mean that definitely does sound like a lot of work. At least it does to me. I hope no one here is sitting there thinking, “Oh, they pay you to do that? That's so easy”.

Madison: It's a lot of hard work. And honestly, I think that I did say the biggest challenge that we have is getting media, but I think the hardest part of the job is getting out of our inboxes on a day-to-day basis to actually do our job, you know like we have so many questions come in. And another big part of our job is editor care, author care, agent care, making sure that everybody has their answers to questions, making sure everybody feels good about our plan, and that they think that we are doing everything we can for the book and all that. So, we do get a lot of questions and have to coordinate between them. So, getting out of the email to actually be able to pitch and to actually be able to like organize an itinerary and stuff like that is probably the hardest part, you have to kind of schedule that in your day. And it's a lot of work. There have been many days where I just keep working especially now that I'm just at home. Just keep working…

Jonah: Yeah, it's hard to have that separation.

Madison: Yeah.

Jonah: Yeah. So, if you're somebody who you know is not, if you're an author but yourself published or maybe you’re with a smaller publisher and you know, you're not with a big publisher like Macmillan. What's like an Insider tip to give that person where they can like promote themselves and do similar things for themselves and get themselves and their book the same exposure or you know, similar exposure to what they get if they had that publicist backing like what can an author do as an individual to get that?

Madison: Yeah. So, I think a couple of the major things that authors should do automatically either if they have a publicist or not is to kind of build relationships with their local booksellers and librarians. Go to each of your bookstores. Go to each of your libraries. Introduce yourself. Have a conversation. Give them an arc of your book if you have that or a PDF, I think PS is going to start being more used here and there. But yeah, so make sure that they know about your book and the booksellers especially those know you as a person are 100% going to be more willing to kind of support you, make sure that they have your books in their store. Make sure that they're telling everyone that they should buy your book and even when they go to like other conventions and things like that, they're more willing to spread the word. So that's definitely number one. Another thing is and this is going to sound redundant because I mean it’s kind of like everybody will tell you this is to just be super active on social media. But not only promote yourself. What you should do is go through and find all of those influencers on Twitter and Instagram and all of the people who work in the like media community like Comic specifically. What you would want to do is go and follow people who run like Comics Experience, Graphic Policy, The Beat, all of those really cool media outlets. Follow them see what they're talking about. A lot of the time they'll have ongoing conversations on Twitter that you can kind of be a part of and kind of get yourself out there that way. And then also while you're in the middle of doing that promote yourself on social media, so they are seeing that too. That's just a really great way to kind of get yourself out there and it's honestly, it's still one of the strongest ways. It's sometimes it's more beneficial than getting an interview, another way. But then also yeah, if you don't have a publicist at all like you are self-publishing. You don't want to go out and get yourself a publicist. Don't be scared to reach out to some of the contacts at media outlets. Like that's what we do. A lot of the time we have no idea who works at some random local newspaper next door to an author that lives in a teeny tiny town, but will email them and or call them on the phone and be like, “Hey you should probably look for this author”. If you do if you decide to do a launch event at your local bookstore, tell your local newspapers about it, so they can put it in their weekly calendars and make sure that the town knows that it's happening. And just kind of just stuff like that. Like don't be scared to put yourself out there. I know it's, making a book, I feel like I could never do it because I and it would be too worried about what people think about me constantly. But so, if you're strong enough to put a graphic novel out there and strong enough to share your work with the world then don't be scared to brag about it a little bit like you deserve that for sure.

Jonah: And related to that question. Let's say you have a graphic novel and you want to get it published with a major publisher, you know, this isn't necessarily a space to talk about agents and editors and all of that, we can if you guys want, but you know how much of a role does marketing, publicity play in the acquisitions process like if someone comes forward with a proposal, you know, does the editor or anyone else at the company say, “Oh, well, this person already has a huge social media presence or this person already have books events for themselves. So, they're very marketable.”. You know is that something that really helps their cause? How much of an impact does it have?

Madison: Yeah, it actually does and again, it's probably different at every publisher so I can't speak for everyone. But I know at Macmillan we get to see acquisitions before they get acquired like when they come into the big acquisitions room to talk to sales about it to see if that's something that we do want to acquire as a company. And of course, marketing and publicity don't get like a final say at all, but we do get to kind of feel like, “Yeah, we would love to work with this person. They seem like they would be great. They already have these many followers. We think the book will get media because it has this topic, this topic and this topic in it”, like that kind of thing. So, we do get to kind of put our input of how we feel we can help the process if we do acquire the book, but we can't be like, “Oh no, we're not going to get that book because we don't want it”.

Jonah: So that's the sort of big question that I have on my list. I would love to open it up now to audience questions if there are things that you guys have been wondering about. Sorry if we missed anything major there. Yeah, so feel free to unmute yourself, a shout-out or you know asked in the chat, whatever you guys prefer.

Jill: I'm just going to ask Madison along those lines. Do you have like, oh, there's the magic number of Instagram, you know followers, there is, because there was a lot of pressure about that before for authors and this case illustrators as well to have a certain number of followers? And then I've heard some people have said, “I don't care about that. I want to know you're busy in your studio getting the work done”. So, where do you guys stand on that?

Madison: So honestly, it doesn't matter to us that much like obviously if you have more followers that's going to help but we have many authors that aren't on social media at all. It's kind of how much do you want to do for yourself kind of thing with social media and of course for those bigger like if you want a massive YA author to do well they're going to have to help promote on their social media because that's where their fans are. But if you don't have a lot of followers, it's not a problem.

Jill: Yeah. It’s really interesting to hear you talk about it and it’s important for us to know what you really expect of us. How do we play ball with you?

Madison: Yeah, I think just, you know doing what you can and again we would never expect anyone to make an Instagram for themselves for the book. A lot of the time that doesn't work, a lot of the time it's not helpful at all. But if that's something that you want to do and it's something that you think will help like garner a fanbase around your work then definitely it's worth it. I don't know. I like it's hard to, it's different for every author, you know. I mean, I would definitely suggest talking to whoever if you have an editor even and not necessarily a specific publicist or marketing person that you're in directing contact with, you can talk to your editor. And they can probably talk to the marketing of publicity team and give you some pointers, give you some tell you what we would hope that you do. Really all I expect from my authors is for them to be excited when I send them stuff and to answer my emails, you know too if they agree to do an interview then do the interview. But our main job is to make sure that the author is happy. So, if you know, we actually and I feel like I'm stuttering a lot but we have a wide range of different kinds of people as authors. So, I've worked with authors who are in their 80s and can't really do any events, but they still want to and so we set up specific events for them that will work for what they're doing, you know, they can't they're not super mobile. So, we just do one event at their local bookstore so they can do a launch event. And then that's it. And now in the virtual world, we have to make sure that everybody knows what they're doing in the in  Zoom space…

Jill: Now, my question was how you guys have had to pivot? How do you publicize in the time of Covid?

Madison: Oh, it's a lot of pivoting. It's been the word of the year for sure. We actually joke that we have a drinking game. We don't drink to it. But any time anyone says the word pivot in a meeting we Gchat each other. It's yeah, it's major. So, right at first, we had to change all of our events to virtual and that was probably the hardest thing was taking a physical event and making it virtual. Now that we're planning virtual events it's a lot easier and we're continuing to just kind of expect that that's what we should do in 2021, even. As we're going into 2021 because we don't want to have to backpedal again.

Jill: We've forgotten how to actually speak to each other in.

Madison: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah for sure. Nobody knows how to gather in one place anymore. So yeah, we're continuing to do that. And then you know, if we need to pivot and do an in-person event that's going to be easy because everybody knows how to do that so it won't be hard to go back to that. I think the biggest issue we're having now is and we've actually been super conscious about this the whole time but harassment issues online are happening a lot because anybody can go, you know, people aren't wasting their time going to a bookstore just like scream profanities at people and it left. You can pop at a Zoom chat say really nasty things in the chat and then leave. People think that they are safe behind a screen and it's just not nice. So, dealing with safety precautions with all of our authors is another thing that we're having to deal with right now is the time of Covid. But yeah.

Graham: Hey Madison?

Madison: Hello!

Graham: Hi. So, you give us a sort of sobering amount of rejection that you get from media outlets, do have any idea what it is that makes someone say yes or no?

Madison: You know, it depends on the person. It depends on the outlet. It depends on so many different things at the timing of the year. You know, I pitch, I have an author that does picture books and they are about endangered animals and I had one coming out and I think it was like September and this was February. And I pitch time for kids to get like kind of an author-illustrator feature for her whole backlist because this is like the third or fourth book in the series. And she emailed me back immediately it was like, “Oh man. I just did this thing about elephants. Like I wish you had emailed me two months ago”. But it was already like, what is that seven months ahead of time so that it really is it depends on, there's a lot of different things that have to click for it to work. And I think that's why it's usually no. But again if you know the right people for and that's one thing that we do for every book is when it's time to figure out who we want to pitch well in advance of actually pitching anyone we sit down and we're like, “Okay, who's going to want to read this book? Why are they going to want to cover it?”. And we have to kind of create our pitches from there. So, when we emailed them, every email we send is very curated. We're like, “Hi, Bethany. It's great to talk to you again. I'm reaching out about this book. I think you should feature it in this column on this day for this reason”. And just the more curated it is the better the pitch is. So, like the more of a chance you'll get a yes.

Graham: So, you sort of take some of the work off their plate then like by sliding it into their own, yeah, their own sort of media schedule and all of that.

Madison: Exactly. Yeah. And if you know that they love to do like QA is between two authors were none of them have to do any of the work or they won't like a guest post from an author where again they don't have to do any of the work you go ahead and just tell them, “This is what we're going to do for you. You won't have to do anything except post it when it's time”. They're going to be like, “Yes, please”, maybe.

Graham: Thank you.

Madison: Yeah. Hi Charlie.

Charlie: Hi, a couple of suggestions for Graham that I have experienced in the past that was pushing my own books many years ago and couple things I found, one was the smaller outlets were more receptive.

Madison: Yes.

Charlie: For instance, I got an interview with a public access News station at Newark. And also, relevance can help so I got an article in the newspaper from my home state. So, I contacted my old newspaper there's “Hey, one of your homeboys out of, got a book published”.

Madison: Yeah, absolutely the newer the outlet, the smaller the outlet, the more local and more specific the outlet than the easier the pitch usually is. Yeah, local newspapers for authors are usually super excited to promote their people.

Jonah: Following up on that, parsing like different kinds of publicity like, you know, it would seem obvious that like, you know, if you get a review in the New York Times that's like a huge deal versus a tiny local paper, even if you know the people who read the tiny local paper are maybe more likely to buy the book, you know on average. Like let's say like 50% of the people who read the tiny review by the book as compared to like .5 percent of the people read the New York Times review, but you're probably still going to get more sales out of the New York Times. So is there like, do you guys track you know correlation and the numbers from like, you know publicity to sales, have there been types of publicity that you found are sort of like the most likely to lead to an increase in sales or is that not even something you can quantify?

Madison: So, sometimes, I would like to before I answer that question, I would like to say that yes, you are correct that sometimes the smaller outlets do lead to more sales and a lot of the times we take that into account and we think that that's actually more meaningful than like a giant New York Times review. So that's one of the things that we take into account when we are building out those media list that we want to pitch the books for. We're like, “Okay, what's going to help this book? Like what is going to be? What are our goals for this book?”. And if it's like we want to get it in local parenting magazines across the U.S. Those are some of the smaller easier outlets to reach but also sometimes they are more meaningful. So just because you get a small New York like, not New York Times, a small local newspaper review doesn't necessarily mean that you are any like that your lesser just because you haven't gotten any York Times review you know. Does that make sense? But for the quantifying, so I don't know if we look at campaigned afterward necessarily and are like all this media hit is what got us this number of sales, but I know a lot of the times for like big like cover reveals or book trailer reveals or anything like that. We might see a spike in pre-sales and pre-orders and those are what we usually focus on the right at first. But oh, and then events. We do go back to bookstores after we host events and we're like, “Okay great! This is so great. Thank you so much. How many books did you sell?”. So, we do track those numbers pretty heavily. And sometimes we will see pre-order spikes after a big media hit but I don't, I'm not really sure if we go back after like a full campaign or like this is specifically what led to this. I don’t know.

Jonah: Because there's a lot of factors that are behind the sales of a book.

Madison: Exactly, yes.

Jonah: I mean marketing alone it's like you know, I don't even think they can say, “Well, for every dollar we spend on marketing we got you to know .17 book sold”, doesn't really work like that and you know…

Madison: Yeah.

Jonah: And sometimes, it feels totally arbitrary sometimes with just like if it's the right book for the right moment and it almost like goes viral that can be more influential. Like even if you even had almost no publicity, it spreads by word of mouth. Anyway, other questions from the audience?

Jill: Madison, what's a full plate for you? How many authors are you talking about?

Madison: Okay, so I, not considering Covid, in a normal, so a normal year, I would work on about seven books a month. And that's not that I'm only working on those seven books for that month it's that seven books are getting published in a month. And I'm working on those books, the books that come out the month after, the month after that, the month after that, the month before that, the month before that, like I'm still answering questions for authors that pub their books published in 2018. So, it's almost constant. But because of Covid a lot of the books got pushed back out of May, it was May, right? I don't even know what day it is. May and June a lot of books got pushed back to July and August. So, I had 11 books published coming out in July and I have 10 or 11 books coming out this year or this month. So, it's been a lot.

Jill: Do you buy the theory that editors actually had more time to look at their slush files?

Madison: No. No, not at all.

Jonah: That's fake. I feel like trying to escape from your inbox thing like yeah, you know a tiny minority of editor’s time is spent actually editing books. It's like, it's you know, it's bureaucratic. It's email sort of stuff. And from what I'm hearing from you Madison, that's very similar too.

Madison: Yeah.

Ramon: I have a question.

Madison: Oh, yeah, go ahead.

Ramon: It’s actually for you Madison and for Jonah. Does that mean that you guys are working longer than nine to five?

Madison: Oh, yeah.

Jonah: Yeah

Madison: For sure.

Jonah: Absolutely. And it's come with like.

Ramon: It’s like nine to seven or nine to nine?

Madison: Yesterday, I worked eight to eight because I'm in central time. So, I'm trying to stay at like an 8 to 4 schedule. Yesterday, I worked eight to eight. Today I let myself stop at 4:30. and that's because I know that I have work tomorrow and so it's going to be a really slow day. We have summer Fridays at a most publishing company is in New York City itself had to summer Fridays and that's where you can either most companies do either half days on Fridays or like you work every other Friday kind of thing. And that means that all Fridays are very slow. And so, you get a lot done. And so, I let myself stop at 4:30 because I knew I was going to be working all day tomorrow.

Jonah: Yes, I'm a big fan of Fridays. Scholastic has been unfortunately like uniquely hardly hit, hard hit by Covid just because we rely on the schools for somewhat of our income.

Madison: Bookfairs.

Jonah: Yeah. So like Bookfairs did not happen at all in the spring. So as a result of that we've had some like furloughs and some pay cuts and that's been a huge bummer. So, I was like I had two-week-long furloughs at the same time as I like wasn’t you know wasn't getting paid overtime anymore. So that was kind of a bummer but because of the furloughs like I'm always covering for somebody so then I have more work and they end up working like beyond hours, which I'm not getting paid for. It's a huge mess, but…

Madison: You’re not getting any kind of like freelance pay for that?

Jonah: No. No, I should be or really what I should do is I should just have the discipline to be like, “Okay, you're not paying me. I'm going to stop. I'm going to give you 8 hours”. But like, you know, and I'm sure that you can speak for this too, Madison. But like, you know, unfortunately, we loved books and we're passionate about our job and we really care about our authors and we're not really in this for the money. Like obviously we want to make a living and we want to move up in our careers and all of that and be paid for our hard work and what we do, but if we really wanted to like get rich, we wouldn’t be working at publishing.

Madison: I'd be a publicist for like a famous person. I think you can't want to be rich and work at publishing at the same time.

Ramon: You know, it's funny because listening to Madison and listening how you were inspired by a publicist who you heard speak, you know when I'm organizing events, especially the Diversity Comic-Con, you know, it's a few bit of event, it’s a little bit of networking, it's a little bit of programming, it’s a little bit of marketing, it's a few of lots of different PR, you name it, you know, I have to do it. And I never feel more alive than when I'm organizing events.

Madison: Yeah, me too.

Ramon: And I realize that I should’ve gone to become a publicist.

Madison: Yeah.

Ramon: In publishing.

Madison: Because honestly, we do the same job when it comes to the event side. For sure, I will say planning conventions is my favorite thing. Working...

Ramon: So, if I have to do it all over again, I think I would have chosen that career instead of the career that I chose. But I do have this question though. Do you get to travel?

Madison: Yes,

Ramon: I don't get to travel planning the Diversity Comic-Con. I have to stay in New York City.

Madison: Oh, no. Oh, man. I'm so sorry about that. You don't even get them to go?

Ramon: So, you get to travel?

Madison: Yes, I get to travel. I get to go on author tours with authors. I get to go to festivals. I get to go to Cons. Not all of them obviously. We have an eight-person team I think in publicity. So if it's like my specific author is touring then I'll probably get to go for at least half of the tour. We like to switch off. So, none of us get too burnt out because it is like flight-events, flight-event, flight-event. There's like no stopping. For festivals, it's kind of all the whole team going library marketing, advertising. Marketing and publicity, we all kind of have to come together for the festivals and get to take turns going. But being a publicist, we always have to have at least two policies there because we are the main author support. So we like to take authors to and from panels make sure they know where they're going, know where they're supposed to be, all that kind of stuff. So, I get a little bit more luckier than some people. And then I am one of two of the publicists that plan Cons. So, I do get to go to a little bit more Cons and a few of the other people too. So, I'm just lucky. But yeah, I do get to travel a lot. It's really awesome.

Edwin: Nice. Madison.

Madison: Yes?

Madison: I have a question, because I'm trying to a comic book, I'm trying to self-publish a comic book. And I'm a big Image fan and I've been trying to, I want to try to pitch my comic to [inaudible] and some…

Madison: I think you’re freezing a little bit.

Edwin: If you want to do it yourself. Okay.

Madison: You're breaking up on me.

Edwin: Did you want to try to do it yourself? Like… I am? Okay.

Madison: Not anymore. You sound good now.

Edwin: Can you hear me now? Madison: Yes.

Edwin: Okay. So, I want to do my, like I'm trying to self-publish my own comic book, right? So, is it the same way  you just had to like do a lot of like, you know, you know networking, meeting people because I know people keep telling me out again get an agent? I'm like is an agent like a publicist in a way or it's totally different?

Madison: No, so Jonah you might actually be better at answering this question.

Jonah: Yes. So, an agent, so you want to, it sounds like you want to publish through Image or another sort of like a monthly comic model. For that, you don't need an agent. Actually, a lot of comics publishers prefer you not to have one, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't get one that just means that they sort of like to take advantage of creators, unfortunately. And if you have an agent is going to be able to negotiate on your behalf and make sure that you know, you're not selling all of your intellectual property when you sign the contract. So, I definitely will recommend…

Madison: Make sure you’re getting enough money.

Jonah: Right exactly, exactly. Like, negotiate fair rates for you. So, in the book world, an agent does all of that for their clients. In general, the agent is sort of like the first person that you pitch to, so rather than directly pitching to a publisher, you would submit to agents. And pretty much every agent, you know, you can find their information online, and then you can find like the submission guidelines for that agent or that agency. And that should sort of like if you're trying to get a book published traditionally, that's probably the best first step. And then once you find an agent who's interested in your stuff and wants to sign a retainer with you, which is usually like a project-by-project thing and there's no money involved in that either. So basically, like the agency would say, “We are going to represent your project in exchange for that, you know, you will give us 15% of your proceeds”, and that's like standard across the industry. So that basically means the agent gets 15% of any money you then subsequently get. So, you don't pay the agent at all upfront. The agent doesn't make money until you make money. That's one of the good things about it and that's part of also why you know agents and you know agents are going to be on your side more than sometimes more than publishers are. Because the publisher and the publisher are trying to make money and sometimes a way they do that is by making sure that you make less money, unfortunately.

Madison: And an agent on the other hand is trying to make more money and the way that they do that is to get make sure that you are making more money.

Jonah: Yes, because if you make more money than the agents cut of that, you know, they're going to get 15% of what you make so then they're going to get more money. But like if you're specifically trying to publish with someone like Image or IDW or even Marvel or DC, I know a little bit less about that because I'm in the book publishing world. But you know, I know that there are agents who specialize in representing independent Comics creators, who do you know, whether work-for-hire stuff for those companies or like creator on projects. So, I would just do some Googling, I would also try to figure out like, you know, some of your favorite creators like who are their agents, do they have them, and like seek out those people and then submit to them. And hopefully, once you start a relationship with them, you know, they'll be able to get your work in front of the right people. And also make sure that you get the best deal possible.

Madison: For sure. Edwin: Thank you so much. Madison: If you are looking to self-publish though and not necessarily go the traditional route, something that a lot of people are doing nowadays is that they are doing just a strictly  webcomic. And a lot of the time if you get like a big following that way, publishers might approach you, agents might approach, you might be able to then self-publish yourself and go that route. I haven't done it obviously, but if I were to want to self-publish, that's probably how I would do it, but I would go the agent and traditional publishing route, personally.

Ramon: Anyway, we had actually have had guests on here. One was an agent for the graphic novel industry and one was an artist rep for the comic book mainstream comic books. And that was Chris Allo and that was Susan Graham. And so, we have recordings of their interviews on here and we're getting to, we'll be posting those. I finally posted the first, the Heather Antos interview from years ago and slowly got them up one at a time. But we will have Chris Allo and we have Susan Graham as well. An agent and an artist rep for the comic book industry, so.

Edwin: Thank you.

Jonah: Yeah, so we are almost out of time here. I think we have time for one more question. Does anybody have anything else they'd like to… Michael?

Michael: Yeah. Can you hear me?

Madison: Yes!

Michael: Okay. Speaking of agents and starting out, I was starting to work on a comic book and get mine to publish. I actually at one point in time I had a deal like saying just a month ago with this company in Canada called Lucha comics. And the thing with them is that it costs about I believe like $100 per, just for one page, just to make the whole thing. And I was thinking…

Jonah: Like you were paying them or they're paying you?

Michael: Like I have to pay them just to get that started. So, as I was saying in that area, I was talking with a close friend. He was saying like, “That's not a good move because there's just saying, they are basically asking you to give them money” this “Okay, you get some type of deal for that route”. So, I was saying in that area when starting out, I've been told to go for the lower companies because they'll look at your product more versus the big higher-ups. So…

Jonah: I would be very, very, wary of paying somebody else to publish you. That's just not a good deal. You're in my opinion, you're much better-served self-publishing that you can do very cheaply or even for free. Like if you put your work online, that's free, you know, or if you like to print your mini-comics at Staples or whatever like that's pretty cheap. But yeah, like that's really not a good deal. There's no publisher that you know, is a real publisher basically, that you have to pay. It's always like they're paying you for your work.

Madison: Yeah. It feels like a scam, almost.

Jonah: Yeah.

Madison: I’ve never heard of that before.

Jonah: Until you get to a point where someone is willing to pay you for your work, it's hard to get there. You know, don't get me wrong, it’ll be a real uphill battle. But I think that you're better served to focus on your art, create as much as you can try to get it out there in the best way that you can, you know within your means try to find an audience. But yeah, don't be paying somebody else to publish your stuff.

Michael: It sounds pretty good.

Jonah: Yeah, okay. So that's it for this event in the Comic Arts Workshop. Thank you all for coming. Thank you, Madison for all the interesting and wise things you had to say. I hope everybody learned a lot. And Ramon let us know if you have any announcements, but for now, let's give Madison a round of applause.

Madison: Thank you all so much. This is so much fun. And like I said, I learned that I wanted to be a publicist from somebody speaking to me about it. So as soon as Ramon asked me to do this I was like, “Yes, please I'll definitely do it”. So, anytime.

Ramon: I wonder if I'm too old to be an entry-level publicist now. Madison, thank you very much. I just want to remind everybody that next month. We have Janice Chang, who has been lettering comic books since the 80s. So, I think September 15th for that one. And after that, we don't have it scheduled yet. Do we have this guy Cristian Aluas? So, how do you say his name, Jonah?

Jonah: I think so. Yeah, he's been a member of the group for a while, too.

Ramon: Yeah, and she's going to talk about I think freelancing. You know what it's like to be a freelance during this industry. So yes, please come back for those. And again Madison, thank you so much and you and I need to talk more about what you guys want to do with Diversity Comic-Con. I completely forgot that First Second is part of Macmillan.

Madison: Yep. And I have a handful of authors that I had to gather a group from my team. So, I have those pitches and I'll send them to you on Monday.

Ramon: Sounds good.

Jill: Thanks for demystifying what you do. I never really…

Madison: Yeah. Absolutely. It's so much fun. So, I love to talk about it.

Ramon: Thanks to everyone for coming. And thanks to Jonah for stepping in when I needed him.

Jonah: My pleasure. My pleasure. Always a fun chat.

Categories: Guest Speakers