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Welcome to Season 2 of The Book Marketing Action Podcast with Becky Robinson, where we give you information that you can immediately implement to increase your influence and market your books more successfully. In this episode, we are joined by Mark Fortier—founder and president of Fortier Public Relations and 2019 Porchlight Jack Covert Award for Contribution to the Business Book Industry.
About Mark Fortier
Becky: I’ve heard about Mark for a really long time because he’s among the top names in the New York publicity world as it relates to business books, and only had the chance to meet him for the first time this year. I’m really glad to have you on the show today, Mark, and as we dive into our conversation today, I hope you’ll take a moment to tell our listeners about yourself and about your work in the world.
Mark: Well, I often get asked what I do for a living, and to insiders in publishing, they’re often like, “Wow, you work with all my heroes.” And when I talk to people outside of publishing, they often need a long explanation of what I do. So to try to make it as simple as possible. You can say I am a book publicist, and particularly often with business books. I run a PR agency called Fortier Public Relations for 25 people based in Manhattan, and we try to have a multi-channel approach to promoting books.
Most people, when they think of a PR agency, they think of media placements, and that’s definitely the core of what we do and one of our specialties, but we also try to look at ourselves as partners in success for a book in all possible ways. These days, there are lots of channels that can help a book succeed. So there are podcasts, full-time podcast bookers, there are events, we have an events manager who sets up events. We help coach people on their social media strategy, tapping their network, which is incredibly important for authors, and being their coach in all ways. So basically, you can think of ourselves as, if you want your book to succeed, we’re there as your guide and your coach, and the ones who try to make a book happen and make a big splash in the media, social media, and anywhere else that people look for books.
Becky: That’s helpful. So Mark, you mentioned that people who are aware of business books are saying that you serve their heroes. I’m going to give you a chance to shout out some of the big name authors you’ve had the chance to support, because I know you’ve supported multiple New York Times bestsellers, Wall Street Journal bestsellers, so go ahead and brag for a minute about your client list.
Mark: Okay, sure. Let’s see, so we’ve worked on over 135 bestsellers. We’ve done 18 number one bestsellers on, there’s a ranking of the Thinkers50 list of the top thought leaders in the world, and we work with 33 out of the 50. Some of them include Tim Ferriss and Seth Godin. We worked with several government officials from Robert Rubin, the former treasury secretary, and we’ve got a book coming out with Henry Kissinger later this fall. So a wide range of authors, from some of the most commercial best selling authors to business school professors. We’ve worked with 22 Fortune 500 CEOs. This next month, we’ve got the CEO of Best Buy coming up as part of our next CEO books, and we worked with the CEOs of Starbuck, Citigroup, and Southwest Airlines. Let’s see, Dunkin Donuts and all kinds of things. So it’s funny how in this niche of business books, there’s actually an incredible amount of breadth, and the types of authors and the types of topics they get into. We like to feel like we’re connectors of ideas that have impact in the business world. So to me, it’s the most exciting part of business to be in.
What are media outlets looking for when they visit an author’s website?
Becky: Very cool. And we’ll definitely include a link to your website in the show notes so people can take a look at it to see more. So we’ve been focusing this month, Mark, on author websites, and especially as it relates to this world of media relations. I’m wondering, from your point of view, what media outlets are looking for when they land on or visit an author’s website?
Mark: Yeah, great question. So they’re certainly looking for credibility and credentials. I see a lot of different styles for author bios, and it could be that different things appeal to consumers as opposed to media. But I find that sometimes authors have a very anecdotal bio, that ‘here’s what I’m about and I’m into this and I’m into that,’ and a journalist wants to just zoom in and see, what’s the credential. If I’m quoting them in a piece, what do I call them? A lot of times, that can be fuzzy. So if someone’s CEO of a company, that’s super clear. If they’re a business school professor at Harvard Business School, that’s super clear. If they’re a writer, and they have a podcast, and maybe they’re a leadership coach, and they do some consulting, and there’s five things in their bio, those are all great things to have in the bio, but the journalist is probably only going to pick one. So it’s really important to have that sequence of things in your bio and leading with, if I could only choose one name for what I am and what I do, what would that be? And preferably in very simple, concrete terms. There’s often a press page or media page on a website and that can often have two different things.
It’s great to show your most impressive media you might have been in already, even if that’s just a little quote, in whether it’s The New York Times or Fast Company, or whatever it might be. That’s definitely worth bragging about. Sometimes you’ll see the brand. So you’ll see a logo for Fast Company, click here, just to read the full story. And the brands are almost more important than the stories. People don’t spend a lot of time on websites. So you want to have it tailored to quick attention spans. So they’re going to be more impressed to open up a page and see, “Wow, Fast Company, there’s NBC, there’s all these media outlets.” They’re probably not going to click on it to read the whole story, so it’s the brands that really matter. And then it’s helpful to have tools for the media. So one thing I love is an office of downloadable photos. There is always a scramble of a journalist wanting to do a story on an author and either they’ve set up the interview, or maybe they just want to write it even without talking to the interviewee and they need to run the photo with the story and their own deadline. There’s just always a scrambled back and forth of where to find this photo. Who has the photo? If you have it all there, they’re easy to download themselves. And it’s often great to have a selection of photos, like we’ve all seen the standard headshot for authors, which is definitely most important to have and have it in color, standard headshot, but some of them like to have alternatives. So a full length body shot, sometimes a formal one, sometimes an informal one, maybe a horizontal one gives that graphic designer a few options to work with.
So I’d say the most important things are the bio, downloadable photos, and brag about any media you’ve gotten. And I would think about the sequencing too. Sometimes people put the sequence of their most recent coverage in the media. I think it’s better to lead with the most impressive. So if you recently did some blog or journal, but you did New York Times 10 years ago, still put New York Times first.
How important is a press kit for an author?
Becky: That’s super helpful. So what about the idea of a press kit? How important is a press kit for an author? And what should that press kit include?
Mark: Yeah, so that’s definitely something that’s changed a lot. So press kits are still done. They still should be done. The world has gotten more digital, and during the pandemic even more digital. So typically, a press kit is printed and mailed with the physical book to the journalists that you’re trying to get to cover the book. During the pandemic, in particular, we’re mostly emailing PDFs and electronic galleys to the media. So they’re getting an attachment of a press kit, and they’re probably less likely to look at it. So press kits are still good to do and we can go over what should be in it, but I almost think that the pitch is the most important element of all. And sometimes the press release or the press kit gets over emphasized.
The main thing you’re trying to do is fight for the attention span of the media that you’re sending to. And that’s probably going to be an email that’s in their box, along with 500 other people pitching their books and their topic to that same person. So your goal is to interest. So think less about, “Oh, I’m trying to announce my book with this formal announcement. To write a book report about it.” But nope you have one goal. Your one goal is to interest this recipient ,this journalist, in as fast a way as possible and they would way prefer less is more.
So grab their attention with a fantastic headline, think of what’s the one sentence in the body of your pitch that’s going to just completely boil down what this book is about, why it’s significant, and why it’s newsworthy, new, or different? So that’s really your most important goal. I would spend the most time on that, even though it’s the shortest. If you can also do a press kit, the press release tends to be more of a summary about the book and the full contents. And then we always do a full page bio, as well as a short bio, that gives journalists a choice of “Okay, when in a flash, I can see what this person’s credentials are, who they are, and if I’m writing a profile, here’s a lot more color, their full story that I can pull things out from.”
Then last but not least, is what we call the author Q&A. So for all of our book press kits, we will think hard about, if we were a journalist, what’s the ideal story and interview that we would do with the author? And we think very hard about what’s the first question? What should be the last question? Isn’t just a jumble of questions that pops into our head, but we have to think like a journalist. Okay, that reader, what’s gonna pull them in? They have no context about this book or who this person is, so how are we going to get that across clearly, and hold their interest, and then dig deep into the topic enough, and then pull out of it a conclusion that ties it all together? And the Q&A is a great exercise for lots of reasons. It’s a wonderful way to prepare for your media training. A lot of authors, they just wrote the book, they’re clearly a master at it. And they’re just wanting interviews and haven’t really thought about, “Oh, well, how do I sum this up into my key points? And what would my ideal interview be?” If you know what your most ideal interview is going to be like, then you actually do have a lot of control over where the journalist is going to go and the substance of your interview.
What are the types of qualities you look for in an author who will have the opportunity to land the most desirable media wins?
Becky: Thanks, Mark. Well, I’d like to tap into your deep expertise of landing media wins. I know your team does a lot of pitching to major media outlets. So what are the types of qualities that you look for in an author or a client who will have the opportunity to land the most desirable media you talked about? Impressive media brands like The New York Times or Fast Company or The Today Show? So what does it take for an author to be able to win media at that level?
Mark: Yeah, so we work with a lot of famous authors and we also work with a lot of first time authors who’ve really not much profile yet, but they have a fantastic topic that we really believe in, and that has potential. So I think sometimes authors are intimidated and think, “Oh, I’m not famous yet. I’m not a big name, so no one’s gonna pay any attention.” They very well can if you’ve got a great topic. If you deliver it well. If you give great sound bites.
What is the most surprising or exciting media win you’ve landed?
Becky: So this might be a weird question, but as I’m listening to you, I’m wondering if you have any stories of the most surprising media wins you’ve landed, or the most exciting ones that you’d be willing to share with our listeners?
Mark: Oh, let’s see. Well, I guess I’ve told this story for so long that it just sticks to the brain as always a good, instructive story.
So the first book I worked on when I founded the firm was Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath. And I got The Today Show. I got CNBC. With the CNBC stories, it is very instructive, so I sent the book to my contact there. We had this great long conversation. She said, “Oh my god, this is the best book I’ve read in ages. I love it.” So I’m like, “Great. When can we book it?” She said, “Of course not, Mark. You know better than that. We’re a news network. So we can’t put an author on to just talk about their book and the topic. We need a news angle.” So a week or two went by, and it was coming out around January/February and so the Superbowl was coming up. So I pitched her, well, how about you have the authors on to talk about the stickiest Superbowl ads? And boom, the producer loved it! It gave me the angle that she needed and she put the authors on and we illustrated the whole segment.
It shows how important getting an angle is for the media. There’s a big difference between being topical and having a hard news angle. So, for example, right now we are talking in the hopefully close-to-end of the pandemic, so right now things like the hybrid workforce is a topical angle. It’s something that people are talking about, and you can get certain types of media with that. But there are other angles that are day-of news. So a week or two ago, there was a news story that Goldman Sachs was, because of burnout, giving Saturdays off to their employees, and that was a new story that hit that day of the announcement and got all this kind of buzz all over the place. So, of course, we jumped on that with our workplace authors as a hard news day-of news peg. And there’s some media, particularly the broadcast news networks like CBC, Fox Business, or Bloomberg, where they really need that day-of news peg.
Becky: So Mark, were you able to land any media connected to that story that you just referenced?
Mark: We’ve had a number. So yeah, we have an author writing on the book, while being at work. So we got some placements for that. We have a book coming up called Digital Body Language, which we have been playing off of the hybrid workforce angle, which as I said, that can open up some types of media, like print. We just got today, an Entrepreneur Magazine story on that, tied to the hybrid workforce. So yeah, we have several processes that we’re always running at the same time. So we’re pitching the book, and looking out for books. We’re watching the news every morning and trying to look at the news through the lens of our books messages and look for angles. So we’re always trying multiple approaches at the same time.
And if there is a news angle, our process usually is, you might spot it first, email it to our author. We ask them, “what’s your take on this news angle?” And then have some good back and forth between us. Because it’s good to tell CNBC, “Yes, I’ve got an author who can address what just happened today in the news.” It’s better if you can say, “I have an author who can address what happened on the news today, and here is her take on that story. Her opinion is x.” And then they might think, “Ooh, that’s a very surprising opinion, I wouldn’t have expected,” or “We’re having another person on who has the opposite point of view, wouldn’t that make a fantastic segment.” So really getting the author’s take on a news story is super important, and then once we have that we might work with them to draft an op ed, because you have to pounce on those fast and to pitch interviews at the same time.
Becky: Thank you so much for sharing your amazing insights with us today, Mark. I could ask you questions all afternoon.
Becky: We want to make sure that we do two things as we wrap up this episode, one is we want to let folks know how to find out more about you and your work. And then we also want to leave them with a couple of action steps. So ideas that they can implement today in growing the reach of their books.
Mark: Yeah, there’s a lot that authors can do on their own to promote new books.
- Write bylined articles or op eds. You can either do that immediately on LinkedIn or Medium. One trick is to Google the name of the outlet you want, and then “contributor guidelines,” and usually you put that combo together and it comes up with some directions of “we accept authors to write op eds, and we want 600 words, we love bullets,or we hate bullets,” and all the guidelines you’d ever need. Then you can pitch them directly.
- Watch the news. I also recommend as we were talking about the news, you can absolutely do that tracking the news yourself. Very often media will like peer-to-peer contact with an author, either on Twitter or LinkedIn, or just tracking down their email address. Some of those are public information that you can look up and find yourself and they’ll appreciate it if you’re an expert, and especially if, let’s say, you’re complimenting them on an article that they wrote and saying I actually did some research on that, and here’s a finding that you might find of interest with a different angle if you cover this angle in a different way, next week.
- Subscribe to a free service. There are also services that you can subscribe to for free. A great one is HARO. Another one is Qwoted and it’s basically a message board where hundreds of journalists every day will say, “I’m writing a story on this topic, I’m looking for an expert to interview or quote.” They might need a particular type of credential and you can just directly apply and just really follow the instructions carefully. Write the answers in the email and don’t stray from the guidelines. Do what they asked for and nothing more.
- Check out a podcast service. There are also podcast services now, which might land smaller podcasts. But there are a lot of podcasts that are on some of these subscription services for a very inexpensive fee. You can subscribe, and similar to HARO, you can do a posting on here’s my topic, I’m an expert on this, and then you’ll get some podcast bookings out of it. So there’s lots of things that you can do on your own.
- Learn more about Mark Fortier and the work he does in the world, here.
- Connect with Mark on Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Connect with Fortier Public Relations on LinkedIn.
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I am the founder/CEO of the Weaving Influence team, the author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause, and the host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast. I’m a wife and mom of three kids, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, coffee, and dark chocolate.