Meet the Tyndale Public Relations Team

A little over a year ago, Tyndale Public Relations said goodbye to our beloved corporate publicist, Mavis Sanders, as she retired after a long career in Christian publishing. Now we are fully staffed once again and we’re excited to introduce you to the people responsible for getting our books and authors out into the media and blogosphere.

From left to right: Katie, Joy, Andrea, Todd, Maggie, Christy, Erin

 

There’s a lot of text below, but we hope you’ll get to know our public relations team and maybe even come away with some helpful book publicity tips.

Todd Starowitz, Senior Public Relations Manager
How long have you worked at Tyndale?

Eight years

What have been some of your favorite Tyndale titles to promote?
With a media relations background in professional and collegiate athletics prior to arriving at Tyndale, I’ve been blessed to work on some extremely high-profile sports-related titles written by authors such as Tony Dungy, Drew Brees, and Emmitt Smith, among many others. To be on book tours in Indiana and New Orleans with Coach Dungy and Drew following their respective teams winning Super Bowls was an amazing experience. Those two men have made extraordinary contributions to those communities and are truly beloved. The fact that Coach Dungy’s Quiet Strength and Drew’s Coming Back Stronger reached No. 1 and No. 3 on the New York Times best sellers list (Tony’s was first NFL-related title to reach No. 1 and Drew reached No. 1 on Wall Street Journal list) just added to the excitement of those PR efforts.

What gets the media interested in a book?
Editors and producers couldn’t care less about promoting your book. Editors and producers want to create programming that is exciting and interesting for their viewers. If there’s a call-in element to their show, radio producers want to produce shows that will create lively discussions from their callers. If you are a fiction author, your bar is even higher. How often have you seen an author like Jodi Picoult on NBC’s Today or ABC’s Good Morning America? It doesn’t happen often.

If a writer doesn’t have a book contract (yet), what can s/he do to start building a platform?
Don’t limit yourself to one platform. Twitter followers aren’t secured overnight. Tweeting “buy my book” in 20 different ways isn’t what any consumer wants to read. Write content on multiple platforms that is compelling and thought-provoking. The end-user needs to take away something interesting from your tweets and Facebook posts. If you are early enough in the process, use these mediums to further research your product. If you are working on a book about parenting, survey your Facebook friends and Twitter followers about your topic. Ask questions and get them involved in your topic. When a new book that we are being asked to promote is brought to my desk one of the first places I go is to Twitter to find out how many followers an author maintains. As a publicist, it can be discouraging when that number is low.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love spending time with my wife, Beth Bauer, and my three-year-old daughter, Emma. I stopped both when we adopted Emma last year but I was a gameday statistician for the Chicago Bulls and a high school fastpitch softball coach up until last year and I enjoyed both activities immensely.

Maggie Rowe, Senior Publicist
How long have you worked at Tyndale?

Six years

What have been some of your favorite Tyndale titles to promote? Why?
I have been involved with ministry to women on a regional and national level for over 20 years, so it’s been a great joy to work with authors like Beth Moore (So Long, Insecurity) whom I had met previously at conferences I’ve helped to organize. I’ve also been married to a pastor for over 30 years, so I enjoy working on any title that has ministry potential (and Tyndale doesn’t publish anything that doesn’t). Some of my favorite PR campaigns have been with Abby Johnson (UnPlanned), Becky Alonzo Nichols (The Devil in Pew Number Seven), Robert Rodgers (Into the Deep), and Lynn Eib (50 Days of Hope.) I also love promoting fiction titles like the novels of Maureen Lang and perhaps Tyndale’s most unusual novel ever published: As One Devil to Another.

What advice would you give an author looking to promote his/her book?
At the minimum, an author needs his or her own website. You don’t have to hire a designer. Find a web-savvy friend and ask them to help you use WordPress or another blog platform to create a free site that showcases your bio, the book cover and description, and a Q&A along with blog posts that provide value to readers or offer giveaways. You can add reviews as they come in. A recent op-ed piece in Publishers Weekly said that today websites are like business cards; it’s crucial to have one. Also, work your personal network!

If a writer doesn’t have a book contract (yet), what can s/he do to start building a platform?
Start where you are with what you’ve got in the place to which God calls you. Ultimately he is the one who provides his people with the megaphone they need to get the message out.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
In addition to working full-time at Tyndale, I’m also in my second year of a three-year grad program in biblical studies. I am heavily involved in ministry to women and college students at my church, and enjoy doing pastoral care and hosting church groups with my husband. I also travel  some evenings and many weekends to speak at women’s retreats and conferences or perform original one-woman dramas in ministry settings around the US. So to answer the question accurately: I have no free time!

Christy Stroud, Publicist
How long have you worked at Tyndale?
It will be five years in February.

What have been some of your favorite Tyndale titles to promote?
I loved working with Marilyn Hontz to promote her book, Shame Lifter. It was the first PR campaign I did here and Marilyn made that first project so much more enjoyable. I also enjoyed doing PR for Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson’s book, Winning Balance, earlier this year. Fun fact: Shawn and I are the same height so I actually got to stand in for her when we shot her book trailer so they could adjust the lighting.

What advice would you give an author looking to promote his/her book?
Be willing to get out there and promote your book. If an author is willing to do a lot of work promoting his or her book, it makes our job as publicists easier. This doesn’t mean you necessarily need to be contacting media outlets (that’s our job), but make yourself available for interviews, write blog posts related to your book topics for your site, be willing to write potential articles or be a guest blogger. Build your network of influencers before your book comes out and then use them to help promote your book when it releases. You also don’t need to be on every single social media site out there. If you prefer Facebook over Twitter, then just have an author page on Facebook, but be sure to update it and interact with your fans there. Do what you’re comfortable with on social media, but do it well. The worst thing to do is create an account but never update it. Remember, you’re building your brand as an author–not just promoting your book. Don’t make all your posts about your book, but instead share relevant information on topics where you can be an expert. This is especially important if you want to write more than one book.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love spending time with my husband and visiting my parents’ pug (since I don’t have one of my own yet). I’m also a youth leader for my church’s youth group and serve on the worship team. You can also find me running and training for races. My next goal is to complete a sprint distance triathlon.

Andrea Martin, Publicist
How long have you worked at Tyndale?
6 ½ total

What have been some of your favorite Tyndale titles to promote? Why?
It’s hard to narrow it down.  I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a number of great titles over the years!  I like working on titles that seek to help a greater cause.  I worked on Matt Hammitt’s picture book, I Couldn’t Love You More, this past spring.  Matt is the lead singer of Sanctus Real.  Two years ago his son, Bowen, was born with Hypoplastic Left-Heart Syndrome.  This book is based on a song he wrote to Bowen (make sure you have a tissue nearby if you read it).  Some of the proceeds from the book will go to their foundation, Whole Hearts.  I really enjoyed working with Matt and it was good to know that this book was going to help other families of children with heart defects.

In January 2011 I worked on A Heart for Freedom, by Chai Ling.   Ling was the Commander-in-Chief of the Tiananmen Square uprising in China- she witnessed the massacre and was able to escape in a shipping container.  This book opened my eyes to what really happened at Tiananmen Sqaure and what life is like for a woman living in China.  Now she lives in the US and has established a non-profit company, All Girls Allowed.  Ling has an amazing story and is working tirelessly to abolish the one child policy in China.  A portion of her book sales go to All Girls Allowed.

What advice would you give an author looking to promote his/her book?
Build your connections.  If you haven’t done so already, several months before your book is published you should build your social media contacts.  Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media platforms, these contacts will be important when your book releases.  These are great places to post cover art, press releases, interviews, events, reviews and hold contests.  Building relationships is very important… the key is to start early.

What are some challenges you face in PR? 
I think the PR landscape has changed drastically over the 16 years or so that I’ve worked in PR.  There are a lot more outlets to keep up on now.   When I first started working in PR in 1994 (which was at the Jerry Springer Show- more on that another time) we dealt with print, radio and TV.  Now we still have those three, but also have added websites, social media and bloggers to the mix.  PR has always been fast-paced, but now it seems to move at warp-speed.  Media outlets change by the hour.  Just when you start to get to know a contact, they are gone and you have to start over.  So it’s a challenge to keep up with everything, but there are also more tools out there to help us do that, like Vocus and Cision.  The web also allows us to quickly research outlets.  In the past I actually went to the library to research a media project.  Now a big part of PR is a constant quest to discover and best utilize all the tools that are out there to promote our books.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 
I love cooking, hanging out with my husband and 3 kids (ages 4 and 8), traveling, running, reading and watching movies. Oh, if it involves chocolate or salted caramels, even better!

Erin Haft, Publicist
How long have you worked at Tyndale?
Almost a year and a half

What have been some of your favorite Tyndale titles to promote? Why?
I grew up on Adventures in Odyssey, and I’ve had the great privilege of working on several AIO products. It’s been a blast to work with the AIO team, and I even got to meet the actors who play Eugene and Connie, my childhood heroes! It‘s wonderful to work with a fan base as excited and loyal as that of AIO.

What gets the media interested in a book?
A specific, unique, and relevant topic. It’s tough to get the media excited about a vague Christian living concept or something that has been done a thousand times before. Topics that are tangible and applicable for a producer or editor’s audience get much more attention. The media is trying to appeal to their audience, not yours.

What are some challenges you face in PR?
Members of the media can receive hundreds of emails and pitches a day. They often don’t have the time to even open all their emails, let alone follow-up. Even if we think a book is a perfect fit for an outlet, it can be hard to get noticed. Additionally, the media landscape is changing daily, and often the most effective channels are not traditional outlets. We have to be constantly innovative to help our authors get the best exposure possible; especially when the traditional media that they would like to get is neither as feasible nor as helpful as they believe.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Being from Washington State originally, I love horseback riding and being in the mountains, although I rarely get the chance these days in Midwest suburbia. Perhaps it’s cliché for someone in publishing, but I absolutely love to read. Especially if there is a roaring fireplace and a comfy armchair handy.

Katie Dodillet, Publicist
How long have you worked at Tyndale?

I’ve been at Tyndale almost a year, after many years in advertising and marketing.

What have been some of your favorite Tyndale titles to promote?
I have truly enjoyed them all, but can honestly say that promoting Nicole Unice’s book, She’s Got Issues, was a particular joy given that I could so easily relate to her subject matter (yes, I have issues) and that Nicole is just one of the most marvelous and gifted women I’ve ever met.

What advice would you give an author looking to promote his/her book?
Keep your name “out there” as much as possible. Pay attention to your website, write your blog, garner endorsements, do guest blog posts, use social media to keep the conversation going about you and your book for as long as you can.

What gets the media interested in a book?
It always helps when a book can tie into a current story in the news. If there is some hook that can tie the author or the book back to what the media considers news, that is a huge bonus.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
With a dear husband, three teenagers, two 100 pound Golden Retrievers and a very busy household, free time is a bit elusive.  When free time does present itself- I love to garden, vacation on any beautiful beach, and hang out with my beloved family.

Joy Fabry, Publicity Assistant
How long have you worked at Tyndale?
Three months

What are your primary job responsibilities?
I manage the Tyndale Blog Network, coordinate giveaways, and assist the publicity team with a variety of administrative tasks.

What have you learned about publicity from your time on the team so far?
I have learned about the intricacy of the publishing process, the importance of appropriate media relations, and the significance of social media platforms.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Cook, craft, hike, and musical theater

We hope you learned a little more about book publicity and about the people who help promote our titles. We had so many great answers to these questions, so watch for part 2 with more book publicity tips next week.

You can connect with many of us on Twitter (click on our names to find us), and feel free to leave any additional questions you might have about book publicity in the comments below. We’ll try our best to answer them!

Christy Stroud

Christy Stroud

Christy is a publicist at Tyndale, working to get the best media coverage possible for our authors and products. She has worked on many campaigns including the New York Times bestseller "Winning Balance" by Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson, Phil Vischer’s What’s in the Bible? DVD series, "The Devil in Pew Number Seven" by Rebecca Alonzo, "Night of the Living Dead Christian" by Matt Mikalatos, the "Courageous" novelization by Randy Alcorn, and "Cupidity" and "Unstuff" by Michael and Hayley DiMarco. Christy enjoys being a wife, mom, and pug owner. You can often find her reading, running, training for triathlons, doing youth ministry, and occasionally horseback riding. She also blogs at http://www.christystroud.com.