Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Interview: Dot Lin (Publicity Manager for Tor Books)

Every Tuesday, I'll have an interview posted.

Dot Lin is the publicity manager for Tor Books.

Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, let's talk about you and Tor. How did you first get involved with them?

I was fortunate enough to gain an entry-level position at Tor shortly after college. I liked it so much... that I’ve since stayed there for many years! Publicity looked like the most fun, so I eventually moved there. I have not been disappointed.

Your current position is Publicity Manager. Can you tell us what kind of work that translates to? How similar/different is it from, say, marketing and advertising?

Department definitions vary across companies, but for me, Publicity deals with promoting the author and book, either through the media or through book events. It also generally involves the most interaction with authors and outside people (and the most phone calls!). Marketing deals more directly and more often with bookstores and accounts in terms of selling the actual book, as well as other creative promotions related to that. Advertising designs the actual beautiful ads and works on placing them (anywhere these days—print, online, radio, etc.). We all work closely together, so there can be some blurring of the boundaries!

How does one become a Publicity Manager at Tor?

Caffeine and passion for SF! Aha, there is no one way to reach a position at Tor or any other publishing company. I must say that most people here love what they do and the books that they work on. For Tor, we have a close relationship with our authors, and even though you don’t have to love, say, religious non-fiction if you’re a publicist for religious non-fiction—many people here are passionate about SF literature and pop culture. It’s a wonderful community.

What other departments do you usually coordinate with?

It takes a village... If I had to choose, I would say that I interact most frequently with Editorial, Marketing, and Advertising.

I've seen your name pop up in several places, including the Tor website. What's a day in the life of Dot Lin like?

Wake up, tea, email, mail, phone call, read a blog, meeting, tea—repeat!

Really, I think my working day mirrors that of many book publicists (busy, interactive, and hopefully productive)—except with a bit more fun geek/ pop culture activity. For a fun “day in the life” rundown from an anonymous book publicist, go here. The details change from publicist to publicist, but the spirit of it remains the same!

I'm curious and because Tor is such a cool company, do you get to associate with all the Tor authors or do you simply focus on select authors/editors?

I meet many authors when they come to visit, or if I’m lucky enough to attend a conference, but each publicist works directly with different authors. As mentioned, Tor is part of a wonderful SF community, so we’re fortunate enough to meet authors and others in the community in various places (not just business-wise). Sometimes you go to a birthday party and you run into—“Oh, hey! You’re that artist!” It’s great.

Did you ever have fangirl-mode moments?

Definitely, that’s part of the fun. But it’s the kind that consists of excitement over finally meeting an author, blogger, artist, etc.—not really the kind where I faint facedown in costume at Comic Con :P

2008 was an interesting year for publishing in general. With all the upheavals and the launch of a site like Tor.com, where do you see Tor positioning itself today? Like is it evolving and headed towards a new/different direction or more of the same with a small room for expansion?

This is a great question—and a big one. I think all companies are thinking about this right now, and I don’t have any shiny, new answers. I will say that Tor has been lucky to have great authors and great support over the years, We really, really appreciate the readers and have been continuously trying to do new and better things for them, which often involve responses to changes in culture, technology, and various factors—not just the economy. Basically, the economy must be taken into the greater picture.

In your opinion, how important a role does marketing play in a writer's career?

Marketing or promotions can only help a writer’s career. The question is which kind of promotion! There’s no one way to market every author or book, and you never know sometimes which method is going to hit the pulse of society at that moment. I do tell writers to never underestimate their own potential in helping to promote their books. You never know which contact could give the book that extra push (ie. your neighbor’s son knowing the editor at such-and-such publication), or maybe that story of you spending two years in the Peace Corps (not directly related to your steampunk novel) makes a great back story for a publication (who usually want a better angle than just “Hi! I wrote a book.”).

What are some of people's misconceptions when it comes to book publicity?

That there’s naptime? Aha, I’m not sure! What are these pre-conceived notions? I have never met Oprah.

How has book publicity been changing in recent years, especially with the Internet and all?

Ah, many people have weighed in on this—basically, more internet publicity in many ways and growing, be it blogs, social networking sites, videos, twitter. Second Life, you name it.

Let's focus more about you. How did you first get into fantasy/science fiction?

I read a lot as a child, and as perhaps many can relate to, half of those books were SF!

Who are some of your favorite authors and/or what are some of your favorite books?

Ahaha, as a book publicist, I’ll keep away from this – but buy me a tea in person and I will tell you!

What made you decide to pursue PR?

Fun, great people, and great stories (even if, ah, it takes two years after the fact for you to “enjoy” said stories).

What do you think are qualities that make a good Publicity Manager?

For any publicist, some good qualities: detail-oriented, responsible, personable, ability to multitask and interactive.

Do you think you need to be a big fan of the works of you clients?

No, and I think almost every publicist would say this. Publicity is a job, and as with any job, you can do good work (and should) even if you don’t love it.

That being said, it doesn’t hurt to like your clients’ work.

Were there ever any aspirations to become an author yourself or perhaps contribute to the field in a different manner?

I do enjoy writing, but am not as prolific or hard-working as my authors—perhaps one day!

However, my secret dream is to do a cameo in a YA fantasy movie. If in animated form, even better! (hint, PIXAR)

Any other interests or something you'd like to share?

Recent interest—manga, anime, and grading the costumes at New York Comic Con. It never gets old. At San Diego last year, there was a group of Transformers who “transformed” before our very eyes ..

Any advice for people interested in doing book publicity?

You will do a lot of writing, interact with many people, do several things at once, and sometimes not have time for lunch. If you have any problems with that, don’t do it!

Any advice for aspiring authors?

I’m not an editor (who probably receive this question most often), but this is what I’ve heard over the years: Write, write, write. Don’t stop writing, and then write some more. Network and get an agent!

Anything else you want to plug?

Since you mentioned the internet, I’d like to give a shout out to sites like this one for helping to spread the word on good authors and books. Especially in these times, it’s lovely when people support the arts.

And hey, to the haven’t-read-a-book-since-Moby-Dick-in-college—buying a book is cheaper than going to the movies, and more hours of fun!


Adele said...

wonderful interview, thank you for this and I look forward to more of them. :)

Lauren said...

Awesome interview! Thank you so much for sharing this.

Mihai A. said...

Excellent interview! Thank you very much :)

Anonymous said...

That was fun! I "talk" to Dot by email occasionally, so it was interesting to learn more about her.

Charles said...

Thanks. Dot did all the heavy lifting!

Kat: Lucky you. I just ran into her once or twice but I immediately knew I needed to kidnap, errr, interview Dot. A lot of interviews tend to focus on the authors and the rest of the publishing staff gets neglected (which is why I have interviews with editors, publicists, publishers, and whoever else I can drag with me).