A Conversation About How Authors Can Pivot and the "New New Normal"

New Podcast: A Conversation About How Authors Can Pivot and the “New New Normal”

In this episode, we talk to Smith Publicity Vice President Marissa Eigenbrood about what authors can do to pivot in the “new new normal,” tips they can do right now to engage with their network and the big question: should they delay publication of their books.

The Smith Publicity ‘All Things Book Marketing’ podcast explores all facets of book publicity and book marketing, with great expert guests sharing vital information for both authors and publishers.

TRANSCRIPT:

Mike Onorato:
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the All Things book Marketing Podcast. I hope everyone is healthy and well. I’m your host, Mike Onorato. Today, joining us on the pod is Marissa Eigenbrood. In her role as vice president here at Smith Publicity, Marissa wears many hats, including onboarding business and lifestyle clients, and leading many aspects related to the direction and vision of our company.

Mike Onorato:
She brings extensive knowledge of the public relations realm, having been the lead publicist launching hundreds of titles since joining the team back in 2009. She holds a bachelor of arts in communications with a minor in business management from wonderful Marist College. Throughout her career in public relations, she has worked with nonprofits, Fortune 500 corporations, international brands, college and universities, tech startups and the publishing industry.

Mike Onorato:
Including small to large size publishers, independent authors and industry thought leaders. Wow, what a bio. Marissa welcome,

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Gosh, I have to live up to that. Thanks for having me, Mike.

Mike Onorato:
You finally made it. You were a…

Marissa Eigenbrood:
I finally made it.

Mike Onorato:
… a tough guest to book, but I’m glad that our people connected and here we are.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
You would have thought. We’ve had our podcast for how long now? We had quite a few years, and this is my debut appearance on the podcast here at Smith. So, excited to be here, excited to have the Marist takeover as our fellow Marist graduates on the call today.

Mike Onorato:
That’s right. That’s right, Red Foxes represent. Before we get into our questions, Marissa, how are you and how is everybody in your world dealing with COVID-19?

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Doing really well. Thanks for asking, Mike. Personally, very, very thankful for just the fact that I haven’t had too many real close first-hand experiences with this pandemic, very fortunate that those in our company are doing well and have transitioned pretty seamlessly to our at home work structure right now. Excited to get to the other side of this as I think anybody who’s listening or on hosting the podcast right now, is also excited to get there.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
But certainly, wanting to still be safe. So, it’s incredible what’s happened over the last, I think it’s six weeks now since we’ve officially been working from home. You start to lose track of what day it is, but it’s all been a fairly smooth ride for the most part as much as it can be right now. So, fantastic.

Mike Onorato:
That’s good to hear. That’s I guess all we can ask for, right, is a relatively smooth ride?

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Absolutely.

Mike Onorato:
We’re all dealing with so many unknowns and you’re talking with prospective authors on a regular basis. What are some of the questions you’re hearing from them? And are there trends that you might have noticed over the course of these last whatever amount of weeks to those questions?

Marissa Eigenbrood:
I think the main thing that I found so far, and it really touches upon any genre, whether it’s business, whether it’s lifestyle, self-help memoirs, even into fiction or children’s books, people are definitely looking for guidance. Our authors, our publishers, our industry partners, I’ve made a joke here and there with individuals that Amazon’s been holding my crystal ball hostage with the nonessential items that aren’t shipping right now.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And that I wish that I had this look into the future of what this means for all of us, particularly in the book publishing industry and around the fall, around early 2021. And we don’t know for sure what’s to come. But I think as many at Smith know and many people that I’m connected with, I’d like to stay optimistic. I’m quite the optimistic individual most of the time.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And I’m really hopeful that our path ahead is going to come to our newer new normal, and that’s what I lead with in the questions of, what’s ahead? That’s a question that comes up quite a bit, and I try to lead with that, is we don’t know for sure. But let’s really try to plan as if we are able to get back to a lot of our normalcy come in the fall, whether that’d be a school year coming back.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Whether that’d be going back to conferences and having our book fairs and our festivals, Frankfurt taking place. We don’t know for sure. I’d like to remain hopeful of it. And that’s really what I try to instill in any conversation that I have with authors and publishers. Beyond that, the questions that are really arising are around, what does the media landscape look like right now?

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And certainly, I’d like to always turn to you and to the rest of our publicity team for your boots on the ground guidance there, because it’s changing every single week. As the news changes, we’re seeing the media change with it, of course. So, with the first few weeks of the pandemic, it was all about, how do we survive through this? How do we wash our hands? What songs are we singing to wash our hands?

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Don’t touch your face. How are we coping with working from home? And then, the moment that there’s discussion around the world opening up, we’re seeing the media move with that. And so, that’s a lot of the questions, and the answers I’m trying to provide to our prospective authors is around really being nimble and understanding that the media landscape is changing rapidly right now.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And it’s important to always try to be a few steps ahead of what might be next and try to look ahead to that. Other questions are around, for a number of authors I have been in touch with for quite some time now that maybe are deciding to hold off on traditional media outreach. And for some here and there, depending upon their messaging, the subject matter of their book, their goals overall, we are recommending to a select few that maybe hold off for a few months and see how things evolve.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
But for many, there are really great times right now. And for those that are holding off, we really are talking about what else they can be doing right now. What else can they do to stay active to keep their message going, no matter what point they’re at in their book production lifeline? Whether they’re preproduction, whether their book came out six months ago, there’s definitely something that everyone can be doing right now.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And so, those are some of the other things that we’re talking about. So, I would say the questions are all pretty similar across the board. And my answers vary slightly based on the genre when it gets into more specifics. But ultimately, those answers are what I just mentioned. They’re really just trying to support and provide compassion to everyone who doesn’t really know what exactly what’s ahead.

Mike Onorato:
Right. Right. And it’s interesting, because a lot of questions that we get is about that media landscape. And besides being intimately involved in it because we work with producers and editors, and writers, we’re also media consumers, right? So, we’re able to see some of the trends as things happen. And I think you almost, in some ways, need to… it’s on two tracks.

Mike Onorato:
One is providing timely news for people that ultimately can impact their actual life, right? So, it’s wearing mask in public with airlines today. The big story is airlines requiring passengers to wear masks as of May 4th and going forward. And there’s all sorts of that. And the second part of that is helping people cope. And it’s whether it’d be with trying to homeschool their children or whether it’d be trying to have that work-life balance, or be able to be productive on Zoom.

Mike Onorato:
So, it’s so interesting to see the way the media has shifted, and they themselves are in the same boat as us. They’re working from home. They’re trying to record podcasts in closets. I read a story that some podcast up in Boston, it’s a great one. And of course, the name right now escapes me. And he’s sitting in the closet recording because that’s the quiet spot he could find, right?

Mike Onorato:
So, all of that is just we’re all in this… I know we’ve heard this phrase, but we’re all in the same boat together.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
We are, absolutely. No, you’re completely right there. And I think what’s also really encouraging, I’ve been hearing this just over this last week in particular, is that we and the media, in our interactions in some areas, seem to be coming out on the other side of this whole thing in one way or another. So, just in some conversations I’ve had this week with other members of our team, in the lifestyle space, there’s been discussions around looking to the fall tie-ins like Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in November or Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Or back to school angles, where the media is actually business as usual with those angles. It’s really encouraging to see that and to hear that. And although we don’t… I guess before, we don’t know exactly what that looks like in the fall, I’m really encouraged to see the media in some areas is they’re looking out to that, and they’re still planning their content the same way they would have without a pandemic in play here.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
There’s elements of that that are being added into it. But again, just really excited with our longer lead media to see that there is that transition into a little bit of normalcy. But again, I like the newer new normal. That’s my phrase that I’ve been using. I think we’ve got a lot of great things that we’ve learned through this experience, and we have the opportunity to come out the other side with those lessons and have armed with those lessons. So, that’s [crosstalk 00:10:34].

Mike Onorato:
Right, right. No, of course. And I know that you work with a lot of business authors, and that’s an area that we’ve just seen the world turned on its ear and a lot of our business authors, and they’re trying to navigate what this looks like. Are there certain questions that they are asking more or are there certain fears or concerns they’re sharing with you as they go through this process?

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Absolutely. Our business authors are, like you said, they’ve really been hit by this in such a unique way. We work with so many business authors who are not just those who are practitioners. They’re leadership in corporations or they’re leading a small business, but so many of them are professional speakers or workshop facilitators. A big part of their platform is in-person opportunities.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And so, we’ve really seen the business author hit incredibly hard with the need to restrategize through this whole thing and to really look at how they’re going to drive attention to their book, because so many are using these in-person opportunities, their keynotes, their breakouts, their Q&As they’re doing in-person as the way of driving attention to their book, of coordinating both book sales for their preorder campaigns, or whatever they might be doing in the prelaunch stages, and even postlaunch.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
It’s so important to keep the book alive and use it as a business card through those opportunities. And so, for so many of our business authors, this has required them to majorly pivot with their other efforts beyond the media to continue driving that attention to their book. But I’ve been really encouraged seeing how so many have really flipped it into the virtual world.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And that is such a critical space for the business author right now to keep that attention going. And that’s been a lot of conversations we’ve been having is, how do we shift this over to virtual? We’ve actually, with a number of our clients, I’m preaching to the choir here and telling you this, but we’re working with so many in helping them to launch a webinar, to launch a podcast, to think about how they can create a new way of communicating with their audience that’s not in-person.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And so, I think that there’s one in particular, one of our clients, Kaihan Krippendorff, has launched this incredible summit in a series of summits that he’s doing, where he’s bringing all these thought leaders who are usually in their circuits of speaking engagements. They’re at home. So, they have a little bit more flexibility and he’s been able to create these amazing two-day summits that are all virtual and that are bringing all of these incredible thought leader voices together to just share knowledge with people.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And it’s been a great extension of his work, his book launch that happened at the end of 2019, and just keeping things going for him. And we’ve seen that with webinars with some of our other clients, Sue Hawkes, and in her amazing platform. And so, it’s been great to see how our clients and how we’ve been able to work with them in pivoting that. And that’s where, in terms of our new business authors, we’re having those same conversations and really emphasizing how important that is.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And with quite a few of them that I’ve talked to, there’s excitement to a degree too of what this could do to the professional speaking world. Could the professional speaking world be a little bit more open to virtual opportunities after this? It’s for so long been that you have to be in-person and you have to be prepared, whether with our event coordinators and everything to not only pay for speaker fees.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
But also, to cover travel and everything else that’s involved with it. And I think that there’s some really unique opportunities for that industry to pivot, the word of the year, to pivot into some virtual opportunities as well. I know you certainly have navigated some interesting waters in your lifetime, Mike, and publicity from your time with Wiley after 9/11. Anything that you’ve noticed that’s parallel to today from what you saw at Wiley before?

Mike Onorato:
Yeah. I think what’s interesting is in this situation that we’re dealing with, there is such a prevalence of social media, and technology is so much better than it was back in 2001. So, authors are able to do things like Zoom or use technology and other ways to do webinars and speaking. I almost said in-person speaking, but I’ll do in-technology speaking. That didn’t happen back then.

Mike Onorato:
There wasn’t that. And so, I think that’s a real sea change. Also, I think what’s more complicated nowadays versus back in 2001 is just the amount of information out there and the way people are getting it. Back then, there was you had your list of producers that you’d reach out to and you had your list of actual newspaper writers. And the internet wasn’t really a huge thing back then.

Mike Onorato:
It was just, if you remember, really in its infant stage in fact. Right after that morning, I remember trying to get online to take a look at what was going on. I’m hearing reports of what was happening in your city and not being able to get off. It just the internet couldn’t handle the bandwidth. And there’s so many ways to get information. And so, that’s a real difference in 2020 than back in 2001.

Mike Onorato:
But from the media standpoint, it’s almost night and day. It’s just there’s so many different outlets and different places to go, and the media back then I remember, those first couple of days, or at least that week, it was just everything was shut down. And then, it began to come back. And then, you were able to pitch and you were able to get people out there. I think the hard part now is that we don’t know the end.

Mike Onorato:
Okay, well, I’ll pitch that angle tomorrow. Maybe the stories will be in a different band or maybe the amount of hospitalizations or deaths will drop. And therefore, I can then pitch this, and we’re not seeing that. So, it’s just like you’re waiting for the appropriate moment and realizing that you can’t wait too long, because that moment may not come.

Mike Onorato:
But one of the things, Marissa, that you probably heard me saying during our conversations, is I remember vividly back in 2001, I remember you had to be so careful about appearing tone deaf and really pitching very rightfully. I, for the most part, haven’t seen that this round. I haven’t seen media saying, “Hey, that’s just inappropriate. We don’t have time to cover that. We’re dealing with this. We’re dealing with that.”

Mike Onorato:
I think they recognize that people need a distraction. They need something that’s not related to what is going on and what is on the news constantly. And that’s it. Again, that’s a big difference I’ve noticed this time versus last time, and just even reading some of the publishing and PR trades that I read, I really haven’t seen that become an issue. Now, who knows, right?

Mike Onorato:
Who knows what’s going to happen in a couple of weeks, if God forbid, things get worse. But as of right now, that’s where I’m seeing a big difference.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Yeah, no, you made a great point there, Mike. And I think clearly, one of the big differences here of it was, although the impact of 9/11 certainly continued on well after the day, this is something where it is more than one day of… it’s constant. It’s constantly there. It’s constantly this pandemic that we’re not sure of what’s next, and we’re not sure of what the next day will hold.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And I do think that because this has forced all of us to create a new normal in our lives, a normal that we don’t necessarily want to be in but we’re stuck there, that that’s where the media has had to shift toward normalcy to some degree for themselves as well. And so, maybe that’s where the lack of that tone deaf commentary, we’re not seeing that this time around.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Because of course, it’s about strategic pitching always as well. But I think that the media has had to shift into some normalcy wherever they can keep it to for themselves. And going back to the stuff we’re talking about around business authors and what they can be doing, and how much… like you said, there wasn’t that internet available like it is today. There’s opportunities to connect.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
I think that it’s so important to emphasize that that applies to every genre. It’s not just business. I mean, I loved seeing our cookbook authors doing Instagram live cooking segments with special guests, and having fiction authors in the same genre joined together to do a Q&A on Facebook. Or just seeing people supporting each other through this and finding different channels to do a book launch party online or to do a giveaway or whatever it is.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
There’s so much opportunity available online, and we are very fortunate to have that, especially within the book world right now.

Mike Onorato:
For sure. Speaking of that, that’s actually one of the items I wanted to touch on, about what things authors, specific things authors can do now, while they are unable to physically either get in front of an audience or physically go to a bookstore and sign stock, right? And so, are there certain specific things that you might suggest or recommend that authors do right now while they’re limited?

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Absolutely. I mean, there’s so many things we’re seeing our authors and publishers, and other authors doing right now that we’re really excited about. And this is an opportunity to get creative for sure, no matter your genre. But we talked a lot about webinars.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
I think that especially in the nonfiction space, not just business, but anyone who has expertise and insights to share, it’s a great opportunity to introduce maybe a free webinar at this time, giving things away for free right now, I think is a really wonderful way to increase engagement, to add more email addresses to your newsletter lists, and to increase those marketing efforts you’re working on.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
So, doing some free initiatives like that I think are good at this time. It’s also helping people in giving away content for free in a time when we should all be helping one another. And when you’re building that engagement, then as you move forward, maybe you create a more exclusive webinar that you can charge a fee for or something along those lines. But I think webinars are really, really great right now.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And between Zoom and another platform, WebinarJam that I heard about this week, there’s just really fantastic technologies to support that. This is a fantastic time to just take a look at what you’re doing on social media. Take a look at some either competitors or people who you really love their social media following, or you’re really impressed by the numbers they have, or the engagement they have in terms of comments and likes, and see what they’re doing.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Maybe create an editorial calendar for yourself with your social media activity. Decide that moving forward, you’re always going to do a flashback Friday segment or change up what you’re posting, and maybe start doing little more video or share more photos. Share more articles that you’re reading. If you’re spending more time online, this is a fantastic time to really amp up those social media activities and to set up a calendar for yourself for your content overall.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Whether it’s through your social media platforms or it’s through a newsletter that you regularly send out, or a blog that you keep active, it’s a great time to update your website. If you haven’t had a chance to do that, this is a wonderful time to go into your website and make those updates to your website. Make sure your online presence is as fresh and up-to-date as possible.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
As I mentioned a few times, people are wanting to help each other. So, this is a fantastic point to go to your network of people professionally, personally, and connect with them to see what opportunities there might be to help each other. So, that could be in the form of if you’re in the prepublication phase, is consider starting to reach out for your endorsements at this time.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
I’ve heard from many people that they’re getting a lot of great response because people have a little more time to consider that right now. Think about this, if you’re post-publication, maybe this is a really good time to reach out to your list and ask for individuals to provide an Amazon review for your book to add a few more there, or to possibly share through their own social media platforms, or maybe even join you for a live session.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
So, again, this is just a wonderful time to work with each other and support each other, and even reach out to people maybe who aren’t directly in your network. But like I said before, people that you admire, people who are in a similar genre as yourself, don’t be afraid to reach out and offer to do one of those collaborative sessions together. And bring your social media followings together to cross-promote.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Because that’s ultimately going to help to drive attention back to your platform and to your work as well. So, it’s also a great time I think for giveaways and eBook promos. Again, you can see the trend here, is everything’s online. Everything’s digital. But just a lot of great ways to drive readers to your work and to really, again, tap into those networks that you have available to you and to keep growing them.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
That’s really I think a lot of the great things we can be doing right now when we can’t be in front of our audiences.

Mike Onorato:
You raise a fantastic point. I was talking with one of our clients who you know, Chip Munn.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Yes.

Mike Onorato:
Last week, and this came up as well, about using the opportunity when you may have a little downtime to work on your social, work on your website, or just to evaluate it. Take a look at it and see it’s possible you may not have touched your website in a couple of months. And we know how the world was so much different a couple months ago. So, spend time doing that.

Mike Onorato:
I love the idea of doing a little audit of your social media and spending a little time there, and following people back, or interacting with them if they’ve interacted with you. It’s an opportunity. I mean, I think without social media, a lot of this would feel worse, because we’d be so sequestered, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. But it’s an opportunity to use that to do a little maintenance and check that out.

Mike Onorato:
And recognize that you are part of a community and provide something for your neighbor, whether it’d be your neighbor physically or your neighbor through your network, right? And spending a little time there I think, that these are all great activities and ideas for authors right now.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And I mean, the thing is too, these will all apply on the other side of this. It’s really going to just set you up for success for your book launch, and then just keep the momentum moving beyond your book launch. So, it’s important that these activities happen at any time. But again, right now, these digital platforms are so important to maximize.

Mike Onorato:
That’s right. That’s right. It’s time for these $6 million question.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
All right.

Mike Onorato:
Okay. What should we advise authors who either want to postpone the publication of their book until the fall or later, or are considering it or thinking about it? What is the answer? What is the feedback we should provide them?

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Well, I will use the most often used phrase at Smith Publicity for most questions that arise, I think, and that is, it depends. But no, I think that there’s a few factors that really come into play regarding postponing the publication date. The conversations that I’ve had recently, number one, is around goals for this book. What are the goals for this book? If the goal is to really drive book sales, if their goals are around achieving bestseller status and all of that, it’s really important that you have this solid runway ahead of you for your prepublication initiatives.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And a lot of times, your in-person opportunities are pretty important to that, and your speaking engagements, especially the business space. So, maybe that’s a reason to consider pushing out to 2021. I think that the goals are definitely important, but the really bigger part of it I think is what the book is about, and the messaging in the book. I’ve had quite a few conversations with individuals about potentially pushing out publication dates.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And it’s been around, how will this message hit with audiences, with the media, if it were to come out in the fall? Because the fall, we don’t know what it’s going to look like. It could still be at the tail end of this whole thing. Who knows? I mean, knock on wood, I hope we’re not heading into a second wave, but there’s a possibility of it. But let’s say we’re on the end of this really tough time for everyone.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
The last thing you want to come in with is a book that has really tough messages to it and try to get people to buy into that. So, what I mean by that is, for example, one author that I’ve been speaking with for quite a long time now where we’ve been strategizing his book launch, and we are bringing in his publisher and his distributor, and everyone together to talk about the best timing.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And his book is about some pretty serious environmental issues that are affecting our planet. And the original plan was for the book to come out in September. And we all said, “No, September is going to be a turning point. It’s going to be a really important time where our college is going back. Our students going back to school, what’s happening in the fall? Or sports back.”

Marissa Eigenbrood:
I know Mike’s open for that, I am too. What will the fall look like? And we all said, “I think the last thing anyone’s going to want to hear in September is that our planet is doomed by environmental issues.” It’s just not necessarily the timing. I think that people aren’t going to be ready to buy into something like that. Any other time, pre-pandemic, climate change was one of the biggest topics that was grabbing people’s attention.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And people are so passionate to talk about that particular topic. So, he has pushed it to April of 2021. That’s all to say. And he’s completely okay with that. So, I think that understanding how your message will fall is so critical. There’s another author who I’m talking to who is… she has a book that is around her experience with breast cancer. And she has a foundation related to her experience.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And she has always planned to release in October, around Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And in the conversation with her, we’ve said, “Absolutely. We would definitely want to continue moving forward.” She has other efforts in place, other momentum that’s already been built up. So, I think it’s really important to also think about any momentum that may already be behind a project, especially if you are coming up on maybe a June or a July publication date, or even end of May.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Know there were still conversations going on around whether those should be delayed, and it’s really about what momentum has already been built around that project. You don’t want to lose that momentum. And so, I think it’s really important to keep it going if you have that momentum there. How about you? Anything you’ve been hearing or seeing, or just again, reflecting from your past and the publishing from this standpoint?

Marissa Eigenbrood:
I know certainly, the physical distribution aspect of all that, this whole thing, is definitely impacting plans as well.

Mike Onorato:
It is. And I think that the deessential… Is that even a word? How Amazon is deprioritizing the shipment of books right now, is a big factor. Most Barnes & Noble stores across the country are closed. Independent stores, we know the real problem with those stores being closed and hoping that they come back, and praying that they do. They’re the backbone of our industry, right?

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Yeah.

Mike Onorato:
But I think you hit the nail on the head and that you need to evaluate it across the board. You can’t just say from a media perspective, “Yes,” or from a standpoint, because there are so many different factors involved. I have several friends who work at traditional publishers. And those first few weeks in March, they were just trying to keep their heads above water and making these really difficult decisions on books that had been in the plans for months and intricate operations, and intricate launch plans and cut right away.

Mike Onorato:
And one of my friends has mentioned, as soon as the warehouse for their publisher closed, that in essence, made their lives relatively simpler. Because then, there was no way to get the books anywhere. So, everything had to stop. And as we’ve been saying internally, if everything gets pushed to the fall, what’s the fall going to look like with all the books that were slated to come out originally? And I have an election coming up. Oh, by the way, right?

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Exactly. Yeah.

Mike Onorato:
And the one thing I’ve been talking with and one of the publishers on our team mentioned, and it stuck with me from the moment she said it, and that is, “Think about from a media landscape look. It’s not as if these outlets are going to double the amount of space or column inches that’s used in old term to cover books, right?” So, instead of maybe 10 books competing for a reporter’s attention, it might be 30.

Mike Onorato:
And that’s going to be a real factor as well. It might just be really, really difficult to get media attention in the fall. I do think we’ll see more roundups or listicles as we call them, but there’s a lot of factors and a lot of unknowns in pushing something back. And it’s not as easy as saying, “Oh, we’ll just wait for this to die down.” Because we know that that may not happen.

Mike Onorato:
And I feel for authors who again, months of planning and strategic decisions, and just taken out of their hands. And it’s a brutal, brutal thing. And as we all read Publishers Weekly, we know how they’ve been just charting the movement of books. We can see the number of titles that have shifted, and it’s remarkable.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
It really is. And I think you bring up a good point about our books, the more traditional book coverage. There’s not necessarily going to be more space for more titles when we have just a potential influx of new releases from the fall into the spring, because we definitely will take time for that to even itself out again, between a few seasons.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
But that’s to say that expert commentary and just other ways of bringing awareness to an author and their book is going to be so important I think in the fall and in the spring, is to share expert voices, to provide articles, to come up with alternative opportunities for highlighting a book. One that I’ve just loved recently is our children’s book author, Claudette Robinson.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And the super fun idea that her publicist came up with a brainstorm with our team, to create a dance party with a Motown Spotify playlist. And those are things we’re going to have to continue to be really creative with as we move forward. For children’s book bloggers and reviewers, they may not have as much as space or as much time to review as many books.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
But if we can provide a creative idea like that, it’s going to grab their attention. We’re going to be really creative and continue to really pivot, again, even through the fall or through the spring to break through the noise. That’s going to be I’m going on with all the new releases.

Mike Onorato:
Right. But there are going to be opportunities. There are going to be places for authors to get their word, their message and their book out there. And so, I’m not in the least discouraged about that. I just think to your point, it’s going to require more creativity on our side, and that to me sounds good. And I enjoy it.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Yeah. I mean, if you can’t tell through the airwaves that I’m smiling as I talk about this idea with Claudette Robinson, it was so fun and so great. And the media loved it, they grabbed right onto it. And again, there’s going to be some really great ways to have fun with being different and being creative through all genres as we approach the fall.

Mike Onorato:
Right. Shifting gears for a moment, this is an interesting angle I thought I’d talk about, because we’re a small business. And I have the dreaded word in this question, but I’ll say it anyway, can you talk about some of the ways that we’ve had to pivot, how our operation, what we’re doing with not only just our team, but with our authors as well?

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Yeah, no, I appreciate it. I’m here to touch upon that because my role as vice president, jokingly as we refer to internally here as the vice president of stuff, I have my hand in a lot of different pots here and work so closely with you and with our vice president of business development, Corinne, in keeping all of the different pieces together. And really, we’re looking at how our team has navigated through this and supporting them.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
I mean, I’ve just been, number one, just so incredibly impressed with how each individual in our team has really found their own ways of pivoting. I think that’s so important, especially working from home full-time. We don’t have as much of the in-person interaction, and we’ve really pivoted, of course, the technology of lots of Zoom check-ins, lots of Zoom calls, and our team get-togethers and our Zoom happy hours.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Those are all really important ways that we’ve stayed in touch with one another and pivoted to fully working from home team outside of our wonderful office manager holding down the fort and getting our books out for us still from the office, and shout out to Bella.

Mike Onorato:
[crosstalk 00:38:29] always.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Yeah, and Linda always, always. But it’s really important I think one of the biggest challenges is being able to navigate this on your own, in your own situation that you’re experiencing at home, because your at home situation is very different from mine and from Michela’s, and from Janet’s, and from Corrine’s, and Dan’s, and any other member of our team.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And so, one thing that I think has been great with our team is that we’ve individually figured out what’s going to work best for us to make sure we can get our work done. We can be collaborative with our clients and our team. And then, at the same time, I’ve just loved seeing our leaders and each other really supporting each other, and coming together to collaborate more than ever.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
I mean, we’re an incredibly collaborative team to begin with. But I’ve just seen ideas constantly going back and forth between publicists sharing contacts, sharing just new ways of pivoting a campaign or of working toward a new opportunity. And that’s been just so wonderful to see within our team. And I think with regards to our authors and our publishers, we’re pivoting every single day with them.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Because they’re having new experiences. They’re getting asked new questions. And I think the best thing that we’ve been able to do through all this is to stay as nimble as possible, to be ready to listen to what someone’s going through. Because each person’s experience is different at work and at home. You don’t know how closely this has touched someone’s life, how far it’s infiltrated their inner circles.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And we’re really trying to be super mindful of that, through everything that we do. So, that’s I think just always being ready to flex and to come up with new ideas, and to support our publishers and our clients in what the steps ahead look like together. But also, to really make sure that we’re providing that expert guidance along the way as well always to say, “These are things we don’t want to miss out on.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
We still see great opportunity here.” And to trust in that expertise that we do have and what we are seeing from the responses of the media. I just think, just again, overall, there’s just been so much creative, collaborative pivoting. That’s been going as a whole. And we’re really, just from our team perspective, just trying to provide as much flexibility as possible to especially to our team members with the little ones at home who are now publicist/teachers/moms and wives, and husbands and dads.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
There’s a lot of unique factors that are influencing everyone. But again, I’ve just been so incredibly impressed with how everyone has handled the situation.

Mike Onorato:
Yeah, and it’s okay to be human. It’s okay to have a bad day. It’s okay to not be quite right, right? And I think what I’ve been amazed at by our team, and that’s not surprised, there’s a difference, I think, but just amazed, is the way that people have rallied around each other. And saying things like, “Oh, you have that going on. I can help you. Oh, let me jump in and do that for you.

Mike Onorato:
Or I can reach out to these people on your behalf.” And I think it’s also recognizing that our authors and our clients are in unique situations. They’re now, all of a sudden, finding themselves at home to use a business book author example. And so, I remember one of our early calls with our client, Mike Goldman, shout-out to Paramus, New Jersey on this. And Mike was saying… Well, he’s like, “I’ll schedule our weekly call for this time, but I’m on the road a lot.”

Mike Onorato:
And now, all of a sudden, our weekly calls have not been impacted because Mike is home.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Yeah.

Mike Onorato:
And so, it’s recognizing that people are human first. What’s interesting too, I have done, obviously, because Zoom is now the thing, I have done more Zoom meetings this last seven weeks than ever. And therefore, I’ve seen more of our team who is not physically in the office more than I have ever had done. It’s just been interesting because I think everybody’s making an effort to be more visible and to take that initiative of getting on a Zoom call with somebody.

Mike Onorato:
And we’ve talked about you and I how that matters so much more when you can see somebody, even if it’s a half hour discussion. You can see their body language. You see what they’re going through. They’ll show their spouse walking in the background the way… and I think that’s something that’s been great, is the fact that we’ve tried to be more physically or virtually present for our team, right?

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, before I comment on that, we’ll give a happy book birthday week to Mike Goldman.

Mike Onorato:
Yes.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
[inaudible 00:43:37] past Tuesday with breakthrough leadership team. But with regards to that visual opportunity that we’ve had, I know that that you and I learned so much from our experience with our client, Doug Conant and the leadership opportunity that we had with him and his book The Blueprint. And part of that when we stepped away from that, was this was pre-pandemic, and we both said, “We really want to do more video calls and do more of this.”

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And I guess the world was listening, because it’s given us that on the silver platter, the reason to do that. And I’ve loved that too. I’ve loved seeing our team and seeing the pets, and shout out to Grover and Sydney over there.

Mike Onorato:
They’re quiet for once, I’m shocked.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
I got mine locked in some room or somewhere. No, there’s no animal cruelty. Don’t worry, we’re all good. No, just it is wonderful to see our team when we can’t be together or in person. We are an incredibly close-knit group. And Zoom has been a really big part of that. But it’s funny, I was on with a prospective client of ours this week, and did a regular telephone call.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
It sounds so strange, do not a Zoom call for once. And we say, I actually welcomed the little bit of a break because I had been on five Zoom calls already before that in the day. It was a busy day. And my cheeks hurt from smiling constantly on the call and being present with it. But it is great. It is just such a wonderful way. I’ve seen far more clients, and not just our team, but our clients, our publisher contacts.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
I’ve loved the team calls we’ve had, that you and I have had with our Kogan Page team. Those have been so wonderful in navigating this situation with our partnership with them and supporting each other through that. And we don’t get the chance to always do that all the time. So, yeah. As a whole, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities to connect digitally with everyone.

Mike Onorato:
For sure, for sure. Before we go, Marissa, I must tell our listeners of my first experience with you when I was interviewing at Smith. You knew I could not let this story go.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Of course not.

Mike Onorato:
I come into Smith in a meeting with Dan Smith, our CEO and our founder, and a great meeting. And throughout that morning, he was bringing in various other members of the team for me to meet with and sit down with. And so, I think it was right before lunch, Marissa came in. And I introduced myself, “Hi, how are you?” We did something that we may not do for a while again, that was shake hands.

Mike Onorato:
And then, you said to me, “Oh, I was checking out your LinkedIn profile and I see that you also went to Marist.” “Yeah. Yeah.” And I remember vividly, you sat down, pulled out your laptop, and you were furiously typing and researching something. She’s busy. She’s working. So, we start having another conversation. Dan asked questions. And all of a sudden, you interrupted and say, “Oh, you graduated in 1997.

Mike Onorato:
Oh, you’re much older than me.” The look of glee on your face always stuck with me. And so, now, of course I tell you stories about when I went to Marist and it was in black and white. And I [crosstalk 00:47:12] to Poughkeepsie from New Jersey.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Twelve miles in the snow, right?

Mike Onorato:
[crosstalk 00:47:19].

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Yeah. Well, I think since that day, I think you’ve come to know that all of the jobs or all of the hard times that I or others may give you was all out of love and-

Mike Onorato:
I do. I do. But it was funny because the way it across, it was like, “Oh, you’re much older.”

Marissa Eigenbrood:
It would be initiation. You know what, you had all those years ahead of me at Marist, but I had a lot of years at Smith. I was ahead of you. It was the initiation, and just it was the fraternity or sorority, or whatever we’re going to call this thing. But yeah. But I know our one very prominent common thread is a shout-out to good old Tim Massey, because you had your time with Tim.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
And I had Tim as a wonderful PR professor while I was at Marist too, and he was just such an amazing… he just always has stuck with me as such an incredible influence on my work in PR. So, good for you.

Mike Onorato:
He’s a wonderful friend of both of ours and just a great guy. I saw him, oh boy, it has to be four or five years ago. My wife and I drove up to Marist and we had lunch at a restaurant outside. And I happen to call Tim on the spur of the moment he was available. He came down and had lunch with us. We had Sydney with us. And then, we walked across that amazing new pedestrian bridge across the Hudson.

Mike Onorato:
And it was just one of those more spur of the moment surprise fun afternoon. But I still talk with Tim on social media, which is I guess the one good thing about that to be able to connect with him. But for sure, we do have that good friend in common.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Oh yes, definitely. Wonderful PR professional, fellow PR professional, for sure. That pedestrian bridge is on my list, I still haven’t done that. I watched them build it from the crew boats on the Hudson when you’re rowing down the Hudson, and they were building it while I was at Marist still. So, again, I will remind you of when I went versus when you went, but that’s fine.

Mike Onorato:
That was deathly-looking railroad trestle that people would go across sometimes when they’ve had too much bad ice, as my dad would say. So, this has been a wonderful conversation. Our guest today has been Marissa Eigenbrood, who is a vice president here at Smith. Marissa, thank you so much for joining us for your insight, for your guidance, for your wisdom.

Mike Onorato:
I have so enjoyed our conversation.

Marissa Eigenbrood:
Thank you so much, Mike. I really enjoyed it as well. It’s been a great way as we get ready to head into the weekend. And I’m just so fortunate to be on this team with you and the rest of our amazing team at Smith through this experience.

Mike Onorato:
Thank you. This has been another episode of the All Things Book Marketing Podcast. I’m your host, Mike Onorato. I hope you’ll listen, rate and comment on this podcast wherever you get your podcasts. For now, be well. Be healthy, and thank you.

Speaker 1:
Thank you for listening to this edition of the Smith Publicity, “All Things Book Marketing” Podcast. To reach us and learn about our many book marketing services, visit www.smithpublicity.com, or send us an email to info@smithpublicity.com.