Olivia: Hi, welcome to this episode of All Things Book Marketing, and welcome to the first episode of our brand new Open Book series. This is going to be a series of internal interviews where I spend 20 to 30minutes chatting with the staff of Smith publicity, discussing our areas of expertise and all of our great knowledge know-how of the industry. We are starting with our Business Development Coordinator, Samantha Ricchiuti.
Samantha: Hi, that’s me!
Olivia: It only seems appropriate since Samantha is the first person that you talk to when you reach out to Smith, either through our firstname.lastname@example.org email or through a call. So we thought we’d bring her on first and have her talk to you about what makes a good partnership with Smith and what we look for in submissions.
Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. I’m very excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me on.
Olivia: Thank you! And, fun fact for our listeners, you might’ve already heard Sam’s voice in the new intro and outro that’s been in the last couple of podcast episodes. So, let’s start with some of your responsibilities. Walk us through your typical day as business development coordinator.
Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. As business development coordinator, I am, as you mentioned, the first person that prospective clients talk to when they are interested in working with Smith. So there are a couple of different ways that people reach out to us: either through our forms on our website, and those come directly to me, the email@example.com email address, which also comes to me, and cold calls. So people who are just calling and saying, “Hey, I have a book. What can you do?” That is the bulk of my work talking to prospective clients, vetting them, and seeing if they’re people that we think would be a good partner with us.
Aside from that, I also do a lot of internal things such as reports for our team, end of campaign reports, open opportunities, our opportunity pipeline which comes out every Monday, taking a look at the next four weeks worth of clients and seeing who needs to follow up, who is ready to be assigned, etc. I also help our business development team prep their proposals and agreements. So putting in basic information and then having them customize it and tailor it for the client. Occasionally I’ll write up some invoices for our accountant. I also take the lead on our scholarship that we run every spring and the adopt-a-family program we participate in around the holiday season So, I have a lot going on!
Olivia: Yeah, you do a lot. And I know listeners don’t know this, but Sam actually sits next to me in the office. I remember I started and my first thought meeting Sam was, “She has the best phone voice.” And now I get to sit here almost every day at my desk and listen to all of the phone calls. So when you call in, we’re also hearing a little bit, at least from Sam’s end about what’s happening. And it’s fun. It’s fun to get a first glimpse at potential clients, potential authors that we’re going to be working with.
Olivia: So when authors are reaching out, especially over the phone or over email, what are some of the materials that they should have automatically prepared? I know that we like for them to reach out way in advance of publication, but what should they come to the phone call with? What are you going to ask them for?
Samantha: That’s a great question, and it’s something people ask all the time. So some of the things that we are looking for, particularly in business development, is a publication timeline. Where are you in your process? Did you just finish writing your manuscript? Do you have a publisher? Do you have a publication date you’re working toward? Is it post-publication? I just want to know where you are.
Samantha: So we’re best suited to pre-publication books and it, like you said, it is a question that we hear all the time. We don’t publish books; we focus on PR and marketing. But we have taken on books that are post-publication particularly in the non-fiction space. If the author seems like they could really benefit from something that we call a “personality cultivation” campaign, that’s really elevating them and their brand. It’s less focused on the book itself. That’s particularly useful for non-fiction clients like business clients or lifestyle clients who are trying to build up their business and use that book as a tool to do so. It’s not the bulk of where we want to see clients, though. We we’d like to come in pre-publication, and build up some buzz so that way on publication day, you have all of these orders ready to go. Your book is an Amazon bestseller, and it’s very exciting for you!
Olivia: That’s the dream! That all of our authors, all of our clients, are Amazon bestsellers.
Samantha: Yes. So that would be the first thing that I would say people need to have is an understanding of where they are in their timeline. Second would be an understanding of their target audience. You know, we say it all the time here. If your book is for everyone, your book is for no one. You know, a business book is not going to apply to children. It’s just, it’s not possible. Understand your target audience, who is this book for? Who are you trying to reach with your message and what goals, what do you want to achieve with this book? We also really like to see some kind of virtual presence. It is important for media. There is a bit, unfortunately, a bit of a quid pro quo, and we can help you discover what social media would be best for you. We can help you do that through consultation work, but…
Olivia: And websites, and newsletters and all that greatness. If you don’t already have one, we can help with them. I’m saying that because I know I’ve done it in my own consultation work. Really, it’s being willing to put in the effort that comes with social media and brand development and knowing what your message is and who it’s for. That’s really going to help us to help you.
Samantha: Absolutely. 100%. And the last thing I would say authors should have an understanding of is: have a budget in mind. And if you don’t know what marketing and publicity generally cost that’s okay. But have a dollar figure you’re comfortable spending and we’ll go from there. Have a number in mind.
Olivia: Yeah. I’m always listening to Sam’s calls and she starts off, “Hi, thank you for calling Smith Publicity. How can I help you?” And then going through, “Well, what’s the title of your book? Let me collect some information. What is it about?” and all of those really great questions. So just kind of the basics, know the basics of your project, because we’re going to ask for them. And then what happens from there once they talk to you? What do you do with all that information?
Samantha: So once we take all that information and I, I like to say, I get paid to professionally snoop on authors, cause I will be going through your website and your social media and finding everything that I can find about you. It’s a little creepy, in the best possible way. Also sometimes our intern, Juli, is even better at that than I am. So once we have that information from the author, what we do internally in the business development team is we meet collectively and discuss the potential client. Where do we see them fitting? Who is this book for? What publicist would be a great fit for this client? And if we decide to turn down a project, for whatever reason, please don’t take it personally. I have turned down so many clients whose books that I have personally purchased because I thought they were interesting, but they were not in a place for us to help build their brand.
Olivia: We’d love to work with every single one of you. It’s a matter of how many publicists do we have available, and what do timelines look like, and how can we best help you?
Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. And like I was saying before about that opportunity pipeline. So we’re already projecting a month out, the clients that we have now, of course, that is flexible. That’s not set in stone. If somebody needs an extra week to get their materials together, we’ll push them back a week. That’s fine. But it is a pretty good projection of our timeline and where we are. Uh, so when we have that information from the client, we talk about it, we discuss it, and make decisions from there.
Olivia: Great. And then what does an ideal partnership look like? I mean, is there a personality that we’re looking for, or is it really about the content of the book? What is a great partnership with Smith?
Samantha: We love people who are enthusiastic about their projects, and someone who understands what publicity actually entails. I know that sounds kind of silly and for a lot of first-time authors, they don’t know. And that’s okay. But once you’ve gotten to that step and you’ve talked to me, you’ve talked to a business development representative, we’re writing you a proposal, we’re writing you an agreement… there are a lot of conversations that have been had. So any potential client at that point should have a pretty clear understanding of their goals, their wants, their needs, and what we can do for them.
Olivia: Perfect. So then I’m going to jump to some more personal questions because we want to get to know you. Of course, I know all of this about you, but our listeners don’t. So I’m going to repeat a lot of stuff that you’ve already told me. Apologies. What is your favorite part of the job? What drew you to Smith? What do you love about Smith? Because I know that you do.
Samantha: Favorite part of the job, the snacks in the break room. Such great snacks, quality snacks. No, I’m totally kidding. Partially. So what drew me to Smith, quite honestly, was the pandemic. The pandemic happened, started March, 2020. I was home bored and nowhere to go, nothing to do. I had read eight books the first month of quarantine cover to cover, which is something that I hadn’t done, I hadn’t picked up a book in years and reading was my childhood hobby. It was my favorite thing to do. I love to read. Honestly, when I was a kid — and you’re going to laugh at this story — when I was a kid and I got in trouble, my mom would have to punish me. She would tell me that you can’t read, you have to go outside and play with the other kids. And that was torture. I’m only half kidding. So my favorite thing to do as a kid was read, and I hadn’t read a book in years and I said, “You know what? I’ll just pick up a book,” and read eight books the first month of quarantine. And I really discovered, rediscovered how much I loved reading and literature and books. So as the pandemic was wearing on, I kind of came to this realization, “Okay. I know, my unemployment’s running out. I need something to do. Why don’t I start looking for jobs in the book industry?” I didn’t even know something like Smith even existed. I had no idea. I was flying very blind. And again, this is, we’re talking the height of the pandemic, September 2020. I had applied to well over a hundred jobs and probably closer to 150. Smith was one of two interviews that I had had in all of those job applications. So if you are unemployed out there, I know the struggle. It’s rough, you’ll get through it. So I had this interview with Smith. It was with our Senior Vice President Marissa and Vice President Corinne. And it went really well. I had a second interview with Kellie, which also went really well. You know, I read the job description. I was like, “I could do this. This is totally in my wheelhouse.”
Olivia: So it was really very serendipitous.
Samantha: It was, and it was close to home too. I live in Philly and Smith is located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, which is right outside of Philly. It’s not far at all from my home, but at the time, like I said, it was completely remote. So I was like, “Oh, well even when they do decide to go back in person, it’s Cherry Hill. It’s right here.” Like I said, flying very blind. Didn’t know anything like this existed, but I’m so grateful to have found Smith.
Olivia: Oh yeah. And we’re super lucky to have you. I mean, thank goodness that you were reading so much and thought, “You know what? Let’s just do some Googling and see what’s up. Why not?” What we would do without Samantha? I don’t even know. I don’t even know. No one is brave enough to answer the phones. She’s just one of the best, honestly.
Samantha: Thank you. You’re very sweet. The thing that I love most about this job is the company environment. Everyone here is genuinely really nice. There’s no cattiness, there’s no people trying to one-up each other or throw each other under the bus. Everyone is genuinely kind and caring about each other. Um, I also really love that I have the flexibility to work from home two days a week and I’ll be very upfront when they told us we were coming back into the office. I was like, “I don’t know about this. I don’t know how this is going to go.” But I found that I really love being here in person three days a week and having that flexibility at home for the other two, you know, because if I had been remote the whole time, I wouldn’t have met you or Shannon or had the interpersonal relationships that I had from working in the office.
Olivia: A hundred percent. We’re a very, very communicative office.
Samantha: Maybe a little too much.
Olivia: I mean, we’re always on Skype with each other, sharing fun things and stories and anecdotes, and then asking each other questions. I love that we can lean on each other in that way. So absolutely, a hundred percent agree.
Samantha: And outside of work. I mean, we’ll talk about this a little bit later, because I know this is a question that’s coming up. Um, but you know, we hang out outside of work as well.
Olivia: What do you do outside of work? Are your hobbies?
Samantha: Yeah, so I am a professional actor in the area as well.
Olivia: A very good one. I have been to a show.
Samantha: Thank you. Thank you so much. So I am always rehearsing, in a show, filming auditions, you know, going to auditions. So I fill my time outside of work with, you know, it’s really how I maintain a work-life balance is finding that I genuinely love and love to do. So that’s performing or spending time with my family and friends, making plans for the weekend. I really love to cook and to bake. So making things at home for my little Instagram series.
Olivia: She has the cutest series where every time she reads a book, she then makes or bakes some magnificent edible food creation that matches the themes of the book. Sometimes it’s like pulled from the book, like something we talk about and sometimes it’s just like, this is the feel of the book gave me. Oh my goodness. It’s so much fun to see what she comes up with.
Samantha: There’s a new one coming. I’ve been meaning to do it all week, but I haven’t gotten a chance, maybe Friday. We’ll see.
Olivia: Maybe we’ll see by the time this airs.
Samantha: By the time this airs, hopefully I’ll have gotten it together. I finished the book two weeks ago, so we’ll see.
Olivia: Ooh, well I can’t wait. You want to give a sneak peak on what the book is?
Samantha: Sure, the book was Long Bright River by Liz Moore.
Olivia: And did you enjoy it?
Samantha: I did enjoy it. I didn’t know what to expect, but I really enjoyed it. I like sad, depressing reads. Um, and this was one. So if you don’t like sad, depressing reads, I would not recommend. But if that’s your thing, it’s a great choice.
Olivia: So what’s the sad, depressing food that’s going to accompany the review?
Samantha: No, no, not sad, depressing food. Delicious food. This is one that’s in the vibe. So in the book, there are two sisters… You know, I’m not going to get into it. You can just wait and see.
Olivia: Thank you for the sneak peek. I appreciate it. So I’m really glad you actually brought up work-life balance because I know that’s something that’s really important to Smith. And then it’s something that we as an industry are working towards being better at, um, publishers and people working in publishing in general. So how do you maintain a work-life balance between Smith and all of your other work as an actor, as well as hobbies and reading and family and friends and all that?
Samantha: You know, it’s so vitally important for everyone, but especially in this industry because it never stops. News never sleeps, media never sleeps. So it is important to set boundaries. I’m happy to come in early or stay late, do whatever I need to do to get the work done that needs to be done. But once I am done, that laptop closes and it does not open again until the next morning. And sometimes that’s really hard because you want to be like, “Oh, well I’ll just answer this one email real quick.” And then it’s not just one email and it snowballs. It’s never just one email and it snowballs and you know, all of a sudden it’s midnight and you’re like, “I have to be up at six. Where did the time go? Oh my God.” You know, I’ve had burnout before from being in the theater industry prior to the pandemic. I was really going through the motions of things and not giving my full self to it, because I was completely burnt out and it’s a really terrible feeling. And I don’t ever want to feel that way again. And I don’t want anyone else to ever feel that way again. And to prevent burnout, you need to set boundaries. And that’s something that the team at Smith has really encouraged in all of us, to set our own personal boundaries, whatever those boundaries may be, but to really set them. And I think that’s a very healthy mindset.
Olivia: Well, thank you for sharing that with us. And thank you for joining us today as well. This has been really fun.
Samantha: Yeah. It has. Thank you so much for having me on. I’m so glad to be able to talk about my job and acting and food and all kinds of fun things with you.
Olivia: Next time y’all give us a call, make sure to say hello to Samantha, because that is who you will be talking to you most likely. So thank you so much.
Samantha: Thank you for having me.
Olivia: And we’re going to continue this series. It’s going to be once a month. I’m going to bring on someone from the team and just continue the conversation. Thank you for joining us. If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to rate, review, subscribe, and share it with anyone else that might be interested. We’ll see you next time.