Guidelines for Publicists

As threatened, I’ve written up guidelines for people who want to send things for me to mention here in the Whatever. If that’s you — or if you’re just interested in what I have to say on the matter — the guidelines are here. I’ve also put in a permanent link on the sidebar.

Left hanging in the air here is why anyone would want to send things my way. You know, I wonder that myself, sometimes. On the other hand, I have been a professional critic for a decade and a half, so they could do worse.

Also, and specificially relating to science fiction, the daily readership of the Whatever paces or exceeds the monthly circulation of some of the most significant science fiction-related magazines (including Locus and Fantasy & Science Fiction), so for the SF genre, getting exposure here might actually be significant. And yes, incidentally, I find that the Whatever having comparable reader numbers to these magazines is disturbing (note, however, that circulation is not the same as readership, since more than one person may read from a single F&SF or Locus subscription; even so). But that doesn’t mean I’m not happy to exploit it if it means free books. I mean: Free books! It’s every geek’s dream come true.

13 Comments on “Guidelines for Publicists”

  1. So John,
    It turns out that I have a flailing Sea Monkey business. I bought a (which I hope does not lead to “the”) farm, built levies and filled the whole thing with water. I have gosh…close to ten million of these cute little critters, floating around in there. The problem is, no body seems to be interested in Sea Monkies anymore. Who would have thunk? Anyhoo, if you were to mention the merits of owning a Sea Monkey on your web it might help keep my business er, uhm above water.

    The link is:


  2. The problem with Sea Monkeys is people only ever buy them once — and that one time is enough to realized that brine shrimp, in fact, look nothing like the anthropomorphized sea monkeys in the ads. It’s so disillusioning.

  3. “I prefer to do e-mail interviews which would consist of me sending a set of questions along… ”

    You’re sending the questions? that’s some interview.

  4. John – an excellent set of guidelines. You’ve inspired me to craft my own set. It’s just amazing how many completely off-topic queries I receive these days.

  5. Shana writes:

    “You’re sending the questions? that’s some interview.”

    It would be me interviewing them, not the other way around.

  6. I’m not sure I accept the relevance of those circulation numbers. For one thing, a lot of the people who visit a website are just following a link, and aren’t going to come back.

  7. Well, then, Zzedar, don’t send me anything to review.

    However, I don’t understand what your issue with the numbers is. If a site gets “X” number of visitors on a consistent basis, then those are the number of eyeballs who see whatever’s there. From a publicist’s point of view it doesn’t really matter if those eyeballs come by regularly or if it’s just a one time thing: What’s important is that they see the thing they’re trying to promote. What’s relevant from a publicity standpoint is that the thing is seen.

    I think you might be saying that people go to pieces in the archives, not the front page, which would be relevant. However, ona day-to-day basis, the wide majority of views go to the main page of Whatever.

  8. I find it vaguely disturbing that you have a wider unique hits on a regular basis than Locus has subscribers. I find it more disturbing because I read you on a regularly basis and I don’t always finish reading my Locus mags.

    That said, have fun with free books.

  9. However, I don’t understand what your issue with the numbers is.

    My reasoning was that people wouldn’t be influenced by you if they weren’t regular readers. Over time, one builds up loyalty to a reviewer, if his reviews turn out to be good. If the reviewer is an unknown quantity, the fact that he liked something doesn’t really provide much useful information.

  10. Ah. Two things:

    1. As the lower bound of the number of people who visit is remarkably consistent, it suggests that’s the number of people who consistently visit. Right now, that lower bound is about 10k (on a day-to-day basis visitation is closer to 12-15k, with 2-3k visiting archive pages — i.e., coming in from somewhere else. The “Being Poor” piece, naturally, skewed that balance a bit, when I write something particularly tangy, the archive hits go up).

    2. Publicists are interested in exposure first — people who aren’t regular readers may not be swayed as significantly as those who are, but seeing the picture of the thing is actually enough (I’ve done that myself; seen someone mention something I’d been waiting for or wanting and used it as an impetus to go acquire it, without actually noting what the person said about it). So even causal views have publicity value.

  11. Gosh, John, I wish you had this list up when *I* was your publicist. I would have sent you every other book I was trying to publicize. ;)

  12. Well, Fiona, I’m sure you still have friends there. Be sure to send this along to them.

    Also, hi! Good to see you.

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