What is the worth of a book publicist's work? Number of books sold? Accolades and fame and gold-encrusted champagne bottles delivered to an author's door?
Ms. Obie Joe asks this after musing aloud with a client obsessed with solving the algorithm of which promotional tasks equal success. While she counseled the stressed author to think of the big picture -- efforts means something, but not guarantees -- Mr. Obie Joe slid over the new copy of Poets & Writers magazine.
In an interview with the incomparable literary agent Molly Friedrich:
Q. Did you like doing publicity?
A. In my opinion, the two jobs that are the most exhausting in this business are the jobs of the foreign scout and the publicist. The reason is that there is never an end to the job. If you're a scout, there is always another book you can cover, another house you can do well by, another report you can write. If you're a publicist, for every eighty letters you write, and eighty ideas you try, there are seventy-nine that don't work. But the only ones that the author hears about—and the editor hears about and your boss hears about—are the ones that work. It is a thankless and really difficult job. But I did it.
What a lovely ratio: 1 out of 80 ideas fly, garner a result, go anywhere.
Daunting odds, yet book publicists press on, mostly because we adore books with a passion that rivals food and sleep for necessity.