(Ms.) “Sam” Jernigan
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What services do you offer?
I provide a broad menu of book development services (www.MarketingAndPR.com/4_authors.htm) so I can shepherd a book through to its completion, publication, distribution, and promo, OR just assist with one or more pieces of the puzzle as desired (e.g., editing, cover design, back jacket copy, endorsement acquisition, etc).
Additionally, I have been a publicist specializing in representing first-time authors and other “unknowns” for over 20 years now; my booking credits include: CNN, People, Entrepreneur, U.S. News & World Report, L.A. Times, the Today show, et al.
As I believe strongly in the value of a book’s biz-building capabilities, I also welcome the opportunity to assist those interested in garnering guest speaking opportunities geared to promoting their book/profession.
Overall, I do not subscribe to a one-size-fits-all approach so, instead, each project I take on is highly customized, and I’m also known for my creatively proactive efforts on behalf of my clients’ goals.
Who are your ideal clients?
Nonfiction authors at whatever stage of their book’s development…from the raw manuscript stage on. I also provide publicity and business development for entrepreneurs, companies, and nonprofits, and especially welcome projects geared to niche audiences as I have an array of tools for reaching specialty audiences.
How did you get started in your business?
Back in the mid-90s following a Marketing Director position I’d held elsewhere, I was hired as the Marketing Administrator for a Nashville-based publishing company for their satellite office in Sonoma County, CA. There, we shared office space with other divisions owned by the same parent company, including Associated Publishers Group, which was, at the time, the fourth largest distributor of books in the U.S. During my time with Hambleton Hill Publishing, I worked closely with my boss who hailed from Penguin Books and who had also founded/sold a successful publishing company of his own, Aslan Publishing. Together we were in charge of a number of imprints, and also brought a large line of audiobooks to market which the company had purchased, rebranded, re-mastered, and repackaged, and I wore a number of hats inside that sizable 200-title undertaking. This was also where I cut my teeth in learning the publicity ropes—beginning with a book on Elvis (of all topics!).
In 1998 Hambleton Hill made the decision to close down their west coast operation, so I decided to make the leap to freelancing and hung out my shingle—in fact, my first two clients were Hambleton Hill authors whose books I’d helped publish/market.
What are some common issues you help your clients with?
I get involved on a soup-to-nuts basis, so the short answer is I can/do help with “everything.” While I’m also ready to assist anyone interested in pursuing a traditional publishing path, including developing the requisite marketing plan (and I’ve facilitated three of those deals), once the P.O.D. technology finally came of age, I’ve worked primarily with those who self-publish, including developing/publishing six nonfiction titles from scratch for clients.
I must admit, I particularly relish the creation process in bringing a title to fruition from the manuscript stage, and several of these books I’ve published for clients have also required what I categorize as heavy edits, including significant developmental work. An earlier book I edited for a client on referral from my former boss at the publishing company (who’s gone on to found a ginormous publishing enterprise) also necessitated a significant Frankenstein-ing operation of its contents. In order for her book to fit into his existing series template I not only had to cut 70 pages, but because he complained about the downbeat tone throughout, it just about had to be rewritten by yours truly as well. I am, however, always diligent to maintain the voice of the author and follow their style vs. imposing my own. Another one of my books was authored by a very sophisticated German immigrant, and although his vocabulary was impressively vast, it too needed to be massaged significantly for readability by a Western audience.
Overall, though, as I’m a marketer through and through, I look for projects for which I can build in a publicity path from the outset—this includes developing the book through that lens in contemplating the marketing game plan as the manuscript is still being fleshed out.
And I’m also a huge believer in acquiring one or more high-profile endorsements for the back jacket/marketing—but, to me, it’s imperative these individuals be not only impressively credentialed but that their expertise specifically RELATES to the target audience for that title. Truthfully, it kinda drives me crazy when featured jacket endorsements are by those with zero relevance to a book’s own subject matter. So that process, which utilizes my same publicist-honed skills, entails me diligently researching and reaching out from scratch to a just-right list of targets I develop, and needs to start as early as possible. So, when I take on a book project, all aspects of a title’s vital marketing components are being “baked into the pie” from the outset and are then consistently carried through publication, distribution, and promotion—including placement with museum gift stores, gift shops and other specialty retailers, libraries, as well as bookstores. All of which is, again, determined by a specific book’s ideal audience of readers and customized accordingly.
Can you recommend any books or resources to other members?
Hey, NFAA’s own Stephanie Chandler’s The Nonfiction Book Publishing Plan is excellent (!). A dated but still helpful resource is Brian Jud’s Beyond the Bookstore as alternative methods for getting books into the hands of readers is smart marketing indeed. Dan Poynter authored a plethora of publishing-related guides; he died in 2015 but he was a prolific author right up to the end, and those still contain a lot of usable info. Other excellent sources for general marketing/biz info are Entrepreneur (Magazine) Press’s own line of books (bookstore.entrepreneur.com), and Harvard Business Review’s line of titles are also highly insightful, timely, and refreshingly readable (store: hbr.org).
Can you offer one “pro tip” to our members?
DON’T treat the media in a one-size fits all manner—journalists and producers are people too. I have a lot of secret-sauce-type methods I’ve developed and refined over the last two decades in courting publicity for clients, but one I swear by is personalizing all pitches, and that includes going the extra mile in doing some homework beforehand to further strengthen the relevancy of the pitch for that particular media, including the individual journalist, editor, booker, or producer I’m approaching. It also sounds obvious, but we all actually care about our names—so if you’re going the formal route of addressing someone with Mr. or Ms., DO ensure you know which gender they are! A quick online search will prevent the irritation I regularly experience when being addressed as “Mr. Jernigan” since I’m a member of the girls-with-boy’s-names club. And ditto for men named Chris, Terry, etc. —hey, don’t’ forget John Wayne’s real name was Marion (easily confused with Marian).
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
The creativity and diversity. On any given day I might be working on the creation of a book jacket, reaching out well in advance of a pub date for either publicity or a high-profile endorsement, recommending we swap the order of several chapters with some suggested transitions inside the editing process, or perhaps researching an in-process title’s competition in delving into its market positioning.
Although my own website is a bit akin to the plumber with leaky pipes at his own house (lamentably!), I also relish designing WordPress websites for clients, in addition to creating their press kit along with other marketing materials, including speaker’s videos, etc.
What’s next for you?
More of the same, ideally. I do, however, feel strongly about there “being a fit” for a given title I take on, so I have my own screening process re: the nature of the material and other factors, and this includes whether I see a clear way forward in terms of a book’s marketing, including whether publicity is viable. As a result, I actually turn down more projects than I take on, but I think that’s in everyone’s best interest (for example, I don’t work on New Age topics).
I’ve also created a bespoke offering for customized “Life Journey” books, which are commercial-caliber hardbacks designed to capture an individual’s or family’s personal stories, photos, memorabilia, etc. as an heirloom-quality volume (www.MarketingAndPR.com/LifeJourney).
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