Q&A With Sandra Poirier Smith

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Q&A With Sandra Poirier Smith 

I am so happy to be doing this Q&A with publicist, expert brand promoter & CEO at Smith Publicity Sandra Poirier Smith! We connected on LinkedIn and I’m so excited about interviewing her. 

Q: Sandra, would you please tell the readers of the blog a little about you and what your role as CEO, publicist, & expert brand promoter is?

A: Sure! I have the most exciting job in that I am able to talk with authors, learn about their passion, expertise and journey—and then brainstorm ideas to build visibility for their work with their ideal audiences. I meet the greatest and most interesting people along the way here at Smith Publicity.

Book publicity is presenting the media— targeted digital/online podcast, magazine, newspaper, television, radio, and blog outlets—with compelling reasons why they should incorporate an author and their book into news stories. 

I tell authors everyday—no one cares that you wrote a book. There are thousands of books published each week in the United States alone. Therefore publishing a book is not newsworthy. What is? It’s the value of what you and your book have to the world. Are you looking to entertain, inspire, educate, etc. your readers and audiences? Let’s talk about that! 

New authors are often surprised at the different ways—beyond book reviews—media outlets include authors and books. We are able to weave books and authors into the news in a variety of ways including: feature stories, articles, book reviews, recommendations, and excerpts, trend pieces, radio, television, podcast and print interviews, question & answer (Q&As), blog coverage, online media coverage, expert commentary, byline writing and op-ed pieces/guest essays, and genre influencers

Collaboration with our authors and their publishing teams is key to a successful book publicity campaign. We brainstorm book publicity angles—this is the best part—and then “pitch” our authors to highly tailored media outlets. Smith Publicity has been executing book publicity and marketing campaigns since 1997, so our team has developed a long network of contacts, and are always building new relationships with the media. 

Q: How long have you worked at Smith Publicity? 

A: I started at Smith Publicity in 2005, when there were three people. It’s been exciting to be part of the growth as we are now a team of over 30 professionals.

Q: What are important lessons you’ve learned as a CEO, publicist, & expert brand promoter that may help anyone wanting to go into those same careers as you? 

A: Be flexible. There is no one path to success. When I started my career I didn’t even know there was a “thing” as a book publicist. I followed my passions—marketing and books. I never dreamed these worlds would collide into a career. Keep learning, be curious, listen to where there is a need or headache or challenge and see how you can be part of the solution. This applies to an entrepreneurial path or an in-house career.

Q: Did you have to go to college to pursue being a publicist & expert brand promoter or did you apply for an internship? Becoming a CEO, did you have to work your way up? I’m curious as to what steps have to be taken to become a CEO?

A: I did go to college—undergrad in Art and masters in Business. From what I see, most book publicists have a college degree. The most common degrees are English, Communications or Business/Marketing. But we have people who are language majors, have advanced degrees in publishing, and even history or music.

For me, I went to Northeastern University in Boston, which is famous for its 5 year co-op program. This is a paid opportunity where during college years you are exposed to different companies, work environments and job tasks. My co-op experience absolutely propelled my early career years and also showed me what I didn’t want to do. I worked for large companies like OceanSpray Cranberries and small start-ups. While I liked the structure of the larger companies, I thrived in the smaller companies where I was exposed to many areas of the business!

After I graduated, I worked for a Thomson Reuter company moving up to a Marketing Manager role. I then went to school part-time for my MBA. I liked going part-time as I was able to apply what I was learning to real life scenarios. 

Publicity or PR was one part of the role. After five years, I took time off—about 10 years—to be with my young family. I returned to work after seeing a job posting at Smith Publicity for a book publicist, again at this point, it was a company with three people. When I applied, I had NO idea what a book publicist was, all I knew is I loved books and I had a marketing background, so I learned on the job. Since book publicity is not a major, most learn on the job! 

As I learned the business, it was exciting to dip into other areas of efficiency for the business. It applies to our new business development, computer systems to track client information, operations processes to take our best practices so we were able to replicate them and scale operations. I became Vice President, the President, then CEO. 

I think at the core the work philosophy that helped: look for solutions to make clients happier, build a team built on trust, flexibility, and respect, hire people smarter than you, and keep learning and listening!

Q: If you were to ever become an author, what genre would you write in and would you be your own publicist and marketing person?

A: HA! Great question.

From a personal creative and fun perspective, I would write a novel. Some genres/books I admire and would love to emulate—using lots of magic to even begin to scratch the surface on their talent—is The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller, Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, and the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. What I love about these stories is they are full of strong characters, tell compelling stories, and left me feeling like I have new friends, ones I continue to think about years later. 

From a professional perspective, I would write a book on helping authors build awareness for their work and ideas. It starts with understanding your goals for writing the book, looking at your ideal audiences, and how your book will show them the impact their ideas will have on their life or their work, and then building out a media plan to reach their ideal audiences.

I would not be my own publicist! I would hire an expert who can look at my work more objectively and share new ideas and ways to attract readers.

Q: Which authors at Smith Publicity do you and your team represent and work with?

A: Over the years, we’ve worked with and promoted thousands of authors. Authors hire Smith Publicity directly or publishers hire us to execute book publicity campaigns.

We work in most genres with the majority within business, lifestyle, non-fiction, children’s, and fiction.

Our clients come from all publishing paths: traditional, hybrid, and self-published. Some clients are first time, debut authors, others are multi-time New York Times bestselling authors.

We are selective about the authors we take on as we want to be sure we are able to help reach their goals!