Becky here, jumping up and down, waving wildly to get your attention. Have I got it? Good. Now I can introduce you to Samantha Lien. She’s a dynamo in the best sense of the word. When I was looking to hire a publicist, I put out the word and everyone pointed me toward Sami. She definitely knows her industry, so I wanted to make sure you knew her.
• What was your first job in marketing/publicity?
It probably started in college when I would street team rep for up-and-coming touring bands (John Mayer, Matt Nathanson, Howie Day, Jason Mraz, to name a few). Basically, you sign-up to promote bands you love, and then their agency and management sends you swag (postcards, posters) to paper your town with. Handy, because it also meant first dibs on new music, occasional jobs working the merch table, and free tickets to shows. It also came along with message boards (pre-Facebook or social networks back in 2000-2004), which I loved because it cultivated a nation-wide community of friends that you could always connect with no matter where you went. Many of them have ended up in media jobs, and I still work with them today.
My first real paid marketing gig though? Will you believe… I was hired as a marketing manager at a cattle and equine company in South Dakota. I got to hire photographers, direct photoshoots (in pastures with cows and horses), handle website design, online and print catalogues for our customers.
• How did you end up in this career path?
Oh, boy… In the words of Johnny Cash, “I’ve been everywhere, man!”
I mean, firstly, I love writing. I used to write a regular column for a “weekly” back in 2005 that was started by former members of the Denver Post, as well as cover stories for a monthly music magazine. I adore writing feature stories, because I love listening to people’s stories, as well as sharing them with others in a way that helps really authenticate and show off a person’s talents and experience.
In my journey to where I am, I’ve actually become one of those obnoxious people that is doing exactly what I went to college for. And I’ve gotten here entirely on accident, though when I write it out now, it makes perfect sense.
I have a BA in Journalism and Graphic Design, with a Masters in Business and Entertainment Management. I’ve worked in marketing and pr in literary, commercial real estate, music and the cattle & equine industry (mentioned above). I’ve often been a hired gun for creative projects that require my type of skills, and most (if not all) of my jobs have come about because I created them or knew someone who threw me in and I learned the ropes as I went. I really enjoy that. There is always something to learn from your peers and experiences.
I’ve also been the girl you go to when you are looking for a recommendation on dinner, a place to stay, a person who can help with so and so. I really make it a priority to travel often, and when I do, to visit all of the people I connect with around the country, because you can’t beat an old-fashioned smile and a handshake. Plus it really brings me joy to chat about all of these wonderful places with actually having been there myself. It kills me I’ll never see the entire world before I die.
• What kind of things take up your time most days?
Hahaha… My one-year-old son, Hank. That, and really just thinking. I think a lot when I’m not actually able to sit down to crank out the work, so that when I finally do, I’m as productive as possible. I’m constantly devising ways to knock out what I need in short bursts to efficiently get things accomplished for both my clients and myself, and most importantly, so I can still be a mom. I’m lucky that I work with very like-minded people, which makes what I do even more fun!
• What is the most challenging part of your job?
There are just so many unpredictable things in PR, and a lot of them are really just dependent on timing. What’s popular in the news right now? What did the reporter you’re pitching do that day? Did you pitch something killer in the morning, and then a crazy national news item happen and you got buried? Did a fellow blogger you’ve been working with for years suddenly experience a family emergency? Is your contact overworked and/or their editor just won’t allow coverage of your topic anymore (even if you’re friends, you’ve had coffee and a personal relationship, and they covered the last four stories you’ve sent their way)?
We’re all human. Life happens. But, more and more every day, competition for coverage out there is so coveted, so you really have to get crafty and personal so that you stand out. I know authors understand this! Some days, you’re on fire with ideas. Some days, you’re just blah. But we all have our coping mechanisms for pulling out of our brain fog. I think the most important thing to jump in front of the frustrations I mentioned above is managing expectations up front, and being honest to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Just a basic rule most of us learned at a young age. My grandpa (for whom Roger Charlie is named) always said, “If you always tell the truth, you never have to remember anything.”
• What should authors expect from their publisher’s marketing department and what is the most important thing they should do for themselves?
In my nine years in PR, I’ve had the opportunity to work as both an independent publicist and in-house, and I’ll always go back to the core principle that communication up front is key. Two years ago, Dana Kaye at Kaye Publicity pulled me into their team to work in-house for Midnight Ink (sadly, closed this year), and currently, Seventh Street Books and Pyr (Prometheus Books), so I’ve been able to really keep current on both sides of the coin. When working with the publisher, we really do so much for our authors: create press materials, book mailings, trade publication submissions and coordination, outreach tailored to the author and their book, event and festival coordination, local media pitching in any markets where the author is touring, and sometimes even coordinating special marketing promotions when a fit, award submissions.
Every publishing house is different, but that is generally standard. If you’re with a publisher, ask them questions you have about their pr and marketing plans in support of your title(s). You’re a team, and it’s in everyone’s best interest! If you’re interested in seeking out an independent publicist to beef up your efforts, be clear about your goals, timeline, and plans around your release – and start early! We/they’ll design a campaign custom to you that will work in tandem to support the efforts of your publisher. And keep in mind most publicists need six+ months in advance (the earlier the better) to do all the hard work before your book even hits shelves.
• Can you share any creative campaign initiatives you’ve worked on in support of a book release?
I’ve done activity / subscription boxes around children’s books, as well as a full US band tour around an album and book, released simultaneously by a singer-songwriter and author. A few years back, I worked with a brilliant author who wrote a non-fiction book about taking her adopted children back to the country of their birth to live, so we approached Intercountry adoption agencies for the author to provide advocacy and education around her travels.
Currently, I’m working with Denver author Stephanie Kane, who releases her crime fiction novel A PERFECT EYE in September. She’s fascinating, and whip smart! Her story centers around the paintings of Gustave Caillebotte, so we’ve set up events for her with Art Gym in Denver (consequently during Book Art Month), as well as a special one-night salon with a client / friend of mine at his photography studio, which he pens is for “normal folks with an unexpectedly remarkable hidden artistic skill.”
I adore the strategy behind pairing various marketing and publicity efforts together for a specific result, but my favorite are these out-of-the-box ideas above, because they really tap into communities that would most likely never have come across the author or book on their own. It’s fun to shake-up a person’s day-to-day, and help them try something new, because, wow, there are some amazing people out there!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I loved getting to know Sami a bit better, and hope you did too. For instance, I did not know she was close, personal friends with a bunch of cows! I find that delightful. What would you like best about being a publicist or working in the world of marketing/PR? Anybody have any questions for Sami?
I’m Sami, and I love teaming up with creative minds to make magic happen. I revel in sharing your incredible creations with the world through thoughtfully-crafted imagery, wording and placement.
And let’s be honest, work’s just better when you have a little fun!
After 15 years in promotions, marketing and business management in a variety of industries, I stumbled into the world of publicity in 2011 and have found tremendous joy in helping all types of creative souls step into the limelight. I’ve sat shotgun on strategy, booked national tours for authors and musicians, traded years of correspondence with media outlets, bloggers and influencers all over the world and even jumped into some very non-traditional promotional campaigns. Hey, you don’t know until you try!
Social / Online Links:
– Personal: http://instagram.com/samijolien
– Business: http://instagram.com/rogerthatcharlie