Advice to Publicists

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By Stan Guthrie

(As prepared for delivery at the International Christian Retail Show on July 9, 2006, in Denver.)

Too many publicists, it seems to me, treat their jobs like a trip to another big convention city: Las Vegas. They’re gamblers at heart, thinking that somehow, against all odds, they’re going to hit the jackpot for their clients. These publicists offer books, authors, and interview “opportunities” to as many magazines as possible, hoping one will come up a winner on the great roulette wheel of public relations. Most of the time, unfortunately, they don’t, wasting everyone’s time.

Here are a few tips to increase your odds of success, all starting with the letter “P.”

First, Know the Publication.

Not every magazine is the same. My magazine, Christianity Today, looks at ideas and cultural trends that affect how evangelicals live and do ministry. We don’t review children’s books, take strong positions on the end times, review music, or feature people seeking to tear down the Christian faith. Publicists should read us every month, especially the review section, and be prepared to discuss how their authors can help us serve our readers better.

Second, Know the Production Schedule.

We can’t even consider reviewing a book if it doesn’t get to us at least six weeks before our cover date. I was still receiving Narnia-related pitches last December—when I was working on the February issue. And just last week I received a book on how to turn The Da Vinci Code movie into an evangelistic opportunity. That’s a good idea. It would have been even better three months earlier, when we were finishing up our Da Vinci cover package!

Third, Know the Person.

Editors are all different. We have different issues that excite us—or bore us. We have different work styles and preferences. Facing hundreds of books and ideas every month, I like to keep my job as simple as possible. For example, I don’t like cumbersome, unbound galleys. I prefer personal e-mail contact, not phone calls, so I can respond based on my schedule, not the publicist’s.

The bottom line? Earn my trust, don’t waste my time, and I’ll be glad to talk with you. Yes, you may think it’s a big gamble to do so much work in search of a great magazine story. But I’d say it’s a bigger gamble not to.

About Stan Guthrie

Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today magazine and for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. His latest book is God's Story in 66 Verses. He also is author of All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us, Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, and A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy. He is co-author of The Sacrament of Evangelism. Besides authoring, writing, and editing books, Stan is a literary agent, bringing together good authors, good books, and good publishers. Stan writes the monthly Priorities colum for He has appeared on National Public Radio's €œTell Me More,€ WGN's Milt Rosenberg program, and many Christian shows, including The Eric Metaxas Show and Moody Radio'€™s €œNew Day Florida.€ A licensed minister and an inspirational speaker, he served as moderator for the Christian Book Expo panel discussion, Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make?
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