Category: The writing life

An interview with independent publicist and social media strategist Celina De Leon

By Midge Raymond,

A book launch can be a daunting process, and many authors wonder how hiring a publicist can help the process. Learn more in this interview with independent publicist and social media strategist Celina De Leon — and see below for more about Celina.


What value can a communications expert, whether a publicist or social media strategist, bring to an author and his/her book?

For new authors, first impressions go a long way. A communications expert can ensure that you put your right foot forward with a professional-looking website, consistent messaging, and a budding digital brand.

For longtime authors, fresh looks go a long way. A digital makeover or promotion boost can help you reconnect with your target audiences.

As many of you probably know, promotion is hard work, and it is time consuming. Just one hour on social media can suck your energy and distract you from the plotline of your current project. A publicist or social media strategist can dedicate their time to promoting you and your new book while you write the next.

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How much can an author expect to spend when working with a publicist or social media strategist?

Rates for communications experts vary based on the scope of the project. Publicists and social media strategists associated with a firm often charge higher rates than small firms or independent communications experts. Some publicists offer a discounted rate for independent authors and artists, as I do.

Ideally, when should an author approach a publicist for help with his/her book?

The earlier the better, but at least six months before your book is set to release. This gives your publicist time to develop a media and blog contact list for possible book reviews and interviews and pitch your book to these media outlets and bloggers. As a social media strategist, I also use this time to set up or update an author’s website and create a social media campaign to announce the book’s release and sustain the excitement after the book publishes.

If an author has no social media presence, it is best to begin as soon as possible to identify and develop the best digital and social media promotion strategy.

How can a communications expert help authors when their books have been out for a year or more?

The proverb, “out of sight, out of mind,” still rings true – especially today with 24/7 information-sharing. A publicist can help ensure an author’s book is not forgotten. Whether it’s through newsworthy articles or timely social media campaigns, a publicist can help maintain the relevancy of your book and its visibility.

Much of our decision making relies on word-of-mouth recommendations from people we trust. Today the people we trust includes family and friends as well as influencers we follow on social media. What this ultimately means is that social media mentions of your book are crucial. A publicist can help ensure that your book is seen by your target audiences and influencers and shared on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and elsewhere.

What is the author’s role when working with a communications expert?

S/he is your professional cheerleader. But s/he is only able to keep cheering you on if s/he knows what you’re up to. Keep your publicist or social media strategist informed of your writing plans, book release dates, and readings. Also tell them about any trips or events you may be attending. The more information the better because it gives us the information we need to promote you in real-time and to take advantage of timely promotional opportunities and campaigns on social media.

What questions should an author ask a communications expert he/she is considering working with?

Ask for a sample client list to see if your interests match any of the clients listed. Ask for the length of their longest-serving client. You ideally want to pick someone who is interested in working with you for the long haul and is invested in your publishing future. Ask about their flexibility in rates and payments. If you don’t have a big budget, ask if you can pay in installments that work for you.

Overall, your relationship with your publicist or social media strategist is a special one. It is a professional relationship as well as a personal one. Not everyone likes to be in the limelight, but a good communications expert will help lessen the stress so you can focus on what you most enjoy: writing. A good publicist or social media strategist will learn what you like and dislike to best promote you as an author and ultimately as a person.

Do you have any success stories you’d like to share?

One of my favorite clients is prolific author and cartoonist Paige Braddock. I was reminded of her work a couple of years ago after seeing a tweet on Twitter of a Q&A she did with Lambda Literary. At that point I had no idea she was still creating her breakthrough comic series Jane’s World, the first gay-themed work to receive online distribution by a U.S. national media syndicate. After reading the Q&A, I immediately Googled her. I found her website and social media presence, but I found it difficult to find information about her and her latest works. I worked with Braddock to make sure her books were easy to find online. We enhanced her website and streamlined her social media profiles to create a cohesive digital brand for her and her books. Consistency goes a long way!

In addition, by aligning her social media channels with best practices, we increased Braddock’s visibility and the reach of her books and freed up time for her to work on creating more books. She has a new Jane’s World book out now, the first novel inspired by the comic series; she launched a lesbian romance series of books under the pen name Missouri Vaun; and she spearheaded a line of graphic novels with an ecological and environmental message called Stinky Cecil. I help promote her new books, sustain their momentum, and keep her in the loop on the latest book news related to her expanding genres and interests.


For the past ten years, independent publicist and social media strategist Celina De Leon has been earning press and social media attention for authors, artists, and public health and higher education experts across the country. She especially loves getting the word out about authors with an important message about our world. Check out her website here, and you can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Cat Editors: AMONG ANIMALS contributors and their feline muses

By Midge Raymond,

Over on my blog, I’ve been writing about authors and their cat editors, and among them are three contributors to the first edition of Among Animals. Learn more about the brilliant felines behind these wonderful writers…

Diane Lefer and Junie (click here to read more about Diane’s many muses…)


Suzanne Kamata and Sumi (learn more about these two here):


Jean Ryan and Tango, whom you can learn more about here.


We would like to officially thank these felines for keeping these terrific authors in their chairs; without them, we may not have received their stories, and we are most grateful. And if you have a feline muse of your own, please feel free to get in touch!


Introducing the ACP Book Bag

By John Yunker,

Thanks to Ashland (and many other cities) banning plastic bags, we thought we all could use a great grocery/book/everything bag. (We’re also enjoying the chance to show our Oregon pride.)

We created a small quantity of these recycled-cotton bags — environmentally friendly, fair-labor produced — and so far, it’s been perfect for books, groceries, and everything else we’ve toted around. It’s lightweight (folds easily into a smaller bag), durable, and, if we might say so, quite good-looking.

acp book bag

If you’d like to order a bag of your own, you can do so here.

Or get the bag free when you order this ACP Book Bundle.

Thanks for your support of ACP and the planet!

Cat Editors: Two ACP authors and their feline muses

By Midge Raymond,

Last year, I began a blog series called Cat Editors, after noticing that I am not the only writer with a feline companion who is always in the middle of the writing action. (Below is my editor and our General Manager, Theo.)


Several of our beloved Ashland Creek Press authors also have cat editors — among them Mindy Mejia, author of The Dragon Keeper and the mystery novel EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE, forthcoming this November from Emily Bestler Books; and Jean Ryan, author of the story collection Survival Skills.

Click here to learn more about Mindy and and her hardworking editor Dusty:


And click here to learn more about Jean and her devoted editor Tango:


And, if you’re a writer with a cat editor in your life and you’d like to share the joy, feel free to send me a note!

How to get published

By Midge Raymond,

That’s a nice, attention-grabbing headline, but if course it’s nearly impossible to write a post that will fulfill this promise. That’s because every agent and every editor has his or her own interests, tastes, and moods — and a writer can never in a million years predict what those might be. As published writers know, what may be rejected by one editor is another’s dream novel, and vice versa.

I have noticed, however, over the years I’ve been an editor, that there are several reasons writers get rejected that have nothing to do with the writer or the writing, and these haven’t changed in the almost two decades I’ve been in publishing. I often find that among the best ways to learn about how to get published is to learn what not to do.

So here’s a handy list of what to avoid when you’re ready to seek an agent or publisher.

1. Inappropriate submissions. This may seem all too obvious, but it happens all the time. The number-one reason writers get rejected, whether by literary magazines or literary agents, is that they submit inappropriate material, such as sending fiction to a poetry magazine or a children’s book to an agent who doesn’t represent children’s books. Always do your research — it takes time, but in the end, it saves time. Even a quick visit to the Ashland Creek Press website reveals we seek work on the themes of the environment, ecology, and wildlife. Yet we still receive submissions that have nothing to do with our niche — including children’s books and poetry, which we specifically note we don’t publish. What this means is that a writer has spent a lot of time sending us something that will never get read — and this is time much better spent researching and sending work to someone who is actually able to consider it. (For some great advice from a literary agent’s POV, check out this interview with agent Lucy Carson.)

2. Not following guidelines. As writers ourselves, we know that guidelines can be extremely frustrating…it seems that every editor wants a different format (name on the first page only, name omitted from manuscript, numbers in the upper right corner, numbers on the lower left, and on and on). But guidelines exist for a reason, not just to drive writers insane. For example, our guidelines for the Among Animals short fiction anthology are pretty simple — we ask for stories within a specific theme and word count, and we aren’t fussy about the font or where your page numbers appear — and these guidelines aren’t random. We ask for short stories featuring animal-human interactions because that’s what the anthology is about. We ask for a certain word count because that fulfills our vision of the book. Still, we get emails from writers asking if they can submit nonfiction instead (to which we must say no — not to be difficult but because it’s an anthology of fiction), or if stories can be longer or shorter than our guidelines (to which we say yes — we’re glad to read your very short story or your very long one, but we will warn you that it may not be the right fit, given what our vision is).

3. Being unprofessional. Don’t, for example, address an editor with “Yo” (yes, this has actually happened to us). We’re actually pretty easily amused, so stuff like this doesn’t bother us much — but I’m guessing this would cause a great many busy editors and agents to hit the delete button automatically (and who can blame them?). Take the extra thirty seconds to find an editor’s or agent’s name, and use it rather than “Dear Editor” or “Yo.” It shows us that you’ve taken the time to figure out who we are, and this makes us want to spend the time getting to know who you are.

4. Sloppy work. The best submissions are a writer’s best work — and this is something that’s always obvious right off the bat. It’s easy to tell when a writer has submitted a first draft; it reads like one. So be sure that your project is not only complete but edited, polished, and represents the very best you have to offer. Many editors and agents are happy to read another draft, if they’re intrigued enough by what you submit, but often you only have one chance to make a good impression, so take your time.

5. Impatience. Again, as writers ourselves, we submit to journals, agents, and editors — and then we wait. And wait. And often wait some more. It’s what writers do. Please try to understand that editors and agents often receive thousands of submissions every week, and imagine trying to stay on top of that amount of email (or regular mail). It’s overwhelming. As a very small press, we are always overwhelmed, which is why we warn writers that submissions often several months to review. So when you submit, always check to see if editors or agents indicate response times in their guidelines, and then be patient. Don’t send follow-up emails unless you’ve waited well past the normal response time, and if you do follow up, be kind and polite and understanding when you inquire about the status of your work. Publishing is, in so many ways, a business based on relationships, and as a writer you’ll want to be known as someone who’s not only professional but personable.

There are so many other factors that go in to getting published — among them great writing, the right market, a good platform, and pure luck — and writers only have control of some of these things. But one thing we all have the power to do is to respect the time of those who are reading our work … and this can take you a good part of the way.