April 2, 2009–“The Spill: Personal Stories from the Exxon Valdez Disaster”–Stan Jones

A summary of our April 2, 2009 speaker, Stan Jones by Barbara Brown Twenty years ago, on March 24, 1989, 11 million gallons of crude oil were dumped in Prince William Sound when the Exxon Valdez tanker went aground. At the time, Stan Jones was a reporter with the Anchorage Daily News, covering the spill. Now, Jones works his “day job” as the Director of External Affairs for the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council (RCAC), the nonprofit body designed to serve as watchdog for the safety of crude oil transportation in the Sound. For the 20th Anniversary of the spill, Jones teamed with oral historian Sharon Bushell to write The Spill: Personal Stories from the Exxon Valdez Disaster. He delivered a PowerPoint presentation and remarks at the April 2 luncheon. Jones began by discussing prevention strategies put in place post-Spill. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 requires the phase-out of single-hulled tankers by 2015. If the Exxon Valdez had had a double-hull, the spill would have been reduced by 60 percent, which illustrates that this is not a fool-proof method: 4 million gallons would still have polluted the Sound. Combine double hulls with the two-tug escort system now in place (the Exxon Valdez was unescorted by the time it reached Bligh Reef) and prevention is much improved. However, the Oil Pollution Act allows the phase-out of escorts as double-hulled tankers are brought into operation. The RCAC is fighting this phase-out. The Exxon Valdez left the tanker lanes in 1989 to avoid icebergs. A later risk assessment identified icebergs in tanker lanes as “among the most significant risks to crude oil tankers,” so RCAC funded research and computer software development for ice-detection radar (to distinguish ice from water). Improvements have been made to response, training, and contingency planning for any future spills. In 1989, fishermen were using five-gallon buckets to pick up oil; now, oil-skimming systems can pick up 12 million gallons in 72 hours. In 1989, there were five miles of containment boom; now there are 71 miles. But asked whether there have been advances in clean-up technology, Jones replied, “Not really.” That’s why the emphasis has to be on prevention. Nowadays beaches may be left oiled because clean-up can do greater damage. The fallout from the Spill remains with us today. Whether it’s oil on the beaches, economic impacts on fishermen, or lasting effects on wildlife, the disaster lingers. Witness this photo, taken on Smith Island Beach June 26, 2008, and tell us the Sound has “healed.”

Anchorage Daily News Spill HeadlineIn identifying the personal stories Jones and Bushell planned to include in their book, they decided to interview only people “with oil on their boots,” the people up close to the disaster. Several highlights from Stan Jones’ PowerPoint (including quotes from the book) follow:

Gary Bader

Gary Bader

          “The window of opportunity was in the first forty-eight hours, and for the first forty-eight hours we at Alyeska were trying to figure out what the hell to do.” — Gary Bader, Alyeska

Adm. Clyde Robbins

Adm. Clyde Robbins


“We had to do something, even if it was just looking busy.” — Adm. Clyde Robbins, USCG

Tom Copeland

Tom Copeland


“There was a seal that had been screaming for hours, trying to get on her boat, trying to get out of the oil. The sound of a seal’s scream is exactly like that of a baby, and it kept hitting the side of the hull, trying to get on board.” — Tom Copeland, Cordova fisherman

Captain Joe Hazelwood

Captain Joe Hazelwood


“I would like to offer an apology, a very heartfelt apology, to the people of Alaska.” — Joe Hazelwood, captain of the Exxon Valdez

Stan Jones

Stan Jones

March 5, 2009–Editor shares pleasures, pains of anthologizing–Michael Engelhard

Editor shares pleasures, pains of anthologizing
by Joan Tovsen

At the Alaska Professional Communicators’ March 5 luncheon, speaker Michael Engelhard suggested his compulsion to assemble and edit anthologies might be a psychological disorder of his own creation – one he fondly calls “anthromania.” The latest symptom was Engelhard’s most recent publication, just released from the University of Alaska Press (2009): Wild Moments: Adventures with Animals of the North. This follows the 2005 anthology, Unbridled: The Western Horse in Fiction and Nonfiction, and Redrock Almanac: Canyon Country Vignettes (2007).

Engelhard moved from his native Germany to Alaska at age 30. He finished his degree in anthropology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks but realized he much preferred the wilds of wilderness to pushing papers in an office or classroom. His anthology obsession grew out of his experience as a river guide, telling and sharing stories to entertain clients. Earlier publications include two river guide journals turned into story form: Where the Rain Children Sleep: A Sacred Geography of the Colorado Plateau and Hell’s Half Mile: River Runners’ Tales of Hilarity and Misadventure.

He now spends his days guiding and writing in Alaska and the Colorado Plateau.

Publishers consider anthologies challenging to sell and generally do not offer very much compensation to the writers or the editor, Engelhard told our group. But for him, the pleasure of assembling a collection outweighs the pain. The pleasures of anthologies, he points out, include the challenge of compositing 33 animal stories by 33 writers into one book. The composite combines experiences of multiple life times, permitting a combination of various styles, beyond the reach of one writer. The result is what musicians call an antiphony of voices. The editor of a good anthology selects the voices and stories that complement each other, as harmonious music, and sets them to a score of order.

One thing he appreciates about anthologies, said Engelhard, is that the collections can fulfill roles that other publication venues do not, providing a forum for stories that may not quite fit anywhere else.
For example, an anthology can be a good place for an author to put one’s stories of personal humiliations to good use. This is what Engelhard did with his own story of a first date on an Alaska river paddle trip. In the story, Engelhard recalled his show-off manner, and how he carelessly left paddles on the beach where the water carried them away. The ill-fated couple still had three days to go down river – with only surrogate paddles made from tree branches and drift wood. They have never spoken since that trip, he confessed. Yet, a story too funny and long for a magazine to accept was written – and wove its way into anthology.

Anthologies, Engelhard has learned, can be nearly as difficult to sell as poetry. In publishing circles, such collections are known for being slow out of the gate. But they are also known to carry some long-term value, since they tend to backlist rather than disappear.

One challenge of editing a collection, said Engelhard, is getting the writers and publisher to sign on to a project, since each generally wants to know who else is involved before making a commitment. Writers want assurance they are signing with a known publisher, and publishers want to know what big-name authors have signed on. University presses are most likely to publish anthologies, because they are subsidized and not concerned with profits. However, in most cases, publishing advances are small or nonexistent and the budget may barely cover payments to contributing writers. A typical scenario: a $3,500 payment must be divided among 33 writers, with no promise of any future income from the publication.

Despite the apparently low dividends, being in an anthology can be a good opportunity for a writer, said Engelhard, providing a venue in which new writers may rub shoulders with the big names. Though print runs are generally fewer than 1,000, collections may be reprinted if they sell well.

Our speaker entertained the gathering through the rest of lunch with some unique food for thought in a reading from another anthology, Going Green: True Tales from Gleaners, Scavengers, and Dumpster Divers by Laura Pritchett (University of Oklahoma Press, 2009). After this, he took questions and shared insights and inspirational stories from Wild Moments.

Click for more about Michael Engelhard’s thoughts on anthologies.

Michael Engelhard

Michael Egelhard

Dec. 7, 2006–Bradfield & Broadsided Press–Elizabeth Bradfield

December 2006: Bradfield & Broadsided Press
by Carolyn Rinehart

Our December speaker, Elizabeth Bradfield, is an innovator, so it seems fitting that she is the first to have her talk digitally recorded. Jerami Marsh, a new student member from UAA who did the recording, checked the video and audio after the Dec. 7 luncheon and reported that it was of good quality.

He plans to edit the movie, taking out “dead space and bloopers,” and insert slides from the show Liz presented. He hopes to have it posted in a week or so (about Dec. 14), but said this first one may take a little longer.

A link to the video will be on the APC website. The recording is intended for anyone interested, but especially for our out-of-Anchorage members, including student members in Fairbanks. There will be a low-quality video for dialup internet users and a high-quality version for broadband users.

Something’s missing from our streets and public bulletin boards, and Liz Bradfield wants to put it back.

It’s the broadside. Common in past centuries, these single sheets were posted in towns across the nation. They carried announcements, advertisements, political commentary, song lyrics, cartoons, and poems. They encouraged thought and public discourse.

They championed the cause of a woman’s right to vote, and they provided a place for the early “beat” poets to get their poems read. Some current poets, such as Adrienne Rich, issue illustrated broadsides of their poems that are framed in galleries and sell for hundreds of dollars.

Believing that the on-street broadside has a place in today’s world, Bradfield started Broadsided Press a year ago with the goal of putting art and literature on the streets.

One broadside a month appears on the site, each with an original poem and artwork to illustrate it. Writers e-mail their work to the press. Once Bradfield and her co-editor Mark Temelko have selected a piece for publication, she sends it out to her stable of 21 artists, and the first one to request the right to illustrate that poem gets it.

One of the first poems to be published was “Green,” by APC member Linda McCarriston, now living in Fairbanks. It’s one of the most frequently downloaded, Bradfield said. Other titles include “Sketch of an Astronaut” and “Edison in Love.”

For distribution, Bradfield, who lives in Anchorage, relies on her “vectors”—friends of the site in cities and towns across the nation. The vectors download the broadsides, print, and post them. Vectors are in 25 states at present, plus Canada, England, and Germany.

No money changes hands; the site exists purely for the love of literature and art, Bradfield said. Her only costs are her time and the cost of web hosting for the site, about $40 per year. (She’s exploring some money-making opportunities from it, however.)

Bradfield’s background prepared her for her grassroots publication venture. She is a recognized poet whose works have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, the anthology Best New Poets 2006,and other outlets. A graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage with a fine arts degree, she did collaborative work with artists at the Vermont Studio Center.

She acquired Web experience through doing editorial work for Moms Online, a parenting website, in the 1990s. She particularly liked developing the online community of mothers, which gave her the idea for the artists’ and writers’ community of Broadsided Press.

Bradfield is also a Web designer and a naturalist. Her firm, Pelagic Design, creates websites to swim in the “open ocean” of the internet.

She wants to see Broadsided Press grow, and perhaps her talk to APC will help her do that.

Nov. 2, 2006–Every vote matters–Jean Craciun

Craciun says “Every vote matters”
by Mariah Oxford

Jean Craciun, sociologist and market researcher, took time away from her 8-day-old daughter to address Alaska Press Women at its November luncheon, just a few days before the election that had everyone talking.

Craciun provided her insights into the race, as well as predictions for how she thought it would turn out.

“I have great respect for communicators and journalists,” she told those gathered. “You present information in an unbiased, neutral, and fair way – and that’s some of what I’ve been doing in my career.”
Craciun has been in Alaska 26 years and began her business when she purchased the research division of Rick Mystrom’s ad agency in 1989.

Since then she’s worked during a lot of big campaigns, including for Wally Hickel, Arliss Sturgelewski, Tony Knowles, and Fran Ulmer.
During the 2006 election season, she’s been working for a lot of outside groups, from California to Michigan and Ohio. Yet everywhere she went in Alaska, people kept asking her, “What’s going to happen?” in the local races.

“Once critical mass was reached, I said I’d do a poll,” she said. Their poll was the first released before the primary, and according to Craciun, “We called it as it ended up.”

Regarding the Alaska state governor’s race, she noted that it would be a “very close race – it’s all about who shows up.”
“It will come down to each person’s vote,” she said. Her poll showed Knowles and Palin neck and neck with 43% each. Craciun indicated that she didn’t think Andrew Halcro would be a spoiler because he would get some votes from Republicans and some from Democrats.

Rather, she predicted, it would be the swing voters that would help decide the election. Who are they? “Honest, open, inclusive; they want elected officials that look, think and act as they do. They want a person you’d trust your kid to be picked up by from the toddler preschool. They value community involvement, have simple values of doing for oneself and being responsible for what they said.”
She said the race would come down to how much someone is impacted by what they saw in the Daily News, on a tv ad, or what they heard a friend say at a dinner party.

“Every single vote will matter this time, even more so than in the past.”

Regarding the race for U.S. Representative, Craciun predicted that Don Young would win, even though Diane Benson would make a good showing. “It won’t be enough to make a big difference.”

Craciun also talked a bit about a survey she had conducted on global warming for the National Science Foundation. One of the questions asked participants to rank different factors according to their levels of risk to American society. For Alaskans, terrorism was first, followed by the Iraq war and then global warming. However, Craciun noted that some Alaskans were in favor of global warming, with better weather and more tourism. “Some people want development and environmental conservation – the ‘I want it all’ group.”

Throughout her address, Craciun brought out the fascinating complexity of surveys and the factors that affect what people think at any given time. After answering a few questions, Craciun excused herself to be in the company of the person whose opinion she probably cares most about right now — her baby girl, Ana Sophia.

More about Jean Craciun

As a sociologist, Jean Craciun has researched every issue critical to Alaskans over the past 20 years — from global warming to subsistence to the urban-rural divide. Her company also does extensive work in marketing.

In 1989, Craciun founded her own research company, Craciun Research Group. Focus group research is one of Craciun’s specialties. She’s also regarded as an expert in surveying Alaska Natives and other indigenous peoples.

Jen Craciun

Jean Craciun

May 4, 2006–Bestselling Author Shares Secrets to Self-Promotion–Marion Owen

Bestselling author shares secrets to self-promotion
by Laurel Downing Bill

Master gardener, photographer, entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author Marion Owen told those attending the Alaska Press Women luncheon on May 4 that they needed to beat their own drums to get the word out about their work. Born and raised on Puget Sound in Washington State, Owen likened the process of promotion to walks along the beach in search of shells with her father when she was a young girl.

“Just keep turning over those rocks,” she told the audience he would tell her. “Your answers are going to come.”

Owen, who co-authored “Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul,” then offered seven “answers” to how journalists can help promote themselves.

1. With around 3,000 advertising messages bombarding a person on any given day, it is important to make your message stand out from the rest.

“It isn’t being louder,” said Owen, a current resident of Kodiak. “But being real and honest.”

2. Remember the Cajun word “lagniappe,” which means “a little bit extra.”

Owen said that appealing to emotion rather than intellect is most effective, so one-on-one communication is key to successful promotion. And, she said, always refer to yourself.

“The most important word is ‘you,’” said Owen, who practices what she preaches in her published articles, the UpBeet Gardener newsletter, her award-winning UpBeet Gardener radio show and on her plantea.com Web site.

3. Anyone in business should have a Web site, even if it’s only a one-page business card. Good designs include a banner across the top, navigation along the left side, and the center, or “prime real estate,” filled with important information. The right side is a “call to action” area where visitors can click to buy your product or service. Testimonials fit there, too.

“It’s like the letter Z,” she said. “It takes three seconds to ask, ‘Am I in the right place?’”

4. Look for hooks and unusual angles in your promotion, because the Broca area of the brain, which is involved in language and processing speech, is pounded with messages all the time. It doesn’t let just anything in.

“We think we’re visual creatures, but we hear words audio – the ear is next to the Broca area,” Owen said. “Words sound like something you recognize: ‘lips that taste like wine.’”

She said try to think of something so unusual to promote yourself that one will ask, “why didn’t I think of that.” Like the pet rock.

5. Use press releases – they are the unsung heroes of self-promotion. Owen said two-thirds of the copy in the New York Times now comes from press releases.

A few tips to make great releases include:

  • Keep them 1-2 pages
  • Have a hook
  • Remember your audience
  • Tell the story you want told

“Press releases level the playing field,” Owen said. “Keep it personal. It’s about people telling stories about people to people.”

She also stressed that “keeping it personal” translates to mailing out information about you and your service, too. Hand write addresses on envelopes and affix a postage stamp.

“Building relationships is key,” she said.

6. Stay in touch with retailers, suppliers, customers, the media and the world. The most powerful thing to have is a mailing list. Keep track of your contacts.

If you have a large number of e-mails to send out, split them up by categories. Use a newsletter/mailing list host service to help. Owen suggested two Web sites:

  • Sparklist
  • Constant Contact

“Remember, you are taking somebody’s time,” said Owen. She added that it is necessary to promote oneself daily.

“Just do five things a day. Five phone calls, five letters, five e-mails,” she said.

Owen concluded her presentation with helpful tips that included wearing eyeglasses in the shower to get them clean and replacing pasta with shredded green and red cabbage to lose 15 pounds.

The humorist business entrepreneur said that by using the latest high-tech communications, combined with one-on-one communication, Alaska’s press women can get “ink” in any media out there.

Owen is available to do in-depth marketing workshops. She can be reached at: P.O. Box 1694, Kodiak, AK 99615, (907) 486-2500, or marion@ptialaska.net.

Marion Owen

Marion Owen

April 6, 2006–Persistent author publishes and promotes her Alaskan tale–Lesley Thomas

April 2006: Lesley Thomas
by Judy Griffin

Author Lesley Thomas refused to let publishing trials and distribution travails ground her novel Flight of the Goose: A Story of the Far North. The former Alaskan who now lives in Seattle told attendees at the Alaska Press Women lunch meeting on April 6, 2006, about her experiences launching her book in a lecture titled “How Flight of the Goose Flew: the Migration of an Alaska Book.”

Sales of Thomas’ novel, which integrates “the spiritual and mythical parts of Alaskan northern life,” have reached 1,000 copies. The novel is self-published by Far Eastern Press, a business founded in 2001 with her husband, Eric Oberg.

The protagonist of the novel is a feisty young Native woman in a Bering Straits village who practices shamanism, rejecting the Lutheran ways of her father. She falls in love with a man from another culture, an ecologist studying an endangered goose species and the effects of oil spills on bird habitat.

Thomas grew up on a salmon troller in Southeast Alaska and in rural communities in Arctic Alaska. Her family still lives in Nome. Knowledge of subsistence ways and Native culture, as well as training in arctic ecology, enabled her to weave together her lifelong interests in anthropology and mythology in Flight of the Goose. Thomas holds bachelor’s and master’s degree in East Asian Studies and English, respectively, and has worked in Alaska, Washington, Japan, Taiwan, Israel, and Norway.

The biggest obstacle in publishing is getting distributed in America, Thomas explained. She described rejection a decade ago by New York presses that saw her work as “alien” because she had grown up in Alaska. One company suggested she could make her work saleable by making the female lead a “softer, nicer” person and changing her sad ending to a happy conclusion.

Thomas’ grandmother had always wanted to publish, and the $3,000 she left to her granddaughter seeded Far Eastern Press. The self-published edition of Flight of the Goose was released in February 2005. In the fast-turning world of commercial book distribution, the novel is now “expired.” Said Thomas, “But if your book is self-published, it is never dead.”

Winning first place in the 2005 “Communicator of Excellence in Fiction” category from the Washington Press Association helped to attract buyers. Interest in shamanism has provided further sales impetus. Thomas also counts among her niches scientists, Alaskans, and most surprising, Lutheran missionaries. Mention on a gay web site brought another flurry of Internet orders.

When a member of the Alaska Press Women audience asked Thomas how she learned to write, Thomas replied that she had not finished learning to write. “Sheer volume helps,” she noted, as do repetition and throwing away much of what is composed.

To learn more about Lesley Thomas and read reviews of her novel, visit her website.

Lesley Thomas

Lesley Thomas

Feb. 2, 2006–The Making of a Radio Show–Jessica Cochran

The making of a radio show
by Diane Walters

Every Saturday morning at 10, if you tune in to KSKA, 91.1 on your radio dial, you can hear an eclectic mix of news, poetry, and feature stories from Alaska’s Public Radio Network. Called AK and produced by Jessica Cochran, the weekend show is now in its third year. Although it airs at 10 a.m. in Anchorage, the time varies depending on where you live in the state.

Cochran explained how AK came into being and how they go about putting together each episode at the February luncheon. She said the money to produce a show came from a three-year grant around four or five years ago. The staff at APRN came up with the idea of producing a weekend show. To determine the show’s content, they asked member stations what type of programming they wanted. It takes about 10 stories to fill a one hour show.

The program started broadcasting Oct. 23, 2003, and is in its last year of the grant. They also have underwriters and smaller peripheral grants to help keep the show going, and they are officially affiliated with Alaska Public Television Inc., which includes KSKA public radio and KAKM public television.

Each week the show has a theme or an issue. “Some are literal, like ‘Nuclear North’ and some are more open to interpretation, such as ‘Lost,’ which could be literally or emotionally,” Cochran said.

The show operates under five basic principles according to Cochran. The first is geographic diversity. “Although we’re based in Anchorage, we try not to be an Anchorage-centric show,” she said.

To get a state-wide feel, they use reporters from around the state, free lance reporters, and they send staff reporters out. The show also has a “300 Village” segment, in which they interview residents of several of the villages over the phone each week.

The second principle said Cochran is to use personal stories, which ties in with the third principal of trying to involve other people in the show than just the four staff members. Although they mostly work with station-based reporters and free lancers, she said they are always looking for more people. They work with the students at the Alaska Teen Media Institute, and when people submit essays or poems, she said they try to get the authors to come on the show to read their work.

“UAA professors make it a class assignment to send us stuff,” she added. “We’ve also tried some funky ways to get others involved. We had a joke contest and got two entries, and then we had a poetry contest, and got a 100. We chose four or five and invited the authors to come on the show to read their poems.

“We can’t pay, but we can offer fame,” she said.

Connecting to the wider world even though the show’s emphasis in on Alaska is the fourth principle, Cochran said. They co-hosted one show with the Canadian Broadcast Company based in Whitehorse during Alaska-Canada Week. “There is an Alaska-Canada Week,” she said, in case we didn’t know. She said the CBC in Whitehorse often runs more stories from Alaska than from their Canadian neighbors.

The fifth principle is to have fun, and if you’ve ever listened to AK, you can tell that the staff truly enjoys their work.

About Cochran

Jessica Cochran grew up listening to NPR in Washington D.C. She moved north and west to attend college at MacAlester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She continued her northwest journeyt o Alaska in 1996. Cochran has work for APRN for 10 years. As a reporter, she’s covered topics ranging from the annual silliness of Seward’s Polar Bear Jump Off festival to the struggles of Alaska schools working to meet new federal education standards. She served for several years as producer of APRN’s Iditarod coverage, periodically produces Alaska News Nightly, and most recently served as producer of APRN’s statewide call-in show, Talk of Alaska. Her off-duty interests include hiking, cross-country skiing and traveling.

Jessica Cochran

Jessica Cochran

Jan. 5, 2006– Sustaining Niche Newspapers–Geoff Bederson and Aaron Selbig

Recap of January 2006 luncheon
by Sandi Sumner

Barbara Brown introduced the January luncheon speakers Geoff Bederson and Aaron Selbig, saying, “There are different ways to reach the audience. We want to know how you start and sustain a niche newspaper.” Then she introduced Bederson, editor of Alaska Humanity News, and Aaron Selbig, editor of Insurgent 49

Geoff Bederson said his paper’s mission is to present a point of view in the public arena that doesn’t have a voice — an alternative voice that looks at everyday events with a broader and more in-depth view. He said Alaska Humanity News is not about laying blame, it’s about looking at human issues that underlie front page news stories.

Bederson indicated that production and economics are accomplished with a low overhead of about $3,000 per issue to print and distribute 15,000 to 20,000 copies. He wanted to convey that the writers who submit articles are given room for flexibility and that the newspaper pays between $75 and $400 per article to the writer. His background includes being a founder of the Humanity School at UAA, and he is a local business owner.
Aaron Selbig, Editor of Insurgent 49 indicated this publication first hit the street April 1, 2005 and even though the name exacts strong reaction, they also provide a forum for an alternative message and voice. He said, “I compare our mission to the American Revolution and Thomas Jefferson who stood up to big government. We are advocates for progressive ideas and organizations that include antiwar, conservation, native rights, social justice and women’s rights.”

Selbig indicated the concept began with a public radio show, then a web site followed by newsprint that includes a monthly crossword puzzle. He said, “Everybody has a story to tell and some things are better than others, but even if the stories are a little rough around the edges they are natural and spontaneous. They are insightful stories about politics, economics and cultural events. Our perspective is unorthodox. We believe we’re having the impact we want. Free speech is a gift and allows for the true _expression of inner feelings.” Selbig was formerly with the Alaska Press newspaper and several other publications before this venture. (No compensation is presently being paid to contributing writers.)

Geoff Bederson

Geoff Bederson

Aaron Selbig

Aaron Selbig

Dec. 1, 2005–A glimpse of the high profile New York publishing world–Heather Gould

A glimpse of the high profile New York publishing world
by Amy Murphy

Heather Gould, who recently worked as a Senior Publicist for William Morrow in New York, provided some interesting and valuable insights about planning publicity campaigns to launch new books at the December APW luncheon. She also shared some useful ideas on what authors and writers could do to help promote their own books.

Heather started off by explaining that a publicist’s main job is to act as the liaison between the author, the editor and the media to get the book’s message out in front of the buying public and set the book up for success. One primary task is to distill several-hundred-page books down into two sentences designed to stimulate interest in purchasing the book. Each publicist has multiple authors they work with so they are constantly working on different campaigns. One of Heather’s successes includes increased sales of a new book by over 100%, with the book spending consecutive weeks on the NY Times bestseller list.

Planning publicity campaigns for major book releases begin a year in advance of the book’s release, with the publicity team deciding how to best to market the particular book to a specific target audience. These campaigns include developing a packet of press materials that tell the story behind the book, distributing press releases and mailing out books to be reviewed by major publications. Sometimes book/media tours are planned, but they are generally going to the wayside due to the expense involved with traveling as well as competition from the increasingly high volume of books being published.

Heather encouraged authors and aspiring writers to carefully consider who their audience is, who they are writing for, and how they can best get the message out while they are writing their books. If you write to a limited audience, your chance of having a successful book will most likely be limited.

There are several key things to consider when marketing your own book, starting off with building a diverse network of potential buyers and cultivating as many contacts as possible. Join writing groups and get online by developing a Website or Web log (blog) and devote time to maintaining and updating your Web presence. Get hooked into your book’s genre and start locally and regionally to generate interest and create a buzz that will hopefully expand in scope. Get out and meet all the bookstore owners that you can and be personable to all of your potential customers. While giving presentations or readings, think of fun and unique things to do with an audience to promote your book and generate interest in it. It’s also really important to keep clippings of everything you’ve done, including articles, photos, pitch letters, press releases, etc. Having a really great photo to include in your book and press releases is also important.

Heather graduated from Western Washington University in 2000 with a combined Bachelor’s degree in English and Journalism. She began working as an Assistant Publicist with Harper Collins/William Morrow in September 2001, after attending the University of Denver Publishing Institute. She is currently working on her Master’s in Business at UAA and works for the Anchorage public relations firm of Bernholz and Graham.

When asked what her future goals are, Heather said she doesn’t want to be a writer, but enjoys writing for public relations and is very interested in marketing and brand development. It sounded like there was audience interest in hearing Heather speak about the importance of branding some time in the future!

Heather Gould

Heather Gould

Nov. 3, 2005–An insider’s look into the book publishing business–Sara Juday

An insider’s look into the book publishing business
by Kris Valencia

Sara Juday, Associate Publisher of Alaska Northwest Books and Regional Manager for Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company, shared her thoughts on her almost 20-year career in the very tough business of book publishing – how she got where she is, and what’s happened in the book business along the way – to an appreciative crowd of book lovers at the November APW luncheon.

Sara found her passion early, as co-editor of the high school yearbook, and went on to graduate from Indiana University with a degree in journalism. But she says it was more luck than planning that eventually led her to a long but never boring career with Alaska Northwest Books.

From entry level jobs at newspapers (where “entry level” meant you did everything) to work with environmental groups and the tourism industry, Sara’s varied background proved useful when Bob Henning hired her in 1986 to do advertising sales and book marketing (and anything else he could think of) for Alaska Northwest Books. A few years after that, Henning sold Alaska Northwest Books to GTE Discovery Publications, then GTE sold the book line to Graphic Arts Center in Portland, OR. Sara got sold right along with the books, changing job titles along the way, but continuing to live and work in Alaska, where she had moved with her husband, Jerry, an attorney, in 1981.

With a career that stretches from the days of paste-up to desktop publishing, Sara says she has never tired of the business of books. And it is a business. As an associate publisher and regional manager, it’s Sara’s job to pick the titles that will sell, sell these picks to the publisher, and then sell the books to reviewers, retailers and individual book buyers. A very tough job in what has become a very tough market.

In recent years, “there’s been a 30 percent increase industry-wide in the number of titles published,” Sara says, “but only a 10 percent increase in sales.” Sara credits desktop publishing, and the resulting explosion in small, 1- or 2-title publishers, for at least part of the increase in books published. Chains like Home Depot and Barnes & Noble have also stepped into the publishing game with their own imprints. All this, says Sara, adds up to more books, but not necessarily more book sales. Sara cites the economy, DVDs and video games, and fewer bookstores as having a negative impact on book sales.

Getting your book noticed, or the “hoopla factor” as Sara calls it, is harder than ever too, with a tremendous number of new books vying for attention from reviewers and from potential readers. If you are not J.K. Rowling, Sara says, you are lucky if you show up on the radar. Unforeseen fortuitous events, like PBS broadcasting a special about “One Man’s Wilderness,” can send book sales soaring, as it did with the Alaska Northwest title. But that kind of free publicity is hard to come by.

But even in what she calls a “very competitive” marketplace, Sara sees several lights at the end of the tunnel, or at least along the tunnel. The Internet has provided a new outlet for book sales for all authors and publishers, regardless of sizes. On the regional level, Alaskans have a healthy appetite for books about their state, as do the droves of tourists who visit in the summer. Locally, venues like the annual Thanksgiving book fair at the museum serve to showcase local authors and get books in front of book buyers.

Whatever the future brings in the book business, Sara is glad to be along for the ride. “It’s the best job ever,” she says. “I get paid to read. What could be better than that?!”