Mickey Mickkelson is the Publicist/Owner at Creative Edge, a Calgary, Canada firm that specializes in getting exposure for independent writers, authors and artists of all type. While Creative Edge does not focus on being overly large; it does focus on individual needs for individual clients, many of whom boast solid credentials, such as bestselling science fiction author, Robert J Sawyer.
I wanted to know how having a publicist works, what the differences are between self-servicing your need for exposure (don’t read that the wrong way) versus having representation from someone with a strong working knowledge of the industry. He was kind enough to answer the following questions.
Q1. What made you decide that being a publicist was a career that would work for you?
I didn’t really decide that this was a career to strive for. It actually fell into my lap as I was helping out a friend who had written a book. I previously worked at Chapters as an events coordinator, and the friend who had written a novel asked me to get her a couple of signings. Well, two signings turned into eight signings, and she essentially ended up conducting a full Alberta tour which resulted in her book becoming national with Indigo. News got out and the word spread, and very soon I was getting other author opportunities and I decided that there was perhaps a market for this. Lo and behold, Creative Edge was formed.
Q2. How did Creative Edge form? How did you develop your client base? I ask because writers and others often have trouble approaching people.
When I realized I had a passion for publicity I was able to leverage a number of those relationships as my first clients. That was when I decided to form Creative Edge, which today has over 25 clients and arrangements and contacts with media internationally including key contacts in TV, Radio, and Print Media.
My client base was built through word of mouth and networking through a variety of writing events such as When Words Collide, which is a large literary festival in Western Canada. Western Canada was definitely where everything started and we have been able to branch out from there.
Q3. You have a nice client list that includes Robert J. Sawyer. People that do not know him from his novels, might remember a television series, FLASHFORWARD a few years back, based on his book of the same name. How did you and Robert connect and what were his goals in hiring a publicist? With all his successes, how much more complex are your efforts with him needing to be?
Robert has an in house publicist at Penguin Random house and they do a lot of work with him, specifically around his book marketing. I actually met Robert for the first time when I worked at Chapters as he came for a book event, and after that I always stayed in touch with him. When I started Creative Edge, I ended up representing a number of authors that are within both my and Robert’s circles of community. Robert actually reached out to me, and in truth I wasn’t sure what I could do for him knowing that he had an in house publicist and a very reputable name both in the literary and television/film mediums.
His goals were really no different than any other author in terms of promotion, except the areas of media targeted were of a larger scale. Robert wanted in depth interviews, book reviews about his newest book ‘Quantum Night’ and his previous catalogue. In addition to that, he also wanted help promoting his brand on the television and film aspect. In terms of complexity, the press releases sent out were more strategic with further in-depth information on them. Overall, the effort was no different as I always give 100 percent but in many cases we did get more media results based on Robert’s reputation as a bestselling and award-winning author.
Q4. Most writers tend to be introverts, not particularly good at marketing themselves. Do you offer a pre-set package for them, or coach them on what they need do, or is it a custom process where each person has a role?
With every client, I sit down with them and have a conversation about short term and long term goals. There is not a pre-set package per se, however every author has a set contract and a maximum amount of dollars they are expected to pay each month. In most cases, the maximum amount charged works out to be less than if they were to pay for everything on an individual basis. I do coach my clients on what they should be doing but it’s a collaboration. We take the best idea between us and execute that idea to its fullest. Not every author is great at book signings and others struggle with online aspects or speaking engagements. My role is to communicate with my clients and tailor all marketing aspects to what their strengths are.
Q5. Writers want sales. Writers would not object to a degree of notability (not necessarily fame). What do publicists aspire for? What is the golden prize for you?
I didn’t get into this to become a rich and famous, but I do want to run a successful business. To me, that means effectively supporting my clients in a way that sees them through to achieving their goals. I am happy knowing that I am creating a community where authors and artists share ideas and support each other. Building community is essentially the Creative Edge brand, and the golden prize.
Q6. Describe a typical day for you? Challenges? Joys? Worst?
As a publicist, there is never a typical day. Everything is different every single day. But things I do are usually setting up book signings for a client, issuing press releases to media, calling authors and touching base as I insist on communication with my clients at minimum bi-weekly.
There are some that I talk to every day. In terms of sending out press releases, I am typically sending out about 300 emails for one release and I try to personalize the emails based on the receiver of the information. It’s a lot of work, but an effective way to develop stronger relationships.
Most writers are introverts and in a lot of cases have different personality types because they are creative. The biggest challenge is monitoring that and finding ways to connect with each personality. The most effective way I have found to do that is to set clear expectations about how the publicity process works and then gauge each individual’s long term goal and develop a plan on how we are going to get there.
The joys are easy! Working with so many talented people day in and day out is so rewarding, as is getting to know key influencers in the media. Even when it’s overwhelming, it’s always gratifying.
Worst? There is no worst to what I do, I love it all even when it appears to be painful mentally!
Q7. Do you have any advice for writers who believe a publicist would be a good option? What is your criteria for considering an author? Are you open to authors contacting you (if so best way)? What percentage of sales do publicists get paid, or are you flat rate/hourly?
My belief is that writers need to be ready before seeking out a publicist. If you don’t have your books available in all sectors including online and in print, then you are not ready.
If you don’t have a direction that you want to go in terms of marketing, then you are also not ready. The most successful authors are the ones who have a set plan in place and can leverage a publicist to get them there.
In addition, most authors have to learn to work with a publicist and realize that by hiring one, they are no longer on their own in terms of marketing. These same authors have to learn to work and leverage the person they just hired, otherwise the partnership will not work.
I look for authors that have vision and clear expectations. I look for authors who have strong communication skills and are committed to an honest relationship. I never sign an author based only on the quality of the book. It is definitely a factor, but I am making my decision based on a personality connection and mutual respect not only for me but my other represented clients as well.
I don’t take a percentage of sales unless I book my clients at a speaking engagement or an event where they are paid a fee. Then I normally take approximately 5%. All of my represented clients pay a flat monthly fee that is negotiated at time of contract, Everyone’s fee is different and all contracts are independently confidential.
Mickey is always looking for new talent, and writers whose professional goals are aligned with the services he can offer. From his approachability, the numerous glowing comments on his Facebook page about how he handles clients, it’s safe to say that if you are seeking a personal relationship to take you to the next level, and you have done the needed first steps, you should contact him. My thanks to Mickey for answering my questions.
Phone: (403) 464-6925