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TYOH Q&A: Colleen Kitts-Goguen

Goose Lane Editions acquisition editor and publicist, Colleen Kitts-Goguen, talks about why authors need to have a presence on social media, the future of the book tour, and how there's no such thing as bad publicity. 

Tell us about yourself. (What do you do and where do you live?)
I handle non-fiction acquisitions and co-publicist (with Corey Redekop) for Goose Lane Editions, a small, but mighty, literary publisher in Fredericton. I was a precocious reader-when I was six my mum started hiding the newspaper. I would read the news of the world and get nightmares! I read everything she brought into the house, including The Autobiography of Malcom X by Alex Hailey when I was a pre-teen. I have spent more than 25 years as a CBC radio and print journalist but am now immersed completely in the world of publishing.

How important is it that an author has a presence on social media?
These days it's a must. You have to be out there. The marketplace is crowded and there are fewer and fewer media doing book reviews. Social media is free (if you don't count the cost of your own time) and it's egalitarian. Everyone can do it and most everyone can do it well, with a little practice!

How much work do you expect an author to do to promote him or herself?
The short answer is as much as possible. Though I'm not sure 'expect' is the right word. I don't demand it, though I do encourage it. Some people are just not comfortable at 140 characters or feel too self-conscious to promote themselves. Some have large personal and professional contact lists and are happy to mine them to get the word out. Others squirm at the very thought of self-promotion and I can understand that. I try to help as much as I can.

Don’t most writers tend to be introverts? And doesn’t this make it difficult for them to market themselves?
I wouldn't say most, not at all. I've worked with a broad range of personalities and everyone has his or her own personal comfort zone. They tend to worry about coming off as pushy or obnoxious. If they come in already experienced with social media it does help. 

What do you do when you have a writer who has no presence on social media or the web?
The first thing I do is try to find out the comfort level. Facebook is the simplest way to ease in because setting up an author page is relatively simple. With a Facebook page the author feels she is promoting the book, not herself, and that makes all the difference for some. 

What is your favourite social media tool for promotion and why?
Twitter is hands-down my favourite. I like the challenge of the 140 character limit and the forging of instant connections. Corey Redekop and I tweet under the Goose Lane Twitter feed (@goose_lane) and I also tweet as myself @mizkitts. When I first started tweeting for Goose Lane last year our followers were always guessing whether the Goose tweeter was male or female. In this case it's both. We had fun with that.

How important is it for an author to do a book tour these days? 
I think tours still have a role to play. You just have to be more strategic, especially as there are fewer and fewer places to read. The Robson Reading Series in Vancouver has just closed down after a number of years, for example. More and more, we are teaming with other publishers to do multi-author, multi-city mini-tours. Costs are shared and the authors tend to like the camaraderie. In the past year we've done shared tours with Freehand, Harbour, Arsenal, Gaspereau, and ECW. A great experience.
Is there any such thing as too much publicity or bad publicity for a writer? (Think the Lindsay Lohan of the literary world…)
Yeah I'm old school on that subject. I do believe all publicity is good, unless you are talking about a deluge of negative reviews. Notoriety on the other hand, a la Lindsay Lohan, is not such a bad thing. However, when was the last time you had a Can Lit author behaving badly enough to get into the tabloids? One can only dream . . .

What do you like best about being in acquisitions and publicity? 
For acquisitions it's about getting to work with incredible non-fiction work from some of this country's best writers. In publicity it's the people (the authors, booksellers, other publicists and media) and the pace. I love the excitement of sending the book and the author out into the world and getting back media and attention. A great review or interview generates a real high, no question. 

Colleen Kitts-Goguen is a reader for our upcoming Twitter challenge! Follow her @mizkitts and @goose_lane.

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