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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Guest Blogger: Author Julie Reinhardt on Growing Your Shortlist

Julie Reinhardt and I have been friends and writing compatriots ever since we took Peggy King Anderson's Magic of Writing for Children class...oh, probably eight years ago! In addition to being a writer for children, Julie is an accomplished barbeque chef and co-owns Smokin' Pete's BBQ of Seattle. I'm thrilled to announce her forthcoming book, She-Smoke: A Backyard Barbecue Guide for Women (Due out June, 2009 by Seal Press).

Julie has been hard at work on behind-the-scenes marketing for her book, and she generously agreed to share her "Three Steps to Growing Your Short List." Welcome, Julie!


Almost the day after you land that sweet book deal, your publisher will ask you for your “short list”. What is a shortlist? It’s a PR list of all your contacts at bookstores, media, and anyone that can help spread the word about your book. If you’ve never published a book, there is a good chance your short list is very, very short. It’s never too early to lay the groundwork for a short list database, and by doing so, you will create a map for making future contacts. Here’s how to “plant” a PR list in three “short” steps:

Step 1: Brainstorm - Get out your seeds
What sorts of places could sell or talk about your (hypothetical or real) book? If your book is a non-fiction book about shark teeth, write down aquariums and…I don’t know…dentist’s offices? The latter may be far fetched but keep everything on the list at this point. Perhaps there is a large dentist’s professional organization that has a newsletter that might review or mention your book. Hundreds of dentists around the country then flock to bookstores to buy your book for their waiting rooms. I like to break the short list down into these categories: Independent Bookstores, Blogs, TV & Radio, Newspapers, Specialty Stores, Newsletters & Trade Publications. Magazines and journals would go on your “long list” because they have longer lead times.

Step 2: Set up your database - Till your rows
There are many databases out there, but I like the simplicity of Excel and the fact that it interfaces with so many programs. Tab your headings in Excel so that you may use the information someday for mailing labels.

Organization / First Name / Last Name / Title / E-mail / Website / Phone / Address line 1 / Address line 2 / City / State / Zip / Notes

Step 3: Fill it in - Start Planting
Start with 10 in each category and search for the contact information. You may only have a few real contacts in total – that doesn’t matter. By planting these seeds in your database, you will start growing these potential contacts into healthy PR relationships.

10 independent bookstores
Think bookstore events for this list, rather than regular bookstore sales. Large chains have corporate buyers and publishers will present to them via sales reps. Start with bookstores where you shop and circle out from there.

10 blogs by subject matter
For blogs, first list those that are about the subject or genre of your book. For my barbecue book, I started with barbecue or food blogs I like to read, like Meathead’s blog over at Amazing Ribs.com, then I scanned for other blog links on my favorite blogs for new ideas. I also included non-barbecue food blogs and blogs for women, like Gluten Free Girl (I like her writing and dry rubbed barbecue is gluten-free after all). For your book about shark teeth, look for Marine biology blogs, educational blogs, and that big dentist waiting room blog we talked about.

10 book review blogs
Seek out blogs that review books of your genre. When I Googled book+review+blog, a total of 80,900,000 results came up. If that overwhelms you, simply trot over to the ALA’s Booklist blog and on-line magazine and look at their left hand column. There you will find a list of over 20 other book blogs they suggest. It’s a good start. Read each blog well to make sure it would be a good fit for reviewing your book, just as you familiarize yourself with a magazine before submitting an article proposal. One of my favorite book review blogs? www.bookslut.com.

10 TV & Radio shows
From your local TV news, to talk radio, to Oprah – start thinking about where you and your book might fit in. A good website to find local media in your area is www.mondotimes.com. There is plenty of information given freely, plus media contact lists you can buy for about $1 per contact. Always call to double check contact names, however, as websites can be out of date.

10 Newspapers
Newspapers fill a number of your PR needs, from interviews, event announcements, to reviews. When you search a paper’s website, get the book editor contact, the press release contact, and the calendar of events submission information.

10 Specialty stores
Plenty of retail stores carry books too. Your book on shark teeth would sell well at waterfront stores and aquarium gift shops.

10 Newsletters and Trade publications
Start with organizations to which you belong such as your local writer’s society like SCBWI, your alumni newsletter or magazine, and your day job newsletter.

Fill in as much information as you can initially and leave spots blank for now. As long as you have the headings, you can at anytime decide to put in an hour on the database and work to fill in other pertinent information. You can then use this list as the seeds to nurture contacts. (‘Oh – ABC Bookstore is on my list, I’ll introduce myself to the owner the next time I’m in there’). Tell her you are a writer and tell her something positive about her bookstore, like “I loved your foot massages at Joni Sensel’s Farwalkers' Quest book launch last month!” I don’t recommend walking into your local TV station and introducing yourself to the station manager, but at least make a point to view or listen to the programs and get savvy to show formats.

For those of you already authors, keeping your short list current is important because contacts shift quickly. For those not yet published, planting your shortlist now ensures that by the time that sweet book deal arrives, your shortlist will be in full bloom.


  1. This is fantastic! You and Julie are so generous. Thanks for sharing!

  2. What a great document, ladies! Wow!

  3. This is really helpful! When and if I am asked for such a thing, I will say, Well, Holly said.....!!

  4. No credit to me, all to Julie! She shared all this willingly and generously (and gave boring, revision-obsessed me some interesting content!).

  5. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  6. Hey, I think you two should submit this to the SCBWI Bulletin! Or Writer's Digest!

  7. Great idea - I will pass that on to Julie!

  8. Thanks Kirby and everyone for your warm comments!

  9. Fantastic list! Thank you so much for sharing this!