I’ve always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit and I’ve always been a bit of dreamer.
Therefore, you can imagine my parents surprise when after graduating from college I skipped the professional world to return to my tiny Pacific NW town of 8,500 to volunteer my services and spend time with the greatest people I knew at the time - my buddies. I wasn’t thinking of literary marketing and publicity as a career path, I was thinking that I wanted to perform music in a band and travel. Those were my two priorities.
After a year of coaching soccer, organizing programming at an all-ages coffeehouse, working 5 near-minimum wage jobs and performing in a punk world music band I wised up and moved to Southern California to work construction. My goal was simple - I’d live with my dad and work 50+ hours per week in order to save money to travel to Europe and blow it all. Isn’t it nice being 23? On September 15th of 2005 I boarded an India Air Boeing 747 at LAX and flew to Frankfurt, Germany. I would spend the next two months on a bonafide pub crawl through Ireland, Britain, France and Germany. At the end of the two months I got to see the lands of my ancestors and explored the in’s and out’s of some of the most interesting places in Ireland and the British Isles. The trip wasn’t without the drama. The question we all seem to be asking ourselves (what am I doing with my life?) was ever present - and upon a hill in Cork, Ireland I made the fateful decision that upon my return to America I’d start a band and tour across America. While most kids were beginning to work their way up the corporate ladder, or some even starting their own entrepreneurial endeavors, I was more concerned with how to enjoy life and have fun charging it. To my parents surprise, to use “surprise” as a euphemism” - upon my return from Europe I moved to PDX and joined a rock band.
I look at my experience with the rock band as my first exposure to guerilla and practical marketing practices. Surely Myspace was a useful tool at that time, but to cut through the clutter of the dozens of bands that come to PDX hoping to make it big, I had to be creative and I had to utilize traditional marketing and public relations practices too. I learned to write effective press releases and cover letters and I found and paid talented designers to make tee-shirts, posters and other graphics. We covered our bases with a sound marketing plan and built our army of fans by being genuine, available people - and by utilizing the fledgling social media technologies that we had at our disposal circa 2006, 2007. We had interviews and features in all of the local papers, and even hit the big time with a front page story on the Rapid City Journal.
But - like the great George Harrison once said, “All Things Must Pass.” After two years spent traveling the country, playing with bands including Everclear, Seven Mary Three, Low vs Diamond and Trances Arc - we called it quits and went our separate ways. At this time I decided that I would use my skills and experiences to get what is called “a real job.” I also picked the moment in 2007 that it became increasingly apparent that our economy had collapsed. Needless to say work was hard to come by at this time. I did whatever I could - including delivery driving, I worked at a used car lot, I even dove back into yardwork - a truly humbling experience. Then in early 2008 a company decided to take a chance on me and I became an intern at one of Portland’s most respected Public Relations and Public Affairs firms. During my four months tenure I did my best to go above and beyond the traditional intern role - even pitching a new business client at one point. But sadly, the recession was cited as a reason to no longer keep me and I spent the next eight months driving vans, delivering used cars and playing a little guitar to make ends meet. Importantly, I never gave up.
I then got a position at another PR firm that would prove to be my most formative. While I started as an intern, I quickly rose three ranks to the position of account executive and was the de facto New Business champion - bringing on three new clients that I’d cold-pitched and in the process, increased the billable hours at the firm by at least 20%. It was here I started working with a publisher client - something I consider a dream job because I was working for my favorite author, and one of America’s leading small presses.
I’ve been giving it some thought - and the reason I love working with publishers and authors is much the same reason I loved being in bands and doing PR for those bands. I love that team element of “us versus the world.” As a publisher and author (as with a band) you often have a very limited promotional budget so you have to get creative. You can’t afford to put advertisements in every magazine, blog, or newspaper. You often can’t afford to put more than ONE advertisement anywhere. Therefore, I love thinking out of the box and trying to find new story angles and ways to pitch a reviewer or reporter. Authors, like bands are flooding the market thanks to digital technologies … over 200,000 books were self-publised in 2011 - I don’t know how many were published the traditional route - so there is a ton of competition. How do you rise above it? The answer is difficult to surmise and that is why I get paid the big bucks - plus it is different for every person and story. But there is nothing like the euphoria you experience when a reporter agrees to write a story or provides a review about something you believe in. I do it for the same reason authors devote 3,000 hours towards writing their book. It’s a labor of love.