6 min read

Transparency, copy edits, and PR with Ruth Seeley for #BookMarket

In the month of January, I'm doing a Twitter Interview (Twitterview) of many of the participants of the #BookMarket chat. These are people who come and generously share their wisdom week after week. The Twitterviews give them a chance to shine.

Today I was able to catch up with PR professional Ruth Seeley, @ruthseeley. Ruth works with non-fiction authors, scientists and publishers to help them get their messages to the world.

ClaudiaC Ok, here we go! Q.1 - What 5 words would you use to describe yourself? your work?

ruthseeley: Hmmm. Passionate, driven, articulate, committed, funny.  (That was a very tough Q and one for which I should have prepared in advance.)

ClaudiaC I thought you did great! I have to ask... What are you committed to?

ruthseeley: And I realize I've answered 'how do other people describe you' rather than how I describe myself. ;) Probably better that way.

ClaudiaC How is it different? What would you change if you were describing yourself?

ruthseeley: I've always been an advocate of transparency - that's one of the things I love about social media & the internet.  I've never lied to a journalist & I would never advocate that a client do so. Tell the truth; take your lumps

ClaudiaC True transparency is rare. What's it take? RT @ruthseeley: Ive always been an advocate of transparency

ruthseeley: We all tend to think of ourselves as the norm. So I just assume everyone is as comfortable w/language as I am.  And it never occurred to me I was funny until people started telling me I was. I do like to make people laugh helplessly.  Part of the 'Chicken Little' mentality that comes w/doing issues management work involves looking at worst-case scenarios. So anticipating the reaction to what you're about to do - good and bad - is the first step in transparency.  It's not a cynical 'how is this going to play out in the media' approach. It goes deeper: are you really committed to this? People don't expect to prevail or get their own way all the time. But you have to listen to them, take their POV into account. You can't please all of the people any of the time and you shouldn't try to. But you HAVE to listen to them.  Nothing polarizes opinion like making people feel they've been dismissed and disrespected.

ClaudiaC I always learn so much from people and their perspectives. I'm don't really understand 'not listening' as a virtue!

ruthseeley LOL - well - some people *are* know-it-alls. They're the ones who tend to be non-listeners.

ClaudiaC I call them Peacocks! ;) RT @ruthseeley: @ClaudiaC some people *are* know-it-alls. Theyre the ones who tend to be non-listeners.

ClaudiaC Q.2 - What is your favorite thing about the publishing/writing world today?

ruthseeley I'm thrilled to see so many people actually WRITING these days.  Difficult tho it may be in marketing terms, that there are so many books OUT there now is exciting rather than daunting.

ClaudiaC That's interesting b/c there's a lot of complaints about the volume of writing now & a sense of diminished quality.

ruthseeley I don't think the 'diminished quality' argument has any true statistical basis. Writing is evaluated subjectively at the best of times. No one said no to Danielle Steele in the 80s, did they? But there's no doubt there's something sad going on re the quality of editing overall; THAT does seem to be diminishing.

ClaudiaC I love that you brought up Danielle Steele! :) I always talk about Tolkien's rant on copy edits in the frwrd of LOTR

ruthseeley I don't remember reading that - what does Tolkien say? That copy edits are a necessary evil? ;)

ClaudiaC Oh editing... We make a huge effort in the dept, but always get the nattering 'you can't just use spell check' email

ruthseeley Having worked in a bookstore, I've tried to read some blockbusters. DS, Judith Krantz - painful for me to read.

ClaudiaC I think in someways our expectations have changed.In Master&Commander,he uses the wrg name for a chrctr in 1/2 book. Tolkien says for every 1 you fix, you create another. In lrg, long from fiction/non-fic, they're r always errors.

ruthseeley Well, and proofreading your own work is rarely successful. A 2nd, 3rd pair of eyes is always beneficial.

ClaudiaC Right. We have 2nd/3rd - copy&content editors; ppl in beg and end. And still get the nasty emails - grrr. let's move on before I get too ranty with this! ;)

ruthseeley Ha - well - I'm hoping Tolkien is wrong in his ratio. :) LOL ok - moving on. :)

ClaudiaC Q.3 -If someone was dialed into what you do, what would they understand about u? successful PR in 2012?

ruthseeley They would understand not just me, but what PR is - that it's a process & results don't happen overnight.  If you want everyone to be talking about you at the water cooler Monday AM, you're going to have to buy a LOT of ads.

ClaudiaC Really? Ads? Where? What?

ruthseeley LOL - ads NO ONE can afford. Time, Newsweek, subways, billboards. Think the old Coppertone billboards. :) One of your previous guests described book marketing now as a 'slow burn.' I agree w/that. Think of it this way: in same way there's amazingly greater variety of veggies on offer @ supermarket - same is true of books.  You're not confronted w/a choice between iceberg & Romaine if you're lucky any more - you have 20 lettuces to choose from.

ClaudiaC In my experience, it's like building a fire. The kindling has to be good and hot before adding intermdiate branches  And certainly the fire has to be roaring before adding big branches - otherwise, fire burns out.

ruthseeley Yes, which goes to the process aspect of PR & marketing. It's ongoing, not something you do in January only.

ClaudiaC Q.4 - Tell us about your writing? What have you created? What are you working on now?

ruthseeley Oh, I think I've abandoned the notion of writing. Not so sure we all have a book in us after all these days.  Altho I've always wanted to write about my maternal grandmother, I'm a bit off historical fiction at the moment.

ClaudiaC Oh? I'm surprised b/c I know you've been taking writing classes etc. Is the timing wrong? Book needs time to grow?

ruthseeley (Having OD'd on it in 2011, I don't plan to read much historical fiction this year.) I think it's more a case of embracing the 'eff-it' list approach. You think you want to do something for 20 years and you find yourself not doing it. At some point you have to Q whether you really want to do it or not, yes?

ClaudiaC I'm not sure. I think writing is about timing. When the time is right, it's time to write or something like that. The question is what has to change for the time to be right for you? Or that's what I tell people.

ruthseeley Perhaps. I was telling someone about my grandmother Saturday night & she said, 'now THERE's a book waiting.'

ClaudiaC Q.4b - What types of people, clients, authors do you like to work with?

ruthseeley I'm essentially a serious person, so I'm drawn to people who do serious work, whether it's writing or manufacturing. I could care less about products designed to alleviate boredom, which I think of as novelties.

ClaudiaC What are the hallmarks of serious work for you? How would you know? B/c some life chnging work looks like novelties

ruthseeley Ha - I doubt Mr Potato Head ever changed anyone's life, Claudia. ;)

ClaudiaC ahahahahahahaha! Maybe a plastic surgeon? RT @ruthseeley: Ha - I doubt Mr Potato Head ever changed anyones life, Claudia. ;)

ruthseeley Some people just want to make money and don't care how they make it. I look for an additional passion.  Wanting to save the world is always a good one. :)

ClaudiaC And of course... Q.5 - Everyone has a super secret ninja skill. What's yours?

ClaudiaC Sounds like your super ninja skill is healing disappointment? Any tips?

ruthseeley I think as I've got older I've mastered not taking things personally. I've moved from taking EVERYTHING personally to taking almost nothing personally. I'm the only person whose motivation, actions I can really understand. And I probably only understand about 75% of my own behaviour on a conscious level. ;)

ClaudiaC 75% is pretty good! RT @ruthseeley: And I probably only understand about 75% of my own behaviour on a conscious level. ;)

ClaudiaC Did we miss anything? Is there something you'd like people to know about you that we didn't cover?

ruthseeley Hmmm. Perhaps that 'being prepared' isn't cheating; it's common sense & almost always a good idea. And after all, it IS the Brownie motto! ;)

ClaudiaC I get it confused w the something in my pocket thing! :) RT @ruthseeley: @ClaudiaC And after all, it IS the Brownie motto! ;)

ruthseeley (I LOVED Brownies - definite highlight of my childhood.)

ClaudiaC Ah, I knew there was a reason I liked you so much! RT @ruthseeley: (I LOVED Brownies - definite highlight of my childhood.)

ruthseeley I used to go off to Brownies w/my mother's imprecations about it being a neoNazi youth group in my ears. Have we ended on a suitably silly note, Claudia? ;)

ClaudiaC I think it's perfect. Brownies? fun times & nutricious food! RT @ruthseeley: Have we ended on a suitably silly note, Claudia? ;)  Ours was more like finishing school so I really get the Nazi youth thing.

My next #twitterview is with @teresasreading tomorrow at 5p ET! Join us! #bookmarket