Interview: Joan Stewart

Before I was a full-time writer, I worked in marketing. It was during my years in marketing that I first came across Joan Stewart. Joan is a former newspaper editor who now runs a service called The Publicity Hound. She offers wonderful tips about doing interviews, pitching stories, and getting PR. Despite the fact that I’ve changed jobs in the last few years, I still use her advice. And it works. As an author, I’ve been featured on TV, in magazines, online, and radio. I knew she’d be perfect to interview here at the Working Writers blog.


Publicity Hound tight headshot

Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get the idea for the “Publicity Hound” business?

They say you get your greatest inspiration when you’re exercising, or in water. I was speed-walking about 11 years ago and was thinking of a name for what would be my print newsletter. “The Publicity Hound” popped into my head, perhaps because that was a chapter title in one of publicity expert Marcia Yudkin’s books, which I had just finished reading. That became the name of the newsletter. From there, it just seemed to grow legs. People kept commenting on how much they loved the name. Within a few years, my company, Media Relations Consulting, Inc., became “Media Relations Consulting, Inc., dba The Publicity Hound.”

It’s a fabulous brand because it’s so memorable.

What ‘s the biggest mistake writers make when trying to promote their works or expertise?

Failing to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” They spend too much time talking about the product’s features and too little time talking about the benefits. I also see a lot of authors struggling to define their target audience—even AFTER they’ve written their books, which is a gargantuan mistake. “Who is my target audience?” should be the first question an author asks even before the first sentence of the manuscript is written. If you don’t know your audience, how can you possibly hope to touch them through your words?

Internet guru Perry Marshall, one of my coaches, says that as business people, we should know our target audience so well that we should be able to write a page in a customer’s journal.

If a writer wants to get some publicity for his or her book, what’s the first thing he or she should do?

Ask, “Am I ready to host a big party?” I see so many writers who have horrible websites trying to get attention from the media and bloggers. It’s like inviting people to a huge party in a messy house that has no dishes or silverware, no decent food, and nothing that’s entertaining. Before you go after publicity, make sure your blog and website create a great first impression and are ready for prime time. Then define the target audience. Then determine where they hang out (blogs, article sites, TV shows, newspapers, Twitter, niche social networking sites). Then, find an angle, preferably information that can help people, and then pitch.

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

In the Belly of the Beast: Letters From Prison by Jack Abbott. Abbot was a career criminal and the book consists of his letters to Norman Mailer about his experiences in what Abbott described as a brutal and unjust prison system. He was a beautiful writer, and the book has left a lasting impression on me.

Favorite writers?

The late Mike Royko, a columnist for The Chicago Tribune.

I’m a voracious reader but almost never read books simply because I don’t have time to read for pleasure. I can’t honestly remember the last book I read. Instead, to stay on top of my Internet marketing business, I read my news feeds, online and offline articles, newspapers and magazines, blogs, tweets, etc. I’m a scanner—I quickly scan an article and determine fairly quickly if it’s worth staying to read the whole thing. If I do pick up a book for pleasure, it’s almost always a cookbook.

Where can we learn more about you?

You can follow me on Twitter at Join my Facebook Fan Page at Read more than 70 free articles at my website at and check out my blog at Email me at and let me know if you have publicity questions and I can lead you in the right direction. Or submit a question for the “Help This Hound” section of my ezine and my readers will help solve your problem. You can see the ezine archives at

Anything else you’d like to add?

If you’re not participating actively in social media, you could be missing a huge target audience. Not all audiences are online, but many are. If your audience is, find out where they have a presence, and participate in the conversation.

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