Here’s the situation… You are a new author looking to break into the book industry, but you don’t know where to begin. You’ve heard that you need a publicist and/or a literary agent, but after countless rejection letters, you’ve joined the bandwagon and have also become a Do-it-Yourselfer. Save yourself some time, money and effort and listen to a professional as she looks to correct the myths, misconceptions and misdeeds of novice authors.
The Situation Room with Michelle Cuttino sits down with PR Powerhouse, Dawn Michelle Hardy, to discuss her background in the book business, her PR & consulting firm D.R.E.A.M. Relations (an acronym for Divine Relationships in Entertainment And Media), and her new role as literary agent.
Michelle: Dawn, you’ve been in the business for a long time, but recently yours has become a household name in the literary world. What do you attribute to this sudden burst of fame?
Dawn: Household name…nooooo way. I have a long ways to go. I’ve been working in publishing since I started with Teri Woods Publishing in 2002. December makes a full decade in this book business. I think after a decade in something, if you have been diligent in your work and focused on improving your skills continuously, people will notice. 90% of my clients come from referrals still.
Michelle: What made you join Serendipity Literary Agency?
Dawn: Joining Serendipity Literary Agency was something I wanted to do back in 2007 when I met Regina Brooks at the National Association of Conference. Our schedules didn’t allow us to connect at that point. In January of 2011 I was on fast and the visiting pastor suggested well, insisted that if there was something that you wanted to accomplish that would help set up the direction for your life, act on it within 72 hours of concluding the consecration. I called Regina in the first 24-hours and said we needed to talk about me becoming a literary agent. The art of the deal, the influence in decision making, managing author careers, these are a few reasons I wanted to become an agent.
Michelle: People hear that you worked with Teri Woods Publishing and are already stoked. What did you learn from that experience and how did that propel you towards opening your own firm?
Dawn: Working with Teri was my introduction into book publishing. I graduated from Fashion Institute of Technology. My experience was with fashion and marketing. I learned all the facets of self publishing: editing, book cover design and typesetting, registering with LOC [Library of ongress], getting books into top distributors, and even learned how much to charge street vendors for buying wholesale. It was grassroots education. My hand was in all areas of the business. It was the best learning experience. If I had worked at one of the top 6 major houses, I would not have gained as much vast knowledge about book publishing as I did working with TWP. After helping a person run their business, the fear of starting my own slowly dissolved. I’m very ambitious. I knew it would happen one day.
Michelle: Your PR and consulting firm, Dream Relations, was started back in 2004, what are some of the services you offer?
Dawn: Dream Relations offers publicity services in the areas of book publishing, fashion, health & fitness, faith-based projects and entertainment. We offer literary consulting for authors who have chosen to self publish and need additional direction and guidance.
Michelle: What is the difference between a PR rep/consultant and a literary agent?
Dawn: Excellent question. PR rep is most often referred to as a publicist. I represent my clients to the media to help them reach their target audience on a larger scale. My role as a literary consultant is to provide advice and guidance to self published authors and as a literary agent I manage author careers and pitch book proposals to publishing houses.
Michelle: Now that you have worn different hats, which title do you prefer and why?
Dawn: It’s not a matter of preference. They all have their rewards and the biggest one they all share is that I am helping people. As a publicist, consultant or literary agent I am helping and that is very important to me.
Michelle: What is the future of Dream Relations now that you have taken on the role of literary agent?
Dawn: Dream Relations is still growing. Being a literary agent has expanded my professional network. I am getting more requests to do publicity for non-fiction books.
Michelle: There was much anticipation for your novel on self-publishing, but it was never released. What happened?
Dawn: I actually had to put my book on the back burner. Working as a literary agent I have learned a great deal. I decided that I want my book to be published with a major house. There is so much out on self-publishing that I am now looking into writing on a different topic. Writing a book is not easy and I want to take my time and do it right or not at all.
Michelle: Time for some literary jewels. What does a literary agent look for when selecting a client to represent?
Dawn: Every agent looks for something different. I look at folks who have great writing, a nice platform and interesting topics as I would define them.
Michelle: What is the most common mistake made by a new author looking for representation?
Dawn: I strongly encourage new authors to have a well-written, edited query letter. This is usually the first item to be reviewed by agents and it is indicative of what they can expect from you.
Michelle: What have you found to be the principal misconception of a first-time author?
Dawn: Signing with a major publisher doesn’t mean you that you don’t have to put in your work and promote and hustle yourself.
Michelle: How important is marketing and promotion when it comes to publishing?
Dawn: Very important. All authors must have a plan of action to reach their reader.
Michelle: What are the most crucial things an author should know before publishing their book?
Dawn: Do your research. If you want to self-publish, do your research and learn the business, speak with those who have prior experience. If you want to obtain an agent, do your research. Each agent has their own criteria. Writing is not for the lazy. Do your research.