Meryl Moss is the founder and president of Meryl Moss Media, which just celebrated its 22nd anniversary. Meryl and her dedicated staff of publicists work with authors, both new and established, to advance exposure of their books to a wider audience in traditional and unique ways. She is passionate about writers, and even more passionate about finding original and innovative directions to introduce them to new and larger communities of readers.
Most recently, she launched BookTrib.com, a "lifestyle destination for book lovers." More than just a book review site, BookTrib leverages social media and new technology to allow readers to actively engage with their favorite writers via online chats, messaging, and other platforms. It also provides a hands-on venue for Meryl's own author-clients to reach out directly to their existing and new readers and book lovers.
I chatted with Meryl about what drives her and what's led to her success as a female entrepreneur.
1. What led you to book publicity, as opposed to PR work in another industry?
I left college with a degree in Communications, but no grand plan about what to do with it. You always hear successful people say they always knew exactly what they were going to do, but I didn't. I knew I loved books -- I used to spend hours sitting on the floor of a bookstore and just let my eyes wander for fun, and I still do that. I also knew I was good at having a vision for how a project should work. A writer at the company I worked for suggested that I might get stuck if I didn't change things up. I was only in my early 20s but I knew I didn't want to "get stuck." In those days, I didn't even know that book publicity was a specialty, but I was given a gift by landing in it, and I completely fell in love with it.
2. What made you want to start your own business?
I come from a long line of entrepreneurs so it wasn't a novel thing, and I wanted to do so much more than I could by working for someone else. I knew I could only do that if I ran my own business.
3. Were there any special challenges to starting up a new company, specifically because you are a woman?
The publishing world has been dominated by women for a while, so it wasn't as difficult as it could have been. It's a very accepting world for women, probably more so than any other industry. Publicity, in general, is also very female-friendly, so that made it much easier.
4. Do you have a special radar for a book's success? Are there any hard and fast qualities of a book that tell you it's going to create buzz?
You have to break it down by non-fiction and fiction. A non-fiction book is easy to publicize if it has a "newsy" hook. Many PR opportunities are based on a news hook that the media can tie into. It could be a new study, a pop culture story, or a trending, general news event. That's always a flag that a book will be popular and that the media will be interested in covering it.
Fiction is different. There are a lot of surprises in fiction. For example, we represent Steve Berry, who writes popular thrillers like his recent bestseller, The Patriot Threat. But because his thrillers are based on historical events, it's a great opportunity for publicity because we can tie into that and appeal to a wider audience. The Patriot Threat turned into a bestseller after it released in March because it was about a mystery surrounding the 16th Amendment, which compels us to pay income tax, and it came out just in time for tax season.
5. Have you ever wanted to write a book yourself?
I thought about writing a book about the publicity business. But I recently became a columnist for Inc.com and that gives me the opportunity to spread my wings a bit. It's very exciting to mine your own repository of experiences and examine and relate what you really think about the business world.
6. Can you describe your "dream" client?
My dream client is someone who's collaborative, who's open to learning about how publicity works, and who's available. The window of opportunity for publicity closes very quickly because of our 24/7 news cycle, so a client who's available for a quick turnaround is going to be more successful. Mostly, though, my dream client is someone who's cheering us all on, who wants to be part of the team because we're working toward the same target -- their success.
7. What do you think is the most essential element to achieving a good working relationship with a client?
Hands down -- honesty. You really have to be straight about everything to build trust. Even before they're a client, honesty is essential to creating a relationship, because at the end of the day, that's all that matters.
8. What's the most important element to your relationships with employees?
After honesty, I'd say clarity of communication. With our busy days, it's easy to overlook a lot of the details, so you have to be very explicit and clear so everybody knows what's expected of them.
9. If you weren't running a successful publicity company, what do you think you'd be doing?
I'd probably be a travel journalist, writing for something like Conde Nast Traveler. I've always loved to experience different places, different foods, different people. I like to find secret, out-of-the-way gems where you just say, "Wow, where did that come from?" Not the big, fancy places but the ones that really show the people and the culture. Kind of like Anthony Bourdain meets Margaret Mead.
10. Tell me more about BookTrib.com. What makes it so unique?
We really believe that everything is better with books. For every aspect of your life, there's a book that can enhance whatever you're doing or thinking. So with BookTrib, we break things down into Sizzle ("Give us two minutes and we'll give you the hottest entertainment"); Smarts, which is all about learning -- health, career, self-help, food; and Stacks, where book lovers can get expert reviews and actually interact with authors through live chats.
What makes BookTrib different is that, in addition to entertaining and educating readers, we also provide a promotional and marketing engine for all our authors and publishers. In the world of media and publicity, coverage for books has been waning over the years, so we provide an essential platform that satisfies both the readers and the writers.