Monday, October 5, 2009

Meet Sara Dobie!!

I would like to welcome Sara Dobie, PR Extraordinaire for the ever-growing, popular Sylvan Dell Publishing!! Be sure to keep on reading to learn something new about the field, the company, or for some simply fun talk about books!! Enjoy!!


Tell me a little bit about yourself . . . who you are, what you do, etc.

My name is Sara Dobie, and I’m the Public Relations Coordinator for Sylvan Dell Publishing. Among other things, I spend my work days writing press releases, updating the SD website (, stalking social me
dia sites (,, and Facebook), pitching our product to the media, and juggling 64 clients…all while retaining a semi-sane psychological persona.

When I’m not “at the office,” I tend to take the office home. After hours, I keep up with my personal blog and Twitter (,, while editing my most recent novel, SNM, completed in January 2009 and now in the editing process. I also have a tendency to appear as lead vocalist at a couple Charleston, SC venues. On Sunday afternoons, I watch approximately eight hours of football, while screaming “Go STEELERS!” at the top of my lungs.

How did you get to be where you are today (career-wise)?

I wrote my first novel in seventh grade, and I once convinced a friend that the spiders in her basement were coming to get her. In other words, I was meant for press releases and media spin. After working as an independent contractor for sculptor and children’s book author George Carruth, I decided to start my own PR firm in Ohio, called Tree Town Promotions. After a year of going crazy repping Midwestern authors and illustrators in a tiny apartment in the Toledo suburbs, I sought the company of other book nerds. I sought Sylvan Dell, and after a split second decision move to Charleston, I took over as Public Relations Coordinator in June of 2008.

What do you believe is your favorite part of your job?

The VARIETY. I’ve had boring jobs. Who hasn’t? Those jobs where you sit around and search for something to fill the time until you feel like your brain is going to start leaking from your ears. I’ve also had repetitive jobs—mindless, and again, inspiring brain leakage. My job at Sylvan Dell is never dull, never mindless, and there is always something to do. The best part of this “always having something to do” is the VARIETY. One day, maybe I’ll organize new releases for award submissions. The following morning, I’ll write a self-promotion column for an author blog. In the afternoon, I’ll do research on the big names in the children’s lit media and brainstorm ways to get SD on their minds. The creative thought opportunities are endless! What is it they say? “Variety is the spice of life.” It certainly rings true around here.

For those who may be interested in pursuing a similar career, what would be one piece of advice that you would share with them?

To be a Public Relations Coordinator: Learn to be very sneaky. Don’t take this the wrong way. I throw it out there with the best intentions. “Sneaky” does NOT mean going behind people’s backs and spreading gossip. It does NOT mean stalking editors and agents or members of the media.

It DOES mean keeping up with industry news, so you know who’s doing what, when, and how your company can fit into the equation. For instance, let’s say CNN recently did a story about children’s literacy. My way of being sneaky would be to try to find the reporter who covered this story. Then, I can be even sneakier. I can get in touch with said reporter and say, “Hey, liked your segment, you should probably do one about us, too.”

It DOES mean sending thank you notes ALWAYS for just about anything, in order to endear people to you/your company.

It DOES mean you have to take part in industry bulletin boards, forums, and websites to build a name for your company.

Finally, it DOES mean you have to join mailing lists like Help a Reporter Out and Blogger Link-Up and pitch appropriately to get you/your company media coverage.

Being sneaky isn’t a bad thing. It just means you’re getting support and coverage through creative and off-the-beaten-path sources, which should never be overlooked.

For authors of educational children's books, what advice would you share with them?

OY! – for goodness sake, do your homework! For one thing, you would not believe how many manuscripts we receive addressed to “Sara Dobie.” This is wrong. This is bad. I have nothing to do with the manuscripts. In fact, our website is insanely clear on submission policy. See HERE: Most publishers have websites nowadays. Look at them, and know what you’re doing before you even THINK about submitting a manuscript.

Now, that I’ve gotten the ANGER out of my system…additional advice would be to watch the market and ask for advice. In regards to the market, do more homework. Find out who’s publishing what on what topics and which of those topics is selling? Also, if there is a foreseeable educational event coming up within the next three years, write about it! For instance, what about meteor showers? What about an important anniversary/bicentennial/etc? Writing a book that is easily related to relevant current issues is very easy to market.

In regards to asking for advice, if you’d like to write an educational children’s book, ask TEACHERS what they need. Where is the market lacking? What subject matter has been overlooked? What topic do they need covered, in an easy to understand and attractive matter? As an educational children’s book author, these people are your target audience. Ask them what they need, and run with it!

Recently noted in the latest
Book Beat Newsletter, Sylvan Dell Publishing is celebrating its 5th birthday! This must be an exciting time for you and the company. What can we expect to come in the next five years?

A bigger office? … Tee, hee. Just kidding. Kind of.

I don’t want to give it ALL away, but I’ll give you a teaser about the SD eBooks: We want moms, dads, and grandparents to be able to record a reading of our books and add that audio to the language selection list. This is especially important for military families with a parent overseas. Imagine being able to read your child to sleep from hundreds of miles away! We are also developing an iPhone, iPod, and iPod touch application so that our eBooks will be available on handhelds AND an online data capture system to allow teachers to track student reading and quiz performance.

Of all the Sylvan Dell books, which would you consider to be your personal favorite?

I’m sure you’ve heard this cop-out before, but that’d be like a parent picking a favorite kid. Not gonna do it.

What is your favorite book in general with no limits on genre?

Urrrr…FAVORITE? Oh, man…how about three?

The Stranger, by Albert Camus (He did it “because of the heat.”)

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad (“THE HORROR THE HORROR.”)

Written on the Body, by Jeanette Winterson (“Why is the measure of love loss?”)

You write a little yourself as evidenced over at
your personal blog. Will you share a few details about your own personal adventures in writing?

I’ve been a writer all my life. I’d be nuts if I didn’t write. For me, it’s the way to get the bad out. Case in point: after a break up, I wrote my most recent novel in four months. I mean, talk about catharsis! There’s a quote by Stephen King that I carry with me every time I see that blank page: “Writing is not life, but it can bring you back to life.” I believe this, because I’ve been there—crying on the floor in fetal position, and then, WHAM, creative epiphany.

I will say that it’s hard being a writer. Very rarely do people “get” you. They don’t understand why you have to lock yourself in your room for hours at a time and write, write, write. Plus, the industry is atrocious. Editors don’t care how much work you put into your manuscript. They don’t care how hard you life has been. They do care if your book will sell, and if you convince them of that, you had better be prepared to market the heck out of yourself and that book. I’ll know if you don’t. I’m a PR chick in a publishing house, and I’m sneaky.

What I’m trying to say is that writing is wonderful. Writing is life-saving. It’s shattering, too, especially after rejection letter five-billion. However, if my personal adventures in writing have taught me anything, it’s don’t give up. Never give up.

In honor of the month of October and Halloween at the end of the month, what would you consider to be a must read for this month?!?

Obviously Bunnicula, by James Howe. What better book to creep you out and make you laugh at the same time? You’ll never look at white bunny rabbits in the same way…

Thanks Sara!!!


  1. Great interview....and sound advice!

  2. What a good interview! It's nice to hear about another side of this industry. And Sara is very dedicated to work AND write!

  3. J. Kaye . . . I had a good time with this one!!

    Kristen . . . That's what I loved about this idea . . . providing a different perspective beyond the blogger and author!! There's much more to the book world than meets the eye!! :)


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