From Writer to Publicist: An Unexpected Pivot

March 15, 2023 § 18 Comments

By Jennifer Lang

Last summer, a year before my book release, I reached out to a poet who’d posted her lineup of author events on Facebook, asking how far in advance she began planning them. Her answer: you can never start too early.

With Labor Day looming, I began to brainstorm. I Googled San Francisco Bay Area, where I was born and bred, in search of synagogues, yoga studios, and bookstores. I zoomed with an old camp friend who’d stayed put and planted deep roots in the Jewish world, taking notes of names of movers and shakers in various organizations, both local and national. I followed up with emails, dropping his name and introducing myself and my story—about moving back and forth from the U.S. to Israel, my French Jewish husband and I each in search of home.

As the High Holidays neared, emails either went unanswered or came to an abrupt halt. During the downtime, while in California visiting my parents, I popped into bookstores, introduced myself and asked about readings, collecting details about when to reach out, whom to contact. With my mother at my side, I thought about her go-to mottos that guided me: there’s nothing to lose and what’s the worst that could happen?

Upon my return to Tel Aviv, I input all my newly-acquired information into a spreadsheet. Free-associated every possible avenue to pursue: writing podcasts, book clubs, college alumni association. Zoomed with a fellow alum involved in the Reform Jewish movement in Florida. Her email introduced me to someone at the 92st Street Y, the biggest Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, who introduced me to someone else. I tracked every conversation. During a fast walk with a friend visiting from New York, I told her about my personal outreach program and she said to email her husband. After receiving my pitch, he made eight e-introductions to leaders in the Jewish community of Westchester, where we raised children before returning to Israel. I thanked him and asked each of his contacts if we could continue the conversation. My days were spent in front of my screen: emails, zooms, emails, phone calls, spreadsheets, more zooms.  

While my resourcefulness flourished, my writing floundered.

As January dawned, I hunkered down. Read book reviews, reached out to reviewers. Read interviews, reached out to interviewers. Approached writers through social media or their websites, asking if they would be open to reviewing my book or interviewing me. My mother’s words echoed in my ears.

I did the same for blurbs. Made a list of writers whose books shaped me and my work. Reached out to them or their agent: Dani Shapiro (I went to a memoir writing retreat at Kripalu with her), Mary Karr (whom I had the privilege of teaching a semi-private yoga class to in August 2011 weeks before we left White Plains), Anne Lamott (lives in the Bay Area), Kelly Corrigan (lived in the small city where I grew up), Claire Dederer (wrote Poser), Elizabeth Gilbert (zero connection), and a few others. Some answered; others evaporated into cyberspace.

I drafted and honed and personalized my pitch. Emailed everyone from my past—camp, childhood, college, colleagues—using a mixed sports metaphor, asking if they wanted to be on my team and if so, what position they were willing to play, everything from write a review on Amazon to write a book review for a literary journal. Most people answered, offering to cheer me on in some capacity, while others kept quiet, perhaps thinking I’d overstepped.

It is now March, and so far, I have a dozen events lined up for the fall and more zooms in the upcoming days.

Recently, a friend asked if I like this part of the process, and I told her that being a publicist—if that’s what this is—suits me. I’m organized, detail oriented, and bold. Because honestly, there’s nothing to lose. Really, what’s the worst that could happen?

Jennifer Lang was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, lives in Tel Aviv, and runs Israel Writers Studio. Her essays have appeared in the Baltimore Review, Crab Orchard Review, Under the Sun, Ascent, Consequence, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize and Best American Essays nominee, she holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and serve as Assistant Editor for Brevity. Places We Left Behind: a memoir-in-miniature and Landed: a yogi’s memoir in pieces & poses will both be published by Vine Leaves Press (September 2023 and October 2024). You can learn more about Jennifer Lang and her books at or find her on her yoga mat: practicing since 1995, teaching since 2003.

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