Who am I?
Helena Brantley is a communications professional in the publishing industry who specializes in promoting non-fiction books by scholars, subject experts, and publishers. After managing publicity campaigns for HarperCollins and Nolo Press, Helena began promoting books independently in 2010.
Red Pencil Publicity + Marketing is a Company of One where Helena collaborates with a hand-selected team of independent subcontractors, including graphic designers, editors, writers, and researchers, to create effective promotional campaigns. Helena is a proud native of New Jersey, having lived in Fort Lee, Princeton, and Paterson. She began her career at public relations and marketing agencies in New York City and Washington, DC. Helena currently resides in Alameda, CA with her husband and two daughters.
During the first exploratory conversation, the author and I learn about each other. Sometimes the publisher and agent are present as well. We delve into the specifics of the book, including the vertical, motivations, and inspirations for the project, and discuss initial ideas, goals, and possible tactics for the book’s promotion. We also discuss if and how the publisher will support the campaign in this conversation.
I read the books I work on because it best informs my approach to marketing and promoting them. Everything from finding endorsers to identifying venues are informed by reading the books, often in manuscript form. I also review the Author Questionnaire completed for the publisher.
After reading the book and determining if it’s a project I can and want to help promote, I propose a scope of work to discuss with the author. This document may be revised to best reflect the unique needs, priorities, goals, and budget of the project.
Once we’ve agreed on this scope and a contract is signed, we create a timeline to guide the project. From that point on, we’ll collaborate over the course of the promotional campaign.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of books do you promote?
I work with scholars, subject matter experts, and publishers of non-fiction books whose work is of interest to both academics and mainstream readers.
“Subject-matter experts” can be a nebulous term, because it encompasses a variety of individuals. A subject matter expert can be a writer with several degrees after their name, or they can be someone who possesses a valuable lived experience. The point is, their book demonstrates mastery. I am also hired by publishers, authors and other organizations to strategically consult on campaigns.
Why do you do this work?
Even before I loved my way through my only public relations class at Marist College, my instinct has long been to share with people things that move, excite and help me learn. Relating to the public is also one of the most effective ways to inform and excite and working with authors and publishers allows me to do just that.
What do you do for authors and publishers?
I work with authors to design and implement a promotional plan that introduces the ideas inside their book. Hopefully, they sell many books, have fun in the process, and are ultimately able to connect with readers whose lives are enriched by their work.
How is your approach different?
My approach is characterized by my insatiable curiosity, voracious consumption of all types of information and experiences, and on being relational in my work. I have a keen interest in improving systems and processes and am always learning how to make things better—myself included. I am continuously refining my methods, improving, tweaking, adapting, making mistakes, and innovating how I work with authors, publishers, and subcontractors.
Helena Brantley was our not-so-secret weapon.
Helena guided our team through the maze of contemporary American publicity and marketing.
Efficient, productive and successful
Working with Helena Brantley was a dream experience I hope to repeat on future books.
Helena is one of the most thoughtful people I have ever met.
I only wish I’d begun working with Helena sooner!