Dana Kaye introduced new creative energy to publishing when she entered the field with her own PR company in 2009. Her branding thrives from her own intuition and knowledge about social media, emerging cultural trends, and thought. She has helped her clients find themselves in their own unique brands. Kaye has published best-sellers and has worked with authors who have strong, coveted voices. She even had the foresight to make her company virtual, leaving behind the obsolete world of office buildings in favor of a closer-than-ever workforce that spans multiple major cities. Dana Kaye is also the author of Your Book, Your Brand: The Step-by-Step Guide to Launching Your Book and Boosting Your Sales, and the creator of Branding Outside the Box, where she helps creative small business owners become more memorable.
We reached out to Dana to get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most brilliant minds of modern publishing.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I help creative business owners become more memorable and make more meaningful connections. I founded my PR company, Kaye Publicity, Inc., in 2009, specializing in publishing and entertainment. I’m the author of Your Book, Your Brand: The Step-By-Step Guide to Launching Your Book and Boosting Your Sales and The Personal Brand Workbook. I’m passionate about helping creatives create thriving careers and fulfilling lives.
Who/What inspired you to venture into public relations?
I began as a freelance writer and book critic, but in 2008, I was seeing the writing on the wall. Print publications were filing for bankruptcy, staffers were getting laid off. I realized my job may not be so secure. I spent some time trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. What I realized was that my favorite part of reviewing books was telling people what to read. I love pairing people with a book they may have never heard of, but would definitely enjoy.
That’s when I thought book publicity and marketing would be a logical next step. But there was just one problem: publishing is mostly in New York and I’m a proud Chicagoan.
I was applying for jobs in New York. I was doing so half-heartedly because I honestly didn’t want to move. Then, at a writer’s conference, I was speaking with an author friend, Jamie Freveletti. She’s a thriller author and her first book, Running from the Devil, was slated to come out that spring. She was saying that she was going to hire an independent publicist.
That’s when I stood up and raised my hand. And Kaye Publicity was born.
What is your typical day like & how have you adjusted to the current pandemic?
Things are far from typical these days, so I’ll give you a before and after shot! Before social-distancing and the shelter-in-place order, I typically got up around 5:30a to plan my day before my son wakes up. I use a Panda Planner to map out my schedule, big projects, small tasks, plus a gratitude practice. When the boy would wake up, it’s the breakfast-lunch-packing-did-you-brush-your-teeth? dance, then I’d walk him to the bus stop and be back by 7:45a. On good days, I’d work out for 45 minutes. Then, take a quick shower, and be ready for my first meeting at 9am. My days are typically a mix. Potential client calls, client-related calls, content creation (email marketing, website copy, etc.), and business planning. At the beginning of 2019, I fully committed to wearing the CEO hat rather than wearing all the hats. So unless a staff member needs support, I’m seldom pitching media, creating social media content, etc.
These days look a bit different. My son attends school over zoom and my wife’s job has been extra intense. So, we came down to Florida to quarantine with my in-laws and get some extra support. Right now, I work while he plays in the pool or builds with legos. I also facilitate his online school. I’m still committed to working out every day and wearing my CEO hat. But I’m also giving myself grace to work a bit less and not do #allthethings.
What do you think has helped you the most with your success?
From the beginning, I said no to clients who weren’t a good fit or whose books wouldn’t properly represent our company. My wife thought I was crazy. She’d say, “You have two clients, you’re not in a position to be turning down work!” By only taking on clients who aligned with my values and only working on quality books, I built a positive reputation among reviewers. (Which helps our books get reviewed more frequently.) And, I built an image of exclusivity that helps attract our target clients.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing what you have to do to pay your bills. It’s important to remember that every client or project you take on speaks to your brand and your mission. And when you say yes to a “no” client, you may have to say no to a “yes” client.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to achieve your goals?
Growing a strong and engaged team is my ongoing challenge. I’m an introvert and more of a “lone wolf” type. I am perfectly content to work alone and make all the decisions in a bubble. When I made the decision to scale my agency by hiring a team, I needed to figure out how to properly hire, motivate, delegate, and lead those team members. I can honestly say that after eight years of having team members, I’m still learning and growing. (But I’ve gotten much better!)
How do you reward yourself after a hard day’s/week’s/month’s work?
As you can imagine, I read a lot for work. On the weekends, I make an effort to only read for pleasure. I also enjoy spending time outside (running, cycling, swimming, or just walking the dog).
I don’t find myself gravitating towards “rewards” very often; instead, I try to give attention to areas that weren’t previously getting attention. So, if I had previously been working a lot at night or traveling for work, I’ll take a half-day to spend with my son or try to arrange for a date night with my wife.
What advice can you give to our readers?
Do your best to avoid the comparison trap. With social media, online communities, and conferences, we see so much more of what everyone else is doing. It’s easy to think, “Should I be doing that too?” or “What am I doing wrong?” But one person’s path isn’t necessarily your own. For example, I sometimes find myself feeling jealous of people who are on the speaking circuit and earning thousands of dollars for speaking on stages around the world. But then I remember, I don’t particularly enjoy traveling for work. It puts a huge strain on the home front. It causes me to put a pause on my own work, and it’s also incredibly draining. Two to three speaking gigs a year is plenty for me.
Instead of looking at other people and asking yourself if you’re missing something or falling behind, ask yourself, “Is that my path?”
Who do you look up to or admire?
For entrepreneurial success, I have great admiration for Emily Thompson of Almanac Supply Co and Being Boss. For work in publishing, I am in awe of what Jo Volpe of New Leaf Literary has accomplished. And for what it means to be a mom, my hard-working and dedicated wife.
Your work is groundbreaking. Is there an accomplishment that you feel most proud of?
That’s kind of you to say! I feel the most accomplished when we help our clients get to the next level. Working with existing bestsellers is great, but there’s no greater feeling than working with an author over the course of a couple years and seeing them hit the bestseller list, then climbing into the top top ten, then hitting that top ten list over and over again. I’ve had coaching clients turn their side-hustles into full-time careers. I’ve established name recognition for debut authors. My greatest accomplishment is playing a role in helping our clients advance their careers and move from one phase to another.