Kim Dower: Founder, Kim-From-LA: Trust Your Instincts & Wear a Fabulous Outfit!
Kim Dower is known throughout the publishing and publicity world as Kim-from-L.A., the name of the company she founded in 1985.
In addition to her work as a literary publicist, Kim Dower specializes in media training and coaching authors, speakers, and experts of all kinds how to best present themselves to the media.
Kim has advised hundreds of high-profile authors—including celebrities and business leaders—teaching them the presentation skills necessary to come across in both a professional and provocative way. An expert at showing her clients how to formulate the content of their message as well as teaching them how to deliver it clearly, concisely and passionately, Kim has also created national marketing and publicity campaigns for a wide range of literary and commercial fiction and non-fiction. She co-authored the book Life is a Series of Presentations, which has just sold to China.
Throughout her journey as a successful entrepreneur, Kim has maintained her first passion: poetry. Her first collection of poems, Air Kissing on Mars was published in October 2010 to great reviews and her second collection, Slice of Moon, will be published shortly.
We spoke to Kim about how technology helps her to juggle all the roles in her life; her advice for female founders on presenting themselves to venture capitalists and the media; and the biggest challenge she has faced in nearly 30 years of business.
TNW: How did you come up with the idea for your company, Kim-from-L.A. Literary and Publicity Services, and then arrive at the decision to turn your idea into a reality?
KD: I wanted to create a work situation for myself where I could use my skills and experience, do what I loved, and be in business for myself so I could work from home, have time to write, perhaps have a family (I had recently married) and stay involved with writers and writing. I started out as a poet, teaching creative writing at Emerson College in Boston, moved to L.A. where I got a job as an in-house publicist for a publishing company and loved writing press releases and doing publicity for authors and their books. It seemed like the perfect career for me - using my writing and communication skills to help promote writer's ideas. What could be better than convincing the press to cover interesting and exciting books, and to interview wonderful writers and have time to do my own writing.
The longevity of my company is the truest proof that doing what you love and being committed to it is the key to success.
TNW: What makes your company different from your competitors?
KD: I understand every aspect of the publishing/writing business because I've been involved in every aspect. I've had two books published -- one mainstream non-fiction and one poetry. I've been on my own book tours -- both for non-fiction books and poetry books. I can media train effectively because I know what it's like to be interviewed. There isn't one aspect of publishing that I haven't had direct, personal experience with, so the advice and guidance I give to my authors is heartfelt and based on hands-on knowledge.
TNW: What is your marketing strategy and what has been the most effective source of new customers so far?
KD: Word of mouth is my marketing strategy and has always been my most effective source of new customers. I have never advertised. I’ve reached out to publishers, gone to publishing conventions, made phone calls; but as the company has grown, so has my reputation and the work has always come on its own. My website is very helpful.
TNW: What lessons have you taken from your successes &/or failures?
The key to success is always listen to your gut. First thought, best thought. Follow your instincts.
Don't make the same mistake twice. Don't take on a client you feel (after the first conversation) you'll never be able to please. Don't try to talk someone into doing something. Listen to people. That's key. Listen to what they're telling you. Never make promises you can't keep and most importantly -- always over deliver.
TNW: What is your top tip for balancing motherhood with a career?
KD: Whenever possible, focus on and enjoy each role separately. Don't try to combine mothering while negotiating. Too stressful. There are times when the two worlds will collide, but try to arrange your time so they don't have to.
KD: How do you juggle the many roles in your life (poet, business owner, literary publicist, media trainer/coach, author)? What is the most challenging aspect of wearing so many hats? Does technology play a role in making your lifestyle possible?
KD: No matter what is happening with my business, writing poetry has become a priority, so whenever I can, I write. In the middle of the night if need be! I didn't start writing again until my son left for college when I suddenly had a time in my life I had forgotten about, so juggling everything became easier. Also, without technology it would be almost impossible to juggle all these roles. Computers, e-mail, mail merge programs -- all these things make the execution of tasks quicker, so what used to take hours -- preparing lists, mailing labels, generating information -- now takes minutes.
The biggest challenge to wearing so many hats is to wear each one with the necessary commitment, passion and energy and to give yourself a break!
That is, know when to switch gears and move on to the next task. Know how to delegate your own time and others. Decide what's most important and stick with the plan: this morning I'm going to stay home with my baby -- no matter what. At 2pm I'm media training a client and nothing can interfere with the energy and focus I'll need. Make your own rules and stick to them.
TNW: You founded your company in 1985. Have you seen attitudes towards female entrepreneurs change since then?
KD: Women are all over the workplace and have always been in my industry. They have always been as well-respected and admired as their male counterparts -- just paid a lot less for the same work.
TNW: What has been the biggest challenge that your business has faced in the last 27 years and how did you overcome it?
KD: The publishing industry gets reinvented every few years. In the last few years everything has changed. The media has been cut in half though the number of books being published has doubled. It's harder and harder to get a good media schedule for my clients. My biggest challenge is to stay focused on my goals for the business and my clients and keep learning what I need to know so I can serve them best.
It's important to know what's going on in your industry without becoming demoralized. It's vital to know when something's going to be difficult without letting it stop you in your efforts.
TNW: You are in expert in self presentation. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are preparing to present themselves and their business to venture capitalists?
KD: Be clear on what you want to say before going into your meeting. Know the three points you want to make and get them out no matter what. Know what your goals are going in. What do you want out of this? Be prepared to go with the flow of the meeting while staying on point. Never answer a question you don't know the answer to. Never pretend to know something you don't know. Always say, "that's a good question . . . let me get back to you." Eye contact is key. Asking other people questions is key.
TNW: What advice would you give to a female founder whose business is starting to succeed and is facing media exposure for the first time?
Get a fabulous outfit that you feel good wearing and trust your instincts. Don't go on when answering a question. Know when to stop. Smile!
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