An interview with Debbie Lykins, founder of Side Door Communications
You work with books for a living, you read books as a hobby, and you have loads of books in your house. Where does this love for books stem from?
I fell in love with books as a child. My sister passed away suddenly and books became my escape, a time when I could forget. I read everywhere I went—including walking home from the school bus stop. I spent hours with Ramona Quimby, SuperFudge, Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Happy Hollisters, and many others.
To this day, I still love to read and often stay up too late immersed in a book, especially a good suspense, thriller, or mystery. I love to scare myself. While my choice of books has changed over the years (although I secretly still like to read Ramona), my passion for books and the written word has remained.
What do you do as a book publicist?
I read a lot of books! I develop strategic media plans, create project-specific media lists, craft press materials, pitch editors and producers, and secure media coverage for books and authors. I’m also always looking for unique angles, new media outlets, and new reporters, editors, or producers to pitch. In recent years, I’ve been working with bloggers and I really enjoy that aspect of my job.
I also keep up-to-date on what’s happening in the world. I read the headlines throughout the day, always wanting to know what’s going on in the world. I think that’s why I studied journalism in college—I like to be in the know and this is important to being a good publicist.
Who are some of the authors you’ve worked with?
One of the benefits of this job is having the opportunity to meet lots of great people who are using the gifts God has given them to make a difference in other people’s lives. I’ve worked with several, including David Platt, Perry Noble, Dannah Gresh, Chip Ingram, Randy Alcorn, Gary Chapman, PeLisa Whelchel, Randy Singer, Pat Williams, Kirk Cameron, Steve Brown and Ira Wagler. I also handled publicity for the New York Times best-selling book, The Passion, with foreword by Mel Gibson. That was an exciting project to be a part of.
Where have you obtained coverage?
I’ve been able to secure coverage in both national and local media outlets such as Scholastic Parent & Child, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Christianity Today, Today’s Christian Woman, BeliefNet, and Publishers Weekly. I’ve also obtained coverage on outlets such as Prime Time Live with Diane Sawyer and booked interviews on outlets such as Delilah, Janet Parshall’s America, Prime Time America, Open Line, Salem Radio Network News, Daybreak USA, FamilyLife Today, and The Frank Pastore Show as well as numerous interviews on local Christian talk and music stations around the country.
How did you get into the book publicity business?
To be honest, before I got into publishing, I didn’t even know this kind of job existed. I served as a marketing manager for a subsidiary of a Fortune 100 company as well as in corporate communications, marketing, and publicity for a Chicago area accounting and technology consulting firm.
I first heard about book publicists when I began looking into the publishing industry and thought it was something that I might enjoy because it combined my love of books and the media with my background experience. I joined Tyndale House Publishers, a major international Christian publisher, as a print media publicist and then a senior publicist. I received a great education there, working on many, many books, writing lots of press materials, and connecting with media. I worked on campaigns in multiple genres, including adult fiction and nonfiction, inspirational romance, children’s books, and books for young adults.
Because of my interest in having my own business, I opened the doors of Side Door Communications in January of 2004.
How did you become interested in business?
My dad was a successful entrepreneur and I worked for and with him for several years. I learned the ins-and-outs of business but primarily how to treat people right and how to be successful without ever compromising who you are and what you believe. That’s what I want my business to be about.
What does Side Door refer to?
I read about the side door concept in a publicity book several years ago and it stuck with me. With some books, you can use the “front door” approach. For example, if I wrote a book on cancer, and I was an oncologist, that’s a pretty straightforward pitch to the media. But, for many books, you have to be more creative and take the “side door” approach. This involves finding unique angles and ways to get coverage.
What’s your educational background?
I graduated from Wheaton College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications, with a concentration in media and a minor in English. As part of a special program, I started working towards a master’s degree while I was still finishing my bachelors and earned my Master of Arts degree in communications from the Wheaton College Graduate School. For this degree, I concentrated in journalism and writing.
How about your personal life?
I live in suburban Chicago with my husband, Joel, two daughters, and a son. We love to do things as a family. Life is busy for sure, but we have a lot of fun.
Now that you know more about who we are and our background, next go to Our Success Stories page to learn more about the results we’ve achieved as well as the projects we’ve worked on.