Marketing and publicity are often the things self-publishing authors struggle with the most. Doing this job yourself will only take you to a certain point in the process. Plus, consistent self-promotion and marketing can take their toll. Working with a book publicist means you can rest assured that a professional will help you achieve your goals.
While book distributors take care of some of the marketing, they don’t have the same influence as a publicist. In short, distributors focus more on the relationship with retailers while publicists handle media coverage. They work towards getting influential people talking about you and your book.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at precisely what a book publicist does and how you can find the right one for you.
Here's a list of everything you need to know about finding a great book publicist:
- What does a book publicist do?
- What does the process look like?
- What you don’t get from a book publicist
- Publicity as a self-publishing author vs. traditional publishers
- How do you know if you should hire a book publicist?
- When to get a book publicist involved
- Tips on how to find and work with a publicist
What does a book publicist do?
Put simply, a publicist’s job is to make a book or an author newsworthy. Traditionally, that meant getting relevant media coverage for your book. Depending on your budget and target audience, it can include newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and events. However, in today’s digital age, their role goes far beyond the traditional media platforms (although they’re also included in the scope).
The modern book publicist also works with various social media platforms, websites, blogs, podcasts, etc. They can help you avoid marketing tactics that are problematic by pointing you in the right direction. And they offer tools and guidance in an ever-changing digital marketing age. Good publicists understand the media so they can recognize which stories certain journalists want to write about.
So, what does the marketing process look like?
Typically, a book publicist starts with having an in-depth conversation with the author. They’ll ask about things like your goals, your writing, and your ideal target audience. From there, they’re able to build a campaign and create strategies to reach relevant media outlets. They usually work within two business models, traditional fee-based or pay-for-performance. The first means that the publicist gives you a fee based on what they’ll do and the job’s timeframe. Pay-for-performance means that they charge a set-up fee, then you pay on a per-placement basis. For example, a feature in a high-prestige magazine will cost more than an interview on your local radio station.
To sum it up, what can you expect to get out of a campaign? The result of a successful campaign may be one, or a few, of the following:
- Book reviews
- Recommendations and excerpts
- Feature stories
- Print and broadcast interviews
- Bylined articles
- Press releases
What you don’t get from a book publicist
Although publicists should be included in your marketing plan, strictly speaking, they’re not marketers. They don’t provide any advertising, such as billboards, social media ads, or Google ads.
They’re PR specialists, a term that falls under the marketing umbrella but with a slightly different focus. As PR specialists, their focus is to raise awareness of you and your book in publications that matter in your niche. While marketers focus on promoting or selling a specific product, a publicist works with strategic communication to build and maintain your reputation as an author.
Publicity as a self-publishing author vs. traditional publishers
For traditional publishers, the publicity campaign usually looks slightly different from one of a self-publishing author. Their focus for the publicity is around a book’s launch date, usually with a window of three to six months.
The reason for this is the bookstore’s retail models. Publishers want to sell as much as possible right after the book hits the stores, to avoid bookstores’ returns. Self-published books, on the other hand, aren’t typically distributed in high-volume to bookstores. Print-on-demand services (like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing) mean that there isn’t any pressure to avoid returns, so the timeframe for success can stretch over a more extended period.
How do you know if you should hire a book publicist?
First of all, book publicists are generally expensive. Especially the good ones. So, that raises the question – can you afford one? An experienced publicist can charge upward of $5,000 per month. With a good campaign running for at least two-three months, you’re looking at around $15,000. In saying that – if your budget allows it, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t hire a book publicist.
And if you’re in two minds about it, you could ask yourself a few questions to make the decision easier:
- Is your goal to reach a large audience with your book? Nation-wide, or even globally?
- Do you want to have a long-term career as an author?
- Are you willing to put in the work yourself when it comes to promotion and marketing?
- Can you afford the initial investment?
- Are you willing to pay the money without any guarantees?
If you’ve answered yes to most of those questions – you should start looking for a publicist. An option, if you’re on a tight budget, is to work with a local publicist. They typically charge less since there are fewer media outlets. Of course, this also means that you won’t get national coverage.
Note that some publicists don’t work with self-publishing authors, so make sure you check this when doing your research.
A book publicist offers no guarantees
What many authors don’t realize, and what can also hold some of them back, is that a publicity campaign doesn’t come with any guarantees. Many factors determine your campaign’s success, such as your publicist’s expertise and your story’s quality.
Traditional outlets, like radio and print, have shrunk while the number of published books has increased. That means the competition is fierce. So the harsh truth is that no matter how much money you put into a campaign, you can’t rely on getting traditional reviews or being featured in a big magazine. You can, however, increase your chances significantly.
Also, marketing and publicity is a process that will take time. You very rarely see any overnight success. Sure, you may see results in the first three months, but it can also take years. A pro tip is to consider a publicist as an investment in your career rather than focusing on getting the money back and boosting your sales within a few months.
It’s about getting people to recognize you in an over-saturated industry – about getting your name out there and start building your reputation. Think of the long-term results and the bigger picture.
When to get a book publicist involved
You should begin doing your research and get in touch with a publicist as soon as you start planning your marketing strategy i.e., a few months before your launch date. There are a few reasons for this:
- Availability. Good publicists are usually booked out, so if you’re late, you may need to settle for one that’s less in demand.
- Research time. You’re going to need plenty of time to find the best publicist for your book.
- Strategy planning. Your publicist needs time to create a strategy and start putting it in action, i.e., contacting media outlets, distributing advance review copies, etc.
A good campaign comes into play two or three months before your book launch, which should be the peak of your campaign. However, you don’t want to bring a publicist too early either. Make sure you have a draft of your book and a timeline for when you want to publish it. That gives them more to work with in terms of pricing and planning.
Bear in mind that even if you’re hiring a publicist, you still need to learn how to market your book. Publicity and marketing is a team effort, and the more work you put in – the better results you’ll see.
Publicity tasks you can do on your own (DIY Book Marketing)
The most successful authors are generally the ones who know their target audience and already have a platform (such as blog readers, social media followers, or podcast listeners). That way, when the publicist comes into the picture, they’re not starting from zero. The foundations are already in place.
Here are some things you can do before bringing in a publicist (and during the campaign).
- Learn the social media platforms. Find out where your target audience hangs out on social media. Reach out to them and grow your audience.
- Understand who your competition is. Do some research and find out who’s writing in your niche. These authors are potentially reaching the same target audience as yours. A great place to research books and authors is Goodreads.
- Connect with authors in your genre. Use your social media platform(s) to talk about other author’s books and reach out to them on social media. Try building a community of support instead of seeing them as your competition.
Tips on how to find and work with a publicist
To wrap things up, we want to give you some final tips on finding and working with a publicist. Since it’s such a significant investment, you want to get as much as possible out of the relationship. After all, it can be the way towards sky-rocketing your author career.
- Make a list. List the goals and outcomes you want to achieve from working with a publicist. Share this list with the publicist you’re looking to hire and ask for a proposal with fees included.
- Do a background check. Research other campaigns they’ve worked on. If possible, talk to their former clients. Find out if they’ve achieved the results you want.
- Have open communication. When you’ve found a publicist and got the ball rolling, make sure that you keep the communication open between you. You may find that parts of the campaign aren’t working, and you’ll need to put your focus elsewhere. Check in with each other regularly to determine what’s working and what isn’t.
Is a book publicist worth it?
A book publicist is worth it if hiring one makes sense for your book budget and allows your resources to be better used elsewhere.
As always, knowledge is power. The more you know about marketing and publicity yourself, the easier it will be to find the right publicist and have a successful campaign. And remember, marketing isn’t a one-off job, even though your campaign runs for a limited time only. Marketing continues for as long as your book can sell or as long as you have an author career.
Ready to go to the next level with your author journey? Swap one hour of Netflix with this free training to get your book published.