Finding and Working With a Book Publicist: Oh, the Stories
I’ve heard a lot of nightmare stories from authors who were working with a book publicist and didn’t get what they wanted out of the relationship or investment. Sometimes I think that happens because of misaligned expectations, or even a misunderstanding of what working with a book publicist can achieve or accomplish.
Put another way: When it comes to book marketing and sales, it’s not always easy to say “Effort A led to Outcome B,” especially if book sales gain momentum from word of mouth (that’s still often the case), and authors don’t have access to precise sales analytics. You can’t always figure out how or why someone decided to visit Amazon or their local bookstore to buy your book.
A publicist is often seen primarily as a key to mainstream media coverage, but they also have tremendous value outside of that. They can cover marketing and promotion activities that you could do yourself, but they can often do it better, more efficiently or more knowledgeably. Their professional finesse may lead to a better impression and more sales in the long term, and leave you time to focus on other high-value activities. They can also help you avoid marketing tactics or campaigns that they know are problematic, or point you toward new, useful tools they’ve discovered. This is one of the key values pointed out by bestselling author Jamie Freveletti when I interviewed her for this piece on book marketing; her publicist provides her with savvy guidance—and a person to bounce ideas off of—in a confusing and ever-evolving digital marketing age.
But let’s go back to the beginning: why are nightmare stories about publicists so easy to find? Quite simply, because authors are expecting something that’s not delivered. Here are some tips to avoid that situation.
Tips on Effectively Finding and Working With a Publicist
1. Make a list, in writing, of the specific outcomes you’re looking for the publicist to achieve, and how that connects to what you are doing and what your publisher is doing. Share this with each publicist you might hire and ask for a proposal (along with their fees)
2. Before hiring a publicist, research other campaigns they’ve worked on. Have they achieved the kind of results you’re looking for? Talk to their past clients if at all possible
3. After the publicity campaign starts, you and the publicist will find that some aspects of the campaign are not working. This is common and a sign that refocusing is necessary. Talk it over with your publicist. Even better, have pre-determined check-in dates to talk about progress, what’s working and what’s not
If you’re having a difficult time finding a quality publicist, check out these firms…
1. Dana Kaye at Kaye Publicity. I interviewed Kaye for my Scratch articles on book marketing (see below), and she’s the real deal
2. At a recent panel of journalist entrepreneurs I attended, Hustle Labs and Distill were called out as valuable marketing and publicity firms. Hustle focuses specifically on nonprofits and progressives. (This speaks to the benefit of finding a firm or publicist who has specific knowledge of the communities, niches, or audiences you want to reach.)
For more reading on how to find and work with a publicist, I recommend
1. What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Hire a Publicist by Kathleen Schmidt
2. The Age of the Algorithm, my piece on the evolution of book marketing
3. Book Marketing: The Basics, my piece on the ground rules for launching a book
You might also find these surprising tips helpful: How to Host a Successful Book Launch