Even in today’s world of digital and guerrilla marketing, publicity is an essential aspect of promoting your book and generating buzz. Media coverage is harder to come by than ever, but it’s still the most effective way to stimulate book sales, especially appearances on national TV.
Unless you are a publicist yourself, do not attempt to do your own publicity. Media outreach is so much more than just sending out a press release—this job is all about relationships that are cultivated over time and built on trust. That’s why it’s worth hiring a professional to run your media campaign. In addition to their valuable connections, they can respond quickly and efficiently to media requests.
Here’s what you should know when choosing a book publicist.
First, you’ll want to start getting your publicity team in place at least four to five months in advance of your book’s publication date, or even sooner, if you’re planning a major media outreach.
Publicists vary widely in terms of their fees, media contacts, and category focus. It’s important that your book publicist understands you as an author and is as excited to share your book with the world as you are, so be prepared to interview several firms before making a decision about who to work with. One way to start your search is by asking for referrals from other authors or in online forums.
One strong word of advice: Always work with publicists who specialize in book launch campaigns, rather than generalists or specialists in other areas. Book publicity is very different from other types of media or PR campaigns. This is not just about sending out a press release and waiting for the interviews and reviews to roll in. You need a team who knows how to best support authors and find compelling feature angles within your book. Even more importantly, you need a book publicist who has strong contracts with the right segments of the media.
In your interview, you should try to determine:
- Their level of experience with your type of book and the type of campaign you’re seeking
- Their fees and other terms
- What they will be like to work with
Here are some good interview questions and discussion points to help you determine each of these things.
1. Do they have experience with your type of book and campaign?
- Have they run many national book launch campaigns? Ask for examples of previous clients, and an indication of results.
- What services do they include in their campaign? You want them to say: creation of a press kit and press release, media training, targeted custom pitches to media, regular written reports.
- Do they offer any content creation services or digital marketing, such as Goodreads giveaways, social media ads, etc.? These are optional, but nice to consider.
- Do they specialize in any particular types of books? This is important for non-fiction books, since different categories will be aimed at different media outlets.
- Can they set up opportunities for you to blog / guest post for major online outlets such as Huffington Post, Business Insider, Forbes, etc.? Be selective with this one. For these purposes, small podcasts and blogs are usually a waste of time.
- Do they have solid relationships with members of the traditional media / specific media outlets? If so, who and which ones? Online media are important, but you really need your book publicist to be able to get you into mainstream national media. That’s where the really big-impact hits occur.
- Where are they based? New York or LA are best (for U.S. campaigns) because that’s where the country’s most important media outlets are based.
- Do they mainly work with self-published authors, small presses, and / or major publishing houses? Avoid anyone who mainly works with self-published authors.
- What’s their relationship with television media like? National TV has the biggest impact on sales.
- What can they do in your hometown? It’s always much easier to get coverage in your own media market, but only if your PR team has decent connections there.
2. What are their fees and other terms?
- What’s their fee structure and timeframe for the campaign? Do they have a range of packages, or do they work on a flat monthly retainer? This is a matter of preference for you, depending on your budget constraints. Most of the bigger U.S. firms take a monthly retainer of between $3,000 and $7,000, with a four- to six-month minimum, plus expenses. Smaller firms may offer all-in packages.
- Will there be expenses on top of fees? Usually they will agree to a mailing / incidentals budget with you ahead of time, typically around $2,000 for a major campaign.
- How many advance reading copies (ARCs, aka galleys) do they expect to send out? How many finished copies? You’ll need to factor the cost of printing and shipping these copies into your PR budget.
3. What will they be like to work with?
- How many people will be working on your campaign, and in what roles? Ideally you want a dedicated point person for you to deal with, but input from a team is valuable too.
- How would they handle this particular book campaign? Ask them to give some brief, first-glance recommendations.
- Ask them to estimate what kind of response they might expect. Many will decline to guess at this, and that’s okay—but you can always ask.
- Ask them what excites them about your book. This tells you how they will sell it to media.
- Can they prepare a proposal for you? The quality of their sales materials tells you a lot about their professionalism and presentation.
Choosing a book publicist can take time, so it’s best to get started earlier than you think is necessary. While the first people you speak to may seem like a great fit, it’s worth talking to multiple firms as finding the right one can make a big difference in your PR experience. Oh, and if you see typos or bad grammar in their emails or their proposal document, run away!
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