Six Things Your Publicist Won’t Tell You

Tired of banging your head against the proverbial wall in terms of your book publicity? Ready to scrape together the cash and hire a professional to publicize your book?

Hiring a publicist could be the best thing you could do for your book. Or it could be a huge money sink with no dividends. If you’re considering hiring a publicist for your book, learn what your publicist won’t tell you. (And then check out the dozens of other articles on the http://www.PublishingGame.com web site, and sign up for the (free) Expertizing email newsletter on how to do your own publicity at http://www.PublishingGame.com/signup.htm).

So, what six things won’t your publicist tell you?

I don’t need a license. Like literary agents, publicists aren’t required to have any sort of license, which means that no one has ‘vetted’ their credentials. Though you can go to school to study publicity, and you can join professional associations (such as PRSA), many publicists have neither educational nor professional association credentials. This doesn’t necessarily make them bad publicists—but it does mean that you must check their references carefully. The best way to get a publicist is to hire someone who comes highly recommended—by someone you know.

PR is a crap shoot. For even the best practitioners, publicity is hard to guarantee. Sometimes you hit it, and sometimes you don’t. So there’s no such thing as guaranteed publicity—and any publicist who promises you guaranteed publicity is full of it.

You can probably skip the press kit. The first thing most publicists will do for you is to prepare a press kit. They do this for two reasons: It’s an easy deliverable to produce (all you need is a jazzy folder and some glossy photographs and press materials). And it gives the publicist something tangible to point to that they’ve accomplished for the campaign.

The problem is, there’s almost no reason to do a press kit these days. (I almost never do them for my clients.) Sure, you can send them to journalists and broadcast media. But you’re often better off sending a (much cheaper) straight press release: It’s more likely to be read, and harder to lose in the pile. So if the first thing your potential publicist promises you is a press kit, think about looking elsewhere.

Radio isn’t a panacea. Publicists tend to book a lot of radio for their clients because it’s easier to get broadcast time than print space. But radio has a few disadvantages: It doesn’t have the longevity of printed publicity (It won’t turn up in a doctor’s office reception room three years later, for example). It doesn’t get passed from friend to colleague the way printed articles do. And people listen to it from their cars, making it harder for them to jot down the name of your book even if they intend to buy it. So although it’s worth doing some radio in your publicity mix, be wary of the publicist who focuses on radio to the exclusion of all else. It’s easier for the publicist—but usually not as good for the book. (The few people who have made their book bestsellers by doing hundreds of radio shows have really been on the air way more than most authors would prefer.)

Press releases need *news*. It’s easy to write a press release that does not get pick-up by the press. But if you really want your press release to get exposure, keep in mind that it needs to have a strong news angle. (“I have a new book” or “I hired a new employee” is not considered news.) Your publicist knows this—but since it’s easier to write a press release that doesn’t have a strong news hook, sometimes that’s what you’ll get. Insist that each of your press releases has a strong news angle.

Good PR is expensive. Good PR is expensive; top PR professionals get a minimum of $5000 per month, and the prices can run much, much higher And PR campaigns need to be run over a several-month period in order to be effective, so most PR professionals won’t take you on for less than six months minimum. So if you’re thinking about taking the plunge, be sure you’re prepared to spend at least $30,000.

So march out and hire that publicist. But be sure you have realistic expectations—and that you know what you’re buying.

Fern Reiss, CEO of PublishingGame.com/Expertizing.com, is the author of The Publishing Game book and workshop series. She only takes three publicity clients each year, but her Expertizing.com Workshops can teach you how to get more media attention for your book and business; they take place at the Ritz Carlton Hotels in Boston on September 25 and NYC on September 18. To learn more, sign up for Fern’s free Expertizing email newsletter at http://www.PublishingGame.com/signup.htm.


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