A Publisher's Conversations with Authors: Do I Need a Publicist?

(photo by Frank Perez)

It is Tuesday. Time to talk turkey. Monday's madness is over, and Wednesday will take us over the hump, so Tuesday it is--for some serious discussion with authors. Tuesday talks mean to address authors in waiting and self-published authors who would like to go a more traditional route or who would at least like to take their steps with a publisher by their side.

While every traditional publisher, such as MSI Press LLC, accomplishes promotion and marketing activities, no press can pay exclusive attention to any one book -- and once a book gets long in the tooth, it often becomes unprofitable for a press to dedicate significant resources to promoting it. So, the question frequently arises, even with traditional presses, as to whether an author should spend the money to hire a publicist. Or, can you, as author, handle the publicity on your own? Some of the MSI Press authors have hired publicists; others have decided to try to make it a go on their own. This is a personal and professional decision.

Let's look at the pros and cons.

Here is what a publicist can do for you (the "pro"s):

  • Provide networks you do not have.
  • Get your book attention, when it is one of tens of thousands being published on any given day.
  • Remove the need for you to handle marketing that requires skill, money, and time: building a bang-up website and platform, getting reviews, finding magazines/journals that will accept your articles (where you can reference your book), set up book tours, get into bookstores, actively engage social media.
  • Help you brand your product.

There are very few cons to hiring a publicist; some are

  • There is always a cost -- can you afford it? Publicists do not generally work on commission. There are a range of fees, however. If you have the money, then it may make sense to spend it to make your book better known. 
  • Publicists will expect you to make yourself available for promotional opportunities. Are you willing?
  • As with everything else in the publication world, there are scammers out there, willing to take money from unsuspecting authors--be careful! 
  • Likewise, there are good publicists and not-so-good ones; get a reference!

Before making a decision, think about the following:

  • Can you afford to do it? Can you afford not to do it?
  • Why did you write the book?
    • If it is a vanity project, e.g., to preserve family history for ensuing generations, then a publicist would not only be overkill but not really able to help sell many books that are so specifically targeted.
    • If you wrote the book because you want to get information to a specific group of readers about an important but unknown topic, a publicist might help, but for a smaller investment of money and a greater investment of time, you might end up with better results by communicating with related associations either directly or through social media.
    • If you wrote the book because you consider yourself a future author, and this is to become, you hope, your career, then you will likely benefit from having a publicist to do the promo and marketing work so that you can spend more time on generating other books (though, of course, a publicist cannot be effective unless you make a fair amount of time available for supporting the efforts of your publicist).
  • Do you have both the money and skills to do your own promotion? If not, they you may be in a position of hiring a publicist or having your book remain unknown and unsold.

No matter what--with a publicist or without--if you expect your book to sell, you will need to invest copious amounts of dedicated To read more about hiring a publicist, what to expect, and what to watch out, check out this article from NY Book Editors, keeping in mind that they are going to be preferentially disposed toward hiring a publicist. To determine if you are ready, check our the four readiness factors suggested in this article.

Lesson for today's Tuesday talk: Publicists can take your book farther than you can alone (generally), but you must put in a lot of work.

Publicists cannot do all the work for you. They can open doors; you must be able (i.e. prepared) and willing to walk through them. The amount of energy you will be expected to put into marketing your book with a publicist may be more than a publisher would expect of you. Hiring a publicist does not relieve you of work, but it prepares you with a partner who has a set of skills and contacts that you probably do not have, and this should help your sales.

Read more posts about publishing HERE.


Popular posts from this blog

Released This Week: Lamentations of the Heart, Mingled with Peace and Joy (Wells-Smith)

Just Released: A Theology for the Rest of Us (Yavelberg)