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.


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