Book Publicity News

Friday, September 09, 2005

WHEN YOUR BUDGET IS LIMITED: TO HIRE OR NOT TO HIRE AN OUTSIDE BOOK PUBLICIST

Many authors wonder if it is worth it to hire an outside publicist, especially when your budget is limited. In my experience both as an in-house publicist and manager of a publicity department, as well as an outside publicist, I can tell you that most authors receive a very limited amount of publicity from their publishers.

Even bestselling authors and authors who receive large advances can benefit from the time, attention and creative efforts that an outside publicist will put into your campaign.

Publishers generally print advance reading copies (arcs or galleys) which are sent to monthly magazines and national media. But persistant follow-up is essential in this business, especially for a new or relatively unknown author. For such authors, a successful campaign will more often than not depend upon outstanding press materials and, more importantly, a focused concentrated effort to create the buzz about their book.

You will probably not receive the focused follow-up from an in-house publicist that you need to really get the word out. Think about this: Every editor out there receives hundreds of books a month. Some packages don't even get opened.

When I call editors the first go-around, it is to make sure they received the book. In many cases, either the package remains unopened, or the book is lying in a huge pile of books that an editor hasn't had the time to sort through. A head-ups call, followed by a creative pitch will put your book on the editor's radar.

In the 15+ years I've been handling publicity, I can tell you that I have garnered my authors review attention that they would not have otherwise received by making numerous follow-up calls and e-mail pitches until I hear definitively from the editor as to whether or not they will review a book.

In one case, after I made my first round of follow-up calls for a chick lit mystery, I e-mailed a teaser excerpt from the book. Even though Cosmopolitan Magazine had told me they received the galley, minutes after I e-mailed the teaser excerpt, I received a call from the book editor's office asking me to overnight a galley. The book was one of three titles reviewed several months later.

I have gotten review attention for debut novelists and first-time authors who would not have received coverage had they not hired an outside publicist. And I handle smaller campaigns for those who have limited budgets.

The author who received a review in Cosmopolitan hired me for a huge campaign, which included newspaper coverage, television, radio and a 3-city tour. But even if she spent a small portion on magazine coverage only, as many debut novelists do, that one placement in Cosmopolitan would have been worth it.

Consider this: one placement in a national magazine gets read by thousands, in some cases, millions of readers. Even if your advance is small, it is worth it to get your book noticed. You are writing your book for an audience. You want people to read what you have written. If you don't take charge of your book's campaign, you are relying on luck and chance. If you do take charge, your publicist can complement the efforts of your publisher, and do much, much more to ensure that your book gets media coverage.

Another example of how an outside publicist can work for you is getting coverage in creative ways, or through the back door. I was trying to get a debut novelist coverage in a particular magazine who passed on her book. I suggested to the author that she write an essay on the subject of her novel, and I managed to place her essay in the very same magazine. Her byline also mentioned her book, which is always great coverage, and media attention that she would not have received if she had not hired an outside publicist.

Nothing is a guarantee in this business. And, of course, there are the rare debut authors who get review coverage without the extra push of an outside publicist. More often than not, however, an outside publicist will get you more publicity than if you simply relied on your in-house publicist. Two heads are better than one.

I also strategize with authors on what type of publicity is best for their particular book. Some books, such as self-help books, are usually not review driven. In the case of self-help books, for example, you are more likely to get booked on television than a novelist would. If you are an expert on a subject, magazines will interview you when they are doing a story on your particular subject of expertise. Or you may get quoted in newspapers when they are doing a story on your subject of expertise. Magazines may even excerpt your book. In some cases, you will get profile coverage.

The bottom line: it's a win/win for an author to hire an outside publicist, even if you have a limited budget.

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