So You Have Written a Book and You Want a Publicist, Now What? (Part 5)

"All publicity is good, except an obituary notice." -Brendan Behan
As a book club we are often contacted by authors for advice about the book business. In the hopes of providing useful, helpful, practical and accurate information as a reference guide, we’ve decided to offer a series of Open Mic pieces where we go straight to the “horse’s mouth,” so to speak. For this fifth guide, we’ve reached out to a few publicists for their tips and advice to those looking to obtain the services of a publicist. Collectively, this group has over 30 years of experience, and a wealth of knowledge.

Each was simply asked one question – What advice or tips would you give to someone looking for a publicist?

School is in session…

Sharmina Ellis: First and foremost, I would add that if a person is seeking a publicist that he/she recognize the difference between publicity and marketing. I suggest that one researches based on their business plan and if they do not have a business plan or a concrete set of goals then they should absolutely reconsider utilizing a publicist. If a person has done the research and created an outline of goals and or objectives then they should think about whether or not they themselves can do what they are enlisting someone else to do. Most established authors are still a one-man or woman show when it comes to public relations. What I mean by that is, if there is a personal assistant available then they are utilizing that person in a similar capacity. I also want to add that the return investment is not always evident in the beginning as there are no guarantees in PR. Marketing, on the other hand, has a distinct ROI as one will pay for graphic or an email blast to be sent. When the job is done...the job is done. Whether or not people are receptive becomes less of a concern; whereas in PR the job is to ensure a spread in a magazine, newspaper, an interview etc. The bottom line is publicists do not become relevant until a person has moved beyond maximizing their exposure on their own first.

Sharmina T. Ellis, Founder of S. T. Ellis& Co., has been in Marketing and Promotions for over 15 years. Having held positions as an Account Executive and Recruiter, Ms. Ellis has always hit the ground running. Her multifaceted, diverse, goal-oriented and proactive nature is what has made her company a success thus far.  

Dawn Michelle Hardy: First and foremost anyone who hires a publicist must understand that there are NO guarantees to media placement. Media coverage is current and up to the second. Short story, I had a client interviewed and his event photographed for a two-page photo spread in the Daily News. His story was bumped because the Pope came to visit New York City. Breaking news of the Pope’s visit was bigger than our event; therefore our story ran without photos, a month later.

When hiring a publicist you must have a realistic understanding of what they will be doing for you. I share with my clients what angles I will be pitching, we brainstorm on ideas and I allow them to fact check everything that goes out. Dream Relations works to make sure that every client is placed in some form of media. I believe a publicist is a teammate. Even if you want to consider me the quarterback I need someone to throw the ball too, so the author and I must work together to make things happen.

I cannot guarantee a time line for when the articles and interviews will run. When I work with independent authors I pitch online outlets first because the turnaround time is quicker.

In my experience an appropriate time for an author to consider hiring a publicist would be any of the following: author has a hot topic that is unique and special to mainstream readers, has garnered a lucrative publishing deal, option for television or movie, made the New York Times, LA Times or USA Today bestsellers list, or has won a book award. A publicist could leverage the accomplishment and bring it to the attention of readers, publishing industry executives, entertainment tastemakers and the media.

Dawn Michelle Hardy is the Founder and President of Dream Relations, PR & Literary Consulting Agency. Dawn Michelle has been interviewed by Sirius XM, Ebony, Black Enterprise and The Network Journal online about the trends of the book publishing industry. @dreamrelations Facebook: Dream Relations

Dee Stewart: 10 Things to Consider Before you Hire a Publicist

1. Understand what a publicist is before you search for one. Some authors confuse a publicist with an assistant, direct seller, or graphic designer. A literary publicist is a professional, who generates and manage publicity for an author, publishing house, literary organization, or literary event.

2. Have a budget prepared before you seek a publicist. Publicity costs. Can’t sugar coat that.

3. Seek a publicist who is experienced in Public Relations and has a proven track record of working with the broadcast, print, and online media. It doesn’t guarantee that your publicist will gain you a feature in a print publication or an interview on a major network talk show, but you have greater chances of getting placed with an outlet that your ideal reader values and will give you better exposure, then with someone who is using to gain experience.

4. Don’t micromanage your publicist. Publicists aren’t assistants. You don’t dictate to them, who you want them to pitch and you don’t backdoor work that your assistant should do for you. They are experts in their field. They are building relationships for your behalf.

5. Publicity takes time, especially in the publishing industry. If you’re not selling more than 5,000 copies of a book in the first month it releases, then news media outlets will not bam at your door. They will not be calling for interviews, because your book has not impacted readers on a national level, yet. So you have to let your publicist generate news for you. Oftentimes this business is about timing. Be patient with your publicist. That is also why short contracts (3 months or less will yield few results.)

6. Your publicist should report the campaign progress to you. Although media placement isn’t guaranteed, your publicist work should be chronicled. You should know who your publicist has pitched. You should sign off on media relations documents that your publicist produces. You should see some deliverables (placement in media) before the campaign ends.

7. Understand that online media outlets are just as important as print and broadcast media. Online media has become the most viewed news aggregators of this decade. If your publicist places you with an online magazine, review site, bookish site, etc, that is a deliverable. Have some perspective on where you fit in the grand publishing industry.

8. Beware of faux PRs. For some odd reason folks are popping up, hanging an online shingle, and saying their open for Lit PR business. However, they haven’t really worked in the industry. They don’t know the major publishing houses, literary agents, editors, bookstore owners, event planners, librarians, distributors, print book media, other publicists… the news gatekeepers in this industry. If you want to know if a PR is really a PR, email me and I will send you three questions to ask them.

9. Work with your PR. Just because you hired a publicist doesn’t mean, you check out of your campaign. A good PR will have work for you to do. Understand, if you don’t do the work it will affect your campaign results.

10. Don’t hire a PR who hasn’t read your book first. How can they market your book, if they haven’t read it?

A literary journalist and publicist since 2001, Dee Stewart’s writings have appeared in RT Book Reviews, American Express Open Forum, CHRISTIAN FICTION ONLINE and THE BIG THRILL Magazines and on The Master’s Artist Blog. She is the also owner of Christian Fiction Blog and DeeGospel PR. Moreover, she writes for Kensington Publishers under the pen name Miranda Parker. 

*bell rings* 

Class is over. See you in two weeks with the next Open Mic!

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