Thursday, November 02, 2006

How to Know if You Need a Book Publicist

And, What To Expect Once You Get One by Suzanne Lieurance

You’ve written a book.

You’ve either sold it to a traditional publisher or you’ve decided to self-publish.

You know the book has the potential to become a bestseller.

Now... how do you make that happen?

Well, one way is to hire a book publicist.

Recently, I interviewed Nashville, Tennessee, book publicist Maryglenn McCombs to find out more about book publicists. Here’s what I learned:

Q: What is a book publicist? What should authors expect from a publicist?
A: Book publicists work with the media to generate awareness - both at a consumer and retail level - for a book. Publicists act as a liaison between the author or publisher and the media. My job, as a publicist for a book, is to generate media coverage for a book or author.
As for what a client should expect, I think dependability and responsiveness are key. It is important that the publicist have strong media contacts, good writing skills and verbal skills and a general awareness or interest in the book's subject matter.

Q: Do you work on a project by project basis? I would assume, as a publicist, you like to build a relationship with each client to see results. How do you do this?
A: For the launch of a book, I work on a per project basis. There are special circumstances where I will to take on a project for an agreed-upon number of hours per month, but these are typically for post-publication books that need a jump-start or other instances where an intensive campaign is not necessary.

And it doesn't happen overnight. As a publicist, I think it is extremely important to explain the process and timing of the campaign (i.e., when will the publicist pitch to print media? Radio? TV? Will they set up a book tour?) to the client on the front end. It is important to address a client's expectations, as well.

I like to keep my clients well aware of everything I am working on, so I send reports detailing what has been done/who has been pitched, the status, and next steps. The client deserves to be completely in-the-know about the services being provided. Effectively promoting a book is a process -- and it is one that requires lots of patience - both from the author and the publicist.

Q: Does the publicist write the press materials, or does the author have to do that?
A: I create all of my own press materials. Occasionally, clients will come to me with their own press materials, but I prefer to create releases, biographies, and other materials myself, as this is a great way to familiarize myself with the client, their book and message. I do ask that my clients supply digital photos of their headshots.

Q: How are publicists paid?
A: I work on a per project basis and am usually paid in monthly installments.

Q: How do you create a press kit for each client? What do you do with the press kit to promote your client?
A: I typically keep the press kit as simple as possible -- a press release (not longer than one page), a biography, a fact sheet (just the details about the book, such as ISBN, trim size, price, etc.) and in some cases, a tip sheet (a few succinct bullet points of what is in the book) If there is an interesting backstory to a book, I sometimes include a mock interview with the author.
The press kit is used for a number of things - soliciting reviews, providing background for interviews, etc. One client I currently represent is using the press kit I created for him to solicit speaking engagements.

Q: Do all your clients live in Nashville? How do authors hire you?
A: I work with very few clients in Nashville. Right now, I have clients in London, New York, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Texas, California, Florida, Kentucky, and Ohio.
The first step is just to make contact -- email is the easiest way to reach me ( Initially, it is helpful to know a little about the book, when it is expected to be released, etc. From there, I typically schedule a phone consultation with the author/publisher to discuss further and answer questions about how I work and the services I provide.

Next month, find out what it’s like to actually work with a publicist in Part 2 of this two-part article.

Suzanne Lieurance is a children's author, freelance writer, and The Working Writer's Coach. She helps other people who like to write become “working” freelance writers. Visit her website at to find out more about her intensive 8-week Working Writer's Coaching Program, or her blog at to join her mailing list, and every weekday morning receive The Morning Nudge, a few words to inspire and motivate you to get a little writing done.

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