Getting published is a real be-yatch! Hear about my ups, downs and a few random rants in between.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Flip The Script Friday: Publicist, Yay or Nay?

Err...I was supposed to post this last Friday. No excuses, I just didn't. Moving on...

Everyone knows that I'm a PR chick on my FTJ. I'm honest about the trial and error effectiveness of PR, but am aware that by pointing it out, it may come off as if I'm PR bashing. Or indicating PR doesn't work.

I'm not and it does.

What I'd like folks to take out of my Friday PR ramblings is - you can't gurantee PR results. And even if you could, there is no connection between those results and book sales.

If an author reminds themselves of that as they decide what PR strategies they'd like to undertake, it makes the ordeal of promoting much less stressful.

So, back to the matter at hand - should an author hire an independent publicist?

I'm going to present my POV on both sides of the answer:

YES if...

* You have read and agreed upon what I've said in paragraph two. No guarantees. And any publicist that tells you they'll guarantee placement here or there is, well, lying.

* You can afford to hire a publicist that has the proper connections. PR is PR. I've done it for years and feel like I can pitch just about any product, service, company. Matter-of-fact I have, from healthcare to fashion eyewear. BUT, you're no company. You can't afford (likely) to put a publicist on retainer for months at a time so they build your brand. Go with a publicist that will need the least amount of ramp-up time. Someone who has solid connections with the media that is interested in authors and book stuff. Not someone who has to spend the first two months of your three month contract learning who the right people are.

* You understand that having a publicist work with you for a month is a waste. Go into this thinking three month commitment, minimum. Remember, they've got to buy into you (i.e. know what your book is about, know your 30 word bio by heart etc..)and then try and sell your message, convincingly. A month is not enough.

* You understand that publicity is about slow-building awareness, not a cannon ride to fame.

* Refer to paragraph 2 please. Seriously, this is the one issue I've dealt with nearly every client I've ever had. Even the big companies (Polaroid) do not understand why they're the only ones who think they're the greatest thing since sliced bread. Why? Why can't I get them a Wall Street Journal article? Ummm...because they're not the only company doing what they do. And you're not the only author, by a long shot. guarantees.

* Know what you want out of it. And I don't mean "I want to be on Oprah." "I want to be in Time magazine." Those are great things to want. But they're not realistic. And you're wasting the publicists time with such grandiose goals. Since three months is not a lot - choose a goal and an outlet and saturate it. For example:

There's print, radio and television media. Likely you'll have more success if you choose one or two outlets to focus. But if your story is good for all three, go for it. Also, are you doing the national thing? Only want regional press? Are you more of a local celebrity?

Knowing these things helps them narrow their plan and focus on activities that will give the most bang for the buck.

Yes, you want to sell books, but that's not how your publicist is going to get hits. So you better be ready to become an expert on something (look to your book for hints at what you know a lot about), because they're selling you, not your book.

Finally, if media isn't your thing, maybe you just want someone who will handle special event planning for you.

* Outline expectations early and often.

Now, the flip side.

No if...

* You haven't agreed to the No Guarantees clause, outlined above numerous times.

* You can handle some of the light lifting yourself. Surely you can tackle reaching out to local press using the hometown author angle or finding a topic your book may tie-in with.

* School visits are going to be your primary promo tool. You can definitely handle that on your own. Lots of leg work, sure. But you can handle that.

* You just want free ideas, but have no intention of hiring someone. Look around, there are plenty of authors willing to share what has worked for them. Doesn't mean it will work for you. But the info is out there. Leave the brain picking to online forums and let the publicists deal with paying clients.

* If you believe promotion is the key to best sellerdom.

* Your publisher has assigned you an in-house publicist. I recommend talking with that publicist to find out what she or he has planned. Find out what they expect from you. Present your own ideas and see how they can complement and assist with your plans.

* You're frightened to death and think a publicist will eliminate all promo responsibilities off your plate.

It's your book. No one (not your editor or agent) loves that body of work more than you do. Your excitement, not only for your book but your profession, will come through when you speak to people - that's why it's important that you're willing to step up and take the horse by the reigns at some point. Trust yourself. It's not brain surgery, it's your book. No one can champion it better than you.


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