Publicity is the art of telling the world about you and your book. We recently received a few questions about publicity.
1. When should a writer hire a publicist?
I think an author should wait to see what their publisher will provide in this area. If you do hire a publicist, make sure they coordinate with your publisher so as to not duplicate efforts. (Don’t aggravate your local TV station with multiple PR contacts.)
But the question was “when” not “should.” So let me reanswer.
If you are on your own with regard to your PR, you should hire a firm six to nine months prior to the release date of your book. The PR firm will be handicapped if you wait too long. They need lead time especially in the area of getting reviews for your book. Few review outlets are interested in a book after it has already been released.
The booking for radio, TV, and podcasts usually happens about a month before the actual interview.
Seth Godin says that book marketing needs to start three years before publication date! (Read the linked article to see what he means by that.)
2. What can a writer expect from a publicist?
A good publicist is all about communication, both to you and to your publisher and the media.
A good publicist will respect your schedule and try not to book an interview at 6 a.m EST (when you live on the West coast).
A good publicist will know how to convert time zones. (I don’t know how many times an author has complained about this issue when making booking mistakes.)
A good publicist will be a champion for your book and help you figure out the best media-friendly talking points.
3. What is the best type of book to promote on the radio or television?
Nonfiction topics lend themselves best. This is critical for the novelist to understand. If a novelist is to be attractive to media, they must find a nonfiction issue or topic on which they can comment as it relates to their novel.
At the same time, even a nonfiction author needs to be careful that their book is front and center in the talking points for the interview. Those talking points are critical. Sometimes your interview will be only a couple minutes. If you blather about the weather, you’ve lost your opportunity.
Hopefully, you have a website that is easily remembered after hearing the interview or a book title that does the same. For example, if I were on the air I would have to be careful since my last name is pronounced “lobby” but spelled “laube.” Which is why I own the domain name “stevelobby.com,” so if someone types in my last name phonetically they still get to the right spot.
4. How important is PR in relation to book sales?
This is a tough question to answer definitively. If the only radio interview you do is aired at 2 a.m. in Eastern Wyoming, it is unlikely to affect sales. But there is always benefit of getting the word out about your book. One principle of all marketing is making multiple impressions. If someone hears about your book on a podcast, then sees a review on a blog, and then sees it again online, they are more likely to be curious. PR is one piece of the whole.
But it is not the whole. Many authors get frustrated with a lack of booking by a publicist, whether it is the one they hired or the one from their publishing company. Remember, they can only ask for the interview. If your book or pitch isn’t of interest, you won’t be asked to be a guest. If it is the wrong time of year, you can get sideswiped.
I know of an author who flew at their own expense to a city to be on a live, local morning show. That morning Michael Jackson’s death was all anyone wanted to talk about. The author was also bumped later in the show due to news of a pileup on the local freeway. The interview was “lost” in the noise of the day.
Another could not get a single interview for their new book because the release was the day of the U.S. Presidential Election.
Therefore, show some grace with your publicist. Set your expectations appropriately.
Are there any other questions you might have?
Your answers are thorough and precise. I look forward to reading more of your blog and reaping the knowledge of your experience.
This is great to know. Thanks for the insight!
You are so good at explaining the many facets of publishing to those who still are learning. Thanks for this great post.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D
Steve, would you recommend a publicist for a self-published book?
As I like to say, “it depends.”
Depends on your budget. On the book you are writing. Whether is has the cache to attract media attention. If you think spending a few thousand dollars for a campaign will generate enough sales to offset the cost. Etc.
It comes down to budgets and expectations.
I’ve known authors who spend up to $5,000 for a publicity campaign only to have very few media events (radio/tv) actually occur. One author threatened to sue the publicist for failure to perform…when actually the publicist did their job…the problem was that no one cared about the book.
Just a little sunshine for your Monday afternoon.
In other words it is a monetary risk, but it could have great results.
Steve, this is great info once again. Thanks for another good read–and now there’s no doubt about how to pronounce your last name. But did you there’s actually a Steve-Lobby on Facebook?
I am self publishing, the book is not even at the printer yet and I already have many promises for book signings and looking at travelilng around the schools to promote to teachers and students,etc.. Do I need a publicist ? I think I have more people that want the book than I have time in one day to fill. Website option on the table right now to refer to orders for the book…. Thoughts?
Brennan S. McPherson
I would suggest NOT doing an offset print run. It’s a great way to lose a lot of money. Publish your book through Kindle Direct Publishing to make an e-book and paperback version available (print on demand). People order through Amazon, you get paid a royalty, and Amazon prints and delivers that one book without you having to take on the risk. Then, you can order your own copies at cost (order 100 copies before you go do a bunch of signings and speaking gigs–author-copies are much cheaper than the list price so that you can make a profit selling them at live events). Also, make your book available through Ingram Spark, at a 53% discount (non-returnable), to make the book available at close to industry-standard pricing for libraries and bookstores to purchase and stock. Most of the time, bookstores really want books to be returnable, but you can end up owing more than you made off the book by allowing returns as a self-published author. It’s huge risk and I’d advise anyone against it, even very seasoned authors. Publishers can mitigate the risk by having a diversified portfolio of books they’re offering. Author-publishers can’t handle their only project that year tanking badly.
Also, get a simple wordpress website that makes it easy for people to get to the Amazon purchase page of your book with one click (you can see my website for an idea of a simple, focused author website brennanmcpherson.com). Don’t pay $1,000 for it. Don’t hire a company to do marketing for you. And don’t hire a publicist. Just try to mitigate costs and get the word out by doing speaking gigs, book signings, going around to schools, etc.
That’s my advice.
Brennan’s advice is spot on for anyone who isn’t with a traditional publisher.
As Brennan noted below the cost of an offset print run may not be your answer.
If you absolutely know you can sell over 800-1,000 physical books then an offset press run is cheaper than a print-on-demand situation.
But then you need to have the infrastructure to warehouse and ship those sales and deal with collections from accounts.
Over at The Christian Writers Institute I do a print run for THE CHRISTIAN WRITERS MARKET GUIDE every year. We use a professional warehouse facility to handle the incoming orders and returns.
Nothing in the business is a definitive “never do a print run” nor “always do a print run.” It all depends on your situation.
Do your due diligence to make the right decision.
Right. But it’s easy for a person new to all this to get ripped off, so the general approach should be caution. She probably doesn’t even know what would constitute due diligence in this case. I didn’t, until I went through the process.
I really should be famous
just for being me;
that’s why I’m angling, shameless
for Reality TV.
I really don’t do much at all,
but do nothing very well,
and have a sense of fun withal
for my publicist to sell.
So one day you will know my name
but not what movies I was in,
or where I played so great a game,
or for which state, a politician.
Thus will be my wry confession,
that my fame is my profession.
Great points to keep in mind (or write down). Your wisdom is always appreciated.
Great answers … but I’m interested in the question you didn’t ask:
Should an author hire a publicist?
Iola, this is just for you. Laugh, agree, or cringe, as you see fit.
Everyone needs a publicist,
regardless of who they are,
lest they be ‘vanished in the mist’
rather than a Youtube star.
I’ll be famed for sonnetry,
and more dogs than common sense,
and my publicist will vitally
ensure adequate recompense.
There are many waves to ride
that will bring wealth and fame,
but let the Master be your guide;
stay faithful to His Name.
Keep the public message true,
and hark! He smiles, and stands with you.
Well done, Andrew. Thank you 🙂
Lynn MacKaben Brown
Thank you, Steve. This post was very informative.
A. Keith Carreiro
Thanks, for this information, Steve. Is there a list of PR firms you can recommend and share with independent authors?
We do not post a list any longer. Instead that information is included in The Christian Writers Market Guide. The online version is updated regularly (www.christianwritersmarketguide.com)
There are only a few that focus on books intended for a Christian audience.
What are Publicity and Its Tools Advantages of Publicity in the Market
Publicity Tools means utilizing the peripheral object. It could be a personality or an individual from the mass media. The main function of the object is to increase the level of awareness.