PR – what it is (and what it isn’t)? What publicists do has mystified many an author and publisher. That’s entirely understandable. In hopes of shedding some light on the topic of book PR, I’ve decided to focus this article on (1) the one thing I wish every author or publisher knew about PR, (2) a short overview of common questions regarding book publicists and what we do, and (3) a very candid look at the things I’d like all of my clients to know about my work.
The one thing I wish every publisher or author knew about PR
PR is one component of selling books. It is not the only component.
I repeat: PR is one component of selling books. It is not the only component.
What PR is and isn’t, and what a publicist does, can be confusing. In an effort to clarify some of that confusion, I would like to address a few FAQs about book publicity.
Question #1: Why would an author hire a publicist?
Answer: A good publicist can open doors that an author might not be able to open. A book publicist’s job is to create awareness for your book, whether that’s through book reviews, articles, feature stories, mentions, or radio and television interviews. Publicists work as a liaison between the author and the media with the goal of generating coverage of an author and his or her work.
What a good publicist brings to the table is access: a network of contacts he or she can reach out to in hopes of getting coverage for you and your book. Publicists who know how to work with books understand timing, know the secrets of successfully promoting a book, understand the importance of timing, and know what it takes to get a book noticed.
Question #2: Does a book publicist offer guarantees on who will review an author’s book or interview the author?
Answer: Absolutely not! Publicists cannot guarantee media coverage. There is never a guarantee that any publicist will be able to secure media coverage in a particular media outlet. If a publicist offers guarantees, run—and run fast! We, as publicists, are at the mercy of the media, and while we may feel very strongly about our abilities and the likelihood of placing a particular article, review, feature story or interview, we can never guarantee coverage. Typically, when I take on a new project, I make sure I have good contacts at a number of outlets that I am confident will want to cover the book—but, again, there is never a guarantee.
Question #3: How many books can I expect to sell if I hire a publicist?
Answer: Please take note as this is important: There is no guarantee that publicity will result in book sales. Publicity is about creating visibility and awareness, which, in a perfect world, will drive hordes of consumers out to buy books—but there is no guarantee that it will. While media awareness is an important component of sales, it is not the only component. Authors looking at publicity only as a vehicle to generate instant sales numbers may well be disappointed.
Question #4 – When can I expect to see reviews, get interviews, get my book noticed?
Answer: Publicity doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time—and often lots of follow-ups—before a review ever appears in print. For this reason, it’s important to start early (well in advance of when a book is scheduled for release) soliciting reviews. Effectively generating a review, for instance, means figuring out what to pitch, which takes time, actually pitching the book to a reviewer, filling the request, following up, giving the reviewer time to read the book, following up, etc. When you consider each step—and the fact that most reviewers receive more books than they could ever read—you will quickly understand why book publicity doesn’t happen overnight.
10 Things I’d Like All of My Clients to Know About My Work
And now, a few of those secrets I’d like every client or potential client to know:
- I don’t have to like your book. I have to believe that your book has merit. There is a big difference.
- I probably will not be able to get you on the New York Times best-seller list. The odds are good that there is no publicist that will be able to get you there.
- I don’t like it when you complain that your book isn’t selling. I also don’t like it when you complain about how long it’s taking for anything to happen.
- It is really unlikely that I will be able to select your book as an Oprah pick. And, much like the NY Times list, no other publicist will likely be able to do that either.
- If I sense that you are too focused on how many books you can sell, I will not want to represent you.
- Similarly, if I sense you are out of touch with reality, I will not want to work with you.
- If you come into the author-publicist arrangement asking for guarantees, I’m going to pass on representing you.
- I love when authors educate themselves on how the world of publishing works.
- I also love authors and publishers who work hard to promote their books and are supportive of my work.
- I work harder for the authors who are nice to work with. I get excited about great reviews. I also feel bummed out when your reviews aren’t great. I like it when you offer suggestions. I don’t like it when I ask you to do something and you don’t meet my deadline. I love when you are excited about the process. I hate when you’re disappointed. And I genuinely want you to succeed. Unless you’re a complete jerk.
MARYGLENN MCCOMBS, is an independent book publicist who has worked in the book publishing industry for more than twenty years.
A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Maryglenn serves on the board of the Nashville Humane Association.
Maryglenn is a native of South Central Kentucky. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, Tim Warnock, and their Old English Sheepdog, Majordomo Billy Bojangles. A native of South Central Kentucky, Maryglenn currently lives in Nashville with her husband, Tim.