Saturday, November 29, 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014

How to Query a Book Publicist

When I first started offering publicity services for authors (many years ago), the winter months were often a slow time for me workwise. Now, with so many authors self-publishing, I receive more queries in the fall and winter than at any other time of year.

To help authors get the best response with their queries, I’ve listed some general tips on the best way to approach a publicist.

Do a little self-analysis first.

Before you decide to contact a publicist, take a few moments to consider whether your book and your own personal platform are ready for the kind of promotional work that a publicist will do for you.

Has your book been professionally edited? Has the cover been professionally designed? Do you have a website and social media sites? Have you thought about who your readers are and where you can best reach them? What kind of platform do you have? If you don’t have a platform, are you in the process of creating one?

Know what you’re looking for in the way of promotion and what you can afford.

If you have a platform and a book that has been professionally edited and is ready for distribution, your next step is to think about what kind of publicity you’re interested in pursuing. Some authors want to take their books on tour, others want media exposure, and some prefer online marketing. There is no right or wrong way for any author to promote, but those willing to do the most work to expose their books to their target audiences will make the most headway. If your budget is tight, that’s fine – know how much you’d like to spend, and then think about what you’d like to do within that budget framework.

Query only when your work is ready.

Even though I state on my website that I only work with authors whose books have been professionally edited, I still receive copies of books with typos, incorrect grammar, and significant writing flaws. The same goes for book covers – many of the samples sent to me have covers that have not been professionally designed. Please be sure your book is ready for publication before you send it to me for review.

Put your best foot forward.

The email message you send or the telephone call you make to a publicist is often the first indication of what it will be like to work with you. I receive many email messages where the author requests info about pricing or types of promotion, but offers no information about his book or the type promotion he’s interested in.

Oftentimes, these email messages demand information with no introduction. Messages like: “Hi Paula, Can you send me your prices on publicity?” are not likely to receive a positive response. If you truly want my help, then help me know more by telling me a little about what kind of books you write, what kind of background you have as an author, and what you’re looking for in the way of promotion.

Don’t send queries via Twitter and Facebook.

I’m surprised at how many authors will ask questions via social media, especially Twitter, about services and fees. Since we're only allowed 140 characters in a Twitter response, it’s difficult to answer questions in any kind of detail this way. If you’re serious about querying a publicist about publicity work, and/or if you have questions about the process, it’s probably best to email that person directly (you can reach me at

What I like to see in a query:

1. The title and a brief description of the book.
2. A brief summary of your background and experience as it relates to the book’s contents.
3. A brief statement of what you’re looking for in the way of publicity.
4. A sentence indicating whether the book will be traditionally or self-published and expected publication date.
5. If self-published, a sentence indicating whether the book has been professionally edited and designed/formatted and who has done that work for you.
6. For a book that is already published, a link to its Amazon page, website, or other retail site, so I can easily access that info.
7. Your full name and contact information, including email address and telephone number in case I would like to reach you by phone.

And here’s what not to include in your query:

1. Don’t attach a full manuscript. I may not represent the type of book you’ve written and even if I do, I generally don’t print out books sent to me by email.
2. Don’t tell me how much your friends and family loved the book or that others have deemed it a potential bestseller.
3. Don’t include pages of testimonials or blurbs from others about the book. A simple description or brief list of who has offered to blurb the book will suffice.
4. Don’t try to negotiate some type of commission structure for payment; most publicists charge a monthly retainer or an hourly rate for their services and do not work on commission. It’s best to wait until the publicist agrees to take you on before discussing payment options.

The majority of book publicists have websites with information about the types of services they provide, and specific advice as to what they’d like you to include when you send a query. It’s best to check the website first and follow the individual publicist’s requirements as you put your query together.

Finally, be patient with us if we don’t get back to you right away – sometimes we’re on deadline for current clients, traveling, or busy with other issues, so it can take a few days to respond.

As always, if you have any questions about what I’ve listed here, or about the query process in general, feel free to contact me at Happy querying!