Saturday, January 15, 2011

Be Focused, Be Prepared, Be Committed – Steps to Take Before Hiring a Publicist

Most prospective clients who approach me about publicity are new authors who have never worked with a publicist before. Whether self or traditionally published, many of them write to me with questions, the most common being: What would you charge for promoting my book?

My response is always the same: What is it you're looking for? A book tour? Media coverage? Internet exposure? All of the above? And how much do you want to spend? Without knowing what it is an author wants, it's difficult for me to put a price on how much I can do for him

It's also difficult to say how much publicity an author is likely to get without having read the author’s book or knowing a little about her platform.

So, for new authors who are thinking about hiring a publicist, I've composed the following tips on items to consider before calling or sending an inquiry email to a PR expert:

1. What kind of book have you written?
With over 288,000 new titles released each year, it's important to know where your book fits in to the overall market. Is it a young adult novel, targeted for teens, or would younger kids, say 5 -9 year olds, be more likely to read it? Does your mystery fit more in the true crime or detective category? Is your love story a traditional romance or does it fit more under the women's fiction heading? Knowing what you’ve got to sell will help you pinpoint what you have to do (and where you have to go) to sell it.

2. Is there a market for it? If so, who and where is that market?
Once you know what you've written, you need to decide who would read it. Is your audience both men and women, or are only women likely to be interested? Are there targeted niche audiences for your book? If so, where can you best reach them? Be ready to discuss with your publicist who your audience is and where you’re willing to go to get their attention.

3. What kind of experience/expertise/knowledge do you have that can be used to promote your book?
Having a platform is essential for both fiction and non-fiction writers, especially when promoting your book to media producers and reporters. Platform has to do with you (the author), your background, and the level of expertise or recognition you have in your subject area. Before you hire a publicist, ask yourself the following questions: Are you a recognized expert in your field? If not, would you be willing to educate yourself and/or work to establish yourself as such? What is it about your background and experience that makes you an interesting interview for the media? Are you willing speak, write, and blog about your book/subject area? When you speak or meet with your publicist for the first time, be ready to describe what you bring to the table in terms of background and experience.

4. How much are you willing to spend on publicity?
Before you hire a publicist, sit down with your spouse or significant other and decide how much you can afford for book promotion. Review items 1-3 above and decide what will give you the most exposure for your type of book and audience(s). Decide if you're willing to travel to speak, tour, and/or sell your book, and figure out how long you are willing to do that. Plan to create web, blog, and social media sites for your book and estimate the expenses, both time and money-wise, for those. Finally, create a budget that factors in costs for printing and shipping copies of your book, creation of promotional items (bookmarks, posters, fliers, etc.), website development and hosting, travel, hotel, and food expenses for signing and/or media tours, booth space fees, postage, advertising, etc. Also factor in the cost of hiring a publicist (see my post entitled Straight Talk on Book Publicity Costs for more on that) or other professionals (graphic reproduction, ebook formatting, legal, etc.) you might need to help with your book's promotion.

5. How committed are you to doing what your publicist recommends?
I'm always surprised at how many of my clients do the groundwork of hiring me and then, once we begin their promotional tour, panic when they achieve some level of success. As many authors realize after trying to do it themselves, it’s extremely difficult in today’s noisy and crowded publishing landscape to get attention from booksellers and the media. It can take an experienced publicist repeat contacting and hours of follow-up and pitching to get a bookseller, reporter, or producer to agree to an event or interview for a client.

But, despite their desire for exposure, there are always a few authors who balk at doing signings or radio and television interviews once they get them, which is frustrating on many levels. It can be awkward for a publicist to go back to booksellers and the media to say that a client is passing on an event after working so hard to get them to agree to it in the first place. It's also time-consuming to have to revisit plans and goals with authors, who say they want publicity and then waver on following through. Yes, it can be scary to be in front of the camera for the first time or, for some, to have to stand up in front of a group and speak. But a good publicist can provide helpful tips for overcoming those early jitters, and most authors agree that, like any other activity, they get better at it the more they do it. And successful authors know that without that kind of outreach, they would not be able to generate the essential word-of-mouth ripple effect that comes from continued audience exposure.

It's a shame to waste opportunities, especially if an author has done his footwork and has spent the time and money to get the hard-won exposure he needs to successfully promote his book. Be committed to your book’s success, and if you hire a publicist, follow through on her efforts to obtain the promotional attention you seek.