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“GUARANTEE” The Most Controversial Word in Book Marketing

Authors unfamiliar with book marketing are often surprised when a publicist tells them that nothing is guaranteed when it comes media coverage and book sales. I understand why they’re surprised and disappointed. An author is going to pay for services but be promised nothing in terms of results? If I wasn’t in the industry, I’d probably be confused and surprised too. Book publicity is a unique service. When a promotional campaign launches, there are many unknowns, many variables, and many directions in which the campaign can go. The fact is, as publicists, even if we think a book has enormous potential, we have absolutely no idea what is going to happen when we pitch the author and book. If a publicist tells you they know exactly what will happen when your book is marketed, they are lying. Run away from that publicist. Fast. However, there are some book marketing firms that offer guarantees. For example, an agency may have a “radio tour” service which guarantees 10 interviews for an author. This could be a good service, and some authors have success with such programs. However, even if an agency actually does guarantee placements, and follows though and gets those placements or interviews, you might walk away disappointed. How is it possible to be disappointed by your guaranteed 10 interviews or placements? If a publicist guarantees radio interviews, for example, it’s possible the shows you get on, actually aren’t very hard to get on…because they aren’t that popular and might have a minimal impact on book sales. The same thing applies to guaranteed print placements. The bigger and better media outlets are much more selective about who they interview or write about, and therefore probably aren’t going to be part of guaranteed publicity services. The fact is: Guaranteed results are only as good as the results that are guaranteed. To be fair, some agencies surely offer quality guaranteed placement services, and as I mentioned earlier, some authors love these services. It all comes down to being careful as to exactly what you are asking for, and what you are promised. Additionally, guaranteed publicity services represent but one element of a book marketing campaign. In fact, these services are not “campaigns.” A book publicity campaign includes a multi-tiered plan designed to secure coverage in all types of media. A true campaign is a fluid, evolving process. Media response is gauged. Pitches are adjusted. Different approaches are used for different media. A campaign is comprehensive, carefully designed, and rolled out in a logical, sequential pattern. At Smith Publicity, we stand on our track record. We don’t guarantee results, but we guarantee we will do everything we say we will. We do guarantee that if you don’t market your book somehow, no one will ever know about your book! Because results are guaranteed, this doesn’t mean you are guaranteed success. On the other hand, paying money, sometimes a lot of money for publicity services, and being guaranteed nothing can be a very scary proposition. It’s a risk some authors just aren’t willing to take. As with any investment of money, do your homework and due diligence. Look closely at what an agency says it will do, or what it guarantees. Look for testimonials. Track records. Get references. I guarantee if you fully understand exactly what a publicity firm will do for you, and what it won’t do, and what it has done for other authors, you will understand the risks and be more confident and comfortable with your decision.

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