A Book Publicist, Rabbi and Priest Walk Into a Bar … KNOWING WHAT MAKES A GOOD BOOK PUBLICIST IS NO JOKE


An author recently told me she wanted a publicist who could charm an editor; a slick talking, breezy schmoozer who could sell her to anyone. I told her I liked that description. All good traits. But I also told her there was much more to being a good publicist, and not all of it is sexy or fits the stereotype of the classic “publicist.”

On our book publicity team, we have a wide range of personalities – some who fit her description, and some quite different. We have publicists who exude passion and absolutely live for the thrill of convincing a producer or editor to love an author. They are consummate networkers who get their energy from engaging with others. We also have publicists who are no-nonsense, quietly communicative, hard pitching pros who rely on creativity and organization to get the job done.

The thing is, as different as personalities and style may be, all great book publicists – and Smith Publicity has the best – share some common characteristics. Here are just a few.

  • Role Changing. Put simply, this means being able to mentally put yourself in the shoes of another person, and actually think like someone else. This equates to giving an editor, producer, reviewer, etc. what they want, need and look for to do their jobs. It’s not as easy as it might sound. It requires a thorough understanding of the roles in the publicity process – author, publicist, media. It’s not about what a publicist personally believes is compelling, but about what the people they’re reaching out to believe is compelling.
  •  Organization. This is key for any publicist. It involves following a system, adhering to structure, recording actions, and logically organizing a wide range of activities. Authors/clients need and deserve to know what’s going on, what has happened, and what is next, and organization makes it all possible.
  • Risk Taking. One word, one phrase, one idea can change the trajectory of a book publicity campaign. It may be unorthodox, risky, risqué, provocative, controversial … it doesn’t matter. A great publicist takes chances when appropriate, and takes risks with creativity.
  •  Dedication. This one may sound a bit cliché, but it is crucial to the Smith Publicity philosophy, and a hallmark of a great publicist. Our motto and mission statement – “Make Good Things Happen for Authors” – is something we take very seriously. Everyone, every publicist, wants to make a good living and be well-paid for what they do, but book publicity and book marketing requires a genuine desire to make someone else smile, to make them happy, to get joy from bringing happiness to others. Cliché, but true.

So there you have just a few traits of a good publicist, at least from what I’ve learned over 20 years and 3,000 clients.

I really do know a good joke about a publicist, a rabbi and a priest walking into a bar … but that’s for a future blog post.