Hiring a Book Publicist is Scary, But You Probably Still Need One

From Questionable and Mixed Metrics to No Guarantees and Misconceptions, What does a book publicist really do?

Why would anyone hire a firm to fulfill a service when there are:

  • No guarantees of any results
  • Achieving a positive ROI is challenging
  • Measurement metrics vary based on opinion

This is the reality of book promotion.

Aside from these facts, let’s toss in some common misconceptions about book publicists.

Sandy Smith, a book publicist at work

Some authors look at book publicists with derision, as if we’re some PR used car salespeople. (not that there’s anything wrong with used car salespeople!) Others believe publicists are all talk and flash but weak on results. We talk a good game but then let you down. We say we have all of these great contacts and can get you on all of the best shows, and we take your money and produce nothing.

As in any industry, there may be some publicists out there who fit these descriptions, but the vast, vast majority do not.

Book promotion is a tough business. It’s not for the timid, it requires a thick skin, and it is incredibly competitive. Publicists are soldiers battling in the media trenches; very, very crowded trenches in which they try to make their author stand out amidst the barrage of thousands of pitches that go out to media every day.

Hiring a book publicity company to help promote your book can be scary, but it's needed. Publicists – at least the good ones – work hard, long hours, and are really never off duty. Publicity and the media never sleep, so they always have to be on the alert.

And yes, there are no guarantees. But why are book publicists judged differently than, say, a financial advisor who can’t guarantee specific returns, an attorney who can’t predict results, a business consultant who can’t guarantee that their expertise will lead to any improvement for the company they’re helping?

There is no difference.

Like other services, authors should evaluate publicists and book marketing agencies based on track records, testimonials from other authors, and industry reputation. If a firm has promoted other books like yours and had significant success, the odds are they can do the same for you.

As far as ROI, it does, in fact, vary, and there is no single metric to evaluate results. Author ROI from a book publicity service can be profit from book sales; for others, it’s about attracting new clients and expanding recognition of their business. For still others, it can be about building or enhancing an author or expert brand. And for some, it’s about the experience – enjoying the excitement of media attention and some time in the spotlight, something most people never experience.

You can find plenty of discussions online regarding publicists’ value and whether they are worth the money.

If you expect a positive financial ROI, talk with a book publicity firm, explain the specifics about what you expect to happen and what ROI means to you, and see if they believe it can happen. The good ones will explain and manage expectations and layout exactly what they will do, how they will do it, and what they think can happen.

There is one guarantee: If you do nothing to promote your book, no one will ever know you’ve written it. It will languish in Amazon’s basement and never see the light of day in terms of people learning the book is actually out there.

So, it comes down to a few choices:

  • Self-promote. Some authors are masterful self-promoters who have the talent, personality, and time to do wonderful things to spread the word about their book.
  • Hire a professional. Find a quality book promotion firm with a long history of effectively marketing books.
  • Hybrid promotion. Authors can do some of the promotion on their own and hire a professional to implement other elements.

It’s critically important to think about marketing before you finish writing your book, and it is published, or even before you start writing it. You may have penned the next great American novel or written a non-fiction book that can transform people’s lives, a business, or change the way people think about something, but if you don’t have marketing planned, it won’t matter. Your terrific book will publish its way to anonymity.  

Plan ahead. Go into the process with a positive attitude knowing there are many terrific professional book publicists out there who can advocate for your book and make good things happen.

Don’t be scared off by uncertainty. Don’t buy into misconceptions and myths. Find out the answer from us: what does a book publicist do?

Prepare, plan, and then enjoy the experience.