September 4, 2012
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes

(image ganked from The New York Public Library)

Occasionally, authors ask: should they hire freelance publicists?

If you are an author and having similar thoughts, the first thing to do is call or e-mail your publisher.  Ask them if they can explain to you what they’re already planning to do to publicize your book.  You may find that all the things you’re concerned about are already being taken care of!

If you’re still concerned, here’s a quick rubric for deciding whether or not to hire a publicist.

No, you should not hire a publicist IF:

You want to make sure that your book gets on the radar of Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, and School Library Journal.  Oh, and it’d be great if someone could send it to The New York Times, too.  Your publisher will send review copies to these publications, we swear.

You’d like someone to mail some copies of your book to reviewers.  Your publisher will do that!  If there are specific outlets you’d like your book to go to that you think won’t be on your publisher’s radar, just give your publisher that information.  Probably they will be perfectly happy to mail a few extra copies.

You’d like press coverage.  ALL the press coverage.  Generally, we recommend hiring a publicist only when you’ve got something specific in mind for them to do.  If you hire a publicist without telling them (or without knowing yourself) that you’d like to do radio interviews or you’d like local newspaper coverage or you’d like your book reviewed in online outlets or you’d like to go on a tour that they should organize, how will your publicist know what they should be doing?  And how will you know you’re getting the right publicist, one who has experience and contacts in the areas you need?

You’re publishing a delightfully eccentric middle-grade fantasy adventure and you’d like someone to make sure it gets on Oprah.  Or at least on The Today Show.  Probably you should just save your money.

Yes, you should hire a publicist IF:

You have a specific task for your publicist to accomplish.  Have you asked your publisher about sending you on tour, outreach to mystery publications, a blog tour, etc., and they’ve responded with ‘we can’t do that for you because of time/money/priorities’ or ‘that’s not our area of expertise’?  Now is the time to go looking for a freelance publicist!

You need someone to funnel your press requests.  This is the option for super- or moderately-famous people who are getting multiple e-mails or calls a day requesting interviews or review copies or photo shoots or events.  As you are clearly hard at work on your next book, it might be nice to have someone to filter those requests a bit so you only have to deal with the really important ones.  And your publisher might not be the best person to to do that if they have you plus ten other authors whose books are all coming out at once.

You want someone to do exactly what you want.  Publishers publish multiple books at once; they sometimes choose to feature one book in their publicity pitches above other books, or not pitch books to some outlets, for a whole variety of reasons.  They won’t necessarily tell authors every single thing that they’re doing, and they will tell authors things like, ‘we don’t think that The Necromancy Times is the best outlet for your novel, and we have a limited amount of press copies, so we’re not sending them one.’  If you hire your own publicist, you’re hiring them to go with your judgment rather than your publisher’s.

Good luck!

One Comment on “ Freelance Publicists ”

  • Ellen Bremen | September 10th, 2012 5:31 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this post and I appreciated your candor.

    What if you have a very small publisher that is doing none of the marketing you mentioned or sending the review copies you noted? My publisher is extremely generous with review copies if I direct them to send to a particular location, but the rest of the marketing is entirely up to me.

    I have been struggling with finding publicists who are reasonable, kind to work with, and who can tangibly quantify what they actually do for an author. The cost for some, of course, is absolutely prohibitive when compared to the return or the number of books one would have to sell to have the cost make sense.

    Once again, thank you for the insights here. Ellen

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