Should I Hire a Publicist?


When we are trade-published, our publisher will handle most of the difficult, expensive and time-consuming tasks, including editing, printing, graphic design, distribution, marketing, promotion and stocking retailers. Yes, the trade-published author must still engage in public speaking, book tours, signings and many other events related to selling the book. However, publishers thankfully know what they’re doing. After all, they are betting (spending on average several thousand dollars) on your book’s success. And publishers know exactly what to do. They hire talented staffers to perform each aspect of the process. But what happens when we don’t have a publisher? What must we do with self-published or subsidy-published books?

Hiring a publicist is an important aspect in making your book a financial success. There are all kinds of publicists, good and bad. With literally millions of new SP authors today, a new cottage industry of publicists has arisen. Most of them have stumbled into the book marketing world and decided to earn some extra income on the side. Some of them are authors or former authors who truly understand what must be done to make a book successful. In addition to understanding the fundamentals (obtaining persuasive reviews from compelling sources, arranging for media interviews and articles, getting on the guest blog circuit, advertising, etc.), these people have acquired the technical assets necessary to place your book among the best and brightest retailers. This includes web site design, video book trailer design and creating Facebook fan pages. They know the best and most followed Internet interview talent and media personalities.

All of this comes at a cost. A talented book publicist is in high demand. He or she can afford to take on the best author talent at the highest prices. Yet the millions of new SP authors are often not able to devote five to ten thousand dollars on a publicist. Herein lies the conundrum. If a publicist offers to create a web site for you and your books, plus a Facebook fan page and a video book trailer – all for under $1,000, think twice. Maybe think three times. Is this person still in high school? A good video book trailer alone typically costs about $1,000. The time it takes to place that trailer on the biggest and best web sites is a few hundred dollars. Create a Facebook fan page? That can cost $300 more. Obtain the best reviews from the best organizations in your book’s genre… $500 more. Obtain interviews for you with the most popular sources, $300 more. And the list goes on.  Maybe you would like your publicist to find a top-flight publisher for you. That eliminates the vast majority of part-time publicists. But some of them will persuade you with visions of being best buddies with the top talent at HarperCollins, Random House and Penguin. Proposal creation can easily cost $500. As an unknown author, the proposal is your only chance to play ball with the big guys. Contacting major publishers is simply $100-$200 per publisher. And if your publicist is not as well-connected or talented as a literary agent, so that money will go down the drain.

In the course of several months, you could easily spend $7,000 or more.

Now here is some sobering news. I read a statistic several years ago that quoted this. The average SP author spent several thousand dollars on her or his book. Yet, the average SP book only sold a few dozen copies. That’s no way to make back that $7K investment. The average TP author (who spent nothing and received an advance) only sold a few hundred copies of her or his book. If this is not depressing to you, then you must be the eternal optimist.

In the time it takes to perform all of the duties and tasks that a publicist must accomplish, a talented and motivated author might have completed most of another new book. Ouch!

So, what’s the answer? Is there a right way to do this without spending a fortune on a book that might never break even financially? Is it possible to write new books when you’re spending most of your time promoting and marketing the last one?

If you decide to handle all of your own publicist activities, you’ll likely botch them up because you are not a trained, experienced, talented and well-connected publicist. The technical skills alone are daunting. Even if you manage to learn how to do them successfully, the weeks and months you’ve used up are precious and you’ll never get them back again. You might have written another book during that time! Yet, if you don’t hire a publicist, chances are that no one will ever know that you wrote the first one, or where to purchase it.

Some authors who SP today split the process. They handle their own publicist duties if and when they understand how to do it well. For example, an author with computer skills can create her own web site and Facebook fan page. She can post the book and its trailer on 100 of the best Internet sites and obtain plenty of interviews with top media talent. Elsewhere in this blog, I’ve posted about how to use the Internet to your advantage. By splitting up the tasks, you’ve saved enough money so that you can afford to pay for a terrific video book trailer, created by a talented publicist – a trailer that you will be ever-so-happy to post on every virtual edifice on the Internet (and which you could not have accomplished with your own talent and experience).

As long as you are SP and you are not a famous author, the duties of a publicist will be required. If you are a well-known subject-matter expert or a celebrity, and your book is non-fiction, the job is much, much easier. Your name alone, as a well-known expert, will sell many copies. If you are a subject-matter expert, people will trust you and purchase your book without major marketing effort.

If you are not a celebrity and you write fiction, then your SP book has little chance of success without a very talented publicist and solid industry connections. That costs a lot of money.

The bottom line is this… What are your goals for the book? Are you happy just by having SP something, regardless of its success? Are you thrilled just to have a nice-looking book on your coffee table with your name as the author? Or, as a novice fiction author, is your goal to develop a powerful and influential author platform for many future books? If you wish to make a name for yourself as a fiction author and you have no major successful books in your past, then being successful now will make or break your chances of being that well-known and beloved fiction author that you desire for the future. Here is where a major investment is required. It’s not an easy decision and it will likely carry a cost of several thousand dollars or more. But spending a few thousand dollars on a well-connected and talented publicist might make the difference.

Look for more about making your books and your platform successful in future articles here.

Meanwhile, contact me at csw@bex.net with questions or concerns.

Happy writing!