Book Publicists: What Do They Do?
There’s a not-so-new reality in book publishing these days, and it’s this: you have to work as hard at promotion and publicity as you did on writing your book. Gone are the days when publishers bought manuscripts simply because they were beautifully written and deserved to be published. Nowadays, your book needs to garner attention and sell if you have hopes of a second contract and a writing career.
Most authors fear they have to navigate the world of promotion on their own, and it is a frightful prospect: how do you direct attention to your book when there are so many wonderful books out there with huge promotion budgets behind them? And while authors do have more responsibility to market themselves than ever before, a publicist—in-house or freelance—is an excellent resource, one every author should make a point to tap.
1. Book Publicists Pay Attention to Deadlines
One of the primary roles of a book publicist is to make sure your book is on track to get reviews. Reviews are still very important in the life of a traditionally-published book. They’re crucial for librarians who need to justify their purchases, and they help busy booksellers make their buying decisions. A publicist knows the best review sources and the deadlines for getting your book seen and hopefully reviewed!
2. Book Publicists Have Established Relationships with Key Reviewers
While you can certainly call and email reviewers across the country, it’s unlikely this will garner any favors for you or your book. Book publicists converse regularly with contacts in all forms of media–online, print, radio–and make it their mission to give reliable recommendations. They can match your book with reviewers they know appreciate your genre or style of writing.
3. Book Publicists Provide a Reality Check
Many authors hold their new book in their hands and dream of appearing on the Today show and having the book instantly rocket to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. There’s a chance that this may indeed happen but, sad to say, it’s not very likely. A publicist can give you a big picture snapshot of the marketing landscape and can give you honest feedback about where your best bets are for strong publicity coverage.
4. Book Publicists Devote Energy to Your Book So You Can Continue to Write
A lot of publicity work is clerical and a bit tedious to tell the truth. Creating contact lists, researching new outlets, pitching books, following up on pitches (often more than once), sending out materials — all of this takes time (a lot of it!). A publicist can handle this work for you so you can do what you do best — write!
5. Book Publicists Can Talk You Up Freely
Let’s face it, it’s awkward to rave about how great you and your book are. You come off sounding like a braggart. A book publicist can be that impartial third voice that can sing your praises to the stars. Granted, a reviewer may take a publicist’s praise with a grain of salt, but publicists who have done a good job with #2 above can easily and legitimately rise above any suspicion of ulterior motive when talking up a book.
6. (Bonus!) Book Publicists Like Chocolate
Any essay about creating solid relationships with your publicist would be sorely lacking if we didn’t mention the importance of the occasional ‘thank you.’ In-house publicists are especially overworked and underappreciated. Throwing a little heartfelt gratitude (and some sugar) their way may work wonders. . . . 🙂
About the Contributors
Barbara Fisch and Sarah Shealy were the associate directors of publicity for Harcourt Children’s Books for many years before starting their own children’s book publicity and marketing firm, Blue Slip Media. They currently work on projects for a number of major publishers, as well as for individual authors such as Kathi Appelt, Ron Koertge, Monica Brown, Anne Rockwell, Joanne Rocklin, and others. For more information, visit http://www.blueslipmedia.com/.