As a publicist I think of my relationship with an author as my client. I am here to serve their needs, within the parameters or constructs of our service agreement to promote their book. Often the relationship can develop into a friendship. But I also feel like I wear many hats—parent, coach, therapist, quarterback, etc. I’m not quite sure how the author views me, but I know all authors want results. So how should an author work with a publicist?
The relationship’s limitations or barriers will be set early on by the basis in which you agreed to work together. If the publicist was hired by the author that is different than if the publisher hired the publicist, which is different from an in-house publicist working at the publishing company. But in any case, the publicist should set the guidelines early on for how things will work. He or she should identify:
· The goals of the publicist.
· The wishes of the author.
· The timeline of a start and end date to the partnership.
· What exactly the publicists will or will not do.
· What the author should/can do to help the publicist.
· What the author can do on his or her own to promote and market his book.
· What resources are available to the author.
· A plan of action.
· A mechanism to communicate regularly with each other.
The author should identify:
· His or her goals, concerns, and needs.
· Questions he needs answers to.
· What he believes are important talking points or story angles.
· A summary of his background as it relates to the book.
· Prior media coverage obtained for past books or promotions.
· If anyone else is involved in his marketing or PR efforts.
· The best ways/times to reach him.
Often the author-publicist relationship is filled with doubts. The author wonders what the publicist is doing for him today, especially if he doesn’t see immediate results. The publicist wonders if the author understands the obstacles and challenges to promoting him against an ocean of competition that may include better or more known writers. Still, together they forge ahead, hopefully as a united team to do battle with the news media.
So what can an author do to help the publicist succeed?
1. Be polite, fair, and honest in your communications. Don’t be rude, unreasonable, or untruthful with the person who is trying their best to represent your interest.
2. Give your publicist the benefit of the doubt. They know what has to be done and by when. If you give them a sense you have no faith in them they will lose confidence.
3. Don’t take a lazy attitude, where you expect the publicist to read every article, book, and blog post that you send them. Summarize for them and filter out the key parts. The publicist is too busy or perhaps not knowledgeable enough to discern the meat from the fat. You are the expert of your field/book, so direct the publicist accordingly.
4. Don’t put undue pressures or demands on your publicist by asking when the NYT, Today Show, or Imus will be scheduling interviews. The big hits come with time, luck, connections, and other factors. No one just picks up the phone and gets the big hit right away, unless the book is by a celebrity on a newsy topic, and even then, nothing is automatic.
5. Recognize your book has weaknesses, competition, and shortcomings. Further, your credentials, even if strong, may still pale compared to other authorities out there. Remember, as a media personality, you are not just competing with authors—and there are millions of them—but with politicians, businesses, celebrities, movies, music, sports, etc. Be humble.
6. Be patient.
7. Don’t ask the same questions over and over.
8. Be open to media coaching. It can’t hurt.
9. Don’t ignore the advice of your publicist.
10. Check your ego and insecurities at the door. No one needs the added drama of you telling a publicist how great you are while demanding the cover of Time magazine.
11. Keep up on the news and your industry’s cycle and clue the publicist in on things to watch for that could help pitch you to the media. Don’t be quiet in this area.
12. Sound appreciative towards your publicist. Politeness, encouragement and pleasant dealings can motivate a publicist, whereas negative interactions make the publicist root against you.
13. Expect to help yourself, especially with social media. Blog often, tweet like a parakeet, and talk it up on Facebook. The bigger your online footprint, the better it is for the publicist to make the case that you have a platform.
14. Don’t be jealous over seeing less talented writers get more media coverage than you. There can be any number of reasons as to how this happened.
15. Don’t bother telling your publicist a major outlet just covered your topic and then asking them to follow up by discussing your book. Once a media outlet covers something they are unlikely to revisit it so quickly.
The keys to a good publicity campaign rest in the establishment of a good relationship between the author and the publicist. Have fun with the campaign and respect one another. Together, you may just find a way to build your media resume, sell books and enjoy 15 minutes—or blogs—of fame.
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.
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