Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why Book Publicists Won’t Work On A Royalty-Sharing Basis

In the course of a week I’m probably asked by at least one potential client for publicity services to agree to work on a royalty basis, whereby I only get paid if the author sells books as a result of book publicity. In each and every case my answer is always the same: "No."  

Book publicists are not authors and they are not publishers, nor are they editors or cover designers.  They are a different animal, and thus, are compensated differently.  But when I explain to authors why a book publicist doesn’t work on a commission basis they inevitably seek to wave before me what they feel are generous offers of shared revenue.

“I’ll give you half of what I make on a book,” is the most common offer.  Others will insist I’ll end up making more than the money I intended to originally charge if I take up the revenue-sharing plan.  But I always stick to my answer, first, because that’s the company policy of the book promotions firm that I work for, and second, because It would be financial suicide to do otherwise.

Does this mean I don’t believe PR makes a difference in sales?  Of course I do.  In fact, PR helps authors on many levels and it is because of that, I feel justified in showing and charging for the value of what I do.

So here’s why publicists shouldn’t agree to split book sale proceeds:

1.      The publicist is not a publisher and distributor and can’t control all of the things that bring about sales.  For instance, I had no say in the look of the cover, the book’s price, the functionality of the author’s website, etc.  I might get great media coverage for a book but other factors limit its sale.

2.      A publicist is not an accountant and can’t be involved in tracking sales and payments and wondering if he’s being told by the author of all sales that take place.

3.      How does an author even know if a sale took place because of the PR generated or something else?

4.      PR has value beyond book sales.  Authors will build their media resume, which may, in a year or two or three, be cashed in to get a job promotion, a new job, or start a business.  Or, the PR will help improve their credentials and allow them to get more speaking gigs or consulting work – and to charge higher fees.  Further, PR can help sell various rights (foreign, film, audio) and it can help an author get a new publishing deal down the road.  It can also help an author build up his or her network of contacts, social media platform, and media profile. It can help sell older books or unrelated products and services.  But none of this may convert into royalties to the publicist.

5.      Publicists supply things that are not quantifiable or something that can be monetized immediately, such as: media consulting, advising, brainstorming, researching, sharing information, enhancing ideas, and introducing connections and networking  with individuals. They also write pitches and develop press kit materials, strategize on social media, and provide valuable feedback to an author’s ideas.  How will a publicist be compensated for those things under a royalty basis?

How an author leverages the guidance and media coverage generated is up to the author and is something in his hands and not that of the publicist.

A good media campaign also shares a positive message, influencing millions and impacts society.  Again, there’s no royalty split that could tally such a value provided.

Authors should see promoters as not only performers but as partners.  The relationship of a publicist and author can be one that pays off in the short- and long- run

Perhaps one thing that authors and promoters can consider is to develop a working agreement that honors the accomplishments of a book promoter, but not one entrenched in book sales. I’d like to see a new hybrid arrangement, one that includes a base fee for work performed and then to have incentives and bonuses for achieving certain deliverables.

A publicist can secure a certain number of media placements and a portion of them can be at a high level, another portion at the B level and then a bunch of C-list placements.  Incentives can cover all of that.  For instance, for landing certain agreed-upon media outlets a bonus can be delivered for each outlet or for a certain total of outlets.  Another approach is to add up the estimated circulation/viewership/readership/views and when they eclipse a certain number, a bonus is paid.

But when you then say “How many books were sold?” and choose to only pay based on sales, you’ve lost me and fellow publicity practitioners.  I understand that authors need to concern themselves with sales, as they should, but when weighing the overall value of what a promoter provides, the sales metric is incomplete and short of the total package provided.

So, authors, please understand why publicists can’t and won’t buy into a royalty-based arrangement.


2015 Book PR & Marketing Toolkit: All New

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 brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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