Monday, September 28, 2015

To Promote, Or Not Promote: The Hamlet Complex

In the course of working with well over a thousand authors – and having spoken to many more that I ended up not working with – I have noticed the Hamlet Complex can have a powerful grip over many writers.  But they needn’t suffer anxiety over the decision of “To do PR, or not.”

Of course, as a professional marketer and book publicist I will tell you that book marketing and PR are necessary in order for authors to achieve success.  But I say it because it is in fact true.  There are variables at play.  Authors don’t have to spend the same amount of money or time as one another, but they each have to do something if they want to generate sales, build a media brand, advance their writing career, impact others with a powerful message, and influence society.

I have many writers tell me they can’t afford to hire a publicist, and in such cases I would agree that they shouldn’t invest in anything if they don’t have it. But if one can allocate some funds to support their book, they should do so.  It still needs to be spent wisely and efficiently, but there’s no question that a lot can be – and needs to be done – to promote a book properly.

It pains me to speak with those who act like Hamlet, where they weigh all of life on this decision to do PR – or not.  One minute the person is convinced he or she must do this, the next minute insecurities, fears, and doubts creep in to sabotage their efforts.  I could have several long conversations over a matter of days or weeks, and just as I believe they are going to sign on and allow me to promote the heck out of their book, they pull back.  They eventually say no.

In such situations I don’t feel like I lost out.  I first feel bad for the writer.  I know what they’re missing and understand the mind games that took over their brains.  It’s as if they suffered from a flu.  In the end, they may still go over in their head whether they made the right choice even after making a decision.

Sometimes writers shouldn’t invest in PR.  Here’s why:

1.      They may be choosing the wrong publicist or campaign and thus will waste their money.

2.      Their book simply is not good enough or worth promoting.

3.      They won’t supplement the efforts of the publicist to do things with social media, speaking engagements, or other marketing efforts, thus mitigating the efforts of the publicist.

4.      The book’s been out for a year or more and they just decided to promote it now.  It’s too little, too late.

That said, most writers, if they believe they wrote a good book, should be promoting it.  A professional publicist can help in many ways and should be utilized for the heavy lifting.

So what could  I say to those suffering the Hamlet Complex?  I would tell them to decide sooner, whichever way they go. Don’t torture yourself.  Weigh the pros and cons – after collecting relevant and accurate information – and then make a decision.  There’s no reason to burden yourself with a lingering cloud over your head.  The extra time never gets you any closer to making a decision.

To determine whether you will hire someone to promote your book, simply answer these questions honestly:

1.      How much am I willing to spend? Set a budget. Be willing to stretch it, but settle on your comfort number.

2.      Do you believe the publicist is reputable and competent?

3.      Is this publicist setting realistic expectations and will these coincide with your goals?

4.      Do you think your book is worth promoting?

5.      What do you hope the PR will accomplish for your book, both in the short- and long-term?

6.      Do you want to do all of the PR by yourself?  Do you have the contacts, knowledge, time, and desire to do it?  If not, do you recognize the alternative is to pay someone to do it?

7.      Do you have a grasp on what the possible services and campaigns out there can do for you?  Have you called a few competitors to get a handle on pricing options?

8.      Do you understand what a promoter is offering you, or is it all jargon, hype, promises, bait and switch, and baloney?

The Hamlet Complex can grip any of us, but I urge you not to torment yourself.  Do your due diligence, assess your options, and make the best possible choice.  You will be taking a risk and you will be spending thousands of dollars.  But you also will be positioning yourself to achieve more than what 90% of other authors can possibly do, since they won’t hire professional assistance.

To promote, or not to promote, shouldn’t be the question, but rather, how much should I spend and with whom do  I want to work should be. Set a time limit for the process and then make a decision.  Don’t look back, and don’t regret anything.  Choose wisely, but above all, just make a choice!


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

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