Thursday, May 5, 2016

Do You Have An Inflated Impression Of Book Publicists?

What do authors and book publishers expect from book publicists and how do they perceive them?

The answer depends on things unrelated to the publicist’s actual skills.  The needs and goals of authors and publishers, combined with misinformed perceptions, greatly shade their expectations.  The problem with this kind of thinking is that it may further be fueled by the actions, statements – and lack of statements – made by the publicist.

For instance, if an author’s ego tells him or her he’s worthy of being on the Today Show, then he’s going to expect his publicist to get him on.  Doesn’t the publicist just wave a magic wand or pay someone to get him on?

If an author, deserving or not, has high expectations for her book and needs to get big media, she will also expect/demand to be featured in USA Today.  Can’t the publicist, understanding the desires of the author, call in a favor or bully the newspaper into covering her?

Wild optimism, coupled with disproportionate wishing, dreaming, and hoping, forces authors and publishers to put a huge burden on a publicist.  The analogy is asking a doctor to cure stage four breast cancer.

On the other hand, not all of the authors or publishers are at fault for demanding too much from their hired guns.  Publicists position themselves as being connected, informed, and savvy of the inner workings of the exclusive media club. They come off as locksmiths who can unlock doors that others can’t.  Some may outwardly hype themselves or speak with bluster, but more often than not the publicist remains silent when an author talks about his or her wish list.  By not correcting the author and explaining what’s realistic, the silence fuels these unchecked expectations.  It’s the sin of omission.

On the other hand, some publicists do have connections, can write great pitches, and know how to track the right people down at just the right time.  Luck, skill, or politics – whatever it is, some do have the mojo to make big things happen – at least on occasion.  And that success works against them when authors and publishers say “You got so and so on this show, why not me?”

Why not?

Because so many things go into getting media coverage.  Things don’t happen in a vacuum. It’s your skilled publicist competing against the highly trained and motivated publicists of other authors, corporations, non-profits, celebrities, pro-athletes, musicians, etc.  If even just two good publicists go for the same booking, only one wins.  And in this case, it is thousands of publicists and even more amateurs clogging up the in-box of the media.

People work off of these conflicting perceptions that may or not be true:

·         Go with the big New York firm because they see the media in person.
·         Go with a small publicity outfit so you don’t get lost in the shuffle.
·         Hire the big bucks firm – money talks.
·         Hire the pay-for-results firm – they’ll be hungry to achieve.
·         Hire the promoter who says he loves your book – you want them to be passionate.
·         Hire the promoter who promotes to the specialized media covering your subject area but doesn’t necessarily know books – they’ll go where book promoters don’t.
·         Work with someone who promotes best-selling authors – they have juice.
·         Work with someone who only works with smaller authors – they relate to you.
·         Hire an attractive publicist who can socially manipulate the media.
·         Hire a brainy nerd publicist who can outsmart the media.
·         Focus on one area of the media – saturate it.
·         Work with someone who covers all types of media and diversify your approach.

Authors and publishers should properly conclude the following about book promoters:

Work closely with them.  They are not lawyers or doctors, who work solo.  It’s a collaborative process.

Complement what your publicist does.  If he or she is hired, say, to go after traditional media, then you should zero in on social media, speaking engagements, or other areas they aren’t serving.

It’s okay to dream and hope, but it should be based on you helping to make the dream come true.  What idea, resources, or connections do you bring to the table to help the publicist?

Don’t forget to get the small stuff and build a solid grass-roots campaign. It’s not mutually exclusive to pursue the big hits and the smaller ones.  Go for both.

Before you can measure results, measure efforts.  Make sure your publicist updates you regularly, sticks to deadlines, puts together strong press releases, properly media trains you, and shows he or she is informed on your topic and of the media that covers it.

Lastly, make your publicist feel good about working with you.  It’s not a master-slave relationship. Help one another, hope but don’t demand, and celebrate all PR victories, big and small.

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

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 © 2016

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