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Friday, May 17, 2013

Guest Post: What Does a Book Publicist Really Do?

Today I am pleased to bring you a guest post from writer and publicist Paul McKergee.

Paul believes book publicists can provide valuable support to authors with their marketing campaigns, whether they are working with a publisher or publishing independently.

However, he also believes it is crucial that the author has a clear understanding of the role of a book publicist, in order to make a sound decision on whether (and when) to engage one...

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Although the role of the publicist has changed as the book publishing world has changed, their basic role has not. They are still the conduit between the author and the media.

While their role for an author is dependent on a number of factors--not least of which are the author's needs--making the decision about whether an author needs a publicist begins with an understanding what a book publicist does.

An experienced book publicist uses their media connections--and their knowledge of how to present an author to these contacts--to gain press exposure in the form of feature stories, book reviews, author interviews, commentary, blog mentions, author written articles, op-ed pieces, and so on.

They also work with the author (as well as the publisher if the author is not self-published) to create media kits, write press releases, and set up book signings and blog tours. A book publicist helps authors create exposure for their brand and their book.

The most experienced and sought-after publicists have extensive connections with relevant editors, producers, guest bookers, columnists, freelance reporters and bloggers to try to generate targeted media exposure. Consequently, they can assist with article placement with journals, newspapers, and magazines (print and online), as well as pitch feature interviews to radio and television.

Book publicists may also arrange blog tours, solicit book reviews from genre specific book reviewers and bloggers, and help shape and give meaningful content to add to social media campaigns. The list is endless, and much of it will be dictated by the author's platform and goals, and the book's genre and audience.

Publicists are often employed in the marketing departments of larger publishing houses or are hired by publishers to work with their authors. Authors who are looking for broader book publicity support then offered by their publisher as well as self-published authors may also hire a book publicist to generate publicity.

Authors should weigh the pros and cons of hiring a publicist by understanding exactly what a publicist does, and then establishing realistic expectations through in-depth discussions before engaging their services. Whether an author is working with a traditional publisher or decides to self-publish, if book sales and building an audience is a goal, then authors will have to spend some time marketing their books.

In today's fragmented media landscape, even larger book publishing companies are making online and social media outreach key parts of their campaigns, with Facebook pages, Twitter, Goodreads, Shelfari and other social media tools to create a direct relationship with their readers. While social networking is crucial to marketing books, however, it's also just one piece in the marketing mix.

Today's book publicists integrate online and "traditional media" efforts as well as make sure all these efforts are appropriate for the target audiences and the author's goals.

A good book publicist will devise a plan to help the author in engaging every avenue suited to the author's target audience, including book bloggers, book reviewers, librarians, and editors and producers from local media, national and/or international media who cover the topics related to the book. The goal is to introduce the book to potential buyers.

It is imperative that a good publicist think like a journalist from the standpoint of what will interest the reader. Understanding the rules of the industry, which are ever-shifting, is as important as their knowing the rules of whom to pitch to, as well as how and when. Their insights come not only from their experience in the book publishing world, but their ongoing efforts to stay abreast of current news stories, trends, studies, etc. to adjust long-term messaging and spur new ideas. Book publicists must give the media useful and relevant information, and of course what is useful and relevant can change by the day.

Understanding the importance of local media, and networking with local media by going to media events like Press Clubs is never overlooked by an experienced book publicist. The goal is to help identify a local angle on a national story, which is always prized by local media.

While the needs of authors and their budget will dictate what the publicist will do for the author, a good book publicist provides some very important intangible assets. These will include acting as an information resource, giving concrete feedback about how their book is faring in the media, brainstorming ideas, and remaining the voice of reason to help keep the author grounded and focused. While knowing what a publicist does is an important first step in the decision process of whether an author should hire one or not, it is equally important for the author to understand their role in the client/publicist relationship.

Since every penny counts in an author's budget, considering affordable book publicist tactics is worth researching. A good publicist can help get the ball rolling, but cannot do the whole job for the author or the publisher. The author must be ready to make a considerable sweat equity investment and remain diligent in order to build their brand and gain fans of their work.

Byline: Paul McKergee is a freelance writer with a strong interest in book marketing, book promotion and the intersections of writing and technology. For more information visit Smith Publicity.

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Thank you to Paul for an interesting insight into the work of a book publicist.

In my view, any author who is serious about getting his or her work into the best-seller lists should at least consider hiring a publicist at some stage. Obviously, there will be costs involved, but they may not be as much as you think, and can be an investment that pays off many times over.

Many book publicists and agencies offer fixed-cost packages for authors who want to keep their expenditure within tight limits, though you can of course always add to these later if things go well.

It should go without saying that you must have written a book you believe in wholeheartedly and are confident readers will enjoy. Assuming that is the case, an effective publicity campaign can set the ball rolling and create a growing torrent of media coverage.

Once this happens, word-of-mouth will hopefully take over and help you reach an even wider audience. It is, though, vitally important to generate enough media coverage to kick-start this process, and that is where a publicist can make such a valuable contribution.

If you have any comments or questions about book publicists for Paul (or me), please do leave them below.

Photo Credit: Eclipse Bookstore by brewbooks on Flickr. Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 Generic licence.

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