Thursday, February 23, 2017

Hiring a publicist

Would $15k be kind of a standard amount to pay for additional publicity? Hiring a publicist came up in another post fairly recently.

Before you shell out thousands of dollars you'll want to find out how many books your publisher is printing, and what stores will be stocking it. 

The real question is are there going to be enough books in print that a publicity campaign can make a difference?  And by publicity campaign, I mean publicity that a publicist arranges.

If your publisher is only printing a few thousand, or is printing on demand as orders come in, you're MUCH better off hiring a publicist only for consulting. Let her draw up a list of things you can do yourself.

Consulting on an hourly basis is much more cost effective for debut novelists and/or authors with smaller print runs no matter who the publisher is.

You'd need to sell fifteen THOUSAND additional books to recoup the cost of the publicist mentioned above (ballpark figures).  Additional books means books on top of the ones you'd sell without a publicist.

If you don't know anything about how to do publicity, and the very thought of it terrifies you into immobility, take an online seminar, reads some books on PR and talk to your writer pals.

Publicity is daunting, no two ways about it, but even the shyest, most terrified writer can learn some good ways to self-promote.  Yes it will be scary; do it anyway.

Research continues to substantiate that people buy books based on recommendations from other people. The most tried and true method of promoting books is a newsletter from an author. You don't need a publicist with access to Stephen Colbert's booker to do those things.

Bottom line: think about your goals. Learn as much as you can as early as you can. Invest with a cold eye toward the bottom line, not the eye that sees through rose-colored glasses.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I got nothin' and that includes the 15Gs it takes to promote that which I have 3 chapters left to edit until I ride the query-train to publication station.

Lets hope this train stays on the tracks.

french sojourn said...

2Ns....well said, as usual. (Still chuckling.)

thanks, hank

S.D.King said...

Speaking of number of copies printed, I am curious about what the industry standard might be. Is there a standard? Does it fluctuate according to the size and reputation of the publisher? Does that get negotiated?

DLM said...

Also: join a writing community. Not a writers' group, not a crit group, but a real and dynamic community that creates events, promotes education, provides opportunities to meet not just other WRITERS, but publishing attorneys, and freelance editors and consultants of every useful stripe. Every event, every connection, is another opportunity - either to learn, or to find another outlet for your WORK.

A good writing community will inform you of contests and fellowships and events for many genres, many forms - screenwriting, poetry - many audiences. It will be there while you develop, and once you find some success, it will be there to promote you and support you. It'll NEVER stop teaching you.

A good writing community will guide you toward the best routes for your personality, your stories, your goals. It'll expose you to the good and the bad folks and practices, maybe even exactly the right people you'll want to work with.

A good writing community will celebrate and stand behind you every step along the way.

Plus, you meet some really neat people.

Amy Schaefer said...

Good to know. I hadn't considered that you could hire a publicist for a little work as well as a lot. I love the idea of someone in the know giving me a plan.

(Unrelated: MY BOOKS I mean MY STUFF arrived!!! My youngest tried to help the delivery guy take it off the truck, she was so excited. As soon as the front door was closed again, she turned to me and said: "okay. Let's find my books." And so I dug the kids' books out of my eleven boxes, and the girls put them straight on their shelves. I'll save the rest of the unpacking, ie. the pots, pan and tools that I don't care a fig about, for another day.)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

The whole after book is published thing continues to gnaw at my rodent wheel. I have noticed that lots of writer's conferences have seminars for this so this year when I attend the Writer's Digest Conference in New York, I will be opting for lots of after the book is published offerings as I have the Reef to push me to that point. And a shark to bleed the crap out of my yet to be written query letter.

Hopefully, by the time my debut is up, I will be ready to do all I can without forking over 15k to a publicist. Can you get your book sales up into the stratosphere without a publicist?

Does the publisher, agent, or writer arrange for prominent reviews? It seems if you get a favorable review by NYT or the like, you are sitting pretty. After all, a prominent review will propel that word of mouth. Right? Maybe?

How do you get those reviews?

Mary said...

Thanks. This is really helpful. Also, I have noticed a huge difference in what some publishers do for authors in terms of publicity and others do not. It's a question I never even thought of asking with Book 1.

Colin Smith said...

I'm with 2ns (and who wouldn't be?)--publicity is not on my radar at the moment, even if it should be.

I don't have a problem with publicity and promotion, especially thinking about it in terms of promoting my work, not me personally (though I'm sure a publicist sees no difference--I am a brand, after all... Acme, maybe?). I want people to read my stuff, so I'm into getting the word out. But you have to have something to talk about before you can start talking about it, so... :)

Obvious Writing Life Lesson #1: You can't worry about querying, publishing, or promotion if you don't have anything to query, publish, or promote. Finish the novel first!

Theresa said...

"Invest with a cold eye." Always good advice when contemplating parting with money. So I'll continue to think about this, and when the time is right have a conversation with the press's editor and publicity people and my agent.

Beth Carpenter said...

I've been looking at blog tour packages, and my gut is that reviews from the bloggers are more valuable than excerpts, interviews, etc. Are y'all more likely to read a book a blogger reviewed positively?

Colin, Wile E Coyote speaks highly of your brand.

Craig F said...

And even after you spend all of your life savings on a marketing plan, you find that word of mouth is even more efficient.

Have friends willing to recommend your works to their friends and hope you rang that special cord that makes it continue down the line.

I tried that with a short I didn't wish to sell for a pittance to a still very much unknown e-something.

Best guess is that over 20k people have now read that short and its readership is growing exponentially.

I don't know if I can parlay that into buying my stuff, I will try to exploit it though.

Elissa M said...

Almost as bad as spending more on publicity than you'll make in sales is spending time on poorly executed promotions.

I just got a notice that our village library is holding a book signing for a local writer. This is a very small village on the edge of nowhere (30 miles to the nearest grocery store) so I guess they assume everybody knows this writer and what the book is about. There was no information about the book (other than the title) and nothing about the author (other than "our own" so-and-so). Three lines about the book and a couple more about the author would have gone a long way toward making this a much more effective promotion. Even if adding those lines ends up selling only one or two more copies, I suspect that would be at least a 25% increase in sales for the venue.

You don't need to dump thousands of dollars into promotion, but whatever you do, do it as effectively as possible.

Colin Smith said...

Can I make a clarification to my earlier post? Please? Thanks! :)

I said don't worry about promotion/publicity until you have something to promote... that doesn't mean you shouldn't think about it.

Beth: Indeed he does. And with that kind of endorsement, I'm sure to go far... ;)

John Davis Frain said...

I think I might enjoy publicity as much as the writing, but first one must follow Neil Gaiman's well-spoken advice: Finish. (He never said how many times you have to finish before you're finished, but I suspect it's like that old commercial about how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.)

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

A friend of mine is at the beginning of a "launch tour" for her debut novel. She has events booked at Indie stores all across the south. She recently invited me to attend her signing at Malaprops in Asheville, NC., with the intention of promoting our work here at the sanctuary. A portion of every book sold that evening will go to Proud Spirit. At one point in the discussion of the details, she said, "Let me run this by my publicist." I didn't realize she had one. While I understand the purpose of a publicist, I asked what motivated her, personally, to hire one. She's with a small publisher who doesn't have the resources for publicity. And, she essentially said she's going to do what it takes to ensure her book is a success.

As we each make the trek to publication station (Ha! I love that, 2Ns) our journey will be personal and individual. Certain steps that are feasible for some, won't be for others. For instance, as a result of hiring a publicist, my friend is going to be on the road for two months. I would never have that luxury.

It's good to keep educating yourself. But, as others have said, right now I'm not going to worry about publicity. I'm going to concentrate on finding a home for the two mss that are complete and finishing my WIP. ONWARD!

Barbara Etlin said...

Waving my hand in the air because I think I know an answer...

E.M. Goldsmith, when I worked for a Canadian publisher back in the Cretaceous Age, the publisher's publicity department sent review copies or ARCs of all our books to the major reviewers. It was up to the journal or newspaper whether or not to review a book.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Barbara Thanks. That is what I thought might, maybe could be the case with reviews. Of course, if I can get our Colin to do a review, well that's better than the New York Times. Right?

Or not. But like John rather soberly reminds us, first must finish. And I was close but last night, I introduced a 3rd possibility for a first chapter. Those first pages ...ugh. One step forward. Two steps back.

I blame Colin for introducing that alternative version of Let It Be that kept ringing in my ears all night.

Lennon Faris said...

Very useful information. Thanks, Janet!

Although, I am surprised to hear a newsletter is the most effective for promoting your book. I see authors offering that and I wonder what in the world they can talk about so much that merits an entire newsletter. I like a book or I don't. I read it and go on or put it down and go on. And a newsletter only reaches people who sign up for it, so people who know you in some fashion. Am I totally missing something?

EM I feel for you. My last WIP I (majorly) changed my first pages at least half a dozen times. It's a frustrating feeling.

Colin Smith said...

*Gives Barbara a gold star*

Beth: I meant to comment on your question: Are y'all more likely to read a book a blogger reviewed positively?

It depends.

* Do I know the reviewer? If we have similar taste in books, I'll pay closer attention.
* Does the review tell me enough about the book so I can evaluate whether I want to just read it, or own it?
* Is this a particular type of book I'm looking for, reviewed by someone who knows the category well? (e.g., if Janet recommends a book on editing, publicity, or publishing, then that's a golden review).

There are probably other factors, but those are some key ones that come into play.

Colin Smith said...

Elise: Bwaahaaahaaa!!! Curse her Sharkly entrails... ;)

Colin Smith said...

Lennon: I've thought about the whole newsletter thing, and here's my thinking (bearing in mind, my opinions are no more valid--and possibly less valid--than others given I'm still unpublished and without newsletter). This is how I would distinguish between a website, a blog, and a newsletter:

Website: Largely devoted to my published books and listings of tour dates, publication dates, blurbs, reviews, etc. You come here if you want quick info on what I've written, when the next book's coming out, what people have said, and where you can find me.

Blog: Me as a person: writer, theologian, musician, Whovian, parent, and occasional travelog-er. You come here if you want to get to know me better, and perhaps read my thoughts on a variety of things, not just writing and publishing.

Newsletter: Primarily what's going on with me as a writer. You get this if you want updates on how the next book's coming along, sneak peeks at forthcoming work, things that inspire my writing, book recommendations, and also things you'll find on the website (pub dates, tour dates, etc.).

Is that how others see the distinctions?

Colin Smith said...

Oh... I forgot to add:

Twitter: Come here if you want to hate on me because you hate my books/I'm too successful/I'm not successful/I'm too old/I have a funny accent/I have a Twitter account... ;)

Colin Smith said...

There was something else I wanted to say about newsletters... sorry, I don't want to dominate, but since it's so quiet...

Lennon: You said (and I quote), "And a newsletter only reaches people who sign up for it, so people who know you in some fashion."

Not necessarily. Yes, the first audience for your newsletter will be those who already know you, either personally, or through your social media (where, of course, you have ads for your book, and a link to sign up for your newsletter). But don't forget that your social media friends will, hopefully, tell their friends and social media circles about your book, and share that link to your newsletter sign-up. But you'll also have that link printed on your bookmarks and business cards that you take with you to conferences, bookstores, restaurants, baby showers, family reunions, etc. So you don't know how many people may end up subscribing!

Unknown said...

I've been thinking a lot about this particular question as I stare down the 12 months before my debut hits shelves. (fingers crossed because in this industry you really never know.

15K to me, seems like an awfully hefty sum. I'm sure the writer has talked to their editor and has an idea of the publisher's marketing plan and feels like something additional is needed, but if not, do that!

It's my thinking that a publicist can do two things: open doors and save the writer time. But I also kind of think that, given enough persistence and time, those are things the writer can do for him/herself.

For example, it's possible that a publicist can get a book reviewed on a well-read blogger's site, but could the writer reach out to those bloggers themselves with some success? Maybe! Also, re: setting up a book tour, I'd imagine that if the writer wanted to set up a small regional book tour, all it would take would be some time and legwork (and a lot of advanced planning) to talk to the marketing teams at indie stores to set up readings/signings.


AJ Blythe said...

Based on my book buying habits I can attest that newsletters work - for authors I already read. I sign up to their newsletters because I like their work and when they have a new release I add it to my TBB (to be bought) list.

All well and good when you have a book that already has readers, but what about your debut book - how do you get a newsletter mailing list for that? Or do newsletters really come into their own after that first book?

Colin Smith said...

Kaitlyn: Is your debut available for pre-order yet? If not, let us know when it is so I can add it to our list of blog readers' published works. It's almost as good as a bookmark! :)

BJ Muntain said...

Lennon: The thing about a newsletter is that people HAVE signed up for it. Those are the people who are interested enough to want to see more.

Most publicity is of the 'broadcast' type: you're broadcasting your message across various platforms, hoping it will land in someone's mind and take root. This is what we think of when we think of publicity, because it's ingrained in us through television ads, magazine ads, billboards, etc. Put it out there so everyone can see it!

A newsletter is more targeted. It's targeted to people who are already interested.

Have you noticed how many companies now have e-mailed newsletters? People sign up for special promotions, and the company reminds each person weekly or monthly that the person likes them. "Where should we go out to eat tonight?" someone asks, then checks their e-mails. "Oh look. A coupon from MyFave Restaurant. We liked it there last time. Let's go there."

A newsletter is advertising that people WANT to see. They've opted into your target zone. Rather than broadcast seeds, these are seedsa that have been planted and are being carefully tended by the author.

Lennon Faris said...

Thanks, Colin and BJ. Maybe the real dilemma is that I am not a newsletter person. Guess I'll have to do some serious creative thinking there to circumvent that.

Colin Smith said...

Lennon: You write a blog--I don't see much difference. Perhaps just a little more focused in terms of audience? If you want an example of a newsletter you'll look forward to, subscribe to Jeff Somers' Awe-Inspiring Newsletter. :)

Julie Weathers said...

Dashing through because I've been babysitting all day and we have a snowstorm hitting tomorrow. I forgot I set out something to rise before I left this morning so it's in the oven now before I got shopping.

Anyway, I got some editing done, yay me. Some new words. Yay, me.

And I did a bit of pondering. I'm always looking for ways to improve my writing, so I took an Outlander book with me to study while I was with the munchkin. I also studied a bit of Ambrose Bierce.

It's good to not only read and enjoy, but watch the way people put things together.

Years ago I bought a potty chair for my oldest son that played music when a child tinkled. He loved it. I thought, it was going to be a snap to train him. Ever time I turned around I could hear music in the bathroom. Too much music. He was dipping water out of the toilet to put in the potty. Then it went to no music. He had toddled into the utility room and robbed his daddy's tool box and was taking the music box apart to see what made it work.

No surprise that he's a master mechanic today. When I jokingly say I'm going to pen in an agent must take my first born they might actually want him. He does, after all, build race cars in his spare time. vroom vroom.

Anyway, we must all keep learning. We are never done. Whether it's learning our craft, marketing, socializing, networking, whatever. We must keep moving forward lest we stagnate.

"The education of a man is never completed until he dies." Robert E. Lee

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Amy, ain't it sweet when the books go back up on the shelves. It's home when the words return.

Steve Stubbs said...

Very reassuring comment. I learned the hard way that you have to be ultra conservative spending money in business or you will soon be out of business. I still have un-healed third degree burns to prove it. To anyone reading this post, Ms. Reid’s advice is gold. But then some things never change

MA Hudson said...

Colin - thanks for the link to Jeff Somers' newsletter. I was about to ask if anyone knew of any good ones (apart from Donna's, of course. Already subscribed to that one!).

Lennon Faris said...

All right, Colin, I'll try it.

Alex said...

My. God. An author is seriously considering spending $15k of their own cash to supplement their publishing house's marketing team? When the publishing house is going to reap most of the royalties? What is this madness? Why should the author have to shoulder such a massive financial risk?

By hiring independent contractors, you can produce a book as professional as a traditional publisher for a tenth of that budget. You can also spend a fraction of the budget on digital marketing targeted at people who read that genre, instead of a broad publicity campaign.

Props to Janet for the suggestion about learning to self promote though. I've worked in PR, and I honestly believe most PR consultants' biggest job is to convince people that other people couldn't do it. As Janet said, you can learn to do most yourself. If you can write a book, you can grapple with simple self promotion.

Anonymous said...

Eh, I have a quibble about a newsletter as promotion. It's a cause/effect thing. A newsletter on its own merits is not generally going to be effective promotion. It's more that you've somehow managed to get people excited enough about your writing that they're willing to give you their email address so you can tell them when you have a new book coming out. It is really effing hard to convince strangers to give you that access, especially if you're a debut author. NO ONE wants more email. A lot of writers have switched from sending a true "newsletter" to doing a more succinctly pragmatic (but still entertaining) "new release notification" type of thing.

Every once in a while I add a note to a blog post, letting people know that if they want to be notified when I have a new book out, they should sign up for my mailing list. And some people do. But you know what mostly happens? I get new blog followers instead. They (rightly) assume I'll also mention it in a blog post.

My advice, for what it's worth (negligible), is to concentrate on showcasing your writing/voice and getting people excited about the possibility of novel-length fiction from you. And start now, because it takes approximately forever to escape the echoing maw of obscurity.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Lennon, what makes your newsletter mailing list so valuable is it's full of people who are favorably opinionated in your direction. They are your fans and are most likely to buy your books.

This is significantly better odds than convincing random strangers to buy your books. (Y'all have bought my books, right? And reviewed them?)

These fans of yours are most likely to enjoy your works enough to tell someone else, a someone else who just might be your target audience and likely to buy your book too.

Granted, you could get sales from being listed in Fussy Librarian and get reviews from a GoodReads giveaway, but don't forget to market most to your guaranteed captive audience.

BJ Muntain said...

Because MA Hudson asked, there are a couple writer's newsletters I subscribe to.

One is K.M. Weiland. She writes about the books she writes, but she also has some really good writing knowledge she shares in her newsletters. Her newsletter signup is near the bottom of the page here: K.M. Weiland's website

She's currently giving away an e-book with each newsletter signup - a 'medieval epic'.

I also subscribe to a local author's newsletter: Arthur Slade's Somewhat Clever Newsletter. He writes YA specfic and has an odd sense of humour that I think some folks here might share.

There's a link to sign up for his newsletter on his home page here: Arthur Slade's website. He's also giving away a free book with newsletter signup.

Both have pretty successful newsletters, multiple books out, and a fan base. They have different approaches, so you can see a couple examples of what works.