In today’s guest post, book publicist Charlie Barrett shares his tips for developing an effective working relationship with a publicist. Pushiness and impatience can derail a good plan. Authors need to make sure their book publicist keeps them informed regularly of what is being done as their carefully crafted plan on paper plays itself out. An author can certainly suggest media the publicist can contact on their behalf too, especially if, for instance, a CNN or Fox News story might be relevant to the author’s book’s theme or message. A well played out and thoughtful, strategic campaign is one that will up the chances for success with media outreach and book sales too.
Communication and perseverance between an author and his or her publicist are key to the success of a book marketing campaign. Marketing a book in today’s changing and shifting marketplace can be very challenging, especially with as many as 90,000 books published each month in the USA alone, and with that number growing steadily each year.
A good working relationship between an author and his publicist needs to be established right up front - - since so much emotional energy is tied up in an author’s work, which needs to be well communicated to the media representative. The laborious perseverance of a professional book publicist blossoms when it is combined with an artful balance of patience and continued with daily input from the book’s creator.
I have developed a handful of useful tips the author needs to always bear in mind when decide to engage the services of a professional publicist. The publicist should know the media well and can map out a plan in writing, with a free phone consultation before the author even decides to move forward. If followed, these tips will surely increase the likelihood of a successful marketing campaign that will both boost book sales and also expand the awareness and perception of the author and his or her works.
• Input and planning: The author and the publicist need to have a clear plan of attack mapped out in advance before embarking on their PR journey together. Authors need to be mindful to keep their publicist informed of any ideas they too have to publicize their book since it’s their creation and no one is closer to it then they are. Authors need to give the plan time to fulfill itself and work; and never, ever should an author be “pushy” with their publicist who understands and knows the media much better than his client does.
Pushiness and impatience can derail a good plan. Authors need to make sure their book publicist keeps them informed regularly of what is being done as their carefully crafted plan on paper plays itself out. An author can certainly suggest media the publicist can contact on their behalf too, especially if, for instance, a CNN or Fox News story might be relevant to the author’s book’s theme or message. A well played out and thoughtful, strategic campaign is one that will up the chances for success with media outreach and book sales too.
• The creative publicist: A creative, worthwhile professional publicist is one who develops both traditional and non-traditional pathways to publicize a book. Sometimes authors may not agree to all that is suggested by the publicist, but they should always listen and, then, turn an idea down if its one they feel they do not want as part of their PR strategy. Ideas lead to other ideas…it is a refining process and the publicist always needs to come up with fresh, provocative ways to get their client’s book beyond the sharp competition. A good book publicist will - - seizing upon a media opportunity they see - - often come up with “on-the-spot” ideas beyond the written plan. This is demonstrated if there is a breaking national news event and maybe, for example, MSNBC needs a psychologist/author to comment as an expert on the impact of survivor’s guilt in perhaps a fatal plane crash, a killer flood or terrorist attack.
• The expert publicist: Don’t e-mail or call your publicist every other hour and tell him or her how to do their job with your book. Remember you have hired a professional and they know best how to proceed once the groundwork and tools for the campaign are in place. An author hires a publicist for their knowledge, experience and media savvy. A publicist who feels a client is a “control freak” will probably end up with poor results and in many cases will cancel their contract with the author. Nagging and complaining, negative clients spell a campaign that will fall far short of its goals.
• Flexible author schedule: The media is a fast moving machine - - especially today with all the electronic advantages we all have. Authors who hire publicists need to keep their personal schedules very flexible and ready often within a few hours notice - - to take advantage of, say, an impromptu phone interview with a radio station, or an interview with maybe Ladies Home Journal or a live guest spot on the Today show via a guest spot at the local NBC affiliate to maybe discuss the rise of AD-HD disorders in school kids, etc. Make sure to keep your cell phone with you at all times during and even after business hours if your publicist needs to reach you to confirm you are available while the media person on the other end is holding. Often good media opportunities are lost due to an author who does not make sure he or she can invest the time needed to work with the contract commitment they have made with their professional publicist.
• Reasonable returns: One of the most common questions I am posed by potential clients is, “Can you get me on Oprah?” Sometimes I bristle when asked this because some authors have no sense of reality about their book or the media marketplace that serves books and writers. Yes, I have certainly had clients on “Oprah”; in fact, I was one of the publicists handling her 2008 ABC-TV series “Oprah’s Big Give.” Ms. Winfrey’s “Oprah” show has only a handful of months left before it goes off the air. The show is focusing right now on highlights of their years on the air and some authors will be booked. Emphasis now is launching Ms. Winfrey’s OWN network on cable television with Discovery Networks. OWN will premiere shortly and bookings are underway right now.
I believe one of the most difficult parts of a publicist’s job can be to manage the demands, expectations of an author client. Having realistic expectations in an industry in which it’s virtually impossible to predict and know for sure what will happen is vital and crucial. Book marketing is to say the least, a most challenging business. The competition is fierce, and success in terms of huge book sales numbers is often elusive. A balanced, reasonable, honest understanding of the challenges and opportunities of a book promotion campaign will inevitably improve the odds of an author being satisfied with the work of a publicist.
• Long Term impact: Recently I heard of an author hiring a publicist for one month, spending $2000 for a one-page media alert sheet that was sent out, guaranteeing six national radio interviews. With this, the author expected to be an overnight media sensation. This is a ridiculous and absurd concept. A good and worthwhile book media campaign can take anywhere from 90 to 120 days to cover all the bases such as getting the media friendly release written and distributed, pitching all the media (print, electronic, digital/social media) and lining up interviews, author media training with the publicist, obtaining meaningful book reviews and then gathering up all the results with media coverage copies, reports to the author client, etc.
A successful campaign will also have lasting results both as a way to introduce a new author to the media as well as creating a strong and visible Internet presence. An author hiring a publicist needs to ask himself what are the goals and what do I want out of this when the campaign is completed?...is it just strong and robust book sales, or is it a book deal with a major new publisher or maybe be the sale of a book for movie rights. A book could even be a way to get an author established in television news quarters as a given “expert” in his or her area of expertise or to help the author launch a speaker’s career. In any event, a successful book publicity campaign can open many doors and opportunities for an author and have long term impact.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Professional national book publicist Charlie Barrett formed The Barrett Company in 1992 as a full service media relations and media marketing / communications agency serving authors, publishers, Hollywood creatives, companies and celebrities. For more information see his website at www.thebarrettco.com.