As a book publicist, I get asked a lot of questions up front by authors about how book publicity works in general, as well as what services are provided for authors. Learning a base amount of information before you hire a book publicist can help you weed through service packages, project proposals, and also just crystallize your vision for your book’s PR campaign. Here are a few of the top questions authors ask as a starting place for you to promote your book!
When Should I Contact a Book Publicity Firm?
Most often, you will begin working with a publicity firm four months in advance of your publication date. It’s a good idea to reach out to them at least a few months before that to start the process, especially if you know you will have advanced reader copies available even earlier. Self-publishers should contact a book publicity firm once the manuscript is written and you're planning your release. This way a publicist can help advise you on the timeline for launch and beginning the campaign, depending on what specific outreach is planned.
What If My Book Has Already Published?
This is one of the most challenging aspects of a book publicity campaign. Traditional media especially takes notice of launch dates and prefers to be reached months prior to the book’s public release. There are rare times when a book has already been released, but the topic is so relevant to current events, that it can be reintroduced to media. Campaigns for books that are already released take more of a publicity team’s time, and therefore may cost more. Your book publicist would discuss with you the strategic promotional opportunities still available for branding you as an author and raising exposure of your book.
Can I Have a New York Times Book Review or Appear on Oprah and The TODAY Show?
Any publicist who promises you this is not being honest (though of course we can always try!). In fact, there are truly no guarantees in publicity. We're proud to have had authors in O Magazine, on The TODAY Show, in The New York Times, and many other national, regional, and local publications. It’s very, very challenging to secure these spots as literally hundreds of publicists make requests every day and on some days these outlets get over 1,000 requests! Like you, any publicist you hire would love to see your book on The New York Times bestseller list. However, in 99.9% of cases, hitting that list is not a realistic expectation.
How Many Books Am I Going to Sell?
Realistically, there is absolutely no way to predict this because there are so many variables. The reaction by media and tastemakers and how well an author performs in interviews and in other aspects of the campaign affect it. Most publicists only agree to do marketing and publicity for books that they believe have a reasonable chance of garnering positive attention.
I’ve Heard Horror Stories About No One Showing Up to Author Events. Will That Happen to Me?
Author events in bookstores fully rely on the author to utilize their network of friends and family to put bodies in seats, because sadly, no amount of media exposure is typically going to get someone off his or her couch and to your event. To illustrate this, think about the last time you attended an author event for someone you did not personally know. Have you ever? Most of us would say no, and the exceptions might be for enormous names of bestselling authors we’ve been reading for years. In most cases though, most authors recruit their own audiences! If you’re not sure you can fill the room, then don’t ask your publicist to plan that bookstore event for you. It may be better to think creatively about what other forms of book promotion may be more effective.
How Much Does Book Publicity Cost?
Publicity campaigns can range in cost from a few thousand dollars for targeted book promotion to $30,000 or higher for more comprehensive plans. My firm really tailors campaigns to an author’s goals and comfort level with publicity, as well as of course the book’s genre and news hooks, rather than offering standard packages, because each campaign is unique in some way. My firm also works in the digital marketing arena, strategically running online ads for clients. Digital marketing retainers often include both the hard cost of ads and the firm’s time in managing those ads—so you’re likely going to pay around $1,000 or more a month. Publicity is very time intensive and costly. These are not unusual numbers in the literary publicity industry, or PR in general. Be sure to know your budget before you get too far into discussions with a PR firm, so that you use both party’s time wisely and can plan the most effective promotions with respect to your budget!