For some authors, seeing your work in print is the goal. If that’s you, wonderful. You’re going to be working on all the little details of making that happen for the next year, and you’ll end up with a physical book at the end. That is such a great feeling.
For other authors, your goals might be harder to obtain. Maybe it’s to be featured in your favorite magazine. Maybe it’s to end up on a bestseller list. Maybe it’s to sell foreign rights. All of these goals can be a bit of a stretch, especially as a debut author, but they become all-but-impossible without a publicist.
So . . . what does a publicist do?
A publicist acts as a middle-man between you and the media. They have spent their careers fostering relationships with bloggers, editors at magazines, hosts at radio shows and podcasts, and sometimes even have contacts in television. They pitch your book and your story to these contacts. A publicist will submit your book to trade media for reviews, or ask a publication to include it in an upcoming roundup. They may try to place an excerpt from your book, arrange an interview, or offer to send a free copy of the book for the media outlet to review. Often, they’ll ask you to write a content piece to be placed in the media.
After pitching the media, a publicist will follow up if they don’t receive a response. They track all of the coverage they place for you, and send out your ARCs (advanced reader copies) or final copies. If your campaign is large enough, they may even arrange book events or a book tour, and submit your work for awards.
None of this guarantees the wild success of your book. According to a 2016 Bowker Report, there are over 300,000 books published traditionally per year. The same report claims that, due to the explosion in self-publishing, there are over 1,000,000 books published every year. It’s a heavily saturated marketplace, and without assistance from someone with industry know-how and connections, it’s next to impossible to emerge from the noise and get that coveted media placement—no matter how amazing your book is.
That is why you hire a publicist. Some of the large- and medium-sized traditional publishing houses will assign you an internal publicist, but that person will likely be juggling far too many campaigns. Unless your book is expected to be the next big thing, you’re not likely to get much attention from an internal publicist.
If you’re hoping to get any sort of major media attention, you need to hire a publicist, whether you’re published traditionally, self-published, or published through a hybrid press like She Writes Press or SparkPress. We highly recommend a publicist for all of our own authors, although we know that it can be cost-prohibitive.
When hiring a publicist, don’t just pick one off a list and figure “good enough.” Ask around in writing circles or author groups. Peruse the website. Email and ask to set up a call. Interview them to make sure it’s a good fit. Treat it like you’re hiring an employee, because in a way, you are. While we do recommend BookSparks to our own authors, as it is also part of the SparkPoint Studio family, there are many other great options, including Smith Publicity, PR by the Book, and Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity.