What the heck is publicity!
When someone asks me what a publicist does I think for a moment about my elevator speech. You know, that situation where you have 30 seconds to explain what you do before you get to the next floor.
In simplest terms I will reply “ I put people on T.V” It’s short, it’s sweet and it’s essentially what I do.
These days it’s becoming easier and easier for writers to publish their work. On the positive side, it’s giving writers, who might never have had a shot in the traditional publishing realm to publish their work and release it to the public in under 6 months.
On the negative side is that in the rush to publish, authors are missing key components in the process of selling their books. And the result is that they are getting lost midst the millions of books released daily online and in the stores. So an author needs to be aware of all aspects of selling. It is a business.
There are 3 main aspects in the business of book promotion ( and they can overlap a little)
1) Book marketing is generally defined as implementing and utilizing tactics to promote, sell, and distribute your book. This can involve using direct selling emails, newsletters, gathering endorsements, and testimonials, and utilizing social media postings (facebook and tweets). The emphasis is on finding lucrative sales funnels and channels using websites, retailers, online stores, and libraries. It is usually paired up with the word promotions.
2) Advertising (or a media buy) is paying for a spot in print, on television or a radio spot, and can be delivered via direct mail or emails, as well as positioned online where results are measured by a specific call to action- something is redeemed or followed through to track results. Usually an advertisement sends the audience member to one sales funnel- perhaps a specific page on a website or to a sales page.
3) Publicity builds awareness of a product utilizing media. It builds name recognition and awareness about your product because media has the power to influence buying trends and spreads the word about an author or book. The tactics and strategies include creating and utilizing media kits, approaching press for reviews, creating personal pitches, news releases and direct calls to members of the media that can persuade audiences to check out your product. It is different than the term press relations ( and often confused with) which is managing an organization, stakeholders and employees to maintain a particular point of view about their product. So a publicist is not necessarily a PR (press relations) person. While they work with the press, it’s in a different capacity. It’s important to know the difference between the two.
What a publicist does.
Every publicist is going to have a different style of working with the press, but for the most part they will all approach the press via the writing of news releases, personal pitches, phone calls, and social media ( tweets/facebook) to gain interviews and reviews for their clients. In my case, because my background was book selling, I also offer tips for contacting retailers and distributors, and consult in the process of publishing, but it’s rare that you’ll see that with other publicists. The focus is strictly spending time in direct contact with reporters, producers, freelance writers, and bloggers. A publicist will contact the media, and if the result is favourable they will then set up a time for the interview with the client, send over a booking sheet, then a reminder of the date for the interview and then follow up after to garner clips of the interview ( gathering MP3’s for radio/print/articles etc). If they do a news release they will either distribute it via their own database of personal contacts, or utilize paid distribution services such as PR Web, or CNW group, depending on the scope of the project. They will spend a great deal of time reading requests from reporters for clients that fit their stories, reading the papers and online magazines for trends, and writing hooks and ledes that are going to capture the eye of the media. The average reporter/producer receives upwards of 300 news releases a day. A publicist’s job is to cut through those and make their client’s work stand out to get the booking.
Publicists write news angles that will pique the interest of the public and their strength is in understanding the nuances of selling the story behind the book. Not direct selling- that’s marketing and advertising. They are always looking for what the audience will want to know about.
So how do I find the right publicist?
The first step is to start researching freelancers, agencies, and firms online, and talking to other authors about their experiences. Forget about everything you read that tells you publicists only charge huge sums of money. Yes there are many that do, but there are all kinds of publicists out there, so do your due diligence and spend some time on this. Publicists build their business on referrals, so feel free to check out their sites thoroughly, see what books the represent, and then send them some questions. For an example of questions you can visit this site: http://www.get-your-message-out.com/questions-for-book-publicists.html or this one http://www.beneaththecover.com/2010/06/15/questions-to-ask-your-publicist/ . Put a list of questions together that you feel are relevant to your plan for your book.
It’s a good idea to request their rates to see if it will align with your budget, and if it does, set up a phone meeting to discuss it further. But remember that publicists are not going to give you free advice. They are happy to discuss the possibilities for your book, but they are experts in their field, and they need to get paid for that. Not every author or book will be a right fit for their style and process. So even if you want them to work with you, there is a chance that they pass on the project for whatever reason. Don’t take that personally, it’s simply because that publicist doesn’t feel they can reach your goals. And you want a publicist to be up front and honest. When looking for a publicist you want someone who is going to kick down the doors to the media, not quietly knock and slink away.
The best advice I can give to finding a publicist is to take your time, outline your goals and talk to them. You’ll know when you find someone that you relate well with who can get excited about your project.
And when you do, then it can be a long and fruitful arrangement.
Rachel Sentes is a professional writer and full-time publicist/CEO of gal-friday publicity, based in Vancouver, B.C. Her clients include actors, sports figures, publishers, top tier businesses and dog rescue associations. She specializes in building publicity platforms and garnering media bookings for authors,helping them negotiate their way through the ever-changing maze of the publishing world. Rachel has booked clients on CTV National, BNN, The Seattle Times, Global, Shaw, City TV, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, NewsTalk 1010, TSN, Bloomberg Radio and The Vancouver Sun, to name a few. Rachel helps authors who are planning to publish (or have just published), and need help with everything from deciding the right publishing path to e-book conversion, to ghostwriting and getting your book on store or virtual shelves. www.gal-fridaypublicity.com