Should you hire a book publicist?

book publicist

At least once a week, an author asks me, “Should I hire a book publicist?”

Do you have this question, too?

I can’t give a quick answer because it depends on your long-term goals and financial situation. What’s more, you need to be clear on what you hope a publicist will do for your career.

But a publicist can be a solid investment for the right authors.

Let’s start with what you can expect to pay. It will help to know if you can afford it before you think about the other specifics we’ll talk about here.

A good, experienced book publicist charges $3,000 to $5,000 a month and needs at least three months to work on your book — often six. If you can’t afford that, stop reading now.

Who should hire a book publicist

That’s why the authors who can afford a publicist tend to be:

  • Those with a traditional publishing contract who got a large enough advance against royalties to fund an outside publicist.
  • Successful, well-compensated entrepreneurs or executives.
  • Consultants, coaches, and professional speakers who wrote a book to help build their career, generate higher fees, and build a client base.
  • Authors who know that the size of their next advance depends on how well their most recent book sold. They want to make sure they sell enough copies of this one to get a solid advance for the next one.
  • People who have already invested in a professional cover design and editing and who have asked several objective readers to provide constructive feedback on the book. In other words, they have put effort into creating a darned good book.
  • Individuals looking to build a platform for a career’s worth of books.
  • Those who can afford to spend the money without worrying about whether they will earn the money back.
  • Authors with a high-quality self-published book who want to use publicity to help them get distribution in bookstores stores and libraries.

You can see the pattern here, right? It’s a career investment. That’s important to understand because, quite honestly, it’s unlikely that you’ll earn back your publicist fees in book royalties or sales alone.

But the visibility that a good publicist can generate for you book can lead to substantial income through:

  • More and better paying speaking engagements
  • Higher consulting fees
  • More coaching and consulting clients
  • A larger platform for related products that can include online courses and companion workbooks

Who shouldn’t hire a book publicist?

book publicist 2One of the most important things to know about publicity is that there are no guarantees.

A good publicist can tell you what she thinks she can accomplish for your book, but she can’t promise any of it. That’s because there’s a gatekeeper between the publicist and the results you want, whether it’s an appearance on “The Daily Show” or an interview about your book’s topic in the Chicago Tribune. The gatekeeper is a producer, editor, writer, or reporter. They are the people who decide which sources get interviews and which products get featured.

The “no guarantees” nature of publicity can help you decide if you should hire a publicist, too. A book publicist isn’t an option for your book or career if:

  • You think a publicist should work for a percentage of book sales. It doesn’t work that way. (And I’m not going to argue about why it should.)
  • You have to borrow money for the fee.
  • You can’t afford to spend the money without being certain that you will get tangible results. Because you might not.

If you think it makes sense to hire a publicist, please read two articles on this site before moving forward with it.

The first, “7 things you need to know about working with a book publicist,” offers more insights into this topic. The other, “How one author got ripped off and how you can avoid it,” gives you seven questions to ask as you work through the agency selection process.

Do it yourself instead

As you can imagine, because of the expense and risk associated with a publicist, many authors decide to take the do-it-yourself route. They realize that while you’ll have to spend money to learn how to be your own book publicist, you’ll acquire knowledge and skills you can use throughout your career.

Learning — and doing — takes time. If you’ve got more money than time, hire a pro. More time than money? Do it yourself.

book publicist 2

There are plenty of ways to learn. For example, I offer a very affordable home study course, “Book Marketing 101: How to Build Book Buzz” in two versions — one for fiction authors, the other for nonfiction writers.

The April 2018 National Publicity Summit is another option, providing certain authors with training plus face-to-face pitching opportunities with editors, writers, and producers. I highly recommend it in the right situations and for that reason, I’m a compensated National Publicity Summit affiliate.

Applicants for the Summit are screened to make sure the program is a good fit for them, and vice versa. In general, it’s a better opportunity for nonfiction authors than it is for novelists, but one of my author students who writes fiction participated and raves about it. (Read her testimonial here.)

My article, “Should you attend the National Publicity Summit,” will help you decide if it makes sense for you, your book, and your career.

There are also several books that will help you learn how to be your own publicist. As with all else, some are better than others. Consider looking outside the “for authors” genre to publicity how-to books for small business owners and entrepreneurs, too.

You’r the only one who can decide which option is best for you, your book, and your career.

If you’re hired a book publicist, tell us in a comment how you found the person you hired.

Get more helpful free book marketing information in the “Build Book Buzz” e-mail newsletter.

Sandra Beckwith is an award-winning former publicist who now teaches authors how to market their books. Three groups have recognized her site as an outstanding resource for authors, so you know her advice is author-tested.

Download Sandra’s free “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” and you’ll also receive the free weekly “Build Book Buzz” newsletter loaded with book marketing tips and advice.

5 Responses to Should you hire a book publicist?
  1. ian palmer
    July 19, 2017 | 10:44 am

    Nice summary Sandra. Written with your usual clarity and intergrity. Thank you.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      July 19, 2017 | 10:56 am

      Thanks so much, Ian. I’m glad it was helpful.


  2. Gary Cassel
    July 27, 2017 | 10:05 pm

    I enjoyed your honest and well-thoughtout article. Over the years, we have dealt with many individual authors, publishers, and book publicists. Our impression has been that when working to help promote a book, individual authors are the most dedicated, focused, energetic, and appreciative. We always enjoy working with individual authors to help them obtain student book reviews that they can use to promote their titles. Thank you for this article. I plan to share it with our staff.
    Gary Cassel
    LitPick Student Book Reviews

    • Sandra Beckwith
      July 27, 2017 | 10:17 pm

      Thanks for the feedback, Gary. Many authors are definitely motivated!


  3. Adana
    August 15, 2017 | 6:59 am

    Thank you for sharing

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