Excerpt from What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too? by Pamela Fagan Hutchins from SkipJackPublishing reprinted with permission from the author and publisher
A publicist is a goddess who navigates the world of events and media with ease. She has a contact list that’ll make you weep, and she isn’t afraid to use it. She loves to dial and smile, and will call anyone (repeatedly) on your behalf. She has form letters and lists of bookstores out the wazoo. Obviously, she can help you. But is she worth the expense? Most publicists charge by the hour; expect to pay $35 to $150 an hour.
Caution: only hire one who will read your book and still want to promote you afterwards. They have to believe in you to be convincing.
I hired a wonderful publicist for Saving Grace, and she was invaluable. You are welcome to poach her, if you’d like: Paula Margulies (http://paulamargulies.com). You do not want to know what I’d spent with her by the time I was through the promotion, because even with great lists, forms, and contacts, making calls and writing letters takes time. I would hire her again, but I caution you to be realistic about the cost. If you want to hear it as I told it to her when she interviewed me for an online article, check out the appendix and catch us chatting there.
Paula did three main things for me: wrote and distributed press releases, contacted bookstores about potential book events, and contacted media to ask them for coverage.
With chain bookstores, she was initially hamstrung, because my indie-published books were not on their national buy lists—and this was even after we’d made sure they were fully returnable from Ingram. This is likely to happen to you as well, especially if your books are not returnable or are only available on consignment.
With indie bookstores, she was not nearly as successful as my husband at convincing them to carry my books and let me do events—but nothing beats Eric’s passion for projects involving me, and vice versa.
Paula did a great job getting me media coverage, including radio, TV, and print (you can see for yourself at http://pamelahutchins.com/about/media/, if you’d like). She also helped me identify contests.
Hiring Paula impressed Barnes and Noble and Hastings Entertainment. Impressing Barnes and Noble got me regional distribution and opened the door to more than fifty book events in one year in their stores.
What my publicist taught me
There’s nothing Paula did that you and I could not do ourselves—if we have the time, courage, and determination to develop the forms, lists, and relationships. Those are big ifs. As I said, I’d hire her again. Here are a few of the things we learned:
- How to write a good press release. See the appendix for an example.
- Where to post press releases for free. Two good sites are http://www.prlog.org and http://www.briefingwire.com.
- How to pitch and land book events.
- How to pitch and land media ideas.
- The importance of a list of speaking topics. See the appendix for an example of mine.
- That her success was 100% dependent on the quality of my book and its cover and editing, my willingness to work hard, my bio, and my ability to fund her endeavors.
Should you hire one?
If you expect a publicist to land you on the New York Times best-seller list as an indie author, you may need to adjust your expectations. If you want to increase the visibility of your book and yourself, a publicist can be a great resource. Visibility can lead to sales, agents, and distribution, but it’s not a sure thing. Go in with your eyes wide open, and you’ll have a good experience.
Here’s a resource for finding publicists: The Book Publicity Blog (http://yodiwan.com/2009/02/18/list-of-freelance-book-publicists/).
Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling mysterious women’s fiction (Saving Grace) and humorous nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your Kids) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart author-preneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.