How much do you know about hiring an external publicist for your novel?

Being a fiction writer in today’s era of discoverability issues is tough! If you’ve got an agent (congrats!), a book deal (terrific!), and a pub date (a book birthday!) you’re certainly set up for success. But what is that success? What do you want from your novel? The most people to read it, surely.

One thing debut authors (and many established authors) are doing is hiring an external publicist to partner with an in house publicist on your behalf. To be clear, every book gets an in house publicist. But some writers don’t feel comfortable having all their eggs in one basket, especially when in house publicists are managing 5+ books a season.

Everyone from my clients to audience members during conference panels ask: Do I need to hire an external publicist?

The answer is no, you don’t need to. But here are some benefits and reasons why you might want or not want to.

You have one chance to make a first impression. You’ve been waiting for your pub date for years, if not decades. Why not give yourself the greatest chance for success by getting more talented experts in your corner? If you’re able to give yourself an extra boost why wouldn’t you?

If you didn’t get a big advance the publisher doesn’t have to work as hard to recoup their money. This is a reality of the business. Marketing money and publicity personnel goes to authors that publishers know will do well, not the ones that usually really need it. There are exceptions of course! But this should be your default mentality.

You got a big advance and have some expendable income. Lucky you! Your publisher paid well, you have great foreign deals coming in or other monies from your writing–why not reinvest that in your career? This isn’t for everyone, no publishing advice is, but if you’re able it’s a great way to spread the buzz as far as you can.

The more you pay doesn’t mean the more you’ll get. You never know what a publicist can do. Internal or otherwise. Publicists can’t make promises. If you are going to hire someone you must know that they will do their best but you don’t know what those results will be. They will share their notes and tell you who they contacted, but they can’t guarantee their contacts will pick up the story. If you pay $5,000 or $30,000 (yes, that’s the ballpark figures you’re looking at) you might end up with the same results. Or, you might end up with much, much more! But no one can see the future.

Know their track record. Have they got authors into EW or People? Or is their experience with author blog tours? Firstly, know what you want out of it. Secondly, find a publicist whose confirmed experience matches your goals.

Tips:

  • Ask your in house team if they recommend anyone. You want everyone to get along.
  • Before you hire an external publicist ask your in house team what their plans are and see if that meets your needs first.
  • Looking for a publicist? Publishing Trends puts out this list yearly. Bookmark it!
  • Start looking 8-12 months before your pub date to get everyone acquainted and following the same plan.
  • Make sure you’re doing all you can to support your team. It’s not just in the publicists’ hands. It’s in your hands too and they’ll want you to help with interviews, Q&As, giveaways, sharing your contacts, signing copies, promoting events, and much more. Be an open and willing partner and accept both parties are responsible for the outcome.

Publicists, external or internal, are some of the hardest working people in publishing. We’re lucky to have them all working on our books!

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12 thoughts on “How much do you know about hiring an external publicist for your novel?

  1. Great post. As a publicist, fiction can be the toughest genre to promote. It comes to several factors such as platform. But if a publicist is pitching a first time fiction author, the campaign needs to be creative and utilize every possible angle to get the book visibility. Also, I’ve worked for small presses and most have a publicist on staff. This person tends to be spread thin so I always encourage the author to promote themselves while to publicist is pitching reviewers. If any authors want tips on what they can do to promote themselves, post a comment.

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      1. Kim, some local B&Ns and indie bookstores have lists of book clubs. If you approach bookstores, be very clear on what you are looking to do. Also, just like you would pitch an agent, booksellers will ask about your book. What makes it a good fit for book clubs? They might ask you about distribution and if the book is returnable. My advice is to have your pitch nailed down and be able to clearly explain which distributors the book is available through. If you are not sure about returnability and/or distribution, reach out to your publisher.

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