Frequently Asked Questions re:
Book PR

If you're a first-time or seasoned author, or a publisher who is considering using a freelance publicity group such as BIGGS PUBLICITY & EVENTS, you probably have some questions about the process and what to expect.

Here are some answers to many frequently asked questions (FAQ).

Q: Why should I hire a freelance publicist?

A: Most publishers' publicity departments are focusing on a list of several new books each season; some publish up to 50 new books each quarter! One person may handle the early outreach related to the publicity campaign (early meetings with national media), another person may handle the long-lead print media (by creating the galley list and sending galleys), someone else may write the press materials, another department may pitch booksigning events to bookstores or other venues, another staffer may create the short-lead mailing list (newspapers, radio, TV, online outlets), and still another person may field media queries about your book several months after the book is published.

You want to make sure your book gets the attention you feel it deserves, in a consistent and timely manner. This includes having a single "go-to" publicist so your phone calls are returned, your questions are answered, your media leads responded to, your suggestions heard, and your coverage shared with you—all in a prompt manner. You've worked long and hard to write a book, and now is not the time to have your title get lost in the shuffle.

A freelance publicist works on your behalf with the publisher's publicity team and the media, making sure your book gets the best possible coverage while being careful not to duplicate efforts.

Q: What will the freelancer do that the publisher might not do?

A: All publishing contracts are different but take a close look at yours. Has your publisher agreed to contact your local media, even if you don't live in a major metropolitan area? Generate more clients for your business? Arrange speaking engagements at conferences and local chapters of your professional organization? Pitch book events at your local bookstore, especially if it is not part of a national chain? Contact web sites that specifically target your profession, not just sites that cover the general subject of your book? Re-pitch the book if a new national headline relates to your area of expertise? Resell the book at atypical venues such as your local community center, museum, or cultural center?

Due to the volume of titles being published, the publisher's publicity team “ranks” each title within each season, with the "A level" titles receiving the majority of the publicity attention. Most publisher’s publicity departments have a standing media list for “psychology books”, “education books”, “health books” and the like. But what if your book crosses over several genres and needs to be sent to general interest media as well as to reviewers at professional publications?

A good freelance publicist always sees your title as an "A title”. He or she will create a tailored media list, a comprehensive campaign, and make several rounds of follow-up calls to make the most of each opportunity.

Q: What are some examples of the “right time” to hire a freelance publicist?

  • When you are the author of a new book that is going to be published soon

  • If you are the author of a book that was published in the past 12 months but it seems to have fallen off the radar screen of your publisher's in-house publicity team

  • If your book was published within the last 12 months but a current national news headline has created an awareness of your subject matter and the in-house staff has already moved on to promoting next season's books

  • If your book is being reprinted with a significant amount of new information

  • If you are using your book as a major selling tool related to your business, and your business is booming (or you want to give it a boost)

Q: What is the difference between marketing, advertising, public relations, promotions, media, and publicity, as related to books?

A: Marketing is figuring out what the "market" or "typical buyer" is for your book. This may include a target based on demographics, income, age, home owner status, past book buying history, or subject of interest. Publishers target a specific market in order to predict sales of a particular book.

Public Relations refers to any time an author meets the public, for example to talk about the book. Ads and promotions are usually used in connection with this type of outreach.

Advertising is coverage that you pay for. Ads ignite a subliminal awareness of a product, but they may not create a personal pull or play upon an emotional connection that moves you to buy the product. Ads can cost anywhere from $50 for a 1/8" space in your local newspaper, to $120,000 for a full-page color ad in a national magazine. to $1,000,000 for a thirty second ad on TV during the Superbowl for example. The merits of your book are based only on what the ad copy says. Anyone can buy an ad, provided they can afford to pay for it, which makes ads somehow less credible than other forms of outreach.

Promotions are offers that are usually created in association with an ad. They are a form of outreach that encourages a direct response from an audience, like a coupon, contest, giveaway, etc.

Media is a term that loosely defines a professional who provides information to the public about a new book. There are many different kinds of "media", including editors (print journalists, writers, reporters, columnists), hosts (radio, TV), and producers (radio, TV, online).

Publicity is a subliminal form of outreach used whenever a consumer is provided with information that inspires them to purchase a product; a package of intangible concepts tied together in a "newsworthy" fashion. There is no cost associated with Publicity (other than what you are paying your publicist to do the outreach).

So...let’s say the MARKET for your book is new mothers; you agree to do a PUBLIC RELATIONS appearance at the local community center; you (or your publisher) opt to pay for ADVERTISING to generate interest in your appearance; in the ad you include a coupon PROMOTION promising a free book for the first 10 people who redeem the coupon at the event…

Your publicist contacts the MEDIA to let them know why your appearance and your book is a unique community-building opportunity for new moms in the area; the publicist is able to book you on the morning drive-time radio show the day of the event; the local TV station will have a film crew at the event; and the lifestyles editor of the local paper will have a reporter interview you and a staff photographer take your picture for an article to appear the morning of the event. The last, and we think best, part of this scenario is called PUBLICITY.

Q: How much will it cost?

A: It's like looking at a menu in a fancy French restaurant, deciding what entree to order, and then wondering if it would benefit you to also have an appetizer, drinks, and desert to go along with it. Or maybe you’d have the appetizer, but not the desert. And so on. Before giving you a quote, your publicist should fully evaluate the potential impact that publicity can have on the sales of your book.

He or she will probably ask to see your Marketing Questionnaire, an outline or manuscript or galley of the book, the publisher's Publicity Plan if there is one, and any catalogue or marketing copy that has been created. He or she will need to know what the sales and publicity expectations are---yours and the publishers---before coming up with a Publicity Plan that will determine which media type is best for your book (i.e. short lead national or regional print, or long lead national or regional print, or national or regional radio, or national or regional TV, or general or subject-specific web sites, or a combination of the above).

After you and the publicist have agreed on what kind of campaign will most benefit your book, most publicists will offer a fee based on retainer or for the project, understanding that fees are paid for "best effort only" and results are not guaranteed. Some publicists work on a "pay for placement" basis, but this is rare. Almost all publicists require reimbursement for out of pocket expenses, such as phone calls related to the campaign, photocopying, shipping supplies, and postage. Most are happy to give a brief complimentary consultation over the phone, and some can even provide referrals to other publicists who might be a better fit for your hopes, needs, and budget.

Some freelance publicists can be hired only to write a press release for a new edition of your book, or to do only online media outreach, or to target local media in your city, or to contact media in a city that you frequently travel to, and so on. Which takes us back to the initial concept of the French menu.

Q: What kinds of questions should I ask myself before I decide to hire a freelance publicist?

  • What is my purpose in getting publicity for my book (be honest—is it to create awareness of the subject, to promote your business, to add "author" to your list of lifetime accomplishments, to make money)?

  • What are my weaknesses when it comes to promoting the book and how could a publicist help me with that?

  • Will I really be able to collaborate with another person on something that I've been so closely connected to for quite some time? Are my expectations in line with the publishers'?

  • How will I feel if I don't get on Oprah?

  • What will I learn from this process?

Q: What kinds of questions should I ask the potential publicist before I make a hiring decision?

  • Have you read the material?

  • What other books will you be working on within this same timeframe?

  • What other similar books have you publicized in the past, and what were your top placements?

  • What do you feel are your areas of expertise?

  • How can I help you do your job?

  • Why do you want to publicize my book?

  • Do you have some professional or personal references that I could call before I make this important decision?

  • What happens when our campaign is officially “over”?

These are just a few samples of FAQ. If you have questions that were not answered here, please send an e-mail to adrienne(at)biggspublicity(dot)com for a detailed and prompt response.

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