Pub Rants

An Author Looks at Publicists

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As you folks are probably gathering, I’m not one for answering questions. I just like to rant on random topics as they strike me. If you’ve got questions, why don’t you sidle on over to Miss Snark because she’s a hell of a gal for answering them.

However, one of my authors posted some sage advice on a discussion board. A lot of writers were pretty darn happy with the detail she gave so I asked her if she would like to guest on my blog.

Sounded like fun–so here’s my author Ally Carter to talk about Publicisits. Take it away Ally.

Soon after Cheating at Solitaire sold, I set aside a portion of my advance to hire an independent publicist. Since then, and (perhaps) as a result, Cheating at Solitaire has been featured in Writers Digest, For Me Magazine, and I had a profile in Romantic Times in addition to a review that I think everyone gets. Now, the million dollar questions:

1. would these things have happened without an independent publicist and 2. will these things sell books?

The short answer: I don’t know.

I will tell you this, in-house publicists (at least in my case) are very nice and good but incredibly busy. Many may welcome outside help. Many may not. I’ve heard very strong reactions to this question on both sides, so I’d say to talk it over with your editor first before you hire someone, and then talk to your publisher’s PR staff to see who they recommend.

In hindsight, I’m very glad I got help pitching Solitaire, simply because I don’t have the contacts or the time to do it myself. I would do a few things differently, though, and all from the communication side of things.

1. I’d put together my own “mini” press package to send to the publicist–hard and electronic copies–with things like contact info for my agent, editor, and in-house publicist.

2…I’d have a serious talk about exactly who was going to get approached, and I wouldn’t settle for “we’re going to have a very aggressive national campaign focusing on all major outlets.” Next time I’m going to ask for specifics.

3…If three or four magazines or newspapers meant more to me, I’d communicate that plainly with the publicist up-front.

4…I’d be very specific about which book the publicist was supposed to be spending her time promoting, because I got a lot of “we’d really rather do something in the spring when her YA book comes out” responses—which is nice—except I wasn’t worried about press for my YA. I was worried about press for Cheating at Solitaire.

5…I’d discuss up-front how open the publicists are going to be to suggestions. I want a publicist who is going to listen to my ideas without feeling threatened.

6…If I don’t want to pitch my hometown newspaper and morning show I’d ask the publicist up-front if she’d be willing to do that, even though it might not be a part of a national campaign.

7…I’d insist, up-front, on weekly updates. Even if the update is just “people got their packets this week, and we’re going to start making calls on Monday.” I’m going to be more aggressive next time about knowing where things stand.

8…Watch out for hidden costs. “Press kit assembly” and “Press Release Writing” fees add up. Some publicists won’t charge extra for these things, but some will. Read the fine print.

9…If a publicist promises you a lot, run…don’t walk…away. The good ones know what they can get you and don’t give you a hard sell–they’re busy enough as it is.

10…It should be a TEAM EFFORT!!! It’s not the independent vs. the in-house. The publicist should make for less work for you–not more–but the only way this will happen is if the right hand knows what the left hand is doing.In my case, hiring an independent publicist was money very well spent. Plus, I learned a lot about the craziness that comes from this process and how to better manage it the next time around. And there will be a next time.
Ally Carter

9 Responses

  1. doc-t said:

    A “team effort.”

    I like that! It’s been my experience that most jobs are a team effort.

    and remember:

    There is no ” I ” in TEAM but there is an I in antepentultimate…

    okay, I’m not sure where i was going with that.

  2. Eileen said:

    Ally- great post. As I take the next steps this practical advice is very appreciated. With all your free time (snort-snort) you should write this up as an article for one of the writer magazines.

  3. The Beautiful Schoolmarm said:

    Abouta year ago, some friends of mine showed me a trailer for a movied called Greyson. It doesn’t exist; film students put it together to show their cinematography to directors. It’s about 15 minutes long and cost $30,000. I don’t have that kind of money, but I have friends who know enough about filming, editing, and putting in words and music that I think we could do a one or two minute clip for my book. I’m not sure if it would help, but something like that avaliable on the internet would appeal to the fantasy readers, I think.

  4. Lady M said:

    Thank you Ally – your time is invaluable and I appreciate the information being passed down.

    Please feel free to offer more insights!

  5. Ms. Get Known Now said:

    Well, honey, this is just why I had to start a little business helping authors and other folks build their own platform without a publicist. Cause it’s expensive! Cause you have no control! Cause who knows your stuff better than you! Viva la Web which allows us all manner of hearty promo techniques on line. I’ve got a free call up right now that I did with blog-man Andy Wibbels on using blogs to promote your book. Perhaps this could be useful to you: