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No Free Launch: Publicity Firms & Their Fees

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(Editor’s Note: Be aware that prices vary depending on the PR agency that you are dealing with. Also, getting on a show doesn’t cost anything if you do it yourself!)

An effective way to get a new book off the ground is through exposure on radio and television. While some publishers schedule performances by contacting the media directly, others use a publicity firm to organize their appearances.
A publicity firm is an organization that arranges publicity for people and charges a fee for its efforts. The major advantage of using a publicity firm is the knowledge its employees have of the various shows and the established relationships they have with show staff.

Two Basic Approaches
to Fees

There are two ways in which publicity firms charge for their services. Some work on a retainer by assessing a flat monthly fee. This could be up to $5,000, for which you should receive an unlimited number of engagements. The negative side is that you pay the same fee every month regardless of the number of appearances arranged for you.
Most independent publishers consider it impractical to pay a monthly retainer without any guarantee of results. They typically opt for the second way publicity firms charge for their services, which is via a “per-placement” fee. This alternative can be more cost-effective because you pay only if you are booked on a show.
Pay-per-placement agencies charge an advance administrative fee which can range from $2,000 to $3,000. This usually includes an initial consultative meeting and the compilation of the press kits they will send to the media.
In addition, you are charged according to the type of show on which you are booked. In a minor market, you could expect to be charged between $500 and $700 to appear on a local television show. The fee for radio shows is usually based upon the length of your performance and the time of day. Typical costs may run from $400 to $600 per appearance. Charges in major markets will normally run $100 to $200 above these costs. Some publicity firms charge double if you tape two shows at one sitting.
Fees for an appearance on a nationally televised talk show are significantly higher, but the results are usually more spectacular. If you are booked on The Late Show with David Letterman or The Oprah Winfrey Show, for example, each performance might cost you $5,000 or more. A booking on Good Morning America, The Today Show or Larry King Live could be priced at $3,000 to $4,000. Interviews with editors of major newspapers can also be arranged for a fee, perhaps as much as $3,000 for a piece in USA Today or The New York Times.

City Tours

Your account executive will try to organize several shows at one time in each market. If several appearances are scheduled in one city, you will be assessed one total fee rather than a charge for each show. A city tour consists of a minimum number of quality interviews per city and at least one booking for a major show (be sure to agree on the minimum number and on the definition of the words “quality” and “major”). The fee should also include services for making hotel, travel, and escort arrangements (the publicity firm makes the reservations, but you pay the actual charges). A typical package might cost you $1,500 in a regular market, $2,000 in a large market such as Chicago, Philadelphia, or San Francisco, and more for tours in Los Angeles and New York.
There is usually a cap on what you are charged for a city tour, so your fee should not increase if you are scheduled on more than the agreed upon number of shows. If fewer than that number of shows are booked, you will normally be charged a per-placement charge up to the amount of the fee for the city tour.

Telephone Tours

A publicist can also arrange telephone interviews with radio stations around the country in non-prime times organized in groups of 10 to 30 interviews, for which you might be charged $150 to $200 per interview. For a telephone tour, you would go to one studio, and in a period of two or three hours, conduct 20-25 interviews by telephone with radio stations around the country. This is excellent exposure if the right shows are chosen, but the fee for such a tour might be $4,000.


Brian Jud is a book-marketing consultant and host of a marketing seminar featuring Mark Victor Hansen, Jerry Jenkins, Steve Hall, and others scheduled for October 16-17, 1999 in Secaucus, New Jersey. Contact Jud at PO Box 715, Avon, CT 06001-0715, e-mail bjauthor@tiac.net, Web site http://www.publishingdirections.com.


This article is from thePMA Newsletterfor June, 1999, and is reprinted with permission of Publishers Marketing Association.

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