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The Value of Professional Book Promotion

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by Brian Feinblum, Chief Marketing Officer, Media Connect

Brian Feinblum

Read on for expert advice on when to hire a book publicist and how to work with them to maximize results.

Should I hire a book publicity firm to help get media exposure for my book? What kind of budget is appropriate? What can I expect to get in return?

I am asked these questions every day, and my answer has barely changed since I began working 18 years ago at MEDIA CONNECT, the largest and one of the oldest book promoters in the country. My answer may surprise you.

Hiring a book promoter can be a very smart thing—provided you hire the right one and work in tandem with them. But before I tell you of all the advantages of working with a book publicist, let me tell you when you should hold off on employing someone to help you.

If you don’t have the funds for a publicist, do not beg, borrow, or steal to pay for one. Though the long- and short-term payoff of using a publicist can be great, no one should go into debt to hire one.

If your book is really no better than mediocre, or it’s one of many in a crowded field, you may not want to put a lot of resources toward it until you see it get some natural traction from reviews and word-of-mouth chatter.

If you are only writing books and you don’t generate income from other areas—speaking, consulting, selling other services, or products—the potential return on investment for you is not as great as it would be for others.

If you can promote a book on your own—you have the time, personality, credentials, resources, a timely subject—why pay another to bark for you?

If you are receiving real help from a publisher or your employer to promote your book, go with them and get what you can for free.

However, the reasons to use a book promoter far outweigh those not to. If you find the right book promoter—and I’ll identify what to look for in a moment—you will receive these benefits:

  • Access to a personal network of media contacts
  • Experienced promoters who know who to contact, when, and how
  • Strategic advice on positioning and branding
  • Advice on crafting the best news pitches
  • Top-level media coaching
  • Updated media databases with notes on what appeals to specific reporters and shows
  • A macro view of the current media landscape and a context for where you fit into it
  • An experienced perspective on what the media likes/dislikes, needs, and desires
  • A staff trained in persistently and intelligently contacting and following up with the media
  • People who speak the language of the media
  • A company that the media already knows and deals with, which makes it more likely the media will accept calls and e-mails about your book

Authors who promote themselves can lose confidence from rejection or become frustrated
by the silence of the media they contact. Authors lack relationships to leverage and are not as tuned in to the media cycle or ways to tie their book into what the media plans to cover. Book publicity is not rocket science. Give someone a contact list, a phone, an e-mail account, and a pitch, and they can get some results. But it is an art, and it takes a big learning curve to be efficient and productive at a high level; this is why book publicists get paid well.

Authors who don’t use a publicity firm may find:

  • Their press releases lack punch.
  • They lack time to properly contact all of the media.
  • They don’t understand what appeals to the media and fail to connect what they have to what the media wants.
  • They overestimated how easy it would be to get media coverage.
  • They didn’t follow a preferred timeline or protocol for contacting the media, leading to fewer successful results.
  • They are too close to their own work, lacking the distance needed to promote their book.
  • The media hasn’t responded to calls and e-mails from individuals or unknown entities.
  • They need to be media trained in order to convert an interview opportunity into a book sale.
  • There were many things they were unaware of or didn’t fully know how to execute until it was too late.
  • The question of, “Should I have a publicist?” should be replaced by, “Who should I hire and how can I help them?”

Who should you hire?

  • A book publicity firm that has resources and staff with connections and ideas, rather than an individual publicist at a two-person shop who is stretched thin.
  • Someone who sounds confident, savvy, creative, and knowledgeable.
  • A promoter with experience in promoting books in your niche with available case studies and a proven track record.
  • A person whom you feel understands your book and appreciates you; who sounds enthusiastic and passionate about representing you; and who has a good personality and exhibits a high moral character.
  • A firm with strong references and testimonials.
  • Someone who doesn’t promise the world but sounds competent and optimistic enough to produce reasonable results.

A good book publicity firm:

  • Sets realistic goals and sets expectations.
  • Targets its outreach and follows up.
  • Communicates often with you.
  • Helps present you in an innovative way.
  • Understands your message and spreads the word.
  • Builds your platform and takes you to the next level.
  • Provides a bigger picture for the long-term

You can help your book publicist by:

  • Responding to their requests for information.
  • Providing them with helpful links to past media experiences.
  • Giving them insight about your relevant views and experiences.
  • Brainstorming story ideas for the media.
  • Explaining what you are comfortable doing and not doing.
  • Sharing ideas on a regular basis and showing them what you can comment on that’s in the news.
  • Letting them know of upcoming events, anniversaries, or special days that are relevant to your field or that relate to your activities.Sharing your blog posts, social media handles, resume, website, videos, etc.
  • Identifying competitors or those you think are models for what you’re trying to accomplish.
  • Providing a schedule of public appearances in the past and of upcoming speaking events; share your travel schedule so they can piggyback media to places for you to go.
  • Being available for interviews or guest blog post assignments

Lastly, you can help a publicist by doing the things you didn’t hire them to do. For instance, if they are promoting you to the news media, you need to grow your social media, get out there speaking, and contact organizations that may want to buy your book.

A publicist can only do so much—it’s up to you to be involved and to take ownership of your ultimate success.

Brian Feinblum, is the chief marketing officer for the book publicity firm MEDIA CONNECT and the founder of BookMarketingBuzzBlog.

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