We often discuss ways you can market and sell your book using various forms of both free and paid online advertising. Now we’re going to talk about publicity. In her ebook titled The Power of Publicity for Your Book, Marsha Friedman provides us with a clear distinction between the two:
By definition, publicity is not advertising; it’s coverage by the media of people, events and issues deemed to be of interest to their audiences.
. . . The nice thing about publicity, also referred to as “earned media,” is that you don’t buy it; you earn it. If you can get a journalist or talk show host interested in your story idea or topic, you might be interviewed for an article, asked to write an article for publication, or invited to be interviewed as a guest on a radio or TV show.
The endorsement of traditional media, even if it’s simply mentioning your name, has always been marketing gold to anyone trying to build a reputation as an author and gain visibility for their book.
Some authors misunderstand the role of publicists. They hire a publicity firm assuming that organization will advertise and sell their book(s) for them, but this is incorrect. The true role of a publicist is to garner publicity for their client—to get that author mentioned in the media via Associated Press-style articles and press releases written about the topic(s) in his or her book, and by promoting that author as an industry expert in his or her field. The idea is to attract newspaper, radio, and television interviews that will highlight the publicist’s client within the mainstream media. The by-product of this publicity is a heightened interest in the author, which should boost sales of his or her book much like advertising does.
Both advertising and publicity are about putting yourself in front of a larger audience as often as possible to build on (and maintain) that top-of-mind awareness we talked about earlier; but, by contrast, advertising is essentially you talking about yourself and your book whereas publicity is the media talking about you and your book. Obviously, when someone else is talking about you, it has more credibility in the eyes of the public. That’s the power of publicity.
It is possible to generate publicity on your own, free of charge, without hiring a publicist to write the news stories for you. Friedman offers some helpful tips about this in her ebook, as well:
You can hire PR professionals to help you get publicity, but you can also work at getting it for yourself. . . . for a newspaper, you might write a short, bona fide news story, or a list of tips that address a problem relevant to your book. For TV and radio, briefly describe the topic you can address and what you will contribute. . . . Most mass media are focused on issues and events in the news today, so you’re much more likely to get publicity if you can speak to something going on now. That’s not as difficult as it sounds, but it does require creative thinking.
There is a definite benefit to hiring a publicist to do all this for you, though. Publicity firms have developed long-standing relationships with all the “movers and shakers” in the media, and their staff knows exactly how to format news stories to have an “Associated Press” appeal that is more likely to be picked up. They watch the news regularly, so they’re aware of what is going on and how to tie you and your book topics into current events. Hiring a publicist is somewhat expensive but, in my opinion, it’s worth the investment when you’re working with a reputable firm.
How expensive is it? Well, it depends. There are different types of publicists out there. Some firms want a retainer, much like a law firm, and they will charge their clients for time spent researching, writing, and contacting the media as well as for telephone charges, postage fees, and any other materials they create for you (i.e., printing and copying). And then there are the firms that use a pay-for-performance business model where they charge only one lump sum fee in the beginning and guarantee a certain amount of publicity along with that lump sum fee.
To clarify: If you want someone to publish your book and provide you with worldwide distribution channels to sell it through, hire a publisher; if you want someone to sell your book for you, hire a salesperson; if you want someone to advertise and market your book for you, hire an ad agency; and if you want publicity for yourself and your book, hire a publicist. Or, you can manage your own publishing, distribution, sales, advertising, marketing, and publicity by yourself using all of the techniques discussed my latest book, Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors, plus my two previous books.
As with everything, there are pros and cons to hiring any of these professionals. It’s important to do your homework to determine which one is best for you or whether you even want to hire one at all. You may decide to do it all on your own. Just make sure you’re doing something. Remember, you’ll sell many more books if you’re in the driver’s seat than you will if you leave it all up to your publisher.