Sunday, May 22, 2011

Personal Branding VII: Hire a Publicist

I might have argued with this nugget of advice before I did it, but now I’m convinced. Yes, I knew that marketing “how-to” books suggested an author should have a publicist, and my publisher had echoed that advice.

“Just use the person for the three most important months,” she had said: “The month before your book is released, the month of, and the month after.” The success of my book launch would depend heavily on my activities during those three months.
My publisher then quoted me a typical publicist’s monthly fee—one that made my mortgage payment look puny. (Some might argue that my mortgage payment IS puny, but let’s stay on track.) Once I knew the cost, I gave up on the idea of having a publicist and considered other options.

The busy period for my book would likely be July through December 2011, with the key months being September, October, and November. The big push was still several months away.
Always working ahead, I began a list of possible stops on my expected book tour—bookstores, book festivals, and retail establishments that might stock It Started with Dracula. I went on the Internet and found the contact information for each one.

How do you book a book tour?
The next step, according to the marketing books, was to call each place and verify the contact information, especially the people. Employees come and go; websites, if unattended, can be wrong.

I’ve always dreaded phone work. Maybe that began when I worked for a figure salon in the 1970s. Every so often I’d have to sit on the floor behind the service desk with stacks of customer member sheets and call each woman whose attendance had lapsed. “We’ve missed you!” I’d begin in a perky voice, not having any idea who she was; and from there my script was designed to turn anything she might say into a commitment to come back.
Any kind of selling is about as comfortable for me as a three-day wedgie. Some of us just don’t have that killer instinct. Combine “selling” with “phone work,” and I’m out. Bye-bye.

I called a friend who has a thriving assistant business, but she was booked up. That’s what thriving means. I dreaded having to handle every detail myself. When should I start calling? How long would it take me to contact every bookstore on my list? Would they be happy to have me, or would I have to convince them? How many places could I appear in a week? It was overwhelming, so I put it off.
In the meantime, another publicity challenge was on the horizon. Early, uncorrected copies of my book were being printed so that they could be mailed out to “key reviewers.” The publisher wasn’t going to do all of the mailing; some of it would fall to me. After that, it would be time to create an EPK—my electronic press kit.

I couldn’t do all of that. Besides being untrained and terrible when it came to snappy marketing ideas, I was writing a second book. So, when my publisher again mentioned hiring a publicist, I agreed. She very generously offered to help with the cost, which by then I knew was reasonable and the service worth every penny.
I love having a publicist, and she's a wonder. She loves setting up book tours, she does a rocking EPK, and she made up the best mailing labels for all those books “we” sent out. About the only thing I have to do now is get used to saying “My publicist,” which still sounds a bit Hollywood to me. I’m working on that.

Thank you, Randee Feldman of GetNoticed PR (; and Bettie Youngs (, the best publisher on the planet.


  1. Such great advice and fun to read!

  2. Jane, this blog is terrific. On the serious side of your blog, it is overwhelming to realize what is in front of me, to reach the heights of all the Jane Congdon's in the world. In other words, all the best selling authors. I have been in the sales force, and there isn't one element of sales that I enjoyed. I remember those friendly customer phone calls I would make as reminders. Keeping a smile on my face to sound perky on the phone, while I was breaking boxes of pencils under my desk!! My joys are creating my Children's Series and helping as many people in my life that I can help. In the end I know my entire Children's Series will help many kids. On a funnier note, the 3 day wedgie is sounding realllly uncomfortable and all that I am facing is making me realize I will be wearing that wedgie,and soon!!!! I think walking on hot coals might be a better option to find a nice, resonable publicist that could take pity on a girl that hates wedgies!!!!!! Thanks Jane. You are the best!