What to Know Before Hiring a Publicist: An Open Letter to Authors by Nickcole Watkins of Smith Publicity, Inc.

As someone who has worked in the publishing industry for over a decade, I have heard the words, “I wish I knew that before I invested tons in a publicist,” more times than I can calculate. If you are an author who has uttered those very words or are concerned you will be gnawing on those words after investing in publicity, I have good news for you—it doesn’t have to be that scary. It simply comes down to doing your homework and taking the time to interview different firms and publicists to ensure you invest in the right partner for you.

The number one thing to understand before hiring a publicist or firm is it is a partnership. It does not work if you are not willing to play an active role in the process. No matter how many dollars you invest or how prestigious a company you hire, no one will ever know your book like you—and that’s a good thing! If you aren’t ready to invest in yourself, then you may want to rethink taking that next step of investing in a publicist. Being unwilling to roll up your own sleeves short-circuits the effectiveness of a publicity campaign significantly. Picture this: a three-legged race where one person is using all of their energy to get to the finish line while the other is lying on the ground like a sack of Idaho potatoes (delicious, but not a very helpful partner!).

You may be asking, “Well, aren’t these publicity firms the experts?” The short answer is: Yes. However, we still need you. At Smith Publicity, for example, we work in collaboration with authors; it isn’t transactional for us. While we take time to review an author’s background, book content, online platform, brand, etc., to begin extracting key takeaways, expert positioning, pitch angles, and the specific media contacts that are the right fit for the author and their topic, we still need an involved and motivated author by our side. The media wants to hear from the expert, thought leader, novelist, children’s book author, etc., by way of interviews, author-written articles, blog posts, guest essays, op-eds, expert commentary, and the list continues. While a publicity partner can certainly help elevate your voice and message into the media, they can’t replace you—and they don’t want to.

So how do you know if a publicist is right for you and alternatively if you are right for them? Here are some quick takeaways to carry with you as you look to bring on a partner in the wonderful land of book publicity:

  1. Know your budget. Do you need to hire other partners like website developers, marketers, publishing partners, or editors? Keep this in mind as you form your overall budget.
  2. Know your primary goals for working with a publicist. Effective reasons could include brand elevation, credibility, visibility, etc. Be sure to communicate these goals clearly.
  3. Interview, interview, interview. Make sure you hear from a few different firms/publicists before making your final decision. Again, you are looking for the best fit for your project.
  4. Make sure whomever you hire actually understands your book and brand. It’s important for them to know what/whom they are pitching in order for them to do their job most effectively and give you the best chance for success.
  5. Make sure you understand your role in the partnership. This includes making time to commit to interviews, article writing, brainstorms, and more.

Take your time carefully choosing whom you decide to partner with, and make sure you understand what you are signing up for. To be best prepared and experience the highest level of success, you should have a clear idea of the time commitment needed from you, service deliverables, communication, results, etc. At the end of the day, publicity support is a substantial investment that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Remember: This is not a one-sided sprint to the finish line but a marathon where teamwork and collaboration will take you far.

 

Learn more about Smith Publicity here: https://www.smithpublicity.com/

Business Development Associate, Smith Publicity, Inc., Nickcole Watkins

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