People hire publicists for a lot of reasons, and one of those reasons is to pass the buck. They’ve worked hard and finally, one way or another, their book is published. They’re tired and they feel they’ve taken it as far as they can on their own. For most, hiring a publicist is a big step, not one they take lightly. And it’s a sizable expense in many cases so, yes, they have high expectations of what they’ll get in return for their hard-earned money.
I learned early on that one of the main things I do for my clients is take rejection. Nobody wants to make a pitch for their book only to be told “NO.” We don’t want it. We don’t think it’s good enough. No. Of course when you call a store in hopes of setting up a signing event and are told “NO” it’s rarely a personal thing. More likely it’s a scheduling thing or a policy thing or some other “thing.” Chances are they didn’t look at your book information long enough to know enough about it to form an opinion of any kind. But when someone says “NO” it feels personal. Especially when you’re making more than one call and they keep saying “NO”. A publicist is nice to have at that point because I’m used to hearing more “NO” answers than “YES” and because I really know that it’s not personal. It’s timing. So hiring a publicist shields an author from too many “NO” responses.
But because I don’t tell every author about every NO I hear on their behalf, some think I don’t get “NO” answers. They think hiring a publicist means I can make people say “Yes” to them. I wish I could make them an offer they can’t refuse, but that’s not what I do. I do have contacts that you probably don’t have. I can pick up the phone and call the Guest Booker at the Today Show. I can make my best pitch for you and your book. But they still have to say something. If I’m really on my game that day, maybe they’ll say “Sure, send me more info and I’ll take a look.” Or maybe they’ll say, “NO.”
Most days, after doing this for 15+ years, I get more, “Sure, send me more info…” answers than “NO” answers. That’s when it gets tricky. That’s when people forget what my job is. They think it’s my job to get them to say “YES.” Don’t get me wrong, I love it when they do. But when they say, “Sure, send me more info,” I’ve done my job. My job is to get you there – in front of the people who matter. My job is to get the right people to look at your work. It’s the audition for the part. To get you noticed by people who can share you with their audience who will hopefully want to buy your book.
Now, there are lots and lots of things I can do that bypass that audition. I can call a radio host that I’ve worked with over the years and tell him I have an author I think he’d like to interview. Based on our past history, he’ll schedule an interview without ever talking to the author or seeing the book based on my say so. Don’t think for a second that I take that lightly. If I don’t really think he’ll like you, I won’t pitch you even if I know you’d like to be on that program. Hey, wait a minute! That’s not right! Yes it is. First, if he doesn’t like you, it won’t be a good interview and you’ll probably be mad that I set it up in the first place. Second, I have to call him again for the next client. No need to make everyone unhappy. But I digress.
Whether I’m arranging an “audition” or an actual appearance, you or your book still have to show up and perform. I get you there but it’s up to you to make them love you. That means I hope you’ve honed your interview skills and are able to give an entertaining talk in front of an audience. That means when the reviewer opens and reads those first few pages, they better be error free and engaging enough to make them want to keep reading. I’ve been shocked over the years when I find a particularly compelling writer who can only stare at the floor and give one word answers to an interviewer. Or even worse, find a fabulous storyline in synopsis only to find the final copy is riddled with grammatical or formatting errors. And whether it’s fair or not, more than one really good book has been passed over because of an ugly cover. You know that’s true.
I realize when things just don’t turn out the way you’d like and maybe sales don’t increase after a promotional campaign, it’s easiest to blame the publicist. But if you don’t want it to keep happening, I urge you to bite the bullet and take a good hard look at your product and presentation. Chances are there’s room for improvement somewhere.
For your best chance of success, make sure you’ve done all you can to fine tune your presentation skills, make sure your book has a good editor, formatter and a professional cover then join up with a professional publicist who has a good track record. Don’t be hasty!
It’s worth the effort to do things right!
Do you have any experiences along these lines that you’d like to share?