Friday, February 15, 2008

Pitching a publicity firm: A guide for authors

Many authors don’t realize that pitching your book to a top publicity firm is a lot like pitching it to a prospective agent or publisher. Good firms are going to interview you as much as you interview them and will only take on authors that they feel are a) a good fit for their firm and b) have a message that the media is going to be interested in.


Like agents, publicists have two sets of clients. On one side publicists have the authors and publishers they represent and on the other they have the media contacts that they have built relationships with through the years. If a firm starts taking on bad books from poorly qualified authors, those media relationships get damaged and the brand takes a swift nose dive.

What key factors play into a publicity firm’s decision to take on a new author?

  • Credentials of the author
  • Timeliness of the message
  • Quality of the book
  • Realistic expectations (i.e. does not utter “I HAVE to be on Oprah”)
  • An author who is passionate about their message (i.e. willing to get up early for interviews)

All of the factors listed above play into a judgment on how much national media potential the book has and whether or not that publicist is confident they can be successful with the book. If not, there is no sense attaching the brand to an author.

So, for those of you that are out looking for a publicist to help promote your book, remember the following:

1. Do your research. There are hundreds of book publicity options out there: freelancers, boutique firms, large conglomerates and the list continues. Before you start sending your book to any of the numerous publicity firms you’ll find on the internet, it’s a good idea to take a little time to decide what’s important to you. Do you want to have one person that can throw 100 percent of their attention to you and your book? Or, is it important to you to have a team-based approach to promoting your book? Is brand recognition important? How far do you want to take your book? Thoroughly review a company’s web site and take careful consideration to how the firm (or freelancer) is presenting themselves. If you are not impressed with the way the represent themselves to you, you’ll not likely be comfortable with the way they represent your book to the media.

2. Follow the submission guidelines. If a firm says they absolutely don’t review poetry (or short stories, mysteries, or whatever genre,) don’t send them your poetry book. If a publicity firm asks you to provide a synopsis and author bio in addition to a review copy of your book (as P&P does,) do it. The reason they are asking for so much information is to get a good impression of how much potential your project has.

3. Provide any additional examples of media experience! We have a clause on our submission guidelines asking authors to provide “any other information you feel is important, such as your website address, endorsements, newspaper clippings, examples of past media experience, etc.” Now, if you haven’t received any press yet, don’t panic! It usually won’t make or break whether or not a publicity firm decides to take on a book. We like to have those interviews or press clippings as samples of any previous media coverage an author has gotten and to give us an idea of how they’ll perform on air. Go ahead and send ‘em.

4. Please provide your contact information. Believe it or not, I have received a couple of random packages from authors that contained their book and nothing else. Not even a return address on the envelope. No cover letter, no synopsis of the content, and NO CONTACT INFORMATION. I speak the truth. When you submit your book for review, make sure that you provide a good e-mail address or the phone number where you can be reached the majority of the time. And if you don’t provide contact information, please don’t call me angrily asking why you haven’t heard from anyone yet.

5. Help me help you. One of the best cover letters I’ve ever received from a prospective client contained an entire section titled, “Why is this book a good fit for Phenix & Phenix?” The author then gave several articulate, well-reasoned answers to this question. This was so nice because it gave us a good idea of where the author wanted to take his book. It also showed that the author had researched our firm and had an understanding of the characteristics we look for in books. I think this is applicable to querying agents or submitting manuscripts to publishers for consideration. Think of ways to make their lives easier. Why is it going to be advantageous for them to take a chance on you? And remember: be patient. Because of the nature of the media, publicity firms usually have a timely turnaround. Agents and publishers take longer, but think about how many manuscripts they have to go through each month!

Finding a good publicity firm is very important, but when you’ve worked so hard on your book, isn’t it worth it to be choosy? Keep these tips in mind when you start looking and remember to follow the rules when you start submitting.

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Blogger Payton L. Inkletter said...

Thank you Katie. Of the many things I'll take away from this rich vein of advice, I'll mention two: How important it is for a publicity firm to 'marry' carefully to boost its chances of enjoying ongoing happiness, and so the courtship needs to establish its writer fiance's bona fides; and, be 'willing to get up early' for interviews: that tickled me, for it goes to one of the simple failings at the core of the human condition - apathy/laziness.

P&P you've done it again, and I'm learning; a slow learner perhaps, but learning nevertheless.

February 16, 2008 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger Katie Andrews - Project Consultant said...

Dear Payton-

Thanks so much for your kind words. I 'm so glad that you're finding our blog so helpful. I hope you'll continue to stick around!


February 19, 2008 at 9:10 AM  

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