Monday, August 25, 2014

Authors: Is Your Publicist Doing a Good Job?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I get a lot of blind requests for guest articles on this site, and many of them are from book publicists. Some of them do a wonderful job, others not so much. While chatting with a friend the other day, it hit me that the authors who hired the "bad" publicists probably have no idea how little those people are doing for them. Think of this as a public service announcement (grin).

Here are two examples that I see almost weekly:

Publicist One: Sends me an email about her author's new book, says she think it would be a great fit for my How They Do It column, and offers a few topic ideas. She tells me a little about the author and the book, says when it's coming out (usually well in advance of the release) and if it ties into a larger blog tour or not. She also includes links to the author's website.

What she's doing right:
  • Has actually taken five minutes to look at my site and see what I write about and offers me something that fits
  • Gives me topic ideas that I might be interested in, thus increasing the chances of a yes
  • Gives me enough lead time to actually use it, and is aware that some people schedule things far in advance
  • Provides enough information for me to decide if I want to pursue this author as a guest
  • Offers additional information should I care to follow up

(Here's more on how to approach bloggers and book reviewers)

Publicist Two: Sends me an email about her author's new book and asks me to review it. She gives me excerpts for the novel and (at the bottom of the email) links to all the author's websites and social media and tells me to check her out for more information. She tells me nothing about the release date, or it's coming out in the next week she expects me to create a hole to host her author. Or the book came out a week or two prior and she's just now getting to me.

What she's doing wrong:
  • Is clearly sending a blind email and has never looked at my site, or she'd know that I don't do book reviews
  • Gives me additional information that I also don't need (I don't do excerpts either) and I have to wade through that just to get to the author information at the bottom
  • Offers nothing that I would actually use on my site
  • Expects me to do the work of looking up this author and deciding if I'm even interested in her as a guest
  • Gives me no time to say yes, even if I wanted to, as I schedule my guest authors up to a year in advance

Which author do you think I'll invite?

I have a standard reply I use that explains I don't do book reviews, and contains all the details for my guest columns if the author wanted to submit an idea. But I get so many blind requests these days that frankly, I've been responding less and less. Many of the time the "bad publicist" types don't even follow up, so it's a waste of my time. Most people probably just pop these requests into the spam filter or delete them. The big thing though...

I wonder how much an author is paying this person to promote her work and if she knows what's being done (or not done) on her behalf. I know I'd be angry if I paid someone hundreds of dollars (or more) and this is what they did.

(Here's more on marketing tips for authors)

There are great publicists out there but there are also bad ones. If you're considering hiring someone, find out what they'll be doing for you and how they'll be doing it. If they say they'll "contact hundreds of blogs on your behalf" find out exactly what that means. Because if all they're doing is spamming sites with inappropriate requests that are going right into the trash, they're not doing you any good.

And if you're doing your own publicity, take the time to look at the sites you're approaching and make sure they actually do what you're asking of them. For example, ask me to do a review and the answer is no every single time. Ask me if I have any openings for a guest article on the craft of writing, and you'll probably get a guest spot.

Have any publicist horror stories to share? How about some stories about those doing a great job? We don't see enough of those!

Looking for tips on planning and writing your novel? Check out my book Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a series of self-guided workshops that help you turn your idea into a novel. It's also a great guide for revisions! 

Janice Hardy is the founder of Fiction University, and the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, (Picked as one of the 10 Books All Young Georgians Should Read, 2014) Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now.

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  1. I don't have a publicist myself. I've been learning quite a few of the do's and don'ts either the hard way or the smarter way by doing research first lol!

    However, I have had a couple of positive publicist interactions. One publicist reached out to me like Publicist One and made it easy for me to give her author a spot on my blog. She even went so far as to open the door for reciprication if I desired, which turned out to be helpful :-)

  2. I've been considering hiring a publicist, and have to admit to sending that second type of email more than once. :-(

    I know I need help getting the word out about my books. I just don't know where to go for it.

  3. I always find great advice on your blog, Janice. Thanks for this. I'll need it soon when I self-publish (and publicize) my first novel.