Publicist: A Self-Published Author’s Secret Weapon

Previously, I wrote about the importance of assembling a dream team of experts—editors, illustrators, layout designers, printers, distributors, and publicists—to help the self-published author manifest their manuscript as a quality finished product.

Publicists are a self-published author’s secret weapon. These professionals bring your book project to light and generate awareness in the media and broader potential readership. Publicists will make your book more visible among the nearly 1,000,000 books that get published each year in the U.S. alone.

Why is that most self-published authors neglect to engage a quality publicist? For the most part, it’s simply the lack of familiarity with the role and the tremendous and necessary impact a quality publicist can have on a book. Not hiring a publicist is actually a disservice to all the other investments made.

Given the pivotal role the publicist plays, I am honored to feature a phenomenal publicist here, Maryglenn McCombs. Maryglenn is an accomplished publicist with over 20 years of experience in the industry. I have the honor to work with Maryglenn (with great success!), and am pleased to have her share some insights for this column.

Q. What is the role of a book publicist?
[MM] My job, as a book publicist, is to create awareness for your book, whether through book reviews, articles, feature stories, or interviews. Publicists work as a liaison between the author and the media with the goal of generating coverage for the author and his or her work. Publicists who are accustomed to working with books understand how to effectively promote a book, and also understand the importance of timing. Also, a good book publicist has strong contacts with the media.

Q. Why is it important for a self-published author to have a publicist?
[MM] Publicity is key to creating awareness of your book. If you’re uncomfortable with trying to promote yourself and your own work, or don’t have the time, energy or inclination to do it yourself, consider hiring a publicist to do the promotion for you. Book promotion can be extremely time-consuming – and even more so if you don’t know where to start.

Q. What specific activities and outcomes would a book publicist drive?
[MM] Awareness, awareness, and awareness! The goal of a book publicist is to generate awareness for a book. My experience is that reviews are a tremendously important part of a successful book PR campaign. Being able to generate reviews, articles, stories, interviews, etc. for books and authors is key to PR.

Q. What is the best way to find a good book publicist? Any key interview questions?
[MM] The best way is to ask other authors and others in the industry for recommendations. Good questions to ask a publicist on the front end are (1) are you interested in my book; (2) when are you available to start work; and (3) how do you charge and how much, on average, does a campaign cost?

Q. How is a book publicist compensated, and what is the recommended length of engagement for a book publicist?
[MM] I offer PR services on an hourly basis. How long a campaign lasts hinges on the book itself, the author’s goals, and what stage the book is in. There are a number of variables that factor in. At the very least, I would want to work over the course of a couple of months. PR can take time – and trying to do a campaign that doesn’t allow ample time for follow ups, etc. can lead to disappointment.

Q. What advice can you give to self-published authors?
[MM] Think ahead! Start making inquiries to publicists as soon as you have a plan for publishing. My schedule often fills up months in advance, so I often have to pass on wonderful projects that are presented to me too late. Also, it’s crucial that authors understand what PR is and isn’t. PR is about creating awareness – awareness that we hope will prompt consumers to buy a book. However, no PR person can guarantee or predict what number of sales PR will or won’t generate. It’s vitally important to me that all authors understand that on the front end.

Marija Bulatovic 2014

Marija Bulatovic 2014

Born in Yugoslavia in the 1970s, Marija Bulatovic, along with her parents, immigrated to the U.S. in the 1990s just ahead of the 1990s Yugoslav wars and the breakup of the country. An accomplished business professional with years of experience driving enterprise business with Fortune 500 companies, Bulatovic graduated from Colgate University. Marija Bulatovic lives in Seattle with her husband and son.