Jane Friedman

Should You Pay for a Publicist?

by arbyreed | via Flickr

Today’s guest post is from author Dorit Sasson (@VoicetoStory).

You’ve written a great book and—if you’ve self-published—probably shelled out for the services of a good editor and cover designer. The last thing you want is to pay for a publicist. But in a sea of authors, how will potential readers know about your book?

As a traditional-turned-hybrid author publishing with She Writes Press, I foot the bill for all the publishing costs but reap a much higher percentage of royalties for both print and ebook sales for my debut memoir, Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces. My book is distributed like a traditional one, in all the retail channels; distribution is a major challenge facing self-pubbed authors, and traditional distribution is an advantage of my particular press.

I invested in a publicist to break into mainstream media, which led me to identify a number of online and print women’s media sites that would be perfect for my coming-of-age memoir and mother-daughter story. Of course I could have tried approaching these editors on my own, but that would have been time-consuming, and I didn’t have the established and nurtured contacts. Accidental Soldier has been featured with The Reading Room, Brit + Co, Writer’s Digest, Reader’s Digest, SheKnows.com, Working Mother magazine, Teen Vogue, and Seventeen—and that’s just a few. I would have never gotten that far on my own.

However, good publicists are not cheap. They command higher payment than a quality editor because they spend more hours over a longer time period working for you and your book.

A standard fee for an experienced publicist in the US is $100 an hour, and you will need their services for about four months prior to publication and for two to three months after. An average campaign ranges between 50 to 100 hours over the required time period. That’s $5,000 to $10,000 for a modest publicity campaign.

Chances are, you won’t recoup this initial investment because you are investing in building your platform. But, if you intend to write more books, the right publicity will build your platform and those loyal readers. You might not see the logic in hiring a publicist if you aren’t going to recoup the initial investment, but with your subsequent books, you may not need so many hours because you’ve already built that initial groundwork.

My PR firm, Booksparks, also branded my new author website, called “Giving Voice to Your Courage.” Additional costs included arranging a bookstore tour, sending book galleys to reviewers and media, and contest fees. This additional investment could run from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on the bells and whistles.

Here’s What My Publicist Has Done So Far

Things to Consider When Hiring a Publicist

If you’ve already spent 3,000+ hours writing your book and invested in an editor, a proofreader, and a cover designer, what is better: investing more dollars hoping to sell enough books to make your losses less painful (or even make a profit), or selling 200 copies to friends and family before your book sinks without a trace?

Again, one might not see the logic in investing so much money to break even, especially when authors can approach editors themselves. The way I see it, it’s incredibly time-consuming to approach and follow up with editors. Of course, one can always go the local route and do a lot of the legwork, but from my experience, going the mainstream media route requires the efforts of a publicist.

For more from Dorit Sasson (@VoicetoStory), check out Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces.