Choosing a Book Publicity Firm

Choosing a book publicity firm is an important decision. The firm you decide to work with can make the difference between your achieving the goals you’ve set for your book and not achieving them, and your feeling like you received a good return on your investment or threw money down a hole.

First Things First: Questions to Ask Yourself

Here are some questions to answer before you begin searching for a book publicity firm:

What are your goals for your book? For example, how many books do you want to sell? Is your ultimate goal to be published by a traditional publisher and you would like this book to help you make that dream come true? Do you want to use your book as a vehicle for building your reputation and visibility as an expert on a specific subject and/or for securing local and/or national speaking engagements for yourself?

Is it important for you to be able to have regular face-to-face meetings with your book publicity firm? Or are you comfortable working together via the phone, e-mail, and Skype as long as you get results?

What is your book publicity budget? Generally, larger firms relations charge significantly more than smaller firms. Whatever your budget, be up-front about it when you are talking to a firm. Some firms may not work with authors who have very small budgets. Also, you may find out that your budget is way too small given your goals.

What to Consider When You are Ready to Start Your Search:

Once you are ready to begin your search, you should:

Identify book publicity firms to put on your list of possible firms to hire. You can do that by searching the Internet, making queries on social media sites, asking for recommendations from writers you know, and talking to your agent and/or publisher, among other things.

Visit the web sites of the book publicity firms on your list. Are their sites attractive, well-written and well-organized? Do the firms offer the kinds of services you are looking for? Have they publicized books similar to yours in the past? For example, if you’ve written a nonfiction book and a firm’s web site features mostly fiction books, then the firm may not be a good choice for you. Also, does a firm’s web site list a representative sample of the media it has worked with in the recent past and do they represent the kinds of media you want to pay attention to your book?

Warning! A flashy web site says nothing about the quality of the services a book publicity firm can deliver.

If you're thinking about hiring a very small firm or a solo practitioner, find out how many authors the firm is working with now and as best you can, try to assess whether it will have enough time to spend on your book. Also, make certain that the firm has the experience and skills you are looking for based on the goals you've set.

If you are thinking about hiring a larger firm, find out who will actually work on your book and what that person’s experience and credentials are. This is because some firms use a seasoned professional to land new clients and then turn the clients over to someone less experienced. Certainly, a less experienced book publicist may do a fine job for you, but even so, be clear from the start who will be handling your book day-to-day. Also, you should have an opportunity to meet that individual in-person or by phone before you decide whether or not you want to hire the firm.

Talk with a number of firms about your book publicity goals. Find out how each firm would go about helping you achieve them. Are you comfortable with what they recommend?

Tip. Take note if any of the firms you contact tell you that the goals you have for your book are unrealistic. Ask those firms to explain their thinking and don’t reject what they tell you just because it is not what you want to hear. What they say may be true!

Ask to see samples of the work the firms have done for other clients. Also, find out about the kinds of results they were able to achieve for those clients.

After You’ve Narrowed the Field Down to Just a Couple Firms:

Here are the final steps to take:

Ask each book publicity firm to prepare a proposal for you that details among other things what it will do to help you achieve your goals -- specifics are better than generalities -- the time lines involved, and the fee you will be charged. Is a firm's proposal clear and well organized; does it respond directly to what you discussed when you talked with the firm, or does it read like a generic presentation?

After you've read the proposals, ask the firms that you are considering for the names of some of authors they have worked with in the past and their contact information. Then get in touch with those authors to learn about their experiences working with the firms. Find out what the authors thought worked and didn’t work; what a firm’s strengths and shortcomings were; whether the authors would hire the same firm to publicize their next book, and so on.

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