What It Takes

What It Takes

Should I Hire A Publicist? Maybe. Maybe Not.

By Callie Oettinger | Published: October 5, 2012

“Why should I hire a publicist?” is one of the top questions I’ve been asked by authors, film makers and whatsit creators.

When I started out, I’d cite what I’d heard others before me throw out, the main thing being this: Publicists have a strong list of contacts that authors don’t often have themselves.

These days, when I’m asked, my answer is: You might not need a publicist.

My follow-up questions for the first timers:

Are you in this for the long-term or is this a one-time project? Is this the only book or film or whatsit that you plan to create? Or, is this the first in what you want to be the start of your full-time career as an author, film maker or whatsit creator?

I’ve yet to be told that the project was a one off.

Next question:

How have you connected with your audience?

For the first timers, the answer is often, “I haven’t.”

For the long-timers, most have something going on, often Facebook at the bare minimum. Some are blogging. Some have everything in place and are shopping around for a fresh take.  Others know what needs to be done but they don’t have time. They don’t need schooling. They need help.

For the first timers and long timers with minimum outreach I’ll share the importance of developing relationships with readers.

For the ones that get it, I’ll  share different ways to build those relationships and ask whether they have time to do it themselves. For example, with Steve, I’m online every day, looking to see who has written/said what about him and his work, and then I connect with them to say thank you and learn more about them. I’ll also look to see who is doing work that overlaps/relates with Steve’s work and contact those individuals to thank them for their work, mention work Steve is doing, and explore different ways to share the messages from Steve and these other individuals. Could Steve do this himself? Yes — and in fact, he does do some of it himself — but it takes time away from his writing, which is his first focus. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be here enjoying his work. No books. No site. No readers.

For those that don’t get the relationship building, their next question is often:

What about radio and TV?

They want the main morning and evening TV shows–and local radio tours have come into the asking again.

My answer for those asking about radio and TV:

Unless you are on The Daily Show, Colbert Report, Charlie Rose, or an NPR program, don’t put your eggs in that basket. Radio and TV don’t wield the bookselling power they once did (See “The Elephant in the Room“). The traditionals feed the ego, but don’t pay the bills.

Does that mean you shouldn’t go after them? No. The point is that if you are in it for the long run, establishing a solid reader base, so you don’t have to recreate the wheel and repitch to TV and radio every time a book comes out, makes more sense.

Before the Internet morphed into what we know it as today, solid writing and reviews helped authors grow reader bases. Then radio and TV came along, and then the Internet. To this mix, add more authors and publishers, and declining newspaper book review sections, and you’ll find yourself in the present, where a small handful of traditional reviewers, and TV and radio programs — and online outreach — make a difference for the many selling books and films and whatsits.

Next question is often:

Can I do it on my own?

My reply?

Yes, you can—but…

The authors, film makers and whatsit creators I’ve worked with have found that doing it on their own eats into their makin’ and creatin’ time, and thus hire someone to do it with them.

So is hiring a publicist about saving time?

For some, it is.

For others, it is about time and learning to communicate and share one-on-one with readers, and learning new ways to reach out.

More than once, I’ve worked with an individual who didn’t understand his or her audience. He or she might be an expert on topics of interest to a specific community, but when it came to reaching out to that community, the individual didn’t know left from right.

So, end of day, should you hire a publicist?

Maybe. Maybe not.

If you do decide to work with one, look for someone who knows your area, who speaks the language – and doesn’t fake the language – of the audience you are reaching out to, and who understands your goals.

Yes, who you know still matters to a certain degree, so a publicist with good connections helps, but end of day, perseverance and messaging, and developing relationships with readers matter most.

***In the following few weeks I’ll share stories about makers and creators who have either done outreach on their own, hired a publicist to handle everything, or who have split the responsibilities with the publicist. The hope is to share these experiences so that you can learn tools that will help you do outreach on your own and/or help you learn what to expect when hiring someone to work with you.

Posted in What It Takes

7 Responses to “Should I Hire A Publicist? Maybe. Maybe Not.”

  1. Basilis
    October 5, 2012 at 4:02 am

    Greatly great!

    Waiting the stories with curiosity.

    It’s a matter that I try to evaluate some time now and extra information are always welcome!

  2. October 5, 2012 at 11:47 am

    “I’m online every day, looking to see who has written/said what about him and his work, and then I connect with them to say thank you and learn more about them. I’ll also look to see who is doing work that overlaps/relates with Steve’s work and contact those individuals to thank them for their work, mention work Steve is doing, and explore different ways to share the messages from Steve and these other individuals.”

    That sounds like exactly what my wife/business partner will start doing next week!

  3. October 5, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Great post Callie! I think if a publicist can introduce an author to a new audience it’s a good thing. But I also think that for new writers, building relationships with readers is 1000% more important than getting press. And a publicist can sometimes drive a wedge between an author and his/her readers.

    Again, great post! Thanks!

  4. October 5, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    To me, the “elephant in the room” is that we are now all forced to spend time networking and publicizing,and less time producing our material. It’s a zero sum game: the more time I spend promoting myself, the less I produce to promote. Read any posts on this lately?

    Hundreds of “gurus” talk about how easy it is to get one’s message out, grab a guest post, get on a show, blah blah. And how long does it take to build an audience of 10,000 followers who will want to buy your book? NO ONE talks about the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day.

    Now, what’s up with that?

  5. October 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    I have had PR folks at Random House promote my books well. I find I have just as much luck by phoning contacts and selling myself.

  6. Joyce Gibbs
    October 14, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    I just finished watching “The Legend of Baggar Vance” for the umptenth time and can honestly say it is the most heartwarming and sincere explanation of how and why they are here on earth for whatever time that may be. I was dismayed to read all the negative reviews by critics, but do not believe the viewing public puts much stock in their opinions anyway. I enjoy watching a “feel good” movie, and this one definitely qualifies as a masterpiece in that category.

  7. October 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Quite enjoying these posts. Thanks so much for sharing and for offering direction!