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A book launch can be a daunting process, and many authors wonder how hiring a publicist can help the process. Learn more in this interview with author, publicist, and media specialist Jen Coburn — and see below for Jen’s contact info.
Q: What value can a publicist bring to an author and his/her book?
A: A good publicist lets authors get back to doing what they love — writing. There are very few authors who enjoy developing media pitches and social media strategies to promote their books, and yet they know it is critical to their success. The equation is very simple: The more people know about a book, the more will read it. A publicist helps get a book in front of as many prospective readers as possible through social media, traditional media, and events.
Q: How much can an author expect to spend when working with a publicist?
A: It really depends on how much of the heavy lifting a writer wants to take on. I’ve had authors do a simple two-hour consultation for $250, where we discuss good traditional media angles and social media strategies that they develop and execute. I also work with authors who have me manage their social media for them on a daily basis, which is a more substantial investment. When I do a prepublication media campaign, it typically runs $2,500 to $3,500.
Q: Ideally, when should an author approach a publicist for help with his/her book?
A: Ideally six months prior, though that rarely happens. I’ve had authors contact me three months prior to publication, which is good. One called me two weeks before her book came out. It was a mad rush, but we made it work and got her on TV and in several newspapers.
Q: How can publicists help authors when their books have been out for a year or more?
A: Great question. There are still many ways an author can promote his or her book after it’s been out on the market for a while. Writing op-eds and essays that include the name of their book in the byline is one way. Another way to boost sales is by offering a special price break then promoting like crazy on social media.
Q: What is the author’s role when working with a publicist?
A: Authors need to be open to new approaches while also remaining true to their own style. I’m very flexible to work with, but my one hard and fast rule is that I never let an author go on TV without my doing a media training with me beforehand. I’ve been working with producers for more than 20 years, and I can blow those relationships in a moment if I put someone on camera who hasn’t been adequately prepped.
Q: What questions should an author ask a publicist he/she is considering working with?
A: What type of coverage they believe they can realistically get for an author. I once had an author ask me if I’ve ever declined to work with anyone, which I thought was an interesting question that led to a great conversation. I have turned down authors because I don’t feel we’d be a good match. If I don’t love their book, or I honestly don’t think there’s a good news angle to be developed, I will pass on a project. Basically, I’d recommend choosing a publicist the same way you’d hire anyone — share your priorities, listen to their approach, and keep your BS radar on. There are lots of great publicists to work with. Choose the one who seems genuinely excited about the success of his or her clients.
Q: Do you have any success stories you’d like to share?
A: Just last week, an author I work with jumped to the #1 spot on the Amazon bestseller list for historical fiction 10 months after initial publication. She called me a few weeks earlier to brainstorm ideas on promotion and we developed a social media campaign around a price reduction. She is a great client — always willing to try new things and good about pushing back when a suggestion doesn’t feel right to her. I adore working with this author and couldn’t be happier for her success.
Jennifer Coburn has been a media relations specialist for more than 20 years and recently started working with authors to help them promote their work on social media and through traditional media. She has partnered with authors who publish with Random House, Simon & Schuster, Sonoma Press, and independently. Jennifer enjoys developing media pitches and crafting strategies to heighten awareness of books and authors. She got her start working with authors after her own books generated press attention that got colleagues asking for advice. Jennifer says she never asks authors to adopt a strategy she has not (or would not) do herself.