Why I'm Going to Hire a Book Publicist

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One thing I’ve learned in this literary life is that transparency and support are crucial to longevity in this work, and so today, I’m sharing a little sadness in my writing life because I hope – really hope – it’s helpful to some folks who walk this road, too.

295 books.  That’s the total number of copies of Steele Secrets I’ve sold thus far.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, but I also know that self-published books often build momentum after release.  Still, I gave a great deal of my time and energy – and a bit of money, too – to getting the word out about this new book, and that is what I have to show for all that work, so far at least.

Of course, the statistic that zooms around these webs is that most independently-published books sell less than 100 copies, so in comparison, Mary Steele’s story is doing pretty well.

But I think she can do better.  I really do.

I, however, have tapped most of the ideas I have for promotion, and honestly, I just don’t have the time to do a great deal more beyond simple maintenance to keep the book in front of people I already know.

Yesterday, Jane Friedman posted a great article about working with a publicist, and it added gas to a flame that was already burning in me.  Then, I had a call with an editing client, and she talked about the publicity agency she was considering.  Combine those two incidents with my mild frustration about the numbers of book sales AND a bit of despair about how to improve, and you can see how I might arrive at this place.

Here are three reasons I’m considering a publicist:

  1. My strengths are not marketing. Business experts often say that it’s wisest to pay someone to do what you don’t do as well so that you have time to focus on your strengths, and so here I am, trying to focus on my strengths – writing books and helping other people write books.
  2. I don’t know enough of the “right” people. Despite the fact that I have a reasonable number of folks who follow what I write regularly, I don’t have the kind of social media platform or mailing list that gives me access to tens of thousands of people’s time and resources.  I need help in connecting with more people in a meaningful way.
  3. I need help in building a plan. I’ve read lots of books about book sales, and I’ve taken a great course on the subject. But the truth is that I need some help in conceiving a full-blown marketing plan.  Right now, my time and knowledge is leading me to a scatter-shot approach to publicity, and I really need a strategy and timeline to work form.
  4. I believe in my work. As I said, I really believe in the books I write. I don’t believe they are perfect or the solution to any of the great problems of the world. But I do believe they do important work in their own small ways, and I’m eager to see that work realized on a bigger platform.

This isn’t a minor thing for me – either financially or emotionally. (I like control . . . a lot.) But it feels right to move down this road.  It’ll be a while before I save the cash I need to bring someone in, and I’ll be using that time to research just the right person or team to help me get Mary’s voice into the world more broadly.  So stay tuned . . . I’ll keep you posted.

Have you ever thought of hiring a publicist? Or have you worked with one? What was your experience?  Any one you’d recommend?  


My new book, Steele Secrets, is a young adult novel that delves into the history and legacy of slavery, the power of racism and opposition to racism, the need for historic preservation, and the power of community. Plus, there’s a ghost and a bit of romance, too.  If you’re interested, you can download a free chapter and see the book trailer here.  Thanks.