An Indie Author's First Meeting with a Book Publicist

Photo by Allan Filipe Santos Dias on Unsplash

Last week, I had my first-ever call with a real-life, professional book publicist.  She works for the press that is publishing our forthcoming book Plantation Jesus: Race, Faith, and a New Way Forward (Herald Press, May 2018), and she – like the rest of the team there – is wonderful.

I didn’t really know what to expect from this call. After all, I’ve always coordinated all of my own publicity for my books, so I wasn’t sure if there’d be a long list of things I needed to do or compile or if she was going to simply tell us what would happen from their end and leave anything else we did up to us completely.  Blessedly, it was a blend of both things we could do and things they were already doing.

Here’s a few things I learned from that phone call:

  • The publisher is working within a budget. I know, I know. This should be obvious, but I’m so far removed from the whole process involved in traditional publishing that it never occurred to me in any concrete way that they had limited funds to give to marketing our book.  Likewise, it had never occurred to me that they had set aside funds to do some promotion for the book. I’m always shoe-stringing that part, so to think they had real money to use . . . wow!
  • They are experts in the audience for their books, but they also appreciate our input. Our publicist has already booked ad space in major magazines that target the audience for our book. (Again, that budget at play!) They know the best places to spend their money, AND they also appreciate our input for additional places where we have personal connections.  Between the three of us, we were able to put together a list of national and local places to advertise, which should be useful.
  • They have resources to create advertising tools for authors to use. Our publicist suggested we make a video for our book, and in addition to potentially providing some funding for that, she is also going to create a script and edit the footage into a short video. She also had the means to create bookmarks for us to use at speaking engagements before the book is released. Plus, the press has contacts with some prominent people who can blurb our book, people we know of but can’t reach.
  • We don’t get to make all the decisions. This one was big for indie publishing me. They had already decided where to advertise, how to spend the budget, and what the timeline for these things would be. I didn’t mind that – it was actually a great relief –  but it was a bit of a surprise to me to not have say in those things since I’m so used to making all those decisions myself.
  • We have a team behind us who really wants this book to succeed, not just because of profits but also because they believe in what the book has to say. I’ve always been blessed with a great group of people who rally behind what I write, but when someone also throws money and means behind that support, it’s a bolster to my writer’s soul.  Perhaps that is the biggest gift I’m gaining from traditional publishing.

I’m still probably going to be primarily an indie publishing author simply because I’ve worked very hard to acquire the skills to do that with some success, but I won’t ever turn down the chance to work with a reputable, supportive publisher either.

It’s good to be affirmed in what I’ve always thought – indie publishing and traditional publishing are both viable options for authors.  It’s not about competition. It’s about good writing getting into the world in the best way it can. I love that.

Have you worked with a publicist? What was your experience like?