Therese here. Today’s guest is author Sarah Pekkanen, whose debut novel, The Opposite of Me, was a Redbook Book Club Pick, and earned glowing praise from People magazine, The Washington Post, and (the very picky) Kirkus Reviews, among others. How were so many important media outlets tuned in to Sarah’s novel? Was she working with an outside publicist? Turns out she was. Said Sarah of her hired publicist, Crystal Patriarche: “Crystal is smart, savvy and fun, and she helped get lots of attention for The Opposite of Me. I love working with her.”
Hiring an outside publicist is something I considered for my debut but in the end did not do. Still I’ve always wondered: Should I have taken this step? (And quite honestly, a little voice inside of me always answers Yes.) And so I asked Sarah to write something for us today about working with Crystal. What was it like? What did she have to offer? Happily she agreed to answer those questions. Please welcome Sarah Pekkanen to Writer Unboxed, and enjoy the post.
Working with an Out-of-House Publicist
Soon after signing a publishing contract, I began to grapple with a question that seems to lurk in the mind of just about every author, from debut to seasoned pro: Should I hire an outside publicist?
I’m an anxious – possibly verging on neurotic – type (I know, shockingly rare for a writer) and in the end, that’s what sealed my decision. I knew springing for outside help would also buy me peace of mind, because I’d be doing everything I could to boost the success of my novel. I’m happy with my decision, but it may not be the right one for everyone. Factors like the level of in-house support for your book, an author’s own promotional abilities, and finances all need to be weighed before a writer signs a contract with a publicist.
Here are some of the things outside publicists can do for authors – and some of the trade-offs:
My outside publicist did this, and she did it well. Though some bloggers might have picked up my book up on their own, my publicist aggressively – and successfully – pursued dozens of blogs. I breathed more easily knowing she could help follow up on the mass mailing sent out by my publisher – which she did. My publicist repeatedly sent out my photo and book cover images, shipped extra galleys, and kept a spreadsheet of upcoming blog interviews and reviews. I’ve got three young kids and squeezing in a shower is a challenge on most days, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own – but for someone who has nights and weekends free and isn’t shy about self-promotion? Truthfully, that author could probably handle this aspect of the job him or herself.
2) Brainstorm Creative Ideas
My publicist was able to round up prizes for contests that drew attention to my book. For example, I decided to have a “Spike Day” celebration a week before my novel hit stores and offer a raffle ticket to anyone who pre-ordered my book on that day. My publicist convinced companies to donate an HD video camera, luxury t-shirts and a sexy piece of lingerie for the raffle. She also came up with the idea of me doing giveaways for books on my novel’s Facebook page, which meant I could promote my fellow writers while offering up something to keep folks coming back to my Facebook page. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
3) Score Big Hits
I was lucky enough to get coverage in places like The Washington Post and Redbook. While I can’t say for sure my outside publicist is directly responsible, I know this: Every bit of media-coverage for a book is hard-fought, and having an extra voice chiming in, urging reviewers to take a look at my book, certainly didn’t hurt.
4) Update Facebook and Twitter feeds
Some publicists offer to do this, but for me, it didn’t feel right. I don’t like someone else posing as me – however fleetingly or innocuously. I think if readers found out, they’d feel betrayed.
There are other things to take into account when considering the services of a publicist. First, you need to make sure you hire someone who can work in harmony with your in-house publicist. My publicist at Atria Books was happy to have the extra help – and my outside publicist was careful not to step on any toes.
Another issue is whether you plan on writing more books. I hired an outside publicist knowing it was an investment not just in my debut novel, but in my future books. If my first book did well, my advances would rise and my subsequent books would launch from a higher platform. However, someone who plans to write just one book might be less inclined to sink so much money into a paycheck for an outside publicist.
All in all, I’m thrilled with the work of my outside publicist. Would I hire her for my next book? Absolutely; I already have.
Thanks so much, Sarah, for a great and insightful post!