Learn How to Hire a Freelance Book Publicist

Get Advice from a PR Pro

microphones and reporters
Publicity is a key part of a book's success. Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

A publicist is a key to a book's success in the media. While publishing houses usually assign an in-house pro to work on each book, both traditionally published and indie or hybrid authors opt to hire a freelance book publicist to ensure individualized publicity attention for their books.

In this Q&A, book publicist Jessica Glenn of MindBuck Media talks about what to look for when hiring a freelance PR pro and how to make the most out of a tight publicity budget.

Valerie Peterson: Of course, it's understandable that indie or hybrid authors would want to hire their own publicists, but many traditionally published authors also hire freelance PR pros to ensure their books get more individualized attention than they otherwise might.

Is there any etiquette around having freelance book publicists when you've got someone in-house as well?

Jessica Glenn: Generally, your in-house publicist will be quite happy if you hire an independent publicist to augment their efforts. They are not in a competitive relationship. In-house and freelance publicists are quite cooperative: they all just want your book to get lots of mentions and be successful.

VP: So, what's the most important piece of advice you can give to an author who is considering hiring a freelance publicist?

JG: When an author is looking for a publicist, I strongly suggest getting a recommendation from another author or finding a publicist through the publicist’s own critical reputation rather than finding a publicist through an advertisement on the web.

I'm always surprised by publicists who buy print or web ads. If the publicist is good, you will have heard of them from other authors or they will be teaching seminars you have heard of or they will be quoted by industry professionals.  

If you don't know other authors to ask, there are lots of places to get unbiased suggestions.

I suggest contacting MFA programs and asking professors. Most MFA profs either have had a publicist for one of their books or can send you to someone who has.

You want a PR person who is familiar with and has contacts in the market you're targeting. Most MindBuck authors are in the continental US but we also work with authors in other countries including Canada, UK, France, Greece, and Japan to help publicize their work here.

Speak with several publicists -- if they are established and good, there might not be a lot of difference in methodology for a basic campaign but a publicist and author with good chemistry makes the book release process a lot less stressful and often leads to more synergy in terms of supplementary ideas.

Beyond that, you want to work with someone who's enthusiastic. At MindBuck, we absolutely delight in the success of our authors and are tireless cheerleaders for the writers with whom we decide to work. 

VP: If an author has a limited budget, what are the things he/she should focus on when hiring a freelance publicist? What are the publicity campaign elements that authors can do themselves that would effectively dovetail with a publicist's efforts?

JG: Depending on how limited the budget, at the very least, try to get a publicist who can pitch your book to reviewers.

A publicist will be much, much more effective pitching reviewers than an author will.

Book tours, however, can be very creative and cheap if hosted by friends or free venues. This is something an author can work on successfully on their own. Submitting to awards is also something an author can do (unless the award specifies that the author must be nominated).

Social media is definitely something an author can do on his or her own but do the research first on the most effective ways to use each platform. Begging people to buy your book doesn't work.

Read more publicity insights and advice from Jessica Glenn, such as publicity timeline for an effective book launch and basic book PR campaign strategy & insight.

Jessica Glenn launched MindBuck Media Book Publicity in 2005 and the MindBuck Media team has worked on an eclectic variety of books. Their list includes bestsellers and books from small, medium and large publishing companies, as well as some select indie releases. They represent authors in the U.S. as well as Canada and a number of other countries.