Wendy Brickman: Publicists Promote Book Sales by Erin Nevius

No one becomes a writer because they have a particular affinity for salesmanship, but it’s just as much a part of the business as producing a well-crafted novel or script. It’s an unbelievable feeling of accomplishment and validation to finish and sell your masterpiece, but you didn’t spend months or even years writing and revising your book to see it sit on the shelves unnoticed. To ensure that people other than your friends and family will read your labor of love, hire a publicist to generate interest in your work and guarantee sales.

“Publicists help bring attention to a product or service by encouraging the media to do a story, review or brief mention about it,” says Wendy Brickman, president and founder of Brickman Marketing, a marketing, advertising and publicity firm in Monterey, California. “In our society, it is not appropriate to ‘brag’ about oneself, and it is easier if someone other than the writer praises and promotes the book.”

Enter your publicist. Due to the limited time and marketing budgets of publishing houses, they can rarely offer a writer the time and attention a book needs to be introduced successfully to the masses. “Publicists create and use press kits containing press releases, fact sheets, bios, frequently asked questions, photos and more to attract the attention of the target media,” says Brickman. They then use these kits to arrange radio, TV, magazine and newspaper interviews for their clients, set up book signings across the country and generate exposure of all kinds for the novel.

Research prospective publicists carefully before choosing one to represent you. Finding a publicist is much like finding an agent or editor — you have to find the right combination of personality, ability and interest in you and your work to be a successful team. “Different publicists are specialists in certain types of books, and writers should discuss this with prospective publicists,” counsels Brickman. Find out what a publicist is interested in and looking for before you approach them.

“It’s also important to evaluate how enthusiastic a publicist is about your book,” recommends Brickman. Make sure that your publicist is genuinely excited about your work. Unlike agents and publishing houses who profit when your book sells well, most publicists are paid a flat rate. They have no financial interest in the success of your work — they get paid whether it sells well or not. So it’s in your best interest to make sure they’re taking this project because they’re sure they can sell it and not because they’re trying to make a quick buck off an unsuspecting writer.

You should also look into the credentials of any prospective publicist, much as you did on your search for an agent. For example, Wendy Brickman has excellent qualifications to work as a book publicist. She holds an MBA in marketing/management, an MA in broadcast journalism, a BA in English and, prior to founding Brickman Marketing, held marketing management positions in the film industry. As well as inquiring about a publicist’s education and experience, you should always ask to speak to clients and request outlines of former marketing strategies and media contacts. No matter a publicist’s qualifications they can’t be very effective if they never call you back, half-heartedly approach your project or know no more people in the media than you do.

Once you choose a publicist and begin the process of promoting your book, you can’t just leave all the work in their hands. “A writer should feel free to communicate his or her ideas about promotion and the appeal of the book,” says Brickman. If you’ve written a book about interior design and think it would be great to send a sample of wallpaper out to book reviewers with your work, you should tell your publicist. They are just as crucial for their contacts as their ideas — if you have a great marketing gimmick that hasn’t occurred to your publicist, share it so she can utilize her many media contacts.

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