How to Know if You Need a Book Publicist and What to Expect Once You Get One

Suzanne Lieurance

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You’ve written your book.

You’ve either sold it to a traditional publisher or you’ve decided to self-publish.

You know the book has the potential to become a bestseller.

Now. . . how do you make that happen?

For the answers to these and other questions, I interviewed Nashville, Tennessee, book publicist Maryglenn McCombs. Here’s what I found out:

Q: What is a book publicist? What should authors expect from a publicist?

A: Book publicists work with the media to generate awareness - both at a consumer and retail level - for a book. Publicists act as a liaison between the author or publisher and the media. My job, as a publicist for a book, is to generate media coverage for a book or author.

As for what a client should expect, I think dependability and responsiveness are key. It is important that the publicist have strong media contacts, good writing skills and verbal skills and a general awareness or interest in the book's subject matter.

Q: Do you work on a project by project basis? I would assume, as a publicist, you like to build a relationship with each client to see results. How do you do this?

A: For the launch of a book, I work on a per project basis. There are special circumstances where I will to take on a project for an agreed-upon number of hours per month, but these are typically for post-publication books that need a jump-start or other instances where an intensive campaign is not necessary.

And it doesn't happen overnight. As a publicist, I think it is extremely important to explain the process and timing of the campaign (i. e. , when will the publicist pitch to print media? Radio? TV? Will they set up a book tour?) to the client on the front end. It is important to address a client's expectations, as well.

I like to keep my clients well aware of everything I am working on, so I send reports detailing what has been done/who has been pitched, the status, and next steps. The client deserves to be completely in-the-know about the services being provided. Effectively promoting a book is a process - and it is one that requires lots of patience - both from the author and the publicist.

Q: Does the publicist write the press materials, or does the author have to do that?

A: I create all of my own press materials. Occasionally, clients will come to me with their own press materials, but I prefer to create releases, biographies, and other materials myself, as this is a great way to familiarize myself with the client, their book and message. I do ask that my clients supply digital photos of their headshots.

Q: How are publicists paid?

A: I work on a per project basis and am usually paid in monthly installments.

Q: How do you create a press kit for each client? What do you do with the press kit to promote your client?

A: I typically keep the press kit as simple as possible - a press release (not longer than one page), a biography, a fact sheet (just the details about the book, such as ISBN, trim size, price, etc. ) and in some cases, a tip sheet (a few succinct bullet points of what is in the book) If there is an interesting backstory to a book, I sometimes include a mock interview with the author.

The press kit is used for a number of things - soliciting reviews, providing background for interviews, etc. One client I currently represent is using the press kit I created for him to solicit speaking engagements.

Q: Do all your clients live in Nashville? How do authors hire you?

A: I work with very few clients in Nashville. Right now, I have clients in London, New York, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Texas, California, Florida, Kentucky, and Ohio.

The first step is just to make contact - email is the easiest way to reach me ( Initially, it is helpful to know a little about the book, when it is expected to be released, etc. From there, I typically schedule a phone consultation with the author/publisher to discuss further and answer questions about how I work and the services I provide.

Suzanne Lieurance is a fulltime freelance writer, children's author, and The Working Writer's Coach. Visit her website at to find out more about her coaching program designed to help people who like to write become “working" freelance writers. Visit her blog at for more helpful tips for writers. Join her mailing list at her blog, and every weekday morning you'll receive The Morning Nudge, a few words to motivate and inspire you to get a little writing done. For free weekly networking teleconferences for writers, visit The Lieurance Group blog at


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