Five Ways to Make Sure Your Outside Publicist is Competent

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Hiring an outside publicist to work on your book is a big investment, so it’s important to make sure you know what to look for when hiring. Since being a book publicist requires no formal certification or training, a lot of people consider themselves publicists despite having little experience or knowledge. They in turn are hired by authors who have even less experience or knowledge of book publicity, leading to an inevitably disastrous outcome.

But how do you know a competent publicist from a bad one? BK's Publicity Manager Cynthia Shannon shows you five ways to know you’re in good hands:

1. Your publicist reads your book before putting together a proposal for her work for you. If you get a template proposal, you don’t know if the publicist understands your message. A good publicist will always tailor even an initial proposal to reflect the specific demands and marketplace for your book.

2. Your publicist listens to what you want and sets reasonable expectations. Not every book is “perfect for Oprah/John Stewart/Good Morning America!” and knowing which audience will most likely buy your book is more important than naming a random bunch of top-tier publications and media venues. Your publicist should also take the time to talk to you about your goals of the campaign - for instance, whether you want to promote your company along with your book, if you want the publicity to increase your speakers’ fees, or if you simply want to sell a lot of books.

3. Your publicist has worked on successful books similar to yours. A publicist’s work and level of success on similar books to yours will indicate whether they know the relevant media for the topic. Go one step further and ask if those authors they worked with are willing to endorse them.

4. Your outside publicist coordinates with your in-house publicist. This means being very transparent on who the outside publicist plans to reach out to and coordinating strategy with your publisher’s publicist. There are only so many relevant media contacts out there, and a lot of contacts will overlap between the two of them, so figuring out who has the better relationship before reaching out to contacts is key.

5. Your publicist reports on her progress and activities to you and your in-house publicist on a consistent basis. You have the right to know at what consideration stage the book is at with various media outlets, and what the process is to proceed. Your outside publicist should also communicate confirmed media hits to your in-house publicist so that the information is shared with the publisher's sales team.

At the end of a campaign, the results should be compared with the original goals. If the final publicity report matches the initial proposal, you know you've had a successful campaign. Then it’s up to you as to whether to renew the contract!