I presume you are in the process of deciding whether to hire a publicist to help promote your new book, and if so, which publicist to hire.
I faced the same decision with my six books, The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations, Home Lands: Portraits of the New Jewish Diaspora, Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class, Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend, Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero, and, most recently, Bobby Kennedy: The making of a liberal icon.
Based on my experience, I offer you my “Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Hire Your Own Publicist — and Why That Publicist Should be Gail Leondar-Wright.”
- Reason #1: You owe it to yourself.
You’ve worked so hard to get this far, researching your book, writing it and, most painful of all, going through the editing and publishing. You owe it to yourself to do all you can to make sure that reviewers pay attention, and that as many people as possible read what you have written.
It would be nice to think you could entrust that to your publisher, and if you got a big enough advance — and the publisher has enough invested in it — maybe you can. I had wonderful marketing people at Crown, Henry Holt and Random House who really took an interest in my books, but as they advised me from the start, to get the personalized attention I craved I had to hire my own publicist. Given the investments I’d already made, financially and psychologically, this seemed logical and reasonable.
- Reason #2: Gail delivers.
Gail made me certain promises about how many radio stations, book stores and other outlets she would contact for me. I recently reviewed that contract and realized she’d made scores of extra contacts each time I hired her.
- Effort, however, isn’t what matters. Effectiveness is, and on my first book I did dozens of radio interviews, from “Fresh Air,” “Morning Edition” and “On the Media” on National Public Radio, to leading talk shows in Boston and Pasadena, Philadelphia and Chicago. Some of that was inevitable when I came out with a book on spin during the Summer of Spin in America. More of it was Gail’s persistence, and creativity. She did just as well each successive hire. So well, in fact, that I hired her again for the paperback versions of my books.
- Reason #3: Gail is flexible.
That may not sound like much, but it’s huge, or at least it was for me. I researched the leading book publicists in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles, and interviewed six of them. All had predefined ideas on the program they’d apply in promoting my book based on hundreds of previous books. That may sound reassuring, but I saw it as a limitation. Sure, I wanted someone with experience, but I also wanted someone who would listen to my ideas, and who would be willing to adjust their program as we went along and saw what was working .Gail had at least as much experience as the rest, but she showed a flexibility that I found missing elsewhere. She came through each time I suggested a new direction for our efforts. This isn’t to suggest that she didn’t have her own well-honed ideas on what to do. She did, and they generally worked. But she also listened to and responded to my ideas.
- Reason #4: Gail has a commitment to making sure that authors can afford her services.
Part of my research of publicists focused on the bottom line. I hired Gail for three months, and for a national campaign, for the price most publicists would have charged for a single city.
- Reason #5: She’s a pleasure to work with.
- Reason #6: She’s a great mentor.
There’s endless scut work involved in selling a book, from mailings to searching the web for groups that might be interested in what you wrote, to, well, as much as you have time and energy to do. I hired interns to do as much as possible, and Gail helped direct them. Rather than being threatened by having the extra help, she loved the notion of mentoring them.
- Reason #7: She’s essentially a one-woman show.
That gave me pause at the beginning; I wondered whether I’d be better served by a big agency. But as I went along, I realized this was the ideal setup: I got the person I’d hired — Gail — to handle my account. Her collaborator, Peter, is terrific, too.
- Reason #8: Gail cares.
That is reflected partly in her client list, which includes only authors and books that she believes in. Which is a nice concept, and a very unusual one in the world of public relations. It also was reflected in the extra distance she went for me. She accompanied me, and held my hand, through my first radio interview on NPR’s “The Connection.” She showed up at my first reading at the Boston Public Library. And she generally made clear that to her, my book and I were causes as well as clients.
- Reason #9: People in the business like her.
I saw that everywhere I went. In a business of sharks, she is a teddy bear.
- Reason #10: I like her.
We began as client and publicist. We ended as friends, which is not an easy relationship to sustain through six books, and given my cantankerous personality. Enough said.