Happy New Year! I have to say I’ve been meaning to post about fall and how brutal it is for any business that deals with any kind of retail product, but it’s been too busy to even comment on the whys and wherefores of books and the holidays. Perhaps there will be a summer post related to that topic. Instead, I’m going to answer the many requests I’ve received to try to shed some light on how much it costs to hire a publicist.
The short answer is fees vary mainly according to the services offered and the size of the firm you hire, but one thing I will say that for the most part it is a commitment that will likely run you thousands not hundreds of dollars.
I’ll address size first because that’s pretty easy to explain. I don’t think I need to tell you that if you were to hire one of the big international New York-based firms, you would be talking six figures and you would be getting a lot more than just a publicist–it would be a more holistic public relations campaign that includes marketing, messaging, and more.
Then there are specific book and author-related firms that have offices in major urban areas that probably will charge a significant project fee to start. Any services like event and media booking in tour cities, social media outreach, etc. are billed additionally. On a book-by-book basis the contract will be set up for a certain period; they will provide written memos throughout the campaign with a final wrap-up at the end. Generally speaking these firms (and some of the owners are friends) have been around for a long time. They are very thorough about their media relations and have good reputations.
Now let me turn to the services aspect of hiring a publicist, because this is where the rubber meets the road. There are people and companies who offer individual “a la carte” options for campaigns for less than what it would cost to do a full campaign. Some of these are:
- Sending your book out to a specific list of reviewers.
- Sending a press release out to select radio, tv, print, and online producers and editors.
- Radio tours with a guaranteed number of interviews scheduled.
- Blog tours with a commitment on the number of reviews that will be posted.
- Media training.
- Individual market campaigns, such as a firm that specializes in booking Los Angeles or Chicago media and events.
In order to minimize your costs you may only ask for a mailing or a blog tour. But you need to understand going into the deal that other things you may want or need for your project, you will have to figure out for yourself or buy more services from the same or some other company. Some of the businesses that handle these jobs are online-based and you may never actually speak to a person. This is how they keep their prices in the hundreds, by offering specific services to a large number of clients at once.
If you hire a boutique public relations firm that specializes in books, authors, or spokesperson branding, you will likely either pay a project fee or a retainer on a monthly basis. It will depend on what you need and how much you want the company to do for you.
A full campaign can include social media monitoring, strategy, and outreach; customized press kits; media relations for tv, radio, print, and online; events; single market media bookings (like tour markets); marketing to associations, libraries, universities, booksellers, etc; and any other great ideas you and/or the agency devise.
The costs related to the kind of relationship with a client that includes individual attention, phone meetings, flexibility, and what I consider to be a long term, quality connection between the client and the firm will definitely run several thousands of dollars.
The main considerations for you to ask are: What kinds of services do you need? What kind of relationship do you want to have with the company you are working with? How much work can you do on your own? What financial resources are reasonably at your disposal? Can the company you want to work with negotiate with you to give you the best array of services at a price that is mutually agreeable? And also, can you purchase specific services from the same company that will give you the best of both worlds–a more personalized campaign and lower costs.
Remember that public relations is an actual skill, and although they teach it in universities, the best way to learn is by doing and from experience, and the level of knowledge your person has will be a factor in what it costs. It also takes a lot of time and although it is sometimes very hard to measure results, rest assured the time and labor is being spent. I think the most important quality your representative should have is a commitment to you and your work–advocacy. This person and/or company is going to help you gain exposure and in the event of a book promotion, will actual introduce your book to the world in interesting and exciting ways.
So when you are looking for a publicist know that the old adage rings true here as well– “you get what you pay for”–and if you are looking for someone who is going to work hard on your behalf, it isn’t going to be cheap.