For many authors, the concept of book publicity is completely mystifying. What does a book publicist do? Why would I even need one? Do I need one? How does this work?

I’ve worked as a book publicist for more than 20 years, so I’ve encountered my share of questions—and in the interest of offering a quick overview of PR, I’ve put together five common questions and answers related to things every author should know about hiring a publicist.


Question #1: Why would an author hire a publicist?

Answer: A good publicist can open doors that an author might not be able to open.

A book publicist’s job is to create awareness for your book, whether through book reviews, articles, feature stories, mentions, or radio and television interviews. Publicists work as a liaison between the author and the media with the goal of generating coverage of an author and his or her work.

What a good publicist brings to the table is access: a network of contacts he or she can reach out to in hopes of getting coverage for you and your book.

Publicists who know how to work with books understand timing, know the secrets of successfully promoting a book, understand the importance of timing…and know what it takes to get a book noticed.

Question #2: Does a book publicist offer guarantees on who will review an author’s book or interview the author?

Answer: Absolutely not! Publicists cannot guarantee media coverage

There is never a guarantee that any publicist will be able to secure media coverage in a particular media outlet. If a publicist offers guarantees, run—and run fast! We are all at the mercy of the media and, while we may feel very strongly about our abilities and the likelihood of placing a particular article, review, feature story, or interview, we can never guarantee coverage. Typically, when I take on a new project, I make sure I have good contacts at a number of outlets that I am confident will want to cover the book—but again, there is never a guarantee.

Question #3: How many books can I expect to sell if I hire a publicist?

Answer: Please take note, as this is important: There is no guarantee that publicity will result in book sales. Publicity is about creating visibility and awareness, which, in a perfect world, will drive consumers out to buy books—but there is no guarantee that it will. While media awareness is an important component of sales, it is not the only component. Authors looking at publicity only as a vehicle to generate instant sales numbers may well be disappointed.

Question #4 – When can I expect to see results?

Answer: Publicity doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time—and often lots of follow ups—before a review ever appears in print. For this reason, it’s important to start early (well in advance of when a book is scheduled for release) soliciting reviews. Effectively generating a review, for instance, means figuring out what to pitch, which takes time, actually pitching the book to a reviewer, filling the request, following up, giving the reviewer time to read the book, following up, etc. When you consider each step—and the fact that most reviewers receive more books than they could ever read—you will quickly understand why book publicity doesn’t happen overnight.


Question #5 – Why should an author hire a book publicist?

Answer: If you’re uncomfortable with trying to promote yourself and your book, consider hiring a publicist to do the promotion for you. Some authors are terrific promoters but freeze at the thought of trying to self-promote. Any author who feels uneasy about trying to do his or her own promotions should consider hiring someone to handle the PR. Also, if an author’s time is extremely limited and he or she simply doesn’t have the necessary time to devote to effectively promoting your book, definitely consider hiring a publicist. Book promotion can be extremely time-consuming – and even more so if you don’t know where to start.

Maryglenn McCombs has worked as an independent book publicist for over two decades. A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Maryglenn lives in Nashville, Tennessee.