Since I’m a publicist and do a lot of work with authors and publishing companies, I’ll give you my spin on this.
Is it worth it to hire a publicist?
My response: It depends.
I don’t really ascribe to the amount of money invested in the book as a decision factor myself. Lots of my clients have turned books that they write with blood, sweat and tears into financial success using POD. Very simply they write a good book and print on demand in small quantity. Money invested in the book does not have to be considerable. Of course if you have invested a lot of money, then it begins to acquire the characteristics of a publish or perish syndrome. The stakes go up with the investment.
I’ll be honest with you. I see lots of one-book authors try to turn a profit from publishing. I see only a few succeed. I see lots try very hard and fail. So to me, self-publishing is best viewed as a risk venture. There are so many variables. Publicity can jumpstart marketing but there is no guarantee that it will.
For the sake of argument, let’s just assume that the owner of some intellectual property can reasonably benefit from using publicity to achieve their goals. To me, publicity is one type of marketing or promotion and it has a cost. And to really understand what we’re talking about, it’s crucial to get on the same page. So here’s my definition of what one typically asks a publicist to do:
PR: the creation and presentation of proposed content to media (publishers or producers) to persuade them to publish or showcase a story or information that is perceived as objectively reported by their audiences, that creates interest, desire and promotes and triggers desired action (sales, votes or social action).
The question is whether the cost you invest can produce the actions you want to achieve whether it be sales, votes, or social action such as human support, financial or material donation, or attendance at a show or an event.
The goal is to have a meaningful communication with the right real people on the receiving end. The message is matters, the medium matters, and the effect matters. The real value to the recipient is what determines whether they in fact are affected to the point of action. You can’t use any communication technology to trigger or motivate action without figuring out the magic words first. Can you do this yourself or do you need to have a professional publicist help you?
The cost of a publicist covers the actions needed to produce the results you want. There are lots of options for someone who needs publicity to consider from doing it yourself all the way to simply hiring someone to do it all for you. The choices range in cost from as low as the cost of acquiring a custom database all the way to hiring a full service PR, firm, or a pay-for-performance firm, all the way to hiring an in-house publicist.
Now I operate a task based service that allows people to select and deploy the simplest and most intelligent actions. For most authors and publishers this is a one-time project that involves identifying the target audience, figuring out how to galvanize them, crafting one or more news releases, creating the right custom media list to present this message to the maximum number of right people, sending them any and all additional materials the media then needs to do their job, and then calling them to persuade media who have not decided to do what you are hoping for to try to persuade them to give you the publicity and media coverage you seek.
Other publicists and PR firms do similar actions and charge more and less to do these things. But there are many different types of fee arrangements by which can acquire publicity services. You should study the differences when you make your decision and do so recognizing specifically what you will get for the money you pay.
Here’s a link to an article I wrote titled “Evaluating the Range of Publicity Tactics and Publicity Options”
There’s a second article that talks about how to get the most out of whichever type of publicity service you choose titled “Super Client! Getting the Most Out of Your Publicists and Copywriters”.
You can choose to manage your promotions to achieve many different types of results.
There is no simple answer. There are costs (money, time, and material resources for the data needed and the technology needed) to achieve publicity success.
There is also expertise required (copywriting, targeting the right media, utilizing the best technologies, communicating with clients and media, negotiating, reporting, integrating with marketing and other people and publicists who are involved).
These are some of the issues you need to address and factor in to the decision one makes.
The original question asks “is it worth it to hire a publicist?”
The return on investment question can be answered by evaluating the profit one makes per action triggered by your publicity effort. Let’s look at some of the costs and what it means to an author/publisher.
If one makes $5 per book, then it takes 100 books to cover a $500 cost for a single news release publicity project.
You’d have to sell 2,000 books to cover a $10,000 fee for a full service PR firm or personal publicist for some dedicated time or program.
If on the other hand if you are not just an author, but also receive $3000 for a speaking engagement plus travel and per diem, then you can make $2500 or more if you even get one speaking engagement off one $500 news release outreach.
If you worked with the $10,000 PR firm, you’d nearly break even if you got three engagements and you’d make a couple of thousand with four.
Will the $10,000 firm produce more than the $500 outreach effort? This depends on what is really being done to get media coverage. It depends on the message and who gets to receive it.
There are at least five key measurement points you should use to determine your level of satisfaction with the effectiveness of your publicity efforts.
1. The first point is when you transmit a news release or conduct an outreach effort. Do you feel like the costs of performing the publicity outreach are reasonable? Do you feel like the service has been responsive to your needs?
2. The second point is immediately after the outreach is conducted and you can identify the number and quality of the media responses to your outreach.
3. The third point is when articles are actually published or when your interviews have been conducted.
4. The fourth point is when you determine whether enough of the right people respond to your message.
5. The fifth and final point is sometime later still, when you are finally able to somehow determine the overall benefits of your outreach effort and experience.
It is only now you can truly ask “Was it worth it?”
Here is an article I wrote titled “Tracking Your Publicity Success and PR Effectiveness” which discusses this aspect of publicity in more detail:
What this means of course is that publicity is more valuable when someone has multiple streams of income that can be leveraged and the branding effect triggers interest and sales in many ways. This frees people from strictly focusing solely on their product and allows them to shine again and again by helping people they can help the most in ways that really turn people on. This is how you not only trigger real interest, but trigger trust and action. This is the professional branding effect and when it works, people like what you say so much that they will buy everything you have for sale. This is what you hope for when you hire a publicist.
So is it worth it to hire a publicist?
It depends on whether you can do what needs to be done by yourself or with the right type of help. It depends on the results you achieve when you do these things.
The one thing you really need to realize is that even if one hires a publicist, there’s still no guarantee that publicity will produce sales. All you can do is try.
And like any other marketing tactic you should really evaluate the effectiveness as a business using objective measures. Look at all the factors and make an informed decision.
If it works, do more of it, and if it doesn’t stop and do something else.
The only thing that is certain is that if you do not reach out to people somehow, nothing will happen.