My name is Audra, and I’m a publicist.
Now, the reason I hate that question is not what you may think. There was a day when publicists were depicted in movies and TV shows as vultures, vampires, or vicious liars. Maybe they still are. My reasoning isn’t that I think people are going to think, “Oh my goodness, she’s a terrible person. Grab the garlic.”
The reason why is no one seems to understand what a publicist does. My dad chuckles when the question is asked within his earshot. After 13 years, he still doesn’t know what I do.
You would think I would have an awesome answer to give people. After all, my job is to create messages about what other people do and put them in the best light—isn’t it?
I usually just boil it down to the simplest possible answer: “I get interviews and book reviews for authors.”
The reality is, as a publicist, I do more than that—at least I should. I should be a vital part of an author’s team.
Why does an author need a publicist, and what will he/she do? I’ll start by saying a publicist cannot do his or her job without an author being an active and willing participant in the process. However, these are just a few things a publicist can do for you:
Creating your press kit
As a published author, there is no question you are a talented writer. However, the difference between writing a book and writing a press release is big. A novel is all about the story, but a press release is all about the topic. For a nonfiction author, a book is about getting into the details or a topic while a press release will hit the high points. In either case, books and press kits require very different styles of writing.
It also helps to have someone else write about you rather than you writing about yourself. For example, I write and rework author bios for a living. However, I cannot write a solid, interesting bio about myself to save my life. I would be much better off letting someone else write about me—sharing what they find unique, fascinating, and worthy of mentioning.
Developing your hook
In the process of developing your manuscript, you created a hook: what got the attention of your editor and what makes readers want to buy your book.
A hook to get readers to read your book is different than a hook to get media to cover your book. How so? Unless you are reaching out to a strictly book-review outlet, you aren’t actually trying to get media to read your book. You are trying to get them to talk about your book.
For a novelist, the media doesn’t want to talk about a great love story or an intriguing murder mystery, but they do want to talk about themes or issues you wrote into your book. What in your story can be tied to a current event or news story? If not something newsworthy per se, what message do you hope readers walk away with? Is it forgiveness? Men and women in relationships who need to communicate more? Your past doesn’t have to dictate your future? What can you talk about that other people can benefit from in the long run?
For a nonfiction release, what is going on in the news right now that you might be able to speak to? How can your book tie in to current events? This is what a publicist will help you work out.
A publicist can coach you on how to best talk about your book. There are certain things radio or TV guests do that get their interviews cut short as soon as the interview starts. What do hosts hate for you to do? What should you always do? How should you approach certain topics if they come up? Your publicist can work with you on what to say and how to say it. They can also help you out on what you need to know to make travel arrangements to certain programs and what to wear on a TV interview. (Leave your houndstooth suit and flip-flops at home.)