Publishing a book is a long process, and there are a multitude of people who have made careers out of helping authors get through it.  Unfortunately, not many people are aware of what exactly these publicists do, and often times publishers are asked to do the job of the publicist.

This is no problem for larger firms that have such individuals on staff, but many do not have the luxury of employing in-house publicists.  So what exactly does a publicist do that a publisher does not?  When do you need a publicist?

The short answer is that publishers oversee the process of making a book, while publicists are responsible for marketing that same book.  The publicist’s job begins several months (or even up to a year) before a book’s release, and it doesn’t end until months afterward– or maybe even years, depending on the market, budget and needs of the author!

While the publisher finds ways to get the book onto both physical and digital shelves, the publicist does everything he or she can to make sure that people will buy it when it hits those shelves.  This things include arranging book tours and signings, setting up interviews with the author, creating and sending out press releases, and pitching ideas for feature stories about the author to various journalists.

Other methods for generating buzz around a specific title might include submitting the book to reviewers, pushing to get it onto a notable book list, or even nominating it for an award.  Publicists are the public relations experts of the literary world, and are responsible of a fair amount of the networking that takes place within it.

In years past, authors wanted their publicist to get talk show hosts to endorse their book on the air.  However, this tactic is no longer popular, and a publicist may instead turn to the internet to generate buzz about a book.

In this age of social media, many think that publicists are obsolete; authors can simply market their book themselves.  In reality, the prevalence of social media actually makes publicists more necessary than ever.  Just like other PR specialists, they can utilize these platforms to spread words both further and faster than was possible in the past.  They can target demographics more easily and accurately by securing ads on pages those groups frequent, or by directly posting information and promotional materials to such sites.  They can also use the web to provide “free samples” of the books they are promoting.

Publicists have extensive experience and training on how to use these platforms to catch the public’s eye, and how to negate the effects of bad publicity if necessary.  In today’s world, where it is so easy to broadcast one’s thoughts, the exchanges that take place on social media sites can easily damage a career if they are not handled carefully.  Giving authors assistance with public appearances, both virtual and physical, is part of what a modern publicist does.

Like publishers, publicists come in all shapes and sizes.  They may have a creative team working with them, or they may be working solo.  Each has different experiences and training, and may offer different services.  Every publisher and publicist has different ways of achieving their respective goals, but those goals are always the same: publishers, whether in the form of a company or a self-publisher, make sure that what you write can be read; publicists make sure that it will be.  So, do you need a publicist?

By Dylan Horrex

Works Cited:
  • Barko, Stephanie. “What Does a Book Publicist Do?” Stephanie Barko, Accessed 6 June 2018.
  • “Literary Publicist: Job Description, Duties and Salary.”, Accessed 6 June 2018.
  • McKinney, Claire. “Do You Know What a Book Publicist Does?” Publisher’s Weekly, PWxyz, 27 June 2011, Accessed 6 June 2018.

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