Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 24, 2012

Do You Need a PR Person For Your Book?

After writing a children’s book, getting it published is the first hurdle. Making it a sales success is another. Publicists can help children’s book authors generate media attention for their books, with the expectation that this will increase sales.

In general, there are two types of publicists. An inhouse publicist works for the publisher at no cost to the author. An independent (or freelance) publicist is an outside person hired by the author. The In-House Publicist The general role of in-house publicists, according to Lissa Warren, Vice President and Senior Director of Publicity for Da Capo Press, is to create press materials, such as bios, press releases, and canned Q&As. They arrange bookstore appearances, and radio and TV interviews if possible.

They also work to have the book reviewed in trade publications, magazines, newspapers, and online. “In addition to reviews, we seek to secure profile pieces, columnmentions, Q&As, and feature articles as well,” Warren says.

But don’t mix up in-house publicity with the marketing department. Tracy van Straaten, Vice President of Publicity and Education/ Library Marketing for Scholastic Trade Book Publishing, points out that “people are often confused between the roles of publicity and marketing. For example, publicists usually do not handle advertising, promotional materials, catalogs, displays, posters, etc.”

While exact publicity services can vary from house to house, in general “the goal is always to secure the most media coverage possible for a book and/or author, and to make sure that our editorial, sales, and marketing departments are aware of any and all media that has been confirmed,” van Straaten says.

The Independent Publicist Some of the services independent publicists offer may be similar to those of the in-house people. Like an in-house publicist, Rebecca Grose, founder of SoCal Public Relations, creates a press kit for clients. She also reaches out to booksellers, libraries, and trade shows if clients are interested in making appearances. “I’m pitching interviews, features, reviews, chats, anything we can do to promote the title, the author, or both,” she says.

So how do the services of an independent publicist differ from those provided in-house? The major difference, according to Susan Raab, founder Getting the word out about your book: the publicist’s role of Raab Associates, is that the publisher “has a lot of core ground to cover on behalf of the book,” such as the services mentioned above. Much of what an independent publicist does goes beyond those areas. “Each campaign we do is different,” Raab says,“but often this involves outreach to family, feature, and niche media contacts in broadcast, print, and online media.”

Grose feels the main difference is that a freelancer can devote more time to an individual client. The inhouse people are “often working on fifteen to twentyfive books each season and just don’t have the time to follow up on every mailing, go after interviews and features, explore niche markets, specialized contacts, etc. What I try to do is work with the publisher to complement what they’re doing.”

Is a Freelancer Needed? Hiring an independent publicist is a personal decision that depends on individual circumstances. There are no hard and fast rules about when the money spent will generate enough sales to make the choice cost-effective. “Before hiring a freelance publicist,” van Straaten says, “I recommend that authors consider carefully what they hope to gain from the additional help, making sure that it will augment the publisher’s plans and will not duplicate efforts or step on toes.”

There are some situations where outside publicists might be beneficial. One example van Straaten gives is when an author has books published by several houses. In that case a publicist can create a more comprehensive publicity campaign that can be coordinated across publishers. Or “if an author is an expert on a topic, or has an additional career for which they want to be pitched for interviews . . .
this might be a case where an outside publicist is a good idea. To use a fictional example, if someone is a professional gardening expert who wants to attend gardening association conventions and events and be pitched for keynotes, the publisher of their picture book about the life of a seed is not necessarily equipped to position the author to that niche audience.”

Raab said authors who “feel their career has hit a plateau, and people who have a particularly newsworthy book that they feel warrants a major push they would not be able to do by themselves” might also warrant extra publicity efforts. Problems with the in-house person might also be a reason to hire additional help. Warren cites multiple unreturned phone calls or emails, inexperience, and lack of enthusiasm from the publisher as possible reasons to consider a freelancer. “If your expectations for publicity aren’t in line with the inhouse publicist’s expectations for it,” she says, “that’s a red flag right there.”

Before spending the money, however, Warren feels it’s worth discussing the idea with the inhouse people. “Authors can make sure they really do need to hire a freelance publicist, and get a sense of how that person can best support the in-house publicist’s efforts.”

By Yvonne Ventresca

Yvonne Ventresca is currently working on a YA novel. She is represented by Marcy Posner of Folio Literary Management.  Yvonne has written about other publishing jobs.


  1. Here’s hoping we all end up in the kind of position where we need a publicist, whether in-house or freelance 🙂 Thanks for the excellent information in your article, Yvonne. And Kathy, I love that you’re posting these wonderful “Sprouts” articles. Great stuff!


  2. Donna — Glad you enjoyed the article!
    Kathy — Thanks for posting.


  3. Thanks for the info, Kathy! Hope I’m in a position to be making this decision someday. 🙂


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