Book Marketing with Yancy Caruthers Part 2 - Hiring a Publicist

Yancy Caruthers is back sharing more experience on what has worked and not for him, we both would love to get a discussion going if we can get anyone else to divulge their "secrets". Thanks for visiting and thank you Yancy for sharing your experience.

Recently, I wrote a guest post for titled “Book Marketing and Amazon Ads,” in which I discussed the formula for calculating return on your advertising dollar, and what factors were important in getting a positive return, such as ad quality and placement.

Shortly thereafter, I decided to jump in to promotion with both feet – and retained a publicist.  I’d done some shopping, and discovered a wide range of quality and price, from “so cheap it can’t possibly work” to a ceiling of about $8000 for a service that guaranteed appearances on national television.

How to choose the right publicist?

Price is a factor, and I won’t pretend it’s not – but hoping that some “expert” in India that I found on Fiverr tweeting my book to his 50,000 fake followers is not my idea of a good investment.  Even so, I couldn’t afford to plunk down thousands of my hard-earned dollars for national TV exposure.  I was looking for a company in the midrange, one that would charge me a few hundred dollars and do its best to deliver some real value.

Equally important is the second factor – one I learned right after my book launch when I dropped $150 for a “blog tour”- and sold exactly zero books as a result.  In defense of the tour coordinator, the abysmal sales had little to do with the product she delivered.  Her contacts were in a different genre.  I needed a publicist who had a history of promoting books similar to mine.

With both of these conditions satisfied, I chose a company, which I won’t name here, although he did everything he said he would and did it well.  My new publicist promised to score several media appearances over a short period of time, and also agreed to rewrite one of my old ads and provide me with a press release.  Full disclosure:  The bill came to $370.

What I got for my money…  

Within days, my new media rep began scheduling interviews.  Over the ten-day period leading up to Memorial Day, I shared my thoughts on the current state of Veterans Affairs and veteran suicide, important messages that I could link back to my Iraq War memoir, Northwest of Eden.  Some of the interviews I aced, and some were mediocre.  One in particular, I bombed.

I was standing my the phone, waiting for the interviewer to call me – I’d be doing it live, so I was sitting in my big comfy chair with my laptop open to several tabs of reference material.  I didn’t want to get stumped, so I was ready to branch out if the host went in an unforeseen direction.  It began smoothly, but halfway through, one of the open articles began playing an audio pop-up.  At full volume!  I was right in the middle of an important point, and couldn’t summon enough multitasking power to mute my computer, so I closed the lid and walked across the room.  OOPS.  There went my notes, and I stumbled the recovery and failed to talk about my book even once!  

Moral:  Print out handwritten notes for when technology fails.  I’d learned that lesson as a special assistant to a U.S. Ambassador.  I just hadn’t remembered to apply it.

The next six interviews went well – I did AM talk radio spots in Denver, Minneapolis, and Boston, along with two nationally syndicated shows.  As unexpected bonuses, I scored an interview on a cable news channel and a piece that was converted into a Bloomberg TV spot.

Running the numbers…was it worth it?

As you might have guessed from my previous post, I keep a tight watch on my sales numbers.  It’s important for an author (or any businessperson) to analyze trends.  If I put a ton of effort into a Twitter campaign, for instance, and it doesn’t produce sales to match my effort, then I won’t do it again.  Conversely, if something is working, I want to know about it so I can do more.

The numbers were in, and I’d made 14 sales.  It was only part of my total for that period, but the rest came from online ads I could directly source.  On a $2.99 e-book, I make $2.05 – it was a score of $28.70 from my $370 investment – or an ROI of 7.75%.  Not something I wanted to repeat every month.

My publicist had done a great job, but in the end it wasn’t worth it.  To the other authors reading this, you’ll have to make your own call.  Since I only have one full-length title and a handful of 99c chapbooks, my potential payoff per customer is relatively low.  If you have an entire series of books in your library, or a product that delivers a higher profit per sale, then this type of publicity campaign might be more valuable to you.  I’ll let you make that decision.  When the collection of Medic! makes its debut this fall, I’ll look into doing this again.  With a second product to sell, the math changes…on everything I do.

In wrapping this up, I’ll share that I definitely received a benefit beyond the cost of a dinner for one – I honed my interviewing skills and learned about preparation.  I made a handful of mistakes that I won’t make again, and that’s life.  Sometimes life comes with a tuition payment.

Authors, what sort of marketing has been the most successful for you?  Signings?  Ads?  Interviews?  Public appearances?  

Please post your stories in the comments.

Links to my books and part one of this series- 

 Check out Yancy's books here