Young man interviewing a woman in a radio studio

How to Choose the Best PR Firm to Promote Your Book

As an author, sooner or later you’ll be evaluating what a PR firm can do for you in launching your book and helping with ongoing promotion. Notice I didn’t say “hiring” a PR firm.

Some authors may have the skill and time to pitch their own books to the media and need no PR agent to interfere in the process. If that’s your situation, good for you!

But back to my point about PR firms: They may charge big bucks and deliver even bigger results—or fail miserably. Their cost can range from a low retainer fee of $1500 a month to more than $10,000 a month.

For those authors who do decide to hire a PR firm, the most frequent question I get as a book coach and an author is this:  “I’ve talked to several PR firms. They all sound good. How do I choose which would be the best?”

The statement “they all sound good” always brings a smile to my face. Of COURSE, they all sound good. They’re PR firms! Those skills work whether they’re pitching to the media or potential clients.


Two Major Decisions to Make Upfront

Should you work with a PR firm that charges by retainer or by placement?

Working by placement means that the firm gives you a list of potential media along with their fee to get you coverage in that outlet. If they get you no coverage, you owe the PR firm nothing. If they place you on a major TV show, you may be looking at a fee of $15,000. Or more likely, if they get you a spot in your local newspaper, they bill you only $300.

So here’s the fundamental issue regarding which is the better alternative: Assess your book topic’s likely appeal to the media. If you and your topic will likely attract major attention, you’ll typically find it less expensive to work by retainer. For example, if your book addresses issues about communication, productivity, leadership, stress, health, money, or other topics of perennial interest, then media outlets run innumerable blogs, stories, and shows on these. The PR agent’s chances of successfully pitching you to a wide variety of outlets are extensive.

On the other hand, if your topic primarily appeals only to niche audiences, then you’ll generally do better to hire a PR firm that charges you by placement. When the PR agent has a more difficult job in getting you coverage, they expect to be paid handsomely when they do land an interview for you.

The smartest thing you can do in determining whether to pay by retainer or placement? Make an honest assessment of your book’s appeal and your author credentials.


Questions to Narrow the PR Choice

Once you’ve narrowed your choices to two or three PR firms, then ask and aswer the following questions to dig deeper:

  • Who seems best able to understand and articulate the book’s concept? (At this point in your interviewing process, the PR contenders will not want to invest the time in reading your book in depth. At best, they’ll take a few minutes to skim your manuscript, galleys, or an advanced reading copy.)
  • Which firm can best identify the appropriate, ideal audience for your book? (Do you agree, or do they sound off-target?)
  • Do you need more help with strategy or tactics? (If strategy, look at the PR firm’s past clients and their books? How successful have those books and clients been with their overall sales? By contrast, if you need tactical help because you don’t have enough staff to get your arms around the project, talk to past clients of the PR firm. Ask: How responsive was the firm? Did the scheduled interviews actually happen or “fall through the cracks”? How much of the back-and-forth detail in scheduling interviews did the firm handle for you? How persistent were they in going after your ideal placements?  You’re paying for time and follow-up, so make sure you can count on their persistence.)
  • What social media platforms do they use most often? (Ask for a few clients they’ve promoted on which platforms, and then check out the engagement on those posts.)
  • What would be your ideal top 10 placements for this book? (How does their wish list align with yours?)

Choosing a PR firm is not a science. Actually, it can be quite risky. Take your time. Ask your questions. Confirm reported results.


Ready to take the leap and make the most of your next—or first—book? Join my next Booher Book Camp.

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