Writers in the Storm

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April 29, 2024

The Dos and Don’ts of Working with a Publicist

By J. Alexander Greenwood

As both a professional public relations practitioner and a novelist, I can safely say I know the value of publicity. The partnership between an author and their publicist can be a pivotal element for success. However, hiring a publicist is a tactic to take only after serious consideration. Whether navigating the hidebound halls of traditional publishing or the wilds of self-publishing, understanding the ins and outs, dos, and don'ts of this relationship can significantly enhance an author's visibility and impact. 

Here are some top-level thoughts and strategies to foster a fruitful collaboration with your publicist. There is far more to delve into for each point I list here, but I hope it gets you thinking before you pull the trigger on working with a publicist. 

Building a Foundation

Define Your Goals and Expectations

Effective collaboration begins with clarity. Authors should communicate their vision, goals, and expectations from the outset. Are you aiming for a bestseller list, looking to build your brand, or hoping to secure speaking engagements? Clear goals allow your publicist to tailor their strategies and ensure that both parties are aligned in their efforts.

Be Open to Guidance

Publicists bring a wealth of experience and insights into the publishing industry, media relations, and audience engagement. They know what works and what doesn’t. Trust their guidance on everything from the timing of your book launch to the platforms where you should be present. Your willingness to listen and adapt can be the key to unlocking opportunities you hadn’t considered.

Provide Materials Promptly

Your publicist will need a suite of materials to effectively promote your book—high-resolution images, author bio, book synopsis, and perhaps even advance copies for reviewers. Timely provision of these essentials can significantly enhance the effectiveness of promotional efforts.

Embrace Media Training

If your publicist recommends media training, take it seriously. As a former journalist and longtime book podcast host, I can tell you unreservedly that being able to present your ideas clearly and engagingly in interviews makes a huge difference in how your work is received. A little preparation goes a long way in making the most of each publicity opportunity.


The cost of hiring a publicist for authors can widely vary, influenced by factors such as the publicist's experience, the scope and duration of the publicity campaign, and the specific needs of the book and its target audience. Publicists may work on a monthly retainer basis, with fees ranging from $2,000 to over $10,000, depending on their expertise and the services provided.

Alternatively, project-based fees for targeted campaigns like book launches could start from a few thousand dollars for basic services to $20,000 or more for extensive media outreach, event planning, and social media management. Hourly rates for smaller tasks or consulting services are also an option, generally ranging from $50 to $300 based on the publicist's qualifications.

When considering hiring a publicist, you should carefully evaluate your budget and the potential return on investment. It’s important to ensure that the services offered are directly aligned with your goals and that the campaign is tailored to the book’s market potential. A detailed contract outlining the services, duration, expected outcomes, and costs can help set clear expectations. Since the aim is to maximize the book’s visibility and success without overspending, authors must weigh the cost against the value a publicist brings, ensuring it’s a financially sensible decision in the context of their overall career and publication strategy.

Warning Signs of A Bad Publicist

Recognizing a bad publicist is essential for authors to protect their interests and ensure their book's success. Warning signs include infrequent updates and unresponsiveness, indicating poor communication; a lack of tailored strategies and understanding of your book’s genre, hinting at a generic approach; lack of transparency in reporting and unexpected costs; unrealistic promises of guaranteed outcomes; a poor professional reputation without credible references or positive feedback; and unprofessional behavior or reluctance to collaborate with your team. These red flags suggest that the publicist may not effectively champion your book, and it could be wise to seek a partnership that aligns more closely with your needs, offering transparency, tailored strategies, and professional conduct.

Pro Tip: Ask around on writers group chat boards, check out writer protection sites, and other legit author organizations to vet a potential publicist. And remember, even a great PR pro may struggle if they do not understand book promotion and PR. Ask for references and case studies of book publicity before you hire.

Navigating the Journey: The Dos

So you’ve hired a great publicist—huzzah! Here are some dos and don’ts to ensure a smooth and effective partnership.

Do Communicate Regularly

Regular updates and check-ins with your publicist can keep both parties informed of developments, challenges, and opportunities. Open lines of communication ensure that strategies can be adjusted in real-time, based on what is working and what is not.

Do Leverage Your Networks

While your publicist can open doors to media and promotional opportunities, your personal and professional networks can also play a crucial role. Share contacts that might be interested in your book, and don’t hesitate to use your social media platforms to amplify your publicist’s efforts.

Do Be Patient and Realistic

The world of book publicity is fiercely competitive, and results may not (usually) come overnight. It’s important to have patience and set realistic expectations. Trust in the process and in your publicist’s ability to navigate this complex landscape.

Do Celebrate the Wins

When you achieve milestones, whether it's a feature in a major publication or a successful book signing event, celebrate these wins with your publicist. Acknowledging success not only bolsters morale but also strengthens your partnership.

Steering Clear: The Don'ts

Don’t Make Your Publicist Look Bad

Publicists live and die by their credibility. If your publicist books you for an interview, panel, signing, or other promotional event, you must show up on time, prepared and enthusiastic about the opportunity. I can tell you a story or two, seared into my brain about clients who blew off interviews at the last minute. One such incident cost me a valuable relationship with a prominent journalist. I fired that client soon afterward—she was just not worth the damage she did.

Don’t Micromanage

Trust is the cornerstone of any successful author-publicist relationship. While it’s important to stay engaged and informed, resist the urge to micromanage every detail of the publicity campaign. Your publicist is a professional—allow them the space to work their magic.

Don’t Ignore Feedback

Constructive criticism is part of the growth process. If your publicist offers feedback on anything from your book’s cover design to your social media posts, take it into consideration. This feedback is geared towards enhancing your book’s appeal and reach.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Digital

In today’s digital age, having a strong online presence is non-negotiable. Whether it’s being active on social media, engaging with readers through a newsletter, or maintaining a dynamic author website, digital platforms are crucial. Don’t overlook these channels or leave them solely in the hands of your publicist.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture

Amidst the whirlwind of book launches and promotional activities, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae. Always keep the bigger picture in mind—your long-term brand, your relationship with your readers, and your overall writing career.

The relationship between an author and their publicist is a dynamic and collaborative journey, paved with mutual respect, clear communication, and a shared vision for success. By understanding and embracing these dos, and don'ts, authors can unlock the full potential of this partnership, propelling their stories into the limelight and forging deeper connections with their readers.

About J. Alexander

J. Alexander Greenwood Author Picture

J. Alexander Greenwood is an award-winning writer, public relations consultant, podcaster, speaker, and former journalist and broadcasting executive. He is best known as the author of the John Pilate Mysteries and host/producer of the Mysterious Goings On podcast and the PR After Hours podcast. Alex is also the author of the Amazon Top-Selling eBook/audiobook, The Podcast Option. You can read his blog at JAlexanderGreenwood.com.

Image credit: © 2024 J. A. Greenwood. Image created by AI technology. All rights reserved. This image is proprietary and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published, or broadcast without the prior written permission of the creator.

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10 comments on “The Dos and Don’ts of Working with a Publicist”

  1. Thank you for the valuable information and links.

    I can see how important it is to have a clear vision for one's work. You've given me a lot to think about.

    I will check out your podcast!

  2. Great article Alex! I should have known, but didn't, that it was possible to hire a publicist for a consult. Thanks for including that information. And I love that you included the dos and don'ts.

  3. I heard a story about a publicity campaign where the publicist did their job well, but because the books were not available quickly enough (POD) the project failed. Do you have any suggestions specifically for those working in a POD environment? Would it make sense to preorder an agreed upon amount to help the publicist succeed?

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