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January, 2008

Karen Villanueva Author Services

Pricing Publicity
How much PR? No, how much is PR?
By  Karen Williams Villanueva

There is much to ponder, many to learn from and lots of information to research.
If a publisher doesn't allot an author a publicity budget, how much should a writer be willing to spend on an independent publicist?

Authors, as a rule, don't have a ton of funds, so its normal for them to be interested to know what they could reasonably expect to pay to get some reasonable response. There are no guarantees but some idea of what a writer would have to pay out of his/her pocket is always helpful.

The answer to how much to pay a publicist is tricky. First, are you going to hire a PR firm? An independent publicist? A specialist in Book PR? Answers to those questions determine what you can expect to pay.
The price and payment terms vary widely. For a PR firm, you can pay between $1,000 and $15,000 dollars plus. For an indie publicist, $500-$5,000. For a PR book specialist, $1,000-$5000 per month. Of course there may be variables even in this, since I don't know all publicists or PR firms, but these are ballpark figures. It depends on what you want them to do and how they go about achieving these results.
The key is learning about the various PR types and companies and what it is they do, and to have thought about and defined your PR goals. Then you contact various PR firms or publicists -- not in a mass-mailed email -- which is a real turnoff and denotes laziness and a "throw-it-out-there-and-see-what-happens" approach.

Research by going online and searching under publicists, book publicists, literary publicists or go to and check under their heading Publicity and Promotion, then click on Book Publicity & Marketing, then on Independent Publicists. Do not call publicists and ask, "Can you get me on Oprah?" Think about that one, please.
Questions invariably lead to more questions and this is no exception.

For instance:

  • Do you wish to hire someone to set up a book tour?
  • If you have funds for travel, how much can you comfortably earmark for such a venture?
  • Will you be touring locally, regionally or nationally?
  • Are you looking for immediate and widespread results on a short-term, or are you planning a lengthier collaboration to build your public and press profile?
  • What do you expect to happen within one month? Two? Three? Six?
  • Do you want the whole shebang: TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, Internet? And do you expect to get on national talk shows, have a gazillion radio interviews, grace the cover of magazines? Or will some local coverage with a regional feature in a newspaper suffice?
  • Have you thought about ways you can market/promote yourself/your book on a shoestring budget?

There is much to ponder, but the good news is there are many people to learn from and lots of free information available to the willing-to-research.

Just delve into this website - yes, the one you're on.  You can also attend book-signings and talks and learn first-hand from authors how they got started and what it took.

And ask in the Q&A period, not when they're signing your book and you think it's okay to monopolize their time. It's not okay. Unless they make a point of saying they want to talk to you and invite you to stay after they get through the line.

If you're realistic in your approach, you'll get much farther than the guy who thinks his book is a bestseller and has the attitude to match it -- those who are without experience and think that being listed on (yes, even with reviews) means success.

In my experience, I have often found the more poorly structured a book -- complete with major typos on every page -- the bigger the ego and expectations of the author.

Of course, there are some would-be authors who do happen to be very decent people but they are simply poor writers with nothing terribly interesting to say.  Incidentally, more bestselling authors than not are much more humble than you might think.

Some of the more decent human beings I've had the pleasure and privilege to work with or drive around are James Lee Burke, Clive Cussler, Jodi Picoult, Elizabeth Buchan, Sue Monk Kidd, to name a few - some of the worst? Well, I'd be terribly indiscreet to name names, so I won't.

But the point? Being a decent human being to others will get you a lot farther, especially when you're just starting to navigate the rough waters of a career in writing. Unless of course you are rich and can afford to pay those sorry people who will suck up any and all abuse for $$$.

Nice doesn't necessarily denote a great writer and neither does a great writer have to be nice.We all seem to have a difficult or wild person in our lives that we sometimes tolerate and often adore because they are so darn talented and fascinating. The halls of celebrity are filled with them. But at least on these beginning rungs, try to be decent, won't you?

Many a PR person has certainly gone that extra mile for a 'hail fellow well met' type.

Click here for the previous part to this article.IN Icon

Karen Williams Villanueva is the owner/operator of Karen Villanueva Author Services. A publicist for 20 years, first in the world of rock 'n' roll, and for the last 10 years as a specialist in book PR, she's a transplanted Torontonian living in Albuquerque, NM. Website:

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