by Erin Mitchell

Publicity is easy, right? Google is rife with pithy posts from gurus who will reveal all the secrets of a successful publicity campaign, after all. Anyone can do it, surely. It’s not, after all, brain surgery.

Except…no. This is going to sound extreme to some, but doing PR without a pro is akin to writing a book without an editor.

My first job in publicity was in 1986 at a movie theater in an art museum. It involved getting a lot of paper cuts, learning the fine points of creating an effective Rolodex card, becoming an artist with Liquid Paper, and researching everything from whether David Byrne had any allergies to how Spike Lee took his coffee (and this was pre-interwebs, y’all). Getting the word out about events was different then…not harder or easier, but absolutely different than it is now.

Publicity is harder than it looks to civilians

My point? Working through the evolution of media and how people consume information has made one thing crystal clear: Publicity is harder than it looks to civilians. Publicity tactics are relatively straightforward, but using them effectively requires understanding and interpreting data, combining and modifying tactics to fit specific campaigns, delving into the whys and the hows of who is influential and getting the attention of these folks.

It’s about understanding that blasting anything these days isn’t going to work.

That not every social media platform is appropriate for each message, and a call-to-action that doesn’t reach the right people at the correct moment is a waste of time, energy, and probably money.

Effective book publicity requires flexibility

One of the benefits of having been in the PR game for a long time is that I’ve made mistakes. Lots of mistakes. And I’ve learned from every single one of them. One of the biggest lessons is that effective publicity requires flexibility. You have to be able and willing to try different things and do more of what works while abandoning what doesn’t. If you decide upfront, “OK…I’m going to focus all my efforts on these three things,” you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Or the book. You know what I mean. You’re better off testing ten things before deciding what you’re going to do.

Which brings me to your friendly neighborhood PR professional.

Before you yell, “but I can’t afford to hire a professional!” let me reiterate: there is no one-size-fits-all solution. So before you decide you can’t afford a publicity campaign, at least investigate what is available to you.

Here are four tips to help you do that.

1. Location is irrelevant

This wasn’t always true, but it is now. Gone are the days of long-distance charges. Getting materials to someone in the blink of an eye (literally) is simple. Big-city agencies can offer a lot, but these benefits are no longer unique.

2. Get specific

What worked for one author isn’t necessarily going to work for another. Make sure you’re getting ideas and proposals that are specific to your situation.

3. Be a team

If you’re thinking about hiring an independent communications professional, be sure to let your book publicist and editor know. By working together, the benefit of their efforts will increase exponentially.

4. Know your stuff

Consider both the art and science of communications. Data is crucial. So is knowing how influential reviewers (including bloggers) prefer to be contacted and which types of books they like. (Check this Career Authors post for more on that.)

Questions, fears, dilemmas, experiences to share?  Let’s chat on the Career Authors Facebook page!

book publicistErin Mitchell has more than two decades of global experience in the arts and sciences of public relations, advertising, and marketing communications. Erin dubs her style, in PR and life, “unflappable.” Raised a reader, she married her passion for fantastic stories to her uncanny ability to shout from virtual rooftops, working with both new and established authors. Find her at