• Judith Newton
  • [SWP: Behind the Book] Three Things I Would Have Done Differently In Hiring A Publicist.
[SWP: Behind the Book] Three Things I Would Have Done Differently In Hiring A Publicist.
Written by
Judith Newton
June 2013
Written by
Judith Newton
June 2013

Prior to publishing my food memoir, Tasting Home, with She Writes Press (in March of 2013), I had published five books with traditional academic houses. The world of academic publishing at that time was completely different from today’s world of publishing for a general audience. In my former life as a professor, I was  unfamiliar with the word “platform”-- except as it referred to “principles,” “a flat, raised, horizontal surface,” or possibly a trendy shoe. I had never sent a query, posted a blog, used Twitter, visited Goodreads, or heard of Pinterest, and had only joined Facebook to keep track of my daughter’s life. The idea of hiring a publicist had never occurred to me. It was this lack of experience, coupled with lightning changes in the world of book publishing, that led to some  recent mistakes. Here’s what I’d do if I had it to do all over again.

1.  I wish I had begun researching publicists from the moment I signed my contract with She Writes Press. Yes, publicists are expensive, some more than others, but I underestimated how much work publishing for, and marketing to, a general audience would be. Two months before my publication date, I was completely fraught from having waged a lengthy campaign to secure permissions for the recipes in Tasting Home. I had started my own blog while continuing to contribute to iPinion.com. I was tweeting, pinning, establishing a presence on Goodreads, reading and re-reading proofs. I had also downloaded and perused six notebooks full of blog posts on topics like domain names, SEO, mailing lists, pings, platforms, web sites, blogs and, seemingly, all other forms of  other social media (Seven Sins Never To Commit on Twitter!) The idea of marketing a book all by myself had begun to seem overwhelming. I decided to give a few discreet tasks to a publicist, justifying the expense  as a form of therapy. I would hire a publicist to keep myself from going mad.   

2.  I wish I had hired a publicist three to six months before the publication date of my book. As one of my publicists has since informed me, it is not just major review journals that require a copy of the book well before it is published, magazines and major newspapers also require months of lead time for reviews. In March, for example, the month Tasting Home appeared, some major outlets were only looking at books due to be published in October. This is just one reason I wish I had settled on a public relations person well in advance of my publication.  

3.  I wish I had hired one publicist to do everything.  Because I was reluctant to spend money, I ended up hiring three different publicists at three different times to do different, and increasingly expensive, things. They did them well and guided me to several important decisions, but the decentralization and schedule I had unwittingly imposed worked against me. I hired my first public relations person, for example, to write a press kit for $250. Her first sample sentence  made me painfully aware that I could never write about myself and my work in such a commanding way. I needed her—badly. She also prompted me to submit to the Huffington Post, an action I would probably never have initiated on my own. I did submit a post, “A Valentine for My Gay Ex-Husband,” and got 10,700 likes and 600 comments. The piece was then republished (in French) in the Paris edition. Who knew? Because the piece appeared a month before the book came out, and because I had made my book available on Amazon for preorder, its reception led to an initial, and quite satisfying, spike in sales.

A month before my publication date, I hired another publicist to do a blog tour for $1500.  This hard-working woman got me many on line reviews and guest spots on over 20 blogs and shows. I wrote blog posts and prepped for interviews  every day for a solid month. If I had been searching for outlets on my own, and if I had found even half of what I ended up with, which is unlikely, I don’t know how I could have also done the writing and preparation they required.

This publicist also managed to have Tasting Home reviewed by Independent Publisher and made sure I entered their contest, a contest I had never even heard of before. Tasting Home ended up winning an Independent Publisher Award in May.  She arranged a Goodreads giveaway. Some 600 entered, and the number marking the book “to read” went from 0 to 576. She was great, and worth every penny, but in terms of timing, it made no sense to do a blog tour and then decide, as I later did, to try for print as well.

I hired my third publicist after my book appeared and just after I received a handsome, and unexpected, refund on my income taxes. For $1000 to $1200 a month, she has also done a splendid job, but I hired her too late for major media outlets and for a lot of print. I’ve done readings, events, guest blogs, radio shows, and we’ve marketed to reading groups and food studies professors (after I discovered that a colleague was teaching my memoir in her food studies class).  She is so encouraging that I sometimes slip and refer to her as my therapist. And, once again, I don’t know how I would have managed the research and scheduling on top of writing, prepping for interviews, driving to readings, blogging, tweeting, facebooking, Goodreading, and pinning my heart out.

In the end, I paid as much for three publicists as many spend for one who does it all. I’ll never know if one publicist would have led me to all the good decisions that the three proposed, but one publicist, hired months before publication, could have coordinated the press kit with the blog tour and the print outreach, scheduling the latter far earlier in the process. Still, even with my bad timing, having others doing the research, sending the inquiries, fielding the replies, scheduling events, suggesting topics for posts, and cheering me on has given me a reassuring sense  of having that part of my life under control. Best of all--all things being relative--I have not gone mad, and to me, that’s money well spent.  

Judith Newton,
Professor Emerita, UC Davis
Women and Gender Studies
Tasting Home, She Writes Press, 2013




Let's be friends

The Women Behind She Writes

519 articles
12 articles

Featured Members (7)

123 articles
392 articles
54 articles
60 articles

Featured Groups (7)

Trending Articles

  • Judith, Great advice. Thanks so much for posting. Liz

  • Judith Newton

    Hi Mohanalakshimi,  She Writes Press has a list of recommended publicists here http://shewritespress.com/about-swp/recommended-publicists/. This is a good place to start. I also asked my friends.  You can also message me through my SheWrites profile. 

  • Judith Newton

    Thank you, Romi. I had no idea how far in advance one had to think about all this. 

  • Judith Newton

    Dear Sikivu, Yes, I did have the few thousand dollars, but I"m retired and living on a pension, so it represented an investment that came at some cost. For me it was worth it.  I think part of the advice, however, is to be aware of how early deadlines for print media have gotten and to think about them  really far ahead, to enter contests, to submit to places you might not have thought of, etc. Those actions don't require a publicist.

  • Mohana Rajakumar

    Hi Judith: I'm considering hiring someone and am curious how you found or decided on the people you worked with?

  • Romi Grossberg

    Thank you so much for the insight, it was really helpful. I am almost at the end of my first draft and at a good time to start being aware of all the other things required when the time comes. I will definitely use this as a point of a reference as I continue writing. Thanks again.

  • Sikivu Hutchinson

    Lucky you that you were fortunate enough to have the income to drop a few thousand dollars on publicists.  Your advice is simply not practical for the average indie author with no disposable income and zero visibility. Most of us must rely on scraping creatively with no-budget social media, friends, colleagues, blog posts, community appearances, etc.

  • Judith Newton

    Carolyn, I'm embarrassed to tell you this, but I didn't calculate when I'd break even.  I wanted to make back what it cost to publish with She Writes.  That was my bottom line.  But when it came to the publicists, I didn't calculate.  By the time I thought about hiring one, I felt I could not do the marketing myself without undue suffering and at the same time I felt I owed it to the book and myself to give it the best shot possible.  I often save for vacations, so I thought, ok this is money for a vacation I'm not going to take. Sure, I'd like to break even, but my principle motivation with this book was to write it as well as I could and then treat it as well as I could.  There was an emotional economy that worked for me.  Now, the next book, will be a different matter.

  • Carolyn Niethammer

    The ultimate question, is, however, what is the bottom line?  $1000 for the one publicist plus the others and your publishing costs with She Writes adds up to chunk of money. But of course you get to keep a bigger piece of the pie than the measly royalties you'd get from a traditional publisher (and even worse from an academic publisher). I'm sure you considered all of this ahead of time, but can you share how you calculated when (and if!) you will break even? I'm sure you have dreams of even making money.

  • Judith Newton

    Dear Carol, I can't find your post here, but, yes, I think things are different in the UK. When I was a Victorianist I spent a lot of time in England. I couldn't help noticing that my British friends 1. wrote many more books than I did and 2. spent a lot of time lounging at the women's pond or having lunch under the trees.  I'm not quite sure why this was so, but when it comes to PR the US is such an enormous ocean of  work-obsessed people that it's hard to get noticed without a ton of work, unless you're lucky, well connected, or brilliant or preferably all three.

  • Judith Newton

    Hi Edith,  Thank you!  Yes, relatively sane, much better off than I would have been.  Of that I'm pretty certain.


  • Edith O Nuallain

    Goodness Judy, I'm amazed that you are still sane! Congratulations for managing it all so well! :) xoxox

  • Judith Newton

    Francine and Jill, Glad this was helpful. 

  • Jill Smolowe

    Thanks, Judith. This is very helpful.

  • Francine Huss

    Thanks Judith! I just put "hire a publicist NOW" at the top of my TO-DO list! I'm a few months away from book launch so the timing is perfect!

  • Judith Newton

    Thanks, Vivienne!

  • Judith, What a great article. As authors, we never realize how much work goes into marketing and promoting a book. Continued success to you and may you have many, many sales. :)

  • Judith Newton

    Hi Lynne, thanks for stopping by.  Had I known how much work was going to be involved in marketing, I would have started a PR fund while writing! There's a psychic cost to marketing, marketing, marketing.  I felt more human having others do a lot of it for me.

  • Lynne Favreau

    Thank you for sharing this valuable story Judith. I'm in awe of how much work it takes to successfully launch a book. As much as I try to stay informed and up to date with social media, I think saving up for a publicist is the smartest thing I can do.

  • Judith Newton

    I found it a  long curve, Nancy!

  • Nancy Mueller

    Thanks for shortening our learning curve, Judith! Great advice ~

  • Judith Newton

    HI Cynthia, Some people have done it all themselves, those far more fluent in social media than I and far more informed about marketing, but I saw early on that, for me, doing it all myself was going to be a very stressful experience. It was stressful even with the publicists, but I never regretted hiring them, not for a minute.  Thanks for the good words about Tasting Home!

  • Cynthia Close

    Like Lauren, I just assumed that I would self-publish and be my own publicist as well!!! - shows the ignorance that comes as part of the "I can do it all" generation...this was an eye opening post. Loved your book title and jacket design too...I'm ordering it from Amazon now.

  • Judith Newton

    Hi Mardi, Thank you! Here's how I understand it.   Print media like magazines and newspapers, also major radio and tv shows,  required months of lead time.  Those pitches should have gone out months before the pub date.  Blogs and small radio shows required far less lead time. So logically, I should have done the print outreach far earlier. Instead, I did the blog tour first.  Does that make sense? 

  • Judith Newton

    Hi Lauren, She WRites Press has a list of recommended publicists.  That's one place to start.  I also asked people I knew.  Good luck!