I might not be the best person to address this topic since I haven't used a publicist in a few years. But since the question came to me, I'll give it a shot.I have a problem not addressed in your post--help with marketing. A clean manuscript with a great cover means little without knowing how to get the word out. I am more than willing to do my part in terms of marketing my books, but as an older writer who isn't savvy about social networks, etc., I need someone in my corner. Can you offer any suggestions or guidance? Thanks a lot.
When I first signed my contract with a Big 6 Publisher a number of years back, I knew that the large publishers have in-house publicists who handle author promotion. But like many of you, I'd heard horror stories about new authors who'd been ignored, neglected, or otherwise left to rot on the vine by their in-house publicists. I decided to get proactive. I hired an independent publicist. The PR company I hired offered its publicity services "A La Carte". Clients paid for a specified number of print interviews, broadcast interviews, book reviews, signings, speaking engagements, etc. I liked that approach.
Here's what I got out of the experience of using a publicist, the good and the bad:
Reduced need for self-promotion
I don't like selling myself. So I loved how the publicist freed me from the burden of arranging my own book signings and interviews. And so what if most of those interviews were with minor outlets in places like Kalamazoo? I was a newbie, so it wasn't like I was expecting Oprah to be banging down my door.
I had spent years writing my first book, and all of a sudden I had to adjust to the demand of producing another manuscript within nine months. Had I been left to my own devices, I probably wouldn't have done a single promotional event that year.
The publicist kept everything on track for me, emailing me nifty little calendars with every event's details outlined.
Re-introduction to media
When I decided to start a writing blog in 2008, I didn't know many other writers. My publicist gave me the names of many of the writers who joined me in launching TKZ. I'll always be grateful for that assist!
The publicist's services didn't come cheap. It cost about $4,000 to have them arrange a semi-active calendar of book-related events. Considering that the average new author's advance (for those who even get advances anymore) is somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000 to $15,000, that's a considerable chunk of change.
Bang for the Buck
Did all those paid-for radio interviews, book signings, and other events translate into increased book sales? There's no way to know, frankly. I certainly felt like I was doing a lot to spread the word that year. But there's no real way to judge the effectiveness of all that activity.
Note: I haven't mentioned the name of the publicist I used in the past, only because I'm not sure how active she is in the industry anymore. If I get an update about her status, I'll let you know.