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How Publicists Work

Publicists work under a number of fee arrangements. The two most popular are the retainer approach and the menu approach, which we will discuss below. Some publicists insist on contracts for stated periods of time or the duration of a campaign. Others charge on a pay-as-you-go basis, with no minimum time.

In most cases, fee arrangements, contract duration, and the services to be provided can be negotiated.

The Retainer Approach

Most PR firms work on a retainer basis. That means that each month, you pay the firm a fee that buys you a stated block of its time. Fees are based on the firm’s estimate of how much work will be required on your account and how long your campaign will take. They usually require you to sign up for a minimum number of months.

When you work under a retainer, find out how much time your fee buys you for each tier of publicists who will work on your account. For example, at some agencies, senior publicists bill at a higher rate than their juniors and you may be entitled to less of their time. Also ask how you will be charged if you use more than your allotted time—are you surcharged, and at what rates?

In addition to fees, you will be billed for expenses that are incurred on your account. Reasonable expenses include those for printing and reproducing promotional materials and media kits; postage, overnight shipping, and delivery services to send your book and promotional materials; and telephone calls to the media.

Expenses for meals and entertainment should require your approval. A ceiling can also be put on expenses that requires the firm to get your approval before incurring costs over a set amount.

Some firms charge a percentage of your retainer to cover the administrative or processing work they do on your account. Others mark up their reimbursable expenses for their administrative efforts.

For your fee, you are entitled to know what is happening with your book. You should receive weekly or bi-monthly updates, which Rick calls a “Yes, No, Maybe” list. For example, if he sends your book to 100 newspapers, all 100 names will be listed, as will the facts that the New York Times said yes, the Wall Street Journal passed, and the Chicago Tribune is on the fence.

PR professional Willy Spizman adds,

The Spizman Agency encourages constant communication and keeping clients informed. The key is to read the reports you receive from your publicist and give him or her ample time to make your PR work. Creating national hits takes time and you don’t just get instant bookings on the top shows. While it can happen when the timing or topic is right, it’s important to have clear expectations. Most clients rarely read their updates and it’s important for them to do so. An informed client is the best client and it takes time to fully digest the scope of what publicists are doing because the great ones invest an enormous amount of time in catapulting your success. When you sign on with a PR firm, a written agreement is usually executed that states the duties and responsibilities of each of the parties.

The moment that you and I aren’t friends and no longer want to work together, it’s over. At that point, we shouldn’t be working together. I don’t need any written notice, no thirty days or sixty days. When it’s no longer fun, we stop working together.

The Menu Approach

Some firms, including Planned Television Arts (PTA), work on a menu basis. That means that their clients can choose to have PTA provide specific PR services and they pay only for those they want performed. Under the menu system, publicists walk authors through the list of available services and they decide which will be best for each campaign. The menu approach also helps authors exercise more control of their budgets because they only pay for the services they select.

Publishers often underwrite or share in the expenses of one or more menu services. They generally do so only for the biggest, most well-known authors, but it never hurts to ask.

Publicists offer a wide menu of services, so ask them about the specific services they provide. Some of the services that publicists provide include:

  • Material preparation. Publicists will write, develop, and place a number of promotional materials. A comprehensive press kit may be prepared with a press release as its centerpiece. Other press kit items include: the author’s biography, the author’s photograph, suggested interview questions, story-ready information, byline articles, relevant background materials, statistical data, fact sheets, and more.
  • Morning Drive Radio Tours. In a single morning, an author, from his or her home or office, gives a minimum of eighteen radio interviews that generally reach at least 10 million listeners. Morning Drive Radio Tours target national radio programs that have the appropriate demographic and format for each author.
  • Satellite TV Media Tours. In one morning from a single location, authors give eighteen to twenty back-to-back news interviews with local television stations across the country. Each interview runs four to six minutes and is run on morning news shows that reach millions of targeted viewers.
  • Newspaper feature releases. Items about your book are sent to 10,000 newspapers across the country. Clients receive hundreds of tear sheets, or reprints of articles, that are generated by this service.
  • TelePrint conferences. A one-hour news conference with an author and reporters throughout the country. Anywhere from ten to twenty reporters can participate in the call, which follows a press conference format and can be used to reach specific audiences by targeting newspaper sections such as technology, lifestyle, book review, business, religion, women’s, and others.
  • Magazine and print campaigns. Placements with national and local magazines, dailies, and news wires as well as specialized trade media that are of importance to the author. Major broadcast bookings often result from high-profile feature articles. Feature articles quickly establish an author’s credibility and greatly enhance his or her future media and marketing efforts.
  • National TV and radio campaigns. Authors are booked for appearances on the most visible and influential television and radio shows. Getting national bookings is increasingly competitive and requires experienced media relations experts who have developed personal relationships with key producers.
  • E-mail blasts. Lists of names are gathered from a number of sources, and e-mails are sent to those names, offering them incentives to purchase an author’s book from a specific online bookseller on a certain day. Since online booksellers compile their best-seller lists on an hourly basis, the objective of the blast is to make the book a bestseller with an online bookseller. The fact that the book becomes a bestseller then can be used throughout the author’s book promotion campaign.
  • Road tours. Authors are sent to major cities where they can appear on a variety of outlets ranging from 6:00 to 7:00 A.M. news programs that lead into the Today Show or Good Morning America, local FOX morning shows that air from 7:00 to 9:00, midday and noon news programs, daytime talk programs, taped public affair programs, and evening news programs. Media road tours also include print and radio interviews. Training, travel, escorts, updates, and the top television, radio, and print placements are provided in every market. Arrangements are made for booksellers to sell books at all events.
  • Media training. Authors are taught how to identify their books’ most important and interesting messages and how to clearly and entertainingly discuss them. They are also instructed on how to deal with journalists, editors, producers, and hosts and how to handle themselves in interviews and public appearances.

Tags: beneath the cover, build name recognition, endorsement samples, endorsements, PR, PR campaign, press kit, Press Releases, publicity campaign

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  • wendy

    do publicists handle many clients at one time, or just one client

  • http://none Meagan Marriott

    I am fairly new as a publicist BUT my email address list is over 10,000. I need help figuring out how to charge if someone wants me to do an e-blast.



  • http://none Meagan Marriott

    I'm fairly new as a publicist BUT my email list is over 10,000 addresses. I need help figuring out what and how to charge for -e-blasts.



  • Michael Drew


    I hope all is well.

    Let me suggest you set up a phone call to discuss this with our Marketing Director Andrea Reindl. Please email her assistant at

    Thanks again,

    Michael R. Drew

    Promote A Book Inc.


  • D Willard

    Your email list is 10,000 Meagan because, evidently, you are sending unsolicited emails (SPAM). You need to be careful who and how you send emails to as the first step in managing an email list.

    I am going to assume that possibly a good portion of your list is from a certain Veterans organization. While we Veterans like to support current and former military, we encourage you to respect our privacy.

    With ALL email addressees, you must first obtain the addressees' "Opt-in" consent before simply sending uninvited emails out, indiscriminately.

  • Telisha

    This was extremely helpful to me