Talking to a friend the other day, the subject of vetting PR firms came up. Now, I’m no neophyte here. I know a few things about the topic. I’ve used three to support my books in different capacities. That conversation inspired this post.
Be Wary of Guarantees
“Sign with us. You’ll sell 50,000 copies of your book.”
Take grandiose promises with a 50-lb. bag of salt.
For me, any type of promise like this is a major red flag. Unless you’re repping Sheryl Sandberg, no one can honestly make promises like these. The publishing landscape is littered with extremely successful authors initially rejected by traditional publishers. See John Grisham, the people behind Chicken Soup for the Soul, and countless others. In point of fact, no one knows how many books will be sold, apps will be downloaded, and the like.
Take promises like these with a 50-lb. bag of salt.
Is the firm confident and excited about working with you?
Now, overconfidence is one thing, but incessant self-doubt is another. I can’t imagine working with anyone who didn’t believe in what I had written–and how much others would benefit from it. (Granted, I don’t write books about beepers or Windows 95.) If the firm and its employees aren’t enthusiastic, then find another firm.
Does the firm get your message?
If you write books about historical fiction, has the firm only represented technical writers? If you’re launching a new app, does the firm only have a track record with Fortune 50 companies?
No, the fit need not be 100 percent. There’s something to be said for “stretch” assignments. But be realistic. My new book is on Big Data, and I can’t imagine working with a firm that doesn’t at least understand the importance of the topic. Why? That firm will be the initial point of contact with any media folks. Make sure that the firm gets the general message of the book–and why it’s important.
Set Expectations Early
Four years ago, I would have considered writing for Inc. and HuffPo major victories. After all, at that point, I hadn’t garnered very many media placements like those.
Ask me today if my current PR firm is aiming for guest posts or even regular columns on those sites. The answer is no. Been there. Done that. Good PR firms aren’t cheap, and if they have been unable to procure placements commensurate with what you expect, then look elsewhere. You don’t break 80 in golf if you’ve never broken 100.
Seems obvious, right? Well, any company can look more successful and professional than it is on its website. (By the way, if the firm doesn’t have a web or social media presence, look elsewhere).
With my current firm, I spoke to four of its former clients. You don’t need two hours; ten minutes should be more than sufficient. If no one will talk to you, be suspicious. Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.
Look at the Firm’s Physical Address
Seems silly, right? Why would location matter?
A few years ago, I spoke with a firm based in Manhattan. The firm’s minimum monthly rate: $5,000. These two facts are not coincidental. Think about NYC real estate prices. Not cheap. Most of my payment would invariably go to pay the firm’s rent, and I’d be stuck with a junior-level associate.
What say you?