What does a Literary Publicist do?

Cassie L. Damewood

A literary publicist ensures that an author, especially an author being published for the first time, gets the maximum exposure possible to promote his or her book. He may work as an independent agent or be part of a publicity or public relations management organization. Some literary publicists conduct business out of standard offices and others maintain a home office.

An aspiring literary publicist should work as an editor or editorial assistant.
An aspiring literary publicist should work as an editor or editorial assistant.

Once an author’s book is published, it is the job of a literary publicist to make sure everyone who is anyone knows about it. If he is a successful publicist, he likely has connections in the media industry that can get the author booked as a guest on a television or radio program. This customarily requires the publicist to meet with the author and develop a positive but intriguing perspective about the writer that will attract the public’s attention and pique the interest of the media.

Literary publicists help books get into stores for sale.
Literary publicists help books get into stores for sale.

The view of the author may be slightly controversial but being captivating is generally more important and durable. If investigating the author turns up nothing absorbing or newsworthy, it is the job of the publicist to create a story. It should not be an out-and-out lie but merely an embellishment that makes the author more endearing or mysterious enough to warrant interviews that may possibly reveal more fascinating facts. The general belief is that if the publicist treats the author like a famous celebrity, he or she will become one — or at least be treated as such by the media.

A successful literary publicist is often required to assume many roles. He is typically expected to present himself as the author’s friend as he finagles interviews and meetings with industry contacts who can help with his promotional efforts. If the only way to get his author some face or air time is to somehow connect the author with a bigger celebrity and market the two as a package deal, his role becomes that of a clever negotiator who has only the best interests of the interviewer or media venue in mind.

Exemplary communication skills customarily contribute immensely to a literary publicist’s success. In order to promote his client most efficiently in the most media sectors, he is frequently and simultaneously contacting key people by phone, email, texting and in person. If he does his job well, he often has to juggle his time between several sources to fully promote his client.

A bachelor’s degree is generally required to become a literary publicist. Four-year programs with concentrations in communications, public relations, publicity management and journalism are normally offered by most colleges and universities. Degrees with majors in these areas are strongly preferred. Work experience in pubic relations or media communications is desirable.

Literary publicists use a variety of communication methods, including text messages, to promote their client's work.
Literary publicists use a variety of communication methods, including text messages, to promote their client's work.

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