A native of Louisiana, Tina
Jacobsen earned degrees in both geology and business marketing. She
years working as a geologist, drilling oil wells in Texas and Oklahoma.
In 1985 she left the oil business to serve for two and a half years as
media coordinator for Probe Ministries, where she worked for nationally
known author and speaker Kerby Anderson.
You Need Publicity
For over twenty years, I’ve been the president of a public relations firm that works extensively in Christian publishing. When people find out what I do for a living, they usually wonder about two things: 1) whether I’ve rubbed shoulders with any famous people; and 2) what it takes to really “make it” in the publishing industry. What these people rarely realize is that in asking the first question, they have already answered the second.
The hard truth in the publishing industry is that the most financially successful books, whether Christian or secular, are written by famous people—that is, people who were already famous—or infamous—long before they (or their ghostwriters) ever decided to join the ranks of the literati. Sure, an occasional best seller seems to come out of nowhere (i.e., William P. Young’s The Shack), but the rise of an unknown author becoming the stuff of headlines proves that this is not a common phenomenon.
So where does that leave you, an author full of promise and big dreams of sharing your work with the world? You may have written the most creative, compelling, culturally relevant work of Christian fiction in history. If only the world were fair, the obvious merits of your work would be recognized by a massive audience. But anyone who has ever attended high school can tell you that the spotlight of public adulation is rarely guided by merit alone.
You need someone with the power to push you into the spotlight, someone who can level the playing field in the competition for readership.
You need publicity.
When you hire a publicist, you are gaining an advocate who will draw media attention to you and to the strength of your message. A good publicist has strong relationships with the gatekeepers of a variety of media outlets—print, radio, television, and Internet—and will use his or her connections to convince the right people that your book is fabulous and you are brilliant. This will directly result in
media appearances for you and your book. Basically, you will be receiving a highly televised endorsement of your book from a source (i.e., Focus on the Family, CNN, Christianity Today, etc.) that has already gained the trust of thousands or even millions of people. With each television appearance, radio interview, magazine write-up, and blogger review, your name is gaining recognition. Little by little, you are becoming famous.
I often meet gifted writers who are passionate about their craft but reluctant to spend money on things like marketing and publicity. If you want to make a living as a writer, you have to realize that it’s not just about the book. It’s a business. To sustain your business, you have to take the marketing and publicity of your book into your own hands. It’s tempting to believe that once you have completed a book and found a publisher, your job is over. Savvy authors can tell you that the project is just getting started. Writing a book is like birthing a baby. Now you have to raise that baby and bring it to maturity. That’s something you can’t depend on the publisher or the distributor to do for you.
Over the years, I have had the chance to work with many of my clients on multiple occasions. These authors have experienced the value of publicity and have made it a priority in their business. When I first met James David Jordan, he had sold five thousand copies of his novel Something That Lasts. It was a great book . . . but who had heard of it? We mounted a publicity campaign, and the book sold twenty- to thirty-thousand copies in the first quarter. Jordan has now hired us to publicize his new book. Author Steven Post (Why Good Things Happen to Good People) has hired us on two separate occasions and has actually extended the campaigns both times. Why? Because publicity works.
In the interest of clarity, I feel it is important to draw the distinction between publicity and advertising. Both have their place in advancing your readership. Advertising involves paying for the placement of your product or message. Other than the fee you pay for the services of a publicist, publicity is always free. You are not paying The 700 Club to invite you on their show.
One final caveat: In most cases, the quality of the publicity exists in direct correlation to the quality of the publicist. Before you entrust someone with this important task, do your homework. Look for someone who has a good reputation, who has produced consistent results, and with whom you feel comfortable. In the end, you’ll find that good publicity is worth every penny.