Not to be confused with publishers, publicists likely do what you imagine publishers should do. Their job is to get your name out there. Different ones will specialize in different areas and genres, but they offer similar services. The good ones will have a solid directory of industry contacts everywhere from bookstores, to newspapers, to reviewers, and they will utilize those to create interest in you and your book(s).
SOME SERVICES A PUBLICIST MIGHT OFFER:
- Brand management (making sure your public image is consistent everywhere)
- Platform building (website design, social media setup and posting schedule, etc.)
- Public engagements (book tours, signings, readings, appearances, panel discussions, etc.)
- Marketing (book trailers, ads, metrics, SEO, reviews, etc.)
- Public Relations (press releases, interviews, guest posts and appearances, etc.)
- Copywriting (author bio, book blurbs, tag lines, etc.)
- Training (how to do some things yourself to stay visible)
If a lot of this sounds like something a normal person could do, it is! What you pay for when you hire a publicist is their experience and contacts. Especially the contacts. A single new author will likely never get deep enough into the inner workings of a large, national press publication to get to the person in charge, but many publicists will have that person on speed dial, and have you on schedule to be interviewed for USA Today in minutes. No, they won’t share the contact information with you. But they will communicate on your behalf to get you where you wouldn’t get on your own.
Publicists can be as selective as publishers and agents when it comes to whom they choose to take on as clients. Depending on their experience, their fees will also vary greatly. It is helpful to look around and check them out, see what services they offer and how much it costs, but in general, you likely will not want to, or be able to afford to hire a publicist right off the bat.