Publicity – Free for All

Publicity is a free-for-all in both senses of the phrase. Unlike advertising, it is free, and because it is so effective, everyone wants it. The biggest tradeoffs in publicity are:

Because it is free, you cannot control it.

Everyone with a product, service, cause, or personality to promote competes for it.

Unless you are appearing on a live show, you may not know when a show you’re on will air or when it will be repeated.

An interview or show may be canceled at any time because of natural or man-made disasters that erupt suddenly and dominate the media.

Hosts rarely read the books they discuss, so you have to be prepared to wing it.

What you say to print interviewers may suffer in translation from your mouth to the printed page.

Whether they’re in print, broadcast, or electronic media, the goal of your interviewers is to capture and hold the attention of their audience. If you help them accomplish that, you have it made.

If your book is controversial, and interviewers think that getting the best story means asking you tricky questions or even discrediting you, they may try to ambush you.

Antagonistic hosts probably won’t be a problem for authors of how-to books, but they may be with an author of a revisionist look at history, or a book about a controversial person or subject.

You and your publisher’s publicist will have identical interests but not identical agendas. Staff publicists learn their skills by working on twelve to twenty books simultaneously. That is too many for them to do justice to yours unless it is a potential best-seller.

Media people are also swamped. You both want to create the best possible interview, show, or story. Hosts make a living by trading publicity for an informative, entertaining show. Print media want their stories to have the same qualities. Online stories can be print, audio, or video.

Guerrilla publicist, Willy Spizman suggests that if you choose to work with a PR firm in addition to the publisher’s publicist, it’s important to select one that thinks like the media. That involves research on what the media targets have already reported, connecting your message and platform to their needs. This due diligence will pay dividends in coverage.

Your goal is to promote your book and yourself. Success for a radio host means a multiphone console filled with blinking lights from callers waiting to ask you questions. Authors who can light up switchboards may be asked to stay longer than the time allotted for the interview, and they will be paid the compliment that matters most: being asked to return.

The trajectory of author appearances in the media goes from small to large. You don’t want Montel Williams to be your first show. You’ll need a lot of out-of-town tryouts before you can provide audio and video that prove you’re ready for the center ring.

Despite its trials, publicity is the best hope for reaching the greatest number of readers for the smallest expenditure.

From Guerrilla Marketing for Writers

Reprinted from “Rick Frishman‘s Author101 Newsletter”
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  1. says

    Publicity is not free if you pay for the services of a PR person or agency, or even if you pay to send out press releases. Publicity can cost nothing, or $39, or hundreds, or thousands.

    Michael N. Marcus

  2. says

    Very true, Michael. There may be costs associated with publicity, although it is possible to get coverage without paying a publicist or other fees.

    The post was also making a play on words about the fact that publicity is sort of “wild, untamed West” in that you can not control it. It is, truly, a “free for all.” And, boy, is that ever true!

    Thanks for your comments–Love your book, “Independent Self-Publishing.”