Various Levels // Publicity Department

What does a Publicist do?

A publicists job in its simplest form is to get publicity coverage for the books and clients they work with. This coverage can be in the form of broadcast (TV, radio, regional radio), print (national newspapers, regional newspapers, magazines) or online (websites, blogs, social media). In order to get noticed in this intensely competitive market, publicists must think creatively. 

A typical day could include any of the following tasks:        

  • Scanning the papers – Daily newspaper scanning is an invaluable practice, both to read and correlate coverage achieved and to pick up on any news relevant to current books. The latter may provide a news hook that can be incorporated into approaches to journalists.
  • Creating a PR plan – With every new book a bespoke PR plan must be drawn up and agreed upon with the client. This document will detail an overview of the target media outlets and the campaign’s key messaging, strategy and goals.
  • Drafting a press release – Like a PR plan, every book must have a bespoke press release, and the average length is between one and two A4 pages. Each press release must include the following information: the jacket image, author biography, publication date, format, price, synopsis and contact details for the publicist.
  • Creating a media list – Using relevant software and existing media contacts a tailored list is drawn up of specific journalists to approach. This will often include literary editors, book reviewers, bloggers and appropriate regional press along with their emails, phone numbers and addresses. 
  • Writing and sending email pitches – Pitches are crucial and must catch the reader’s attention in the shortest time possible. It is important that each pitch is targeted to the reader, so 5-10 pitches may be written per campaign.
  • Speaking to journalists on the phone – After initial emails have been sent it is important to follow up over the phone in a confident and succinct manner. Journalists do not have time to listen to rambling publicists and it is key for every publicist that they cultivate good media relationships. 
  • Liaising with authors/clients – If a journalist wants an author interview, this must first be confirmed with the author so publicists will often be in direct contact with authors over phone or email. 
  • Writing and circulating publicity updates to clients – This is a weekly document detailing the work that has been done on the account that week. It will include any new approaches, new leads, coverage that has run or any declines.
  • Attending and organising events – There are always events, social engagements and meetings to attend so working hours are often longer than 9-5. On occasion, weekends may also be swallowed up, and although this is often enjoyable, it is undoubtedly hard work.

Within publicity departments there will often be accounts that only one person is handling so you may need to be ‘on-call’ on your days off.