Authors Beware of Publicity Scams

Every writer is aware that the job doesn't end with just writing a book. There's a heck of a lot more that needs to get done; editing that seems endless with back and forth correspondence with your editor, cover approval, layout approval, and printing. Writing the book was easy compared to all the details with which today's authors must contend. Whew! Now what?

Let's say that you've done your research and that you're lucky enough to have found a traditional publisher, a good and thorough editor, and a great design studio, all totally legitimate and aboveboard, and your book is ready to be released. You're aware that only a few authors who've already achieved sales success with a previous book will receive strong publicity from your publisher, such as book tours, special websites, individual ads, interviews and signings. As a new author you need the publicity that will get your baby noticed; you need your own personal publicist.

Be careful and do your homework. Finding a good publicist is harder than getting your book published. Dishonest publicists prey on writers by charging inflated prices for substandard work, promoting their own paid services, engaging in schemes, and misrepresenting their knowledge and expertise. They get you by asking you to demonstrate your commitment to your book. "Don't you believe in your book? I can't promote this book if you're not committed to its success." Of course all authors believe in our books; it's a part of our blood, sweat, and tears! We want success. It's emotional and the scam publicist knows this. Playing on your emotions and "commitment to your potential best-seller," this person will get you to invest upwards of thousands of dollars to show how serious you really are.

A smart scam artist has many schemes up his or her sleeve. One scheme is called "establishing your author's platform." They will offer you what is called pre-publication publicity services aimed at building "your platform" promising to get you radio and print interviews, book signings, TV appearances, even a movie deal, all for additional fees. This happened to a very good author I know and she was out over $6000 in a matter of months.

Her publicist, Howie, made many promises and even sent her fake emails, one of which he said he received from a popular young actor. He told the author that this actor was interested in making a movie out of her book. A message supposedly from said actor was inserted into Howie's email. All her publicist needed from her was some "seed money." But something didn't seem right. When the author asked why Howie didn't just forward the original email from the actor, she was told that he had to cut and paste the message into his own email as the actor didn't want his address made public. The author has since gone on to success but has a bitter taste in her mouth over the experience.

The truth is that unless you're already a celebrity, or have written a non-fiction book with a popular message, you have nothing on which to build that platform. No one is going to want to interview you simply because you have written a book.

Don't believe any publicist who says, "Listen, I have someone very interested in your book and your platform. If you want this talk show host to have you on her show, you'll have to pay an "appearance fee." Believe me everyone does it." No, everyone does NOT do it. No legitimate talk show host would request a fee. Your publicist will get the money and you'll get nothing.

Be very wary if a publicist is not clear concerning fees or services. Insist on a contract and have a lawyer look it over. A schedule of what he or she will be doing for you along with costs should be included in the contract. For your own protection, get everything in writing. You don't need someone making verbal promises which they have absolutely no intention of keeping.

Hire a publicist with a verifiable track record of success. Insist on contacting other clients for whom he has worked to find out what the publicist did for them and if they are satisfied. Make sure that any publicist you do hire has experience promoting books in your genre. In other words, don't hire someone whose professional experience is solely promoting children's book if you've written a horror book. Be clear in discussing your goals, such as what kind of exposure you'd like and what is practical. Be realistic and don't automatically assume your publicist is able to make you a bestselling author overnight.

Truthfully, publicity services can be expensive and they're not for all authors. Some cost thousands of dollars a month. For most writers, they provide little or no benefit, and can be a waste of money. If you're social media savvy, you can be your own publicist. It's time-consuming but may very well be worth it. Be careful; there's a lot of scam artists out there!

Happy writing!
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