Should Authors Pay For PR Placement or Pay a Monthly Retainer?
By Scott Lorenz
Westwind Book Marketing
Authors will on occasion request an alternative payment arrangement other than the typical retainer fee arrangement most PR firms including Westwind Communications require.
I could discuss all day the various payment options offered for PR services such as ‘pay for placement,’ ‘hourly fee’ or ‘retainer fee’. In a nutshell, the retainer fee allows the client to have a fixed budget amount for PR each month and it allows my firm to rely on a steady cash flow. The work goes up and down depending upon opportunities and implementation of the marketing plan. Clients will also appreciate the logic of this concept as the billing process is simplified for both parties.
For example, let’s say we get a placement or review in the Chicago Tribune – what’s that worth? What about a photo? You would think that should demand more money right? How much more? What about a one-line quote in the Wall Street Journal? What’s that worth? What happens if a newspaper in Singapore or Australia runs that quote right out of the journal? What’s that worth? What happens if a meeting planner sees it and calls the client for a speaking gig? Does the PR firm get a piece of that speaking fee? Why not?
What’s the value of a TV interview in the hometown of a self-published author on WBZ in Boston that includes her book cover, photo and link to her web site and the book trailer on YouTube? What happens if that leads to a movie deal? Would my firm be entitled to a piece of that? Or does the fee for pay-for-placement relate to the ad rate for the airtime and space for the web site? For example, an ad a little larger than a business card is $10,000 in the NY Times Sunday Book Review!
Do you want to share profits with the publicist?
I’ve promoted new medical techniques which resulted in hundreds of procedures at $5,000 apiece. In that case the worth or value of the TV story is dramatically higher. I wish I would have had a piece of that!
Several of my legal related PR placements resulted in multimillion-dollar settlements for my lawyer clients and plaintiffs when the opposing party saw the story on the local TV news. Once they knew we were prepared to continue to do battle in ‘the court of public opinion’ they settled. Should I have gotten a piece of the lawsuit settlement? Why not? Do you see the dilemma?
What happens if we hit our stride and all the big shows want the author? Can you afford the $3-6,000 fee per show? I personally have met authors who’ve turned down major national morning shows because they could not afford the ‘pay for placement’ fee. That would never happen on a fixed fee retainer basis because you’d get all the shows for one flat fee.
Do you like reviewing complicated bills? How about fighting over ‘value’ of a PR hit?
The way I see it, ‘pay-for-placement’ is a bad deal for authors. Furthermore, there is no way authors would want to review that detail every month and frankly it would cost us hundreds or thousands of dollars per month to prepare a bill with such a breakdown. The very thought of doing it that way is rather terrifying!
There are other reasons we believe it’s in our mutual interest to use retainer fees over other billing methods. Usually, people who want such a deal have had a bad experience with a PR firm that did nothing, or they don’t have enough money in the first place and they’re trying to generate sales from the PR to pay for the PR. Finding out the reason for asking for a non-retainer deal is essential to formulating an equitable arrangement.
The real issue is the futile attempt to place a ‘value’ on PR placement on a monthly basis. Nobody knows the value with certainty because the benefit may come down the road in the form of new business, speaking gigs, consulting deals, TV shows, book deals or even more publicity. Trying to measure its value every month is like trying to place a future value on a baby in a bassinet… it cannot be done.
Another issue is about trust. Can the PR firm deliver the PR that is proposed? Can they be trusted to deliver media placements? I believe that past results are a predictor of future results, especially when it comes to PR. There need be no leap of faith if a PR firm has a track record of success with placements.
Will your book publicity result in book sales, a speaking gig or will it change somebody’s life?
Furthermore, with some PR projects there is just no way to assess how the media and public is going to respond. We could go through a lot of expense to create a PR strategy, press materials and pitch it to an audience that is just not interested. I once had a reporter at Bloomberg News say, “Scott your guy’s book on INDIA looks great, but it’s the 7th book on India I’ve had this month so sorry we can’t run another one!” Or there’s a problem with the credentials of the author, founder, CEO etc. that were not disclosed to the PR firm in advance. These revelations could tank a PR effort and cost the PR firm money instead of making money.
Sometimes even with PR, people may not buy the book. In fact, there have been authors on CNBC and Good Morning America who have not sold any books!
Are you available willing and able to do almost any interview almost any time?
Finally, another reason the pay for placement deal won’t work is if the author doesn’t hold up his or her end of the bargain, such as being available for interviews, preparing for interviews, book signings, traveling, etc. Little things like these will result in little or no book sales and the publicist gets stuck with little or no compensation. Sorry, that’s a deal killer.
The Bottom Line: We’ll stick to a retainer fee basis, and my clients get to keep profits from their sales, movie deals and speaking gigs. Fair enough?
About Book Publicist Scott Lorenz
Book publicist Scott Lorenz is President of Westwind Communications, a public relations and marketing firm that has a special knack for working with authors to help them get all the publicity they deserve and more. Lorenz works with bestselling authors and self-published authors promoting all types of books, whether it’s their first book or their 15th book. He’s handled publicity for books by CEOs, CIA Officers, Navy SEALS, Homemakers, Fitness Gurus, Doctors, Lawyers and Adventurers. His clients have been featured by Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, CNN, ABC News, New York Times, Nightline, TIME, PBS, LA Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Woman’s World, & Howard Stern to name a few.
Learn more about Westwind Communications’ book marketing approach at https://www.WestwindBookMarketing.com or contact Lorenz at [email protected] or 734-667-2090 or fill out the form below. Follow Lorenz on Twitter @aBookPublicist. Want help titling a book? Check out Scott Lorenz’s new award winning, bestselling book: Book Title Generator- A Proven System in Naming Your Book www.BookTitleGenerator.net.
Would you like help promoting your book?
If so, tell us a little about your book. What is the title? Do you have a publisher? What is the publish date? How many pages is your book? What is the cost? Do you have web site? What is your specific goal I.E., to make money, raise awareness, get the attention of an agent or publisher, sell the story to a movie or TV studio or something else?
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