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by R.S. Mellette

Many of us have said, “When I get my book published, I’m going to spend the advance on my own publicist.” Advances have become the subject of myth, but the debate rages on about how much, if anything, an author should spend on publicity, marketing, giveaways, etc. My book, Kiya And The Morian Treasure, will be out April 26th and I happen to have some money to spend, so follow along over the next few months to see how much, how, and where it’s spent. And if it’s worth it. 

To start, let’s get to know the players:

The manuscript — Kiya And The Morian Treasure is unapologetically Xena: Warrior Princess in space. Of all the stories, stage plays, screenplays, and novels I’ve written over the years, this is the one that has garnered the most attention. It’s been to a weekend read at Imagine. It earned me a meeting with Temple Hill Entertainment. It got me an agent and nearly sold with a few major imprints. I mention that because it’s important, to me at least, to know that this is a good property. Complete strangers have invested time in it, but no money. 

Enter Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. This is a small, but traditional publishing house run as a labor of love by Matt Sinclair in New York. EBP started with anthologies by the likes of Mindy McGinnis, R.C. Lewis, and more. Matt published Battery Brothers by Steven Carman, which literally knocked my head back and made me cry. I’m honored to be in such good company. I had short stories in the early anthologies and Matt published my Billy Bobble Makes A Magic Wand series. He knew I was trying to find a Big Five home for Kiya and cheered me on. When I ran out of places to send it, Matt took it on.

Other leading characters include an audiobook I’m producing and the publicist Books Forward, which I found via SCBWI’s The Book

The first lesson I’ve learned is that just having the money won’t get you a publicist. At least, not a good one. They have to work in your genre. They have to believe you’ll make a good partner — because they can lead you to the stage, but you have to put on the show. They also have to like your book. While part of that might be a moral issue, it’s also practical. If they keep pitching turkeys, contacts will stop taking calls, which is death in their business.

If you decide you want a publicist, be ready to pitch yourself. Mentioning SCBWI in my initial calls helped. A few turned me down because of my genre (sci-fi) but I talked a good game, so I got some recommendations. Those didn’t pan out, but a deep dive into The Book led me to JKS Communications, and a cold call with Marissa DeCuir at Books Forward. She agreed to take me on as a client. 

The price? Ballpark $17,000 for a six-month campaign — and I’m told I got a deal. There are a slew of incidental costs, like a $10 per book mailing fee (I have the option to do the mailing myself), about $500 per paid industry review (three of them), optional marketing ads in social media, email lists, NetGalley, etc. 

I’ve budgeted $20,000. 

And I’m petrified.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, coming next month!

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R.S. Mellette is on the board of the LA Region of SCBWI as the PAL Liaison. 

Author photo provided by the author.