Publicity for Authors: My Interview with Dana Kaye

by | Oct 3, 2016

Today I’m interviewing Dana Kaye, of Kaye Publicity. Dana is known for her innovative ideas and knowledge of current trends. She frequently speaks on the topics of social media, branding, and publishing trends. Since she just released her first book after spending years promoting other people’s books, I took this opportunity to spend some time with her to talk about publicity, branding, and marketing for indie authors. Here’s the video [40:19], and a transcript is below.

Joel: Okay, hello and welcome! This is Joel Friedlander from the, and I’m here today with Dana Kaye for a very interesting interview that I think it’s going to be useful to a lot of authors. You may or may not know Dana. She is a new author, but she’s been helping other authors sell their books for a long time. She’s the owner of Kaye Publicity, which is a PR company specializing in publishing and entertainment.

Dana is a graduate of Columbia College in Chicago. She’s had a lot of experience as a writer and a book critic and she really understands how the book industry works, how media works to help authors. Dana is known for innovative ideas, and we’re going to find out if that’s true, and knowledge of the current trends. She frequently speaks on topics about social media, branding, and publishing trends. I find that fascinating. I’m looking forward to talking to Dana about that.

brandingHer writing has been featured in lots of places like the The Huff Po, Little Pink Book, NBC Chicago. One of the reasons I managed to snag Dana for this interview because she’s usually very busy, is because she’s also the author of a new book called, Your Book, Your Brand, coming from Diversion Books. Dana, Diversion Books. Tell us about Diversion Books before we go any farther.

Dana: Sure. They are an independent publisher. They publish a wide variety of nonfiction and fiction. I know they also have an arm of self-publishing tools. One is EverAfter Romance. There is another one for nonfiction, but I am blanking on the name of it. Diversion Books itself is a traditional independent publisher, and then they have a couple of other self-publishing arms.

Joel: I don’t know. You probably watch this as I do, but the number of hybridizations, mash ups, that are coming into the publishing ecosystem now is just fascinating.
I mean, we used to have all these very traditional structured roles, the distributors distributed, the agents sold the books, and now, all those rules are off. But Dana, the real reason I wanted to talk to you is because I work with self-publishers exclusively–independent publishers who are not publishing with a traditional publisher.

In this world, publicity and PR are way underutilized. Most self-publishers don’t understand why they would need to think about publicity and PR or even what to do about it. So, where do they start, Dana?

Dana: Well, I think that if you want to start with your target audience, I talk about this a lot in the book where you don’t need to do everything. You only need to do the tactics that are going to reach your target audience.

If you’re writing YA or middle grade, you may not need traditional publicity in the same way as a business book author or a general literary author may need it. I recommend starting from starting smaller. I think if your book has never been reviewed, if you’ve never been featured in media, start locally, start with your local newspaper, start with your local radio and TV stations and branch out from there. Also, take into account if you’re writing in certain genres that there are always genre fiction publication. There is mystery magazines. There is romance magazines.

Just focus on the outlets that cater to your type of book and reach your target audience. From there you can build out and try the more reach media, let’s say. Once you get a few media clips under your belt, then you can start striving for women’s magazines like Good Housekeeping or Redbook, national TV shows, and things like that.

Joel: That’s really interesting, but let’s drop back a pace or two.

Dana: Okay.

Joel: You have to actually explain to authors, Dana, but first of all, what is the difference between publicity and PR, public relations? Why would a self-publishing author even need to spend 5 minutes thinking about this?

Dana: I view public relations as the bigger umbrella. Publicity, marketing, social media, all fall under that bigger PR umbrella. Publicity is earned media coverage. It’s something that is not “pay to play.” You can’t control it. It’s a media outlet covering your book or you either in the form of an interview, in the form of a review, etc.

Marketing, on the other hand, is something that is paid placement, something you have full control over the messaging. While there is crossover in terms of outlets, you can have earned publicity coverage in a newspaper, and then also do some sort of online marketing tactic with that newspaper.

There’s a clear distinction between the two. Public relations is that overall umbrella; underneath that umbrella lies publicity, marketing, social media, in-person events, and things of that nature.

Joel: What I hear you saying is that public relations and authors are still—a lot of them are in this transition where they wrote a book and then they started to decide, “What do I do now?” Maybe they ended up in the publishing space where they’re going to actually do it themselves in some way.

When we talk about public relations, this is something that we usually talk about in terms of companies. A company has a Public Relations staff or a strategy or a concept, and that is really very attached to the branding of the company because it relates to everything public relations, all their relations outside the company. Publicity, obviously, like you said is getting coverage for you or your book or your idea or whatever in media sources. Astute observers of our interview will know that this is a little meta here because you are explaining this, but you’re also here doing an interview with me treating me as a media outlet-

Dana: You are.

Joel: Which a blog is. The reason I stop there, Dana, was because sometimes people have a hard time understanding these concepts; because they don’t relate them to, “Hey, I’m just somebody who sat here and wrote a book about vampire romance.” The point I’m trying to make is that when you become a publisher, you actually are now in business. You’re the book publishing business and you have to start to relate to it that way.

Dana: But even as an individual author, you still have to view your work as a brand. There’s a reason that people—there’s a reason that Nora Roberts and James Patterson sell really well with every book they write. It’s because they are a known quantity. When people pick up a James Patterson novel, they know exactly the type of story they are going to get within those pages. It eliminates risk.

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If you’re spending, in their case, a $25 hard cover, if you’re spending that money, readers don’t want to take a risk. They want to know that their money and their time is going to be worth that investment. For an unknown author, this is really difficult. There’s a big leap that needs to be made. There are so many books getting published, and people have limited funds and limited time to read.

By creating a very distinct, easy to convey author brand, what you’re doing is you’re eliminating risk for the reader. You’re saying, “This is what you’re going to get,” and that will connect and give the reader a reason to pick your book up versus the millions of others that are available.

Joel: That’s fascinating that “risk avoidance” idea. Brands are really powerful. I just got back from a publishing conference where I did a long presentation on author platform, branding and monetization. I’ve done this before, but when I was looking it over and doing something, trying to catch up on my research, one of the thoughts that occurred to me was that a brand is actually stronger than fact.

Dana: Yes.

Joel: It’s amazing. The first writer I thought of like, “Well, could I think of an example of that?” I thought about Lawrence Block. Who may be before your time.

Dana: No, absolutely not.

Joel: He was a really highly successful thriller writer, gritty urban thrillers. He developed this fantastic brand. He could bring a book out. People were sure it was a good book because it was Lawrence Block and he was a huge selling author. But if you followed him over his career, and I hope Lawrence isn’t going to get mad at me for this, but as he went along, his books got worse and worse until at the end it was almost like you could write the formula for them if you had read the other ones.

He was just turned into kind of a formula writer at the end there. I’m not saying that’s good or bad. He was still selling a bazillion books, but his brand was so strong that people would buy those books anyway. I think that’s kind of amazing in a way.

Dana: They may be more forgiving too. I think that there’s plenty of especially series writers who—not every—if you write a book a year for twenty years, not every one is going to be a knockout, amazing book. You’re going to have some misses, but I think if you have an established brand and an established readership, readers are much more forgiving. They will say, “That wasn’t my favorite one, but I’ll still give the next one another chance.”

I think that it is important too, to maintain the quality of your brand. I make the example of Lexus. We associate Lexus with luxury. We associate it with high-end luxury vehicles. If they start eliminating their quality fabrics in their cars, if they start breaking down right away, if they eliminate the things that made them that brand, then they’re going to lose that recognition. It’s not only important to establish a clear brand for you as an author, but also to maintain that brand.

If you start writing, I can’t stress this enough, writing a quality book is the most important thing any author could do because again, you could have the biggest marketing campaign, all the budget and everything; you may have millions of readers who buy Book 1, but if it’s not a good book, they’re not going to come back for Book 2.

Joel: It’s amazing. The value of the brand–you want to establish your brand, and then you want to maintain your brand. Whenever I think about maintaining your brand, the word that pops into my mind is “congruence.” When you start to get incongruent input into your brand—like if you’re branded, like I’m branded as kind of a likeable, helpful, you know, I’m authoritative, trustworthy, and likeable. Those are the three legs on the blogger’s stool anyway if you want to create authority blog. If I started putting out stuff that was nasty and mean-spirited, I would start damaging my brand.

Dana: Absolutely.

Joel: If you can brand an author, you can also brand a series of books. For instance, look at the brand for the Bourne books, the ones that were started by Robert Ludlum. He wrote a bunch of those. Wildly popular. I think I read all of them, and then he passed away, and so now, the brand is still going.

Dana: Yes, absolutely.

Joel: So, the brand is stronger than the author who has created them. I’m just bringing this stuff up because I think a lot of authors don’t get what the idea of an author brand is.

How does a self-published author establish a brand?

Dana: There’s a few ways. I think the first step is to identify what that brand is. I go through a series of questions and worksheets in the book, but the basic formula is “you + your book = your author brand.” It’s where all the elements that make you you, all the elements of the book, and where that Venn diagram overlaps, that is where your author brand lies.

Once you have a clear understanding of what your author brand is, it’s going to inform everything that you do from the content you post on social media to the speaking engagements that you do, to the types of media outlets you’ll be pitching, marketing initiatives you’ll be doing, everything should be informed by that author brand.

Establishing the brand takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of practice. There’s a lot of element that go into that, but as long as you have a very clear understanding of what your brand is and making sure that everything is informed by that brand, it’s actually fairly easy to be consistent.

I find that also most authors have a pretty good gut check on them. I think that if you—there’s been plenty of times during the day when I’ll start writing something on Twitter, and just take a pause and delete it. That didn’t sit well with me. I will also say that if you’re not deleting at least one of your Tweets a day, you’re probably not censoring yourself enough.

Again, listening to your gut and not being afraid to say “no.” There’s quite a few. I got asked to speak, as I’m sure you do that, but not every speaking gig is worth your time and your energy if it’s not going to establish your author brand, build your client base, that sort of thing. Not being afraid to say no to media appearances or speaking that doesn’t fall in line with your brand.

Joel: A lot of people have to get over that, “Oh, my God, they asked me! They like me. I can’t say no to them.”

Dana: You can.

Joel: You do have to get over that eventually if you’re going to have any time to yourself.

All right, so high concept, I kind of get that. I did see the worksheet in the book. I have to say I think the book is really useful for all authors; Your Book, Your Brand. I particularly like giving people practical ways to figure this out for themselves because that’s very empowering.

On a high concept I get that, but tell me, you mentioned Twitter. Can I establish a brand on Twitter? Is it a website? What is it? How do you do it? In actual, what would you do if I wanted to do it today on my computer?

Dana: It’s all facets. Honestly, it’s all facets of your public persona, so that includes online and in-person. Again, this all depends on what brand is. If you are a YA author, my first thing would be address the social media outlets that are going to reach your target audience. We’re talking Tumblr, Instagram, probably Snapchat, and then looking at a content strategy that’s going to attract that target audience.

We’re also going to be looking into doing school visits, appearances at teen book groups, libraries, that sort of thing. We’re going to be contacting teen magazines, but also magazines and TV shows that are consumed by the parents of teens. There’s like a two-prong approach. You really start with your audience and work backwards from there.

I think that the first step is to have a content strategy to know what your message is going to be, what you’re going to say, and then making sure your online house is in order, that you have the correct social media platforms, that you have a website that is not just an author website, but one that jives with your brand.

I teach a workshop where I show screen shots from two or three authors’ websites. It doesn’t say what kind of fiction they write, but I ask the audience to guess. You can tell based on the imagery, based on the color palette what kind of author the person is. We talk about getting your online house in order, making sure that all of your online platforms are on brand and have the correct messaging, and working out from there.

Joel: Interesting, so part of your brand is really visual content.

Dana: Absolutely.

Joel: And in the case of authors or their books particularly, a lot of it may be coming directly from the cover design of your book.

Dana: Absolutely.

Joel: I mean that’s really what encapsulates the brand of that book more than anything else.

Dana: Sure. Any author knows that the cover design is so crucial to the success of a book. The cover is the first thing you see before you read the description, so it needs to convey a message that encourages not just someone to pick it up, but the right kind of reader to pick it up.

Joel: Yes, and a lot of the conventions about color usage and things like that that you were talking about comes directly from the books themselves because if we see a shelf of books and they’re all in red and black, and big, stark letters, you know before you can even get to the shelf that there’s probably going to be thrillers over there, spy novels, espionage, apocalyptic whatever. It makes sense for the author to try to bring that element of their branding into their web presence, their header images, or their Avatar, whatever it is they’re doing.

What else? Also, it seems to me like—I’m a blogger. A lot of nonfiction authors are bloggers, not as many fiction authors and that makes sense; but the blogger also establishes a brand through your voice and your tone, and how you deal with people who ask questions or stuff like that.

Dana: Absolutely. I think that that goes back to your public persona. It goes back to how you engage with other people. I’ve seen talks by so many different people. I’ve consumed online courses. There are certain teachers that I know their style. I know that some people are way more blunt and “my way or the highway.” Some are more engaging and holistic. Everyone has their different approach.

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I will say that the advantage to blogging though is that readers get a taste of your voice before they buy the book. They’re going to get a sense of, “Will I like this person?” I do think with Twitter and Facebook, and any sort of social media content, you want to be giving readers a preview to what type of voice, what type of storytelling they are going to hear.

It goes back to little things like cursing. If you’re writing gritty, hardboiled pulp novels and you want to curse on your social media then be my guest. But if you’re writing sweet romance or cozy mysteries, those two don’t mix. You want to think about-

Joel: That’s the incongruence I was talking about.

Dana: Absolutely. You want to think about your target audience. Again, if your audience likes what you’re saying on Facebook and Twitter, are they going to also like your books? If there is a disconnect there then why are you on social media? There’s no point. I hear a lot of authors say like, “Well, this isn’t really me.” I’m like, “Then you can set up a personal Facebook account and keep it private and no one will know it’s there. But if you’re on social media to market yourself as author, then you need to speak to your target audience.” It’s not saying be inauthentic, but you should be the parts of yourself that fit in with that audience.

Joel: In other words, we are actually selecting elements of our own true nature that are authentic to us.

Dana: Absolutely.

Joel: And we’re creating from those a persona that may be just a subset of who we are, but it’s totally authentic.

Dana: Yes.

Joel: There are times maybe I want to kick my dog, but I’m not going to do that or the equivalent on my blog because that would be incongruous with my brand.

Dana: Correct.

Joel: That’s very interesting and I like that.

Dana: The fact that it’s your dog, the fact that you have the dog, and that you work alongside your dog can be a part of your brand. I think that again, having pets in general is an endearing quality. It says something about the person. I think that in most cases, if you have a pet, it can be a part of your brands, but I think that again, just identifying and selecting what you include.

I do triathlons. I’m a triathlete. I do post content about that on my social media platform. Seemingly, that may have nothing to do with PR, or books, or publishing, but it’s a part of me that also speaks to my work ethic. It speaks to my mindset and competitiveness I think. I do think that that amplifies my online persona. There are also other things that I do that don’t really amplify my online persona or amplify who I am as a publicist, so I don’t really post those.

It doesn’t have to be like, “I’m a former lawyer who writes legal thrillers.” It can be something a little bit more intangible or vague, but again, by sharing something on social, what is it saying about you? I think that’s what people have to start asking themselves when they’re developing their content strategy.

Joel: Yes, and it’s fun actually. We shouldn’t really give the impression this is all like horrible or hard work or you’re on the chain gang. My wrinkle is I love to cook and bake. That has nothing to do with designing or promoting books, but just like you said, it adds an element and that element is not incongruous really because to be a good baker, you have to be careful. You have to be accurate. You have to have good timing. Those things are not so different than what I’m doing when I design or publish a book.

Dana: That is exactly true. Your aesthetic–if you’re taking these beautiful photos of what you’re baking or what you’re cooking, it speaks to your design aesthetic as well.

Joel: In fact, the Facebook post I’ve done this year that got the most engagement was a bunch of chocolate almond cookies I’ve posted. All these people said “where’s the recipe?”

Dana: There you go.

Joel: Which is kind of like the bikini theory of modeling of marketing. I don’t want to go into that because otherwise, we’ll be sitting here all day and neither of us have time for that. I want to talk about publicity.

Dana: Okay.

Joel: Like I said at the beginning, Dana, I think publicity is the least understood and the most underutilized part of marketing self-published books. You might ask why that is. It’s partly because authors haven’t thought of it. They didn’t think about it. They think publicists are very expensive or if they’ve had heard that, they don’t have thousands and thousands of dollars to put into this book. They think maybe they can do it themselves, but of course, most of those people never get started because they don’t actually know how to get started doing it themselves. How can you help these people?

Dana: The biggest reason that I wrote the book is because I wanted to empower other authors to get all the tools that they could possibly use to market their books and decide which ones made sense for them. Not every author is going to use every tactic that I outlined. Again, not everyone has a budget to hire a publicist. We don’t have the bandwidth to take every author that comes through our door.

The more authors are knowledgeable about the promotion process, the more exposure we get for books, the more people who read books, it helps everybody involved.

I think what authors have to keep in mind is that media coverage is important.
You’re right. It’s underutilized in the self-publishing community. There are a few reasons. One is there is a lot of media outlets that still don’t take self-published books for a host of reasons. I also think that because most self-published authors aren’t doing offset print runs and aren’t doing huge distribution channels, their books aren’t in every store.

Historically, with publicity, this is true regardless: people have to see something seven to ten times before they remember it, not to mention making the leap to buy it. A review in the newspaper, an interview on the radio, some social media content, a billboard on the highway, all of these are adding impressions.

The last impression on the stop to purchase usually was that bookstore stop; was that they heard someone on NPR. They can’t remember the book, but then they read something about an author in the paper. They kind of remember it. Then they go into the bookstore. That book is on the front table. It triggers their memory. They get the feeling like they’ve heard it everywhere and they pick it up.

Historically, traditional media hasn’t been as effective for self-published authors, but with the decline of brick and mortar stores and more people purchasing online, and also, that “direct to buy” aspect that I don’t have to remember a book title from the radio show while I was driving my car, and then remember it when I get home and look on Amazon. There is more about I can read something in the paper, click the person’s website, click the retailer link, and buy it in one fell swoop.

I think that while there are certain elements of traditional publicity that can work really well. I think that if you’re doing local events, I think TV, radio, and local papers are really great for driving traffic to an event. But if it’s just general sale, I’ll try to focus publicity online. News sites, blogs, even podcasts, YouTubers, and things like that, I think that’s really where self-publishers should focus their energy because there’s that direct to buy, that easy “retail chain” if you will. I think that’s where you should focus your energy.

That being said, if you’re doing a local launch event, or if you’re doing some library events in different cities, radio, TV, and newspapers are great for driving traffic to the events. I was doing some radio interviews over the weekend and immediately got a dozen or so more RSVPs to the launch event on Thursday.

It does make a difference. They may not remember your book title. They may not remember the author name, but they’ll say, “There’s a launch event at this place on this time.” They will remember that.

Joel: One of the other interesting developments is that there are a bunch of tools coming down the pipe now for authors to do direct selling in social media. Obviously, every time we shorten the chain that you have to do like you look it up, then you click here, then you have to click over there.

If we can shorten that chain then that’s very powerful, and it will bring a lot more actual buyers into your universe. I’ve been looking at a lot of tools people are working on where you can just send a link or a status update, it will open up like a display with a sample of the book and a “buy” button right on the page. There is no chain anymore. The chain has been down to one click.

Look, I’ve been working on this distribution problem for longer than I’m going to admit because the knock on self-publishers was always there was no distribution. Here’s what I want to ask you, Dana. I do a lot of consulting with authors. I’m talking to authors all the time just the way you are. I frequently get authors if I ask them, “Who is your target market?” or “Where do you want to sell this book?” and then there’s a whole group of authors who say, “Everybody could get it.” That tells me they haven’t done any homework on their getting ready to launch their book.

A lot of people say, “I really want to put it in bookstores.” My response to them is, “Are you prepared to pay the money for that print run? Are you prepared to do it in such a way that you can actually afford the discount the distributor is going to get from you if you can find a distributor who is willing to sign up a one-book author?” That’s a long shot. Then I say, “Even if you clear all those hurdles, how are you sitting in your house, let’s say in San Raphael,” that’s where I’m sitting, “going to drive buyers into the store in Omaha or Clearwater, Florida, or Portland, Maine? You can’t do that.”

I’ve eliminated 99 percent of the people, Dana, because they can’t pass that test, and then we work from there. But there is a portion of people left over. They do have a book with national appeal. If they could get it out to people, they can create a book and finance the launch of the book, but then publicity becomes critical.

Dana: Absolutely.

Joel: No publicity, their plan isn’t going to work.

Dana: Yes. I think you hit the nail on the head with the question of like, people come to you and come to me and they say, “I want my book in bookstores.” I remind them that, “No. You don’t want them in bookstores. You want them sold out. You want books sold; a sold book, not a book sitting on a shelf. That’s what you want. ”

I think that there’s something about this prestige. People want the prestige. They want the New York Times review. They want to see their book at Barnes & Noble. To me, I really don’t care. If a blogger is able to move more—a blogger reaches more readers than the New York Times, I’d much rather have that coverage. I’d much rather have that coverage than the New York Times review.

Again, most self-published authors and traditionally published authors for that matter, they get a set print run. I want them putting those books where the books are going to move. We’ve had authors complain that their book isn’t in every Barnes & Noble. I’m like, “But it is in the Barnes & Noble where the book is set. It is in the Barnes & Noble where your hometown is, and that’s where you want them because that’s where the copies are going to move. You don’t want them sitting one copy, one copy, one copy in every Barnes & Noble around the country.”

I think that that needs to be the emphasis. People need to focus on reaching readers and selling books to readers, not where their book is shelved.

Joel: Yes, we frequently have to remind authors that we don’t create either books or marketing plans to please the author. The author is irrelevant. We create books and marketing plans to reach the readers of the book. Sometimes the author is a part of the audience and sometimes they aren’t.

Dana: I think that sometimes. If an author tells me, “It’s my dream to get on to this show or get into this blog,” and if it’s not that labor intensive, maybe we’ll give it a shot. The authors cannot drive the campaign. It needs to be the experts who drive the campaign.

Joel: Absolutely. In the book, do you feel like you’ve put enough tools into people’s hands, so that they can actually take this on themselves? I think the advice to start local is by far the best, particularly if you’ve never done this before. You’re going to have to talk to people you probably never talked to – bookers, show bookers, all kinds of people at the other end. The media people; they generally have very little time. Also, most of them have very little patience because they have very little time, so you have to be able to deliver your pitch really well. I notice you have a whole section on the book on pitching.

Dana: I do.

Joel: I think that’s really important. Why don’t you just talk a minute about pitching?

Dana: The thing to remember, too, is that the media relations aspect is a symbiotic relationship. Radio show hosts need to fill their timeslot. A lot of them are on the air for four hours. They need guests, so you’re also helping them as much as they’re helping you.

We usually go with an email pitch first. We keep it succinct. You want something that’s a short descriptive subject line. If you are doing an event, there should be a date in that subject line, and then in the body of the email, who you are and why you’re writing right up front. I get a lot of emails where it’s like some storytelling and fluff to lead into it. Just tell me.

Most of our pitches include, “I’m with Kaye Publicity. I’m writing on behalf of this author. She’s coming to Cleveland on this date and we’d love a feature on the show,” and then go into a little bit of the book description, go into your author bio, go into talking points.

Also, think about who is on the other end of that email. There’s a person. You’re not pitching into the void, so think about what’s important to them. If I’m a radio show host, I want to know what are the points that you’re going to hit, what are the talking points. If I’m writing a review of the book, then I would probably want more of the plot points, the pub date, the format, that sort of thing. Think about what you’re asking for and what kind of information you can share that’s going to be appealing to that media outlet.

If it’s a local event then hype up the local event. If the book is set in that local demographic, hype that up. If you’re pitching a women’s magazine, play up the target audience, play up the features that would appeal to their readers. You want to take the guesswork out of it and do the work for them essentially.

Joel: Doing the work for them. You’re going to be much more successful every time. I’m on both sides of this equation myself because I publish books. I produce products. I’ve been in product development the last few years. I’m promoting things, but also, I run a media site, so I get pitched constantly-

Dana: So, you know.

Joel: By people with books, with apps. Knowing who the person is you’re pitching is to me, the number one requirement of any kind of publicity effort because if you don’t know who that person is, you probably not going to get the result you’re hoping for. Here’s my last question because I don’t want to keep you too long. I don’t want to put you on the spot here, Dana, but this is the question I’m going to get asked.

Dana: Okay.

Joel: And that is: I’m a self-published author. I really do have a book I think that could do some damage or I could get some traction. I’m willing to spend the money. I’m willing to do that print run and get the distributor. How much is it going to cost me to bring somebody on to my team maybe for the period around the book launch? A month or two months, whatever it is? Three months? Realistically, if I’m a well-capitalized self-publisher, what is it going to cost?

Dana: To hire publicists, all costs—they charge such different amounts. I have met publicists that say they charge $25 an hour, which is insane. I’ve also met a publicist who charges no less than $10,000 a month, so there’s a really big variety.

There’s also a variety of different types of PR people. We are a full-service public relations firm. We handle publicity, marketing, social media, event booking; everything. There are other PR companies that just specialize in email marketing or specialize in only traditional publicity or only online publicity.

I would say that if you’re a self-publisher, you may want to go with someone either full service, but if a full service is too expensive, think about investing some money in more of a marketing campaign or more of a online publicity strategy as opposed to going the traditional route because again, the less they’re doing for you, the cheaper it’s going to be usually. If you want to use your budget wisely, think about what you need the most.

Additionally, it’s like my accountant. I can probably do my taxes. I can probably figure that out, but he does it so much better and so much faster and I have the budget to hire him and so I do. Think about the things that you can hand off. Think about the things that are easy for you to do. Think about the things that are harder for you to do and that will take a lot of time. Think about what your budget is and if you can hand those things off.

If there are things that come naturally to you, for example, we handle social media for a number of authors. We create the content. We post for them. We write their newsletters. We are basically them online because they would not do it otherwise.

The rest of our authors we simply coach them on how best to do their own social media. I’m sure there are tons of authors that are like, “Oh, great. Let me hand this off to somebody else.” But if you can do it, then you want to use your budget for the things you cannot do.

It’s a wide range. I would say for any reputable publicist, you’re probably going to be spending anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 for a book campaign, but it varies greatly. Also, price and quality don’t always go hand in hand. I will say that I’ve met those publicists who are undercharging. I hit them on the head and say, “You’re undercharging,” that do really good work. I have met other publicists who are charging insane amounts of money for absolutely nothing.

I do have a section in the book about interviewing outside marketers, the questions you should ask, and how to find the right ones for you because I think that there’s a lot of great publicists out there, and there’s a lot of great marketers out there, but there’s also a lot of bad ones.

Joel: That means that guidance is even more important because if we can walk in to a store, this used to be true in Australia, you could tell exactly how good the wine was going to be by how much it cost. There’s a really direct, almost one-to-one relationship. You bought a $20 bottle of wine. It’s going to be like twice as good as a $10 bottle of wine. That’s a rarity.

In most of the free market, you need at least some kind of guidance or referral. One of the things I liked about the book also was that section about questions you should ask or warning signs you should look out for. I think that’s really, really valuable.

Dana, I don’t want to keep you any longer. We’ve gone over my time. The name of the book is, Your Book, Your Brand. It’s brand new. It’s not long. I love that! Dana has packed a lot of actionable information into a small amount of space. I think we should thank her for that. Dana, if people want to find out more about you, or the book, or what you do, or maybe have a chat or whatever, how could they get in touch with you?

Dana: Our company website is I also have a separate speaking page and events page at We also have a newsletter where I send out publicity tips, publishing trends, and things like that. You can sign up at either of those websites, but also, by going to

Joel: We will put those links along with the video when we post it.

Dana: Thank you.

Joel: Dana, I want to thank you for taking time out of your publicizing other people’s stuff and you’re publicizing your own book at the same time, so that must be keeping you busy.

Dana: It is.

Joel: I really appreciate it.

Dana: Thank you for having me.

Joel: Again, I’m Joel Friedlander from I’ll see you next time.
Amazon links contain my affiliate code.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. tobie ward

    I thought this was an extremely useful and insightful interview. I talk to self-published authors all the time and the most confusing and misunderstood aspect is always marketing. I think everyone has heard of branding and using social media to promote their book but, in reality, people have no idea what that actually means. Our company twitter account is full of release notices and book trailers, and yet I very rarely click on any of them. I have responded to personal emails asking to read an author’s book but rarely and one included a dare, which I found humorous. I think one of the biggest issues that everyone needs to overcome, both authors and readers, is how do I find what I want in the giant slush pile of books that is Amazon? That is where reviewers and bloggers can help and whole industries have sprung up around them, but it is less organic than it should be and I believe some of the trust and value has disappeared. This interview is not an example of that and thank you very much both of you for this very valuable information.

    • Dana Kaye

      Thanks, Tobie! Glad you found the information helpful!

  2. Ernie Zelinski

    I stopped reading this interview when I came to this:

    “I view public relations as the bigger umbrella. Publicity, marketing, social media, all fall under that bigger PR umbrella. Publicity is earned media coverage. It’s something that is not “pay to play.” You can’t control it. It’s a media outlet covering your book or you either in the form of an interview, in the form of a review, etc.

    Marketing, on the other hand, is something that is paid placement, something you have full control over the messaging. While there is crossover in terms of outlets, you can have earned publicity coverage in a newspaper, and then also do some sort of online marketing tactic with that newspaper.”

    REALLY? This person has no idea of “marketing”, particularly as taught in the elite of Business Schools such as Harvard and Stanford. Marketing, in fact, comprises the 4P’s of marketing, which include Product, Price, Promotion, and Place (distribution).

    “Promotion” in itself is just one element of “Marketing”. What’s more, “Promotion” includes “public relations”. As Wikipedia states, “Promotion comprises elements such as: advertising, public relations, sales organisation and sales promotion.”

    So, to repeat, Marketing comprises Product, Price, Promotion, and Place (distribution). Promotion (one of the 4P’s) in itself comprises “public relations.”

    Yet this person wants us to believe that “public relations” is the “bigger umbrella” and comprises “marketing.”

    Why don’t you run this by some of the top marketing experts in the world, including Seth Godin, to see what they have to say about this?

    • Dana Kaye

      Hi Ernie,
      Thanks for your feedback. While I didn’t go to an elite business school and am self-taught as a publicist, I’ve been working in this industry for nearly a decade and have seen so many of these definitions and labels shift of the years. Blogger outreach was once deemed “marketing” and now, because of the digital paradigm shift, falls under the “publicity” heading when it comes to divvying up tasks in-house.

      But I think we agree on the main point: marketing is something you control, unlike publicity coverage, which is earned. You control the product, the price, the place, and the promotion strategy.



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