The role of the publicist

Today, my guest is Tom Robinson, an independent publicist (as opposed to an in-house publicist at a publisher) based out of Nashville, TN and representing such great authors as Tasha Alexander, CJ Lyons, Laura Caldwell, and JT Ellison. Tom and I not only share a great love of writers and the art of writing, but we share the same hometown: Pensacola, FL. When we’re not chatting about the state of the publishing industry, we’re comparing lists of favorite places to eat along the Gulf Coast. I asked Tom to cover the basic question of the role of a publicist, a question that continually comes up in the discussion of writing and publishing.


By Tom Robinson
Independent Publicist

tom-robinsonSo what does the independent publicist do for an author?

It’s a question which gets asked up front when I talk with an author for the first time. It should always be the first question.

The objective is to promote the book (assuming I’m approached when the author has a new release on the horizon) and the author’s branding so that the name has recognition beyond the new book. Those are the important goals. I said “assuming” the author has a new release. I’m also seeing authors who want to continue publicity efforts while they are between books to stay in front of readers.

But let me get back to authors with a new book.

In a nutshell: from meeting with the author the publicist develops a plan to work from that will outline the use of press material, the engagement of blogs, interviews, reviews, social media, online advertising all geared to the author’s targeted audience. Social media has opened up the publicity avenues by leaps and bounds. It is an extremely successful messenger when used correctly.

The independent publicist is often extending the efforts of the publishing house. In-house publicists are usually juggling several titles. They are often understaffed and burning up long work weeks.

Beyond the plan implementation, it’s essential for the publicist to make follow up contact with targeted media outlets. That’s where so much effort is spent.

When the project is completed there should be a cross section of media coverage.

My job has seen incredible change since I first worked exclusively with authors seven years ago. I think it will continue to change, just as the publishing industry changes. But the goals will remain the same—promote the new book and the author brand.

Tom Robinson is an independent publicist for authors. Located in Nashville, TN. Robinson, a media veteran of more than three decades, works with authors of mysteries, suspense, and thrillers as well as authors of non-fiction and children’s books. He now also has his first cookbook author which is resulting in an expansion of his culinary attempts. You can find him at

6 thoughts on “The role of the publicist

  1. Hi Joe,
    Thanks for inviting Tom to the blog.
    Tom- what is the hardest part of your job? What do your clients like most about what you do for them? How do you determine when a publicity campaign has been successful? And I imagine the second question is “How much do you charge?” How do you determine rates, etc. and is it the same across the board?
    Thanks for the post.

  2. Welcome Tom. What kind of advice, as a publicist, would you give for someone like my self who is self-published and doing fairly well in that regard but really wants to up the ante and get a much broader presence out there?

  3. I’ve used a publicist twice and did not get satisfactory results. I wish I could afford a virtual assistant. That’s what I need these days, someone to help my online efforts. A lot of what we do has changed with the ebook revolution.

  4. Hey gang–some great comments and questions: The hardest part of my job? Don’t know if it’s the hardest part but a most challenging part is the timing mechanism…getting publicity hits right around release date. You’re juggling a number of pitches. But it usually works out. What do the authors like best about me? I hope they like that I put in the work, know that I care about them, get results, that they can bounce things off of me and walk away knowing I treated them fair. Advice for the self-published author? The self-publishing industry is ever changing and that’s a positive. I’m working with one self-published author now and we are taking some steps and getting results. Again, it starts with knowing your target audience and developing a gameplan. The gameplan provides an organized map to work from and it maximizes your efforts. Nancy, sorry you’ve not gotten satisfactory results. Don’t know what the expectations were or goals you agreed upon. You’re right, ebook changed everything. If you need an assistant then you might look at a part-time person with online marketing skills.

  5. Hi Tom,

    Does your strategy differ for debut authors versus established authors? One thing I’ve heard is that a given chunk of $$’s spent by established authors has more impact–maybe because they already have a fanbase?

    Thanks! Lisa

  6. Hey Lisa–the gameplan changes some. I try to find an idea or angle with some interest to help it along. All debut authors have a piece of a backstory that could be interesting. The genre may also play into the angle. For a debut author it’s certainly a chance to build the name brand from the groundfloor. And I find it interesting when I come back pitching the second and third book and I can get a foot in the door because by then they know the author’s name and work.

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