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Thursday, 22 August 2013

Engage or not to Engage a PR Company?

Pauline Barclay finds out what to expect and what to look out for when engaging a PR company as she talks to best selling author, Carol E Wyer. Whilst Carol shares some useful tips she also reveals the benefits she is enjoying with the company she has employed.

Pauline: You are signed with two publishers, Safkhet Publishers and Thornberry Publishing, though being a mainstream author these days, means you still have to do a certain amount of promoting and marketing yourself. To help you have employed a PR Agency, what decided you to do this?

Carol: Like many authors, after writing my first novel, I had to market it and promote it. You have to learn how to do this rather quickly or you won’t make the sales, or indeed get the right attention for your work.

Initially, I self-published Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines and sent out hundreds of emails to local and national press to get attention for the book. I sat at my computer every day getting addresses, sending emails offering review copies, asking radio stations for interviews and so on.

I was very fortunate, because I got an interview with a BBC radio station and some very good write-ups in local newspapers. However, I didn’t attract attention from the national press and the effort was enormous. I spent every waking minute typing emails and chasing up with phone calls. I actually pretended to be my own PR person for a while, so I could write about myself in the third person.

Obviously, there are only so many hours in a day and I wanted to focus on writing rather than marketing.  I talked to my husband about it and we decided after much thought, to employ a PR company to help boost my profile. 

The results were impressive: further interviews on radio, write-ups and features in magazines, reviews in newspapers and on websites with large subscriptions, my book was featured as a ‘Must Read’  in national magazines such as Choice and Yours and the icing on the cake - a full-page feature in Woman’s Own.

It is easier for a PR company with contacts in the media to find the right magazines to promote you. Their emails do not end being diverted to Junk mail. They have contacts that will ensure the promised feature about you, actually stays in that edition and doesn’t get removed and replaced with another.

A more recent campaign yielded even better results. After it, I was given a list of contacts that were approached. This now will help with all future campaigns and I have forged relationships of my own with these people. I now work on and off with a PR agent who has just started his own company. We talk regularly to decide what direction we need to take on my books.  I am very happy with what he has done recently for me. With his input, along with my contact list that continues to grow, I find it easier to market my work. Whenever something positive happens, like I win an award, I send a press release to my contacts and they invariably print it.

Pauline: How did you find the right agency for you?

Carol: It was a question of research, reading testimonials and contacting the companies to decide who to choose. You will know if you think you’ll be able to work with the people and it is important that you get along with them. Also, it is down to cost. It is very expensive to have a PR company promote your work, so you need to shop around and make sure you’ll be getting value for money. I certainly couldn’t afford some of the better known agencies out there but there are smaller companies that have the same media contacts and are probably more willing to work harder for you.

Pauline: How does it work? Do you sit back and let the agency get on with it or are you hands on?

Carol: First, you should be asked to fill in lengthy questionnaires so the PR people can ensure they have the right information to produce a good press release to sell you and your book.  You will also have to make sure they have lots of copies of your book to give away for reviews. Check with the company for the number they require.

A good agency will make sure you see what they are sending out and you’ll be able to change anything you don’t like. You’ll be contacted by your personal PR agent and together you will work on what you want out of the campaign and on your goals.
You won’t need to do too much during the process of getting you interviews and features. However, you should get a weekly update, either an email or a telephone call, from your agent so you know what they have been doing for you. You should have several conversations with your PR person to ensure they are going along the right lines, that they are promoting you where you feel they should, and ensuring you are available for interviews etc. They will contact you the moment they get a positive response.

Pauline: What does the Agency do that is different to what you could carry out?

Carol: It may seem they don’t do much differently and indeed you can do most of what they do, however, they are experienced in marketing and promoting. They know the correct language to use in emails. They understand how the media works. They are professional and can represent you better than you can yourself . Finally, they have the contacts and that makes all the difference.

Pauline: What have they achieved that has made a difference to your exposure?

Carol: Apart from the magazine success I mentioned earlier, I have had huge radio exposure thanks to the PR company.  I am sure I would not have managed to get on BBC radio shows all over the country without their help. In fact, I have even been on shows in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. That opened the doors to many more readers and I am pretty certain I couldn’t have done that on my own.

Pauline: What is the best benefit to you as a writer?

Carol: It takes a huge responsibility away from me and leaves me free to concentrate on writing.

Pauline: Would you recommend other authors to consider using a PR Agency?

Carol: A cautious ‘yes’, however, I would not advise them to use one if it means spending money they have set aside for something important. As I said before, some of the bigger agencies charge handsomely and you will not see a return on your outlay. If you are seeking more than just extra sales and are trying to build up a name for yourself, a PR company is a good idea. If you want to sell books then I would suggest you just stick to writing good books and do some self promoting as and when you can. Also, there are PR companies out there who will promise a lot and deliver little. There is no guarantee that they will be able to secure you a slot on GMTV or get you front page on the Daily Mail. That will be largely down to luck. Authors who have had the most recognition in the press have not necessarily had PR companies promoting them. They have merely written books that have caught the public’s imagination.

Pauline: And finally, I know you have at least two more books scheduled for publishing this year, must be the power of your PR!, So please tell us what we can expect and when.

Carol: LOL! Actually, that has now changed a little because my last novel, Just Add Spice was released ahead of schedule. The eBook version came out in July and the paperback will be out in November 15th. It is a little bit spicy in places and very funny!

I have a third Amanda Wilson novel, Follow You, Follow Me scheduled for early next year now.  I’m not sure on the date yet. It got held up thanks to a shoulder injury which meant I couldn’t type for a long time. In this novel, Amanda Wilson moves house with her frustrating husband, Phil and much to his delight, is cut off from her beloved internet friends thanks to a problem with BT. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time as crisis after comical crisis occur and she has no one to confide in. Meanwhile, the story focuses on three of her blogging friends scattered around the world, all of whom lead surprising lives and are not who they seem to be, yet all are linked in strange ways to the hapless Amanda. Secrets and lies abound, all topped with a large dose of humour.

There are, of course, other books in the pipeline and a few surprises for my readers.

A little about Carol:

After completing a degree in French and English at Keele University, Carol E. Wyer became a language teacher in Casablanca, Morocco. She ran the EFL department at a private UK school (a non-magical Hogwarts), set up Language 2000 Ltd, teaching a variety of languages, including basic Japanese, and translated documents. Recurring medical problems forced her to give up teaching and become a fitness instructor. Thanks to older age, she now writes novels, articles and books that poke fun at getting older. Known for her light-hearted take on life, Carol has written two award-winning novels and now also tours giving talks on how to age disgracefully. Carol also writes for the Huffington Post at HUFF/50.

Carol’s Links:

Carol, thank you so much for taking time out to talk about your experience with a PR company, it certainly is food for thought!

You can find out more about Pauline by visiting our Authors, Books, Trailers & Review Pages


  1. Thank you Jontybabe. I also know somone who is really good at organising virtual tours at the last minute! :)

  2. Really interesting and useful interview, Carol (and thanks to Pauline for organising it!). I must look into your PR company for my novel/trilogy. It's true that they don't always deliver so recommendations from writer friends are invaluable!

    1. Julia, inbox me on FB or email me and I'll give you further details of my company. I'm very happy with everything that Ben has done for me and I know another author who has used the same company and been delighted with the exposure they received.

  3. Replies
    1. You are welcome, Susan. Hope it helps.:)

  4. Another great interview Pauline. Thank you for the information on PR Companies, Carol. Interesting and thought provoking. The companies I looked into some years ago were very expensive. Mmmmm... I'm tempted to look at them again. Thank you. x

    1. Madalyn, some Pr companies are extremely expensive but savvy PR people realise that writers have very limited budgets and can offer services for lesser amounts of money. Good luck. Hope you find one.

  5. Many thanks, Pauline for inviting back to Famous Five Plus for this interview. The site looks absolutely fabulous and very professional.

    1. Hello Carol, it had been fab having you back. Thank you for telling us all about your PR experience and we will talk again soon. In the meantime, wishing you continued success. Thank you too for your kind words on the web site :)

  6. Good stuff to know, Carol & Pauline! Thank you so much for sharing with us. xx

    1. Thank you Suzy. I am not sure how it would work in Portugal though! You'll have to let us know what you do.

  7. Thank you to you all for stopping by and find out a little more about PR for authors.