Guest Post: Ask Publicist Lauren

Due to boring circumstances beyond my control, I will not be online much for the next week or so. Fortunately I’ve been able to line up a number of stellar guests to fill in for me. Most are writers, but I also thought it would be fun to get some publishing types to explain what it is they do, teach you some more about the industry, and answer your questions, as well as one or two bloggers.

Today we have Lauren Cerand, who is a freelance publicist. I know that many people are confused as to what exactly a publicist does. (I know I frequently am.) It took me ages to realise that there are basically two kinds, freelancers like Lauren, and in-house publicists who work at publishing houses (or record companies or what have you.) Read on and Lauren will tell you more.

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Lauren Cerand is an independent public relations representative whose current projects include Barnes & Noble’s “Upstairs at the Square” series. Lauren has been described as one of the “cultural gatekeepers in the literary world” by Time Out New York and as the “Best of New York” by The Village Voice. She is often asked to share her perspective with audiences, such as at Book Expo America in New York and Penguin Books in London, and will appear next at the Nebraska Summer Writers Conference (June) and Squam Art Workshops Readers Retreat in New Hampshire (September). Lauren writes about art, politics and style at She serves on the board of directors of both Girls Write Now and The Writers Room, and as an advisor to Fictionaut. Lauren is a graduate of Cornell University.

Lauren says:

I am a freelance publicist. My clients pay me by the month, the project and sometimes by the hour to create new media opportunities that engage and expand their natural audience. My main areas of interest are online media and events. I also consult with creative professionals on how best to capitalize on their existing resources to generate some buzz around a forthcoming project. Some ways to generate buzz are: learn how to use social media effectively, contribute to a website you read regularly, and support your scene.

In-house publicists at a publishing house send out books to reviewers and work to “place” reviews and features about an author (Noted: that is the verb we use because, as a publicist, I do not actually generate any content myself. Rather, and this is a major point, I convince others that my projects are worth covering in their publications and on their programs). They have many books per month and a very tight schedule. The best way to coordinate your efforts is to have a very honest conversation six months in advance where you, with grace and acceptance, understand exactly what your publisher is able to create and commit on your behalf. And then you come up with your own strategy. Why? Because your publisher is going to promote your book for about a month, max.

What do I think? You should give it a year. After all, it’s your career and this book’s success will make or break the next one. How can you extend that brief window, created by external pressures you have no control over? By committing some of your own resources to online ads that reach your audience, nominating your book for awards, booking events, and continuing to generate buzz per above.

A typical day in my life: 9 or 10am, wake up, answer urgent emails (about 50). Talk to clients on the phone. Noon – 2pm, lunch meeting with a journalist or colleague, discuss projects and possibilities. Afternoon: repeat all of the above. Evening: manage or attend event. 24/7: cultivate the relationships that will lead to premium exposure for my clients when the opportunity presents itself.

Questions? I’d be delighted to answer them.


  1. Beth on #

    What I’ve always wondered is what means of publicity are the most effective in actually moving books – reviews, certainly, but what’s the effectiveness of online ads (and how it depends on targeting), or book trailers for example? Especially for fiction.

  2. Dawn on #

    What do you think are the most effective placement of online ads for book promotion? Facebook? Goodreads giveaways? Amazon blog tie-ins? Google ads?

  3. Lauren Cerand on #

    Beth, the thing that sells books is DEMAND. As a fiction writer, it’s your challenge to make what you do seem urgent and relevant to a consumer’s daily life, so much so that they have to have it right now. It’s sort of like that spike in interest when someone dies, you see people reading their books on the subway and so on; it’s not necessarily an extravagant expression of grief so much as that the author was consistently in the news that the reader encountered, and made enough impressions that he or she felt vital in the present. With fiction, you must find ways to enter the cultural conversation, preferably without dying. Contributing guest essays to influential sites, such as Largehearted Boy’s “Book Notes” column, joining communities like, etc. Unless you make a book trailer a million people want to watch, it’s not the best use of your resources. Online ads are excellent if you are strategically targeting an audience that would not be available to you for editorial coverage but is likely to appreciate your work. For instance, literary fiction could be appealing to readers of high-brow film blogs, who actively enjoy culture and have money to spend.

  4. Austin Kleon on #

    What can you do in the one-three months leading up to your book release to generate buzz? Is it worth is to push the book that far in advance, or should you hold back until closer to the release date? How can you convince folks to pre-order?

  5. Jill on #

    When I first read your post I thought it said Lauren Conrad, and I was surprisingly impressed when I read what she said. Glad the world is back to normal after I read the correct name.

  6. Tansy Rayner Roberts on #

    Hi Lauren!

    What’s your opinion on the value of blog tours? I’ve seen some who swear by them and others who think they’re a waste of time…

  7. Lauren Cerand on #

    Austin + Tansy,

    Ok, so I am not a geologist but an example I always think of is how the earth is made up of tectonic plates that sort of lie next to each other, but sometimes they move and sometimes they crash into each other (earthquake). Buzz is the earthquake. One one side, you have your hardcore, first-wave most influential readers. These people are actively on Twitter and other social media communities, write and read blogs, etc. You want to connect with them FOR SURE. The idea there is to get them hooked on your content. Books always have this amazing content (THE STORY) that sits in a physical wrapper and sometimes it doesn’t travel everywhere it’s supposed to go. So liberate it. Come up with a way to do a digital excerpt and send it to 50 people on a “secret” list and ask for feedback. Find a way to use Facebook to do something new and different with the core message of your book. That three months, Austin, is the window you have to have fun and be experimental and do something that’s going to raise your profile enough to get you more reviews. When I first started focusing on online media, I was like, PRINT IS DEAD. And then I noticed that all my clients got more print reviews than they had before and it made them happy. And so I started to understand how it’s all part of a big wave, and the elements flow together. Tansy, blog tours are awesome if you are part of a conversation that is very focused on a specific audience (fairies, moms, military stories set in space) and all of your readers are in like five places and you can talk to lots of them by hopping from blog to blog. I tend to take the long-view and encourage people to build their own online presence because your natural readership is going to be unique to you. But it doesn’t hurt to get in the mix. In fact, it’s essential you do.

  8. Maitriquest on #

    Lauren, as a fellow publicist and someone with a novel in the works I really hope Justine’s readers understand what gold you’re sharing here – really, such excellent and beautifully described points.

    This week I joined a new writer’s group and one member’s eyes lit up when he heard I was a publicist because, as he said, “he didn’t want to do any of that pr and marketing stuff, he just wanted to write.” Few have that luxury anymore, the wise of us will listen to you, jump in and learn!

  9. Cy on #

    Thanks so much for the info, Lauren! Especially the bit about how your publisher will only do 1 month of publicity for your book max. Yikes! I had no idea… @_@

    Everything you said about how you should get out there and put your own resources into advertising your book got me wondering—are authors allowed to put up/mail out excerpts of their book without consulting their publisher? For instance, what if you put up a webpage about your book that all your ads, etc, would link to—would you be allowed to put up the first few pages of your book there for people to read?

    Also, are we supposed to clear all the ads, campaigns, etc, with them first to make sure it matches their promo design, etc? You’d probably also have to ask permission to use your book’s cover art on these ads, right? But what about commissioning an artist on your own to create some original illustrations from your novel that you could use to make your ads and landing page more attractive? Is that allowed?

  10. Justine on #

    Cy: Most publishers give their lead titles many more than a month’s worth of publicity. Also non-lead titles that take off also get an increased publicity budget.

    As Lauren mentioned above, you should always keep your publisher informed about what you’re going to do for your book.

  11. HeatherL on #

    What’s the best way to use other blogs to drive people who are interested to your website? I’ve heard arguments for and against various ideas- what’s your take on it?

    Also, for someone interested in freelance publicizing as a field/potential career option, what do you recommend? I’m still in college- what types of majors do you think would be the most helpful? What resources can I look at now? (I’ve been googling and found some websites, like doshdosh, that give marketing advice- are any other sites like that good or is there a better use of my time?)

    Thanks, Lauren! Really interesting post!

  12. Lauren Cerand on #

    Yes, to clarify, the point I was making about time is that much of the publisher’s effort is likely to focus on pre-publication outreach, and many authors’ frustration that everyone seemed to “move on” just as things “got going” seems to be more about the perception of time than anything else. So I wanted to illustrate that point in stark terms, that your book is a project for the company who produces it, while your career and body of work is something cultivated with depth and increasing value by you over a lifetime. Both are necessary for success, and complimentary in the best case, but not always happening at the same speed, or trajectory. And, to be fair, most people who are being given tons of attention by their publisher are not hiring outside help, so that’s my perspective on the situation often times, too. I am typically brought on board when someone wants to do something radically different in terms of what’s possible and/or because the in-house attention is simply not there in a sustainable way. All of that being said, I think WAY too often, writers get into destructive and adversarial relationships as a result of dramatic miscommunication based on the differences in outlook outlined above. In the best case scenario, everyone remembers that we are committed equally to the idea of jaw-dropping success, and coordinates closely to make it happen. I would work to cultivate a relationship with everyone making decisions related to the life of my book, at every step of the way. The excerpt thing is a rights issue, so you’d want to clear that with your publisher and agent, but usually publishers are into it. I’ve worked with authors who have made mp3 audio files of them reading, which I LOVE. You can definitely work with an artist, and your personal website is your professional domain. Again, the point is to start the conversation.

  13. Lauren Cerand on #

    Hi Heather,

    Other blogs are useful to the extent that you are driving interest in what you have to say as a direct corollary to adding value to the existing conversation. If it’s a fashion blog with a guest post slot, and you do it in a similar voice, yes, you’re going to win new readers. If it feels empty and self-promotional, people pick up on that. This is what we talk about when we talk about “authenticity.”

    Career-wise, I love what I do. I majored in Industrial and Labor Relations and learned my job entirely by doing the work (I started out working for unions, started doing publicity for art events in my spare time, and expanded into a broad spectrum of cultural projects that changes depending on what I want to work on at a given time). The most exciting thing about being a publicist today is that the field is wide open and new ways of doing things are emerging and evolving all the time. offers very useful publishing industry news and focuses on social media developments. I recently gave a talk called “Innovative Publicity Now” that you can download here: I also recommend interning/volunteering for organizations that are breaking the mold and are small enough to offer you lots of hands-on experience promoting projects, events, books, whatever ignites your imagination. That really is the best teacher.

  14. Rebecca on #

    Hi, Lauren:

    Hiring a publicist sounds like a great idea, but the idea of paying someone independently, out of pocket, seems daunting to young authors with limited capital. What should we expect a reasonable rate of pay is? Thanks!

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