Friday, June 24, 2011

Should Writers Hire P.R Professionals?

Many writers, even though they have written just one book or maybe two, have ensured that they don’t fade out of public memory. In this case I am solely talking  about India, as I have no experience of other countries. It’s said, that these writers hire Public Relations Professionals to keep them fresh in people’s mind. I have heard this from my friends in the media. There is no proof, this could be just plain hearsay, or guesswork.

All kinds of rumours, that these authors have been approached by such and such a filmmaker to write a  script and many such stories  are constantly floating around. The rumour starts  with a small snippet, that so many people have approached the writer to buy the movie rights of the book.

Whether somebody has approached the writer  or not, is a moot point. The purpose has been achieved. The writers and their books are suddenly in the news. Serious filmmakers with a strong deficit of good scripts not only ask their assistants to buy the book, they end up reading the book and  eventually  end up approaching the writer with  a contract  for the movie rights. People’s curiousity has been aroused to such an extent that many have  thronged bookshops to buy the book. It’s a win-win situation. Everyone is happy.

Many times I have seen that these writers have conveniently  brushed aside the names of directors who  were supposed to have  initially approached them.  ‘Why take names when the deals haven’t worked out,’ the writers brush away all the queries.

These same writers constantly give sound bites on various topics :from the state of the politics to Valentine’s Day Celebration, from corruption to crime against Women. Everything  is planned to give them visibility.

One writer categorically denied the huge advance a publishing house was said to have given her. 'The figure  is highly inflated. My book is in the news for all the wrong reasons,’ she had said in an interview. There were stories that the publishing house had created the buzz to hype the book.   

I feel there is nothing wrong  in hiring P.R professionals, after all  writers work as  hard  as other professionals, and like everyone else they want both themselves and their work to be noticed. Its absolutely acceptable. Visibility is indeed the name of the game. Else, how will people know that such and such book is out.

 Now, comes the main question, of ethics. Is it right to plant stories that have no basis in reality? Is it okay to start a wave of rumour in the hope that it turns into a reality? I would like to know how far should writers go to publicize their books? Should  the fire of people’s curiousity be stoked to keep someone else warm. What do you think is the acceptable limit to publicize books? I would really love to hear everyone’s views.



  1. I sure would not want a PR person doing this for me. It can not lead to anything good. Now, PR people have to hype a book and drop names. They lead people on and create an environment where people think things are happening but may be based on reality but also exaggerated. They skirt the edges and that's okay. But to outright lie .... I would not want to be a part of this.

  2. I guess PR that worked without lying would be okay. Like, helping you find places to do a signing, or where to submit for book reviews, doing interviews and things. But stretching the truth? I don't want that kind of infamy.

  3. Interesting question. I think a certain amount of PR is important but lies and deceit, well a tangled web indeed and damages credibility. :O)

  4. I think PR machines have tentacles in all professions these days. Most media reports have been set up and spun to enhance people and pruducts. The public are pretty cynical and not thoroughly taken in. (I'm talking of the UK)

    Much as I would want my work publicised well, I couldn't hold my head up if was done deceitfully.

  5. I don't know Rachna but in today's world packaging sells...Unfortunate though that writers have to hire PR profs.

  6. I am not opposed to hiring a publicist or PR professional, but I want it to be a little like I want my relationship with my agent-- completely open and honest. If I found they were posting false or exaggerated information, that's a reason for immediately finding a new one.

    Interesting thoughts, thanks for this post!

  7. I would feel uncomfortable with this, there is a big difference between exagerating the facts a little, and sending out complete lies.
    I suppose it's the way of promotion these days, but it's not for me.

  8. Hi Friends...I am not averse to hiring a PR Professional, if they can help me come up with an innovative marketing strategy, I am all for it. But I would like the book/s to be spoken about for the right reasons. Planting false stories and hoping to float on a bed of rumours leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I feel a writer's story telling abilities should be restricted to the books. Else, the writer loses his/her credibility.

  9. I don't have any problem with writers hiring PR professionals but I do have a problem with spreading false stories. The idea of that makes me cringe. If your writing isn't good enough to create a buzz without sinking to low tactics like that then something is wrong.


  10. Wow, something about planting fibs in order to boost your own sales seems very dirty to me. I guess it makes sense, the same way that books do start getting bought after a movie is released, but it seems ethically... icky.

    By the way, did I tell you that the Pope absolutely loved my book?!? ;) hehe

    Just 1 Writer

  11. @ Jai...sinking low is nowadays becoming trendy. Planting stories comes under the tag of creative marketing of books.

    @ Ken...I think you forgot to tell me that the Pope loved your book. Now that it comes with the highest recommendation, I have to read it ASAP.

  12. Rachna, I feel writers like everyone else should not go down the P.R lane. Good books will get great word of mouth publicity. Spreading false stories is highly unethical.

  13. I can see how it would work but I'm not comfortable doing it. And I wouldn't ask anyone to do it for me either. It just feels... wrong.

  14. Emm...I can see how telling a few fibs might get your book talked about, but I wouldn't feel happy doing it myself or hiring a P.R person to do it. Fascinating post!

    Ellie Garratt

  15. Fascinating question. I want to reach as large an audience as possible, but how far would I sell out to do it. The truth is I wouldn't. I'd prefer to write books that sell themselves, then promote them with honesty. I know they won't sell without promotion and I know PR 'spin' can sell more than would otherwise sell, but I'd rather sell based on quality rather than spin.

    Hmmm! Glad you asked.

  16. I don't think this is a very black an white question. You can look at some of the books that made the news. A couple of times a book that is nothing but a work of fiction but peddled as some super life event has landed on Oprah. One has to think about a few things here. One this person just sold a gajillion copies because Oprah said to. They just made a gajillion dollars, they are also never going to be able to sell or write another book.

    After several years of not making it as a writer, if a lie can land you super-stardom and the money to go with it, I can see why its done.

    I have spoken to Leslie Dilly on the phone. The guy who won an Oscar for Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Does that mean my book is going to be made into a movie? No. But people will read into it what they want, and if you benefit from it, why not?

    Sitting in your basement with golden ethics that your book is so good that it will sell itself is fine. Getting out there and playing the marketing and promoting game is just as fine in my opinion.

  17. I'd agree that I couldn't condone lies about my work. But there has to be other, equally effective PR that's both positive and honest. I don't want to have anything (more than what's already there!) to blush about when I come before God.

  18. I think in the States PR people are called "agents". That is one reaason you desperately need one. However, I don't think many of them do unethical/false advertising. It is too easy for the media to authenticate the releases.

    In the inde-pubbed climate though, I don't think hiring a PR person is such a bad idea. Athletes and artists have them, so the "star" can focus on putting out the product, not selling it. I think there are a lot of writers out there like me who don't have either the time or energy to market their work, and keep themselves in the public consciousness.

    Like freelance editors, PR companies could seriously benefit an author. The more I think about this concept, the more viable it sounds; as long as the person/agency is legitimate and ethical.

    I know that even bad publicity is Publicity, but I want all my publicity to be above boaard and accurate. I'd rather talk more about the merits of the book itself thanconstantly defend/refuting PR gimmicks.

    I like the issues you bring up here Rachna.


  19. @ Tony and Victoria.....I too, like you both, prefer to cling to my strong sense of ethics.My conscience will never allow me to resort to rumours and planting false stories to sell few copies of my books.

    @ SBJ....I can understand your point. If people are willing to put a spin or a slant to things, then its not a writer's problem. Many times I have noticed, writers or shall I say people, give in to gimmicks after they have been absolutely frustrated with doing things the usual way, so they succumb to temptation and resort to the unethical means.

    @ Donna....PR can indeed be a blessing if handled well, and if they can come up with innovative ideas to give the books a visibility,they are worth their weight in gold. I would love to hire a P.R, provided we walk down the right path and do not drop into the glitzy world of gimmicks and the means we adopt are legitimate.