When Authors Aren’t Willing to Market Their Books

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I’m noticing a disturbing trend. At least once a week now, I’m contacted by an author who is seeking a self-publisher that actively markets their book for them…for free.

They send statements like this:

“I’m looking for a company that will do all the marketing for me.”

and

“I just want to sit at home and write.”

The sad but very true fact is, unless your name is Stephen King, John Grisham, Nora Roberts, or some other household name, nobody is going to spend any significant time or money marketing your book. Even if you land a traditional contract, you will still be expected to do most of the grunt work. Don’t believe me? Just ask any midlist or other relatively unknown author. The publisher might send out a few review copies, and might even arrange a couple of interviews and/or appearances. But, if the book doesn’t succeed almost instantly, they are going to quickly turn their attention back to one of their best sellers, or to someone who they hope will be their next best seller.

Whether you land a traditional contract or whether you self-publish, you are the one who will need to promote your book. Sure, if you have money socked away you can hire a PR firm but doing so can be incredibly expensive and, to be quite honest, they’re just not the author. Nothing beats an author connecting one-on-one with potential book buyers, online or off. It’s like comparing a press release to a personal email from the author herself. There is no comparison and sales results will certainly show for it.

I have heard of authors who hire a “ghost-marketer” (for lack of a better term), who goes online, posing as the author (or posting anonymously), and does all the promotional work for them. Of course, this isn’t as good as the real thing and some readers might catch on after awhile, which can instantly ruin your reputation. One author I knew hired one of these ghosts who then accidentally spammed others. The author’s name and website were reported to numerous websites. It got pretty nasty and the author ultimately lost his contract. Hiring a ghost-marketer can be very expensive. You would first need to teach them everything you know about your book’s topic. After you spend hours (months?) training the ghost marketer, you would probably realize you could have spent that time marketing your book yourself…for free. And, after training the ghost, you would then need to hope and pray they never say/write anything that might harm your reputation. I don’t know about you but I would never allow someone else to pretend to be me under any circumstances.

And then there are the authors who think paying a POD publisher hundreds to thousands for coffee mugs, bookmarks, fee-based book reviews and mass email (spam?) announcements and press releases will make their book a best seller. You just can’t buy literary success by snatching up marketing products and services this way. I’ve heard from countless authors over the years, some who spent more than $10K on book marketing packages, who just don’t understand why marketing money spent can never equal marketing time spent when it comes to a book’s success. If you’re not willing to spend several hours per week personally promoting your book, it’s not going to succeed. It’s that simple.

When an author contacts us with no marketing plan and no desire to market their book, we pass on the book. Even if the author wants to hire a PR firm, knowing they just want to hole up with their computer in their home and have no contact with readers tells us one thing – their book will fail. We reject most manuscripts and knowing an author isn’t going to promote their book is the easiest clue we get about future book sales (or lack thereof).

That said, some authors hold out for a traditional contract on the mistaken belief that landing a traditional contract means their book will get a huge marketing blitz, leading to bookstores stocking their book, best seller status,and future riches. Sadly, many of these writers wait years for a contract that will never be offered. The ones who do land contracts often realize they will likely never get more than their original advance (if they got one at all)…and that it can take a year or two or more just to get their book to market. They could have self-published and spent that year or two or more marketing and selling their book themselves. And, of course, many self-published authors have gone onto land traditional contracts because they were able to prove there was a market for their books, and that they were willing to pound the pavement to make it successful.

I’d love if some of you who have traditional contracts would contact me and tell me what your publisher did or didn’t do to promote your book vs. what you had to do to promote your book. It’s rare to meet an author who feels their publisher has adequately promoted their book. In fact…I’ve never met an author who thought their publisher did enough. You may, of course, remain anonymous. Please email me at: angela – at – writersweekly.com