Last week, I wrote about the new trend of authors who “just want to sit at home and write” and who don’t want to market their own books. Many hopeful authors mistakenly believe a traditional publisher is going to pour marketing bucks into their book. This just doesn’t happen.
I wrote, “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.”
Of all the responses I received, only one author claimed he was happy with his publisher’s marketing efforts.
Here are some of the emails I received…
A Publishing Industry Consultant said:
I’ve been receiving your newsletter for about a month now. Great stuff! Lots of content-filled articles and get-real advice.
In the most recent edition, you asked to hear about what publishers will and won’t do to help promote books. As a publishing industry consultant with fifteen years in the business, I can say that your comments are spot on. Publishers don’t like to do very much, and in the past few years, their already anemic efforts have withered even further.
Last night I spoke with James Maxey, a science fiction author with three novels out. He noted that his first work was supported with a certain number of galleys sent to reviewers, the usual kind of support authors hear about. His second was supported by a lesser number of review copies. For his third novel, the publisher sent out zero.
The reason: the publishers will support an author’s first book with this type of effort because they need to gear up the author’s fan base. As time goes on, they project the number of copies the work will sell and scale down this specific expense accordingly. Once they feel the author is set at a level that will generate an acceptable sales level, they drop the review copy effort entirely.
Now, all that sounds smart. After all, publishers are suffering as much as any other retailer in this disaster of an economy. But the measure serves only the publisher. They set their own internal bar for how well the author should do in order to return a set profit and leave it at that. They’re doing nothing to help that author grow his fan base beyond its current state. This leaves the author out in the cold…again!
So even individuals who are successful must be diligent about pushing their own books…every day, all the time. Yes, you must ensure that you have time to write the next book. But you cannot neglect the business end of your career…and no one is going to be as passionate about a book as the author!
Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you on this or future issues. I have fulfilled requests for information on the industry from CNN Money, MSNBC, BNN (Canada’s Business News Network), The Writer magazine, TV and radio programs, and national and international print publications. I’m always glad to help.
Laine Cunningham, Publishing Industry Consultant
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Elysabeth Eldering said:
I have a traditional contract with a small press publisher who uses POD technology through LSI for the print runs. I know there is a lot to market and that the publisher can’t do everything.
So far I’ve been working with the publisher to market all the books that she puts out, including my own. It’s hard because even with a website, a blog and the publisher tagging everything to relate to her books and the company’s, it isn’t enough. My biggest problem is trying to get in with the right market (my geography series should really be in the schools but getting my foot in the door is the hardest part). I’ve also just taken on the role as “publicist for the company” but I can only do so much and they have to provide me with info to get me to the point of getting (the authors) scheduled for appearances and book signings. I know there are other things that can be done but really I know I have to be the one to get my books and myself out there in the public eye or my books will never reach the targeted market and really do well.
I keep stressing to my fellow authors and illustrators that they need to really get out there and market themselves or to not expect sales to be very high. The author needs to get over himself and realize that the only way to market is to do it himself and to be out in the public’s view.
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(WritersWeekly sincerely hopes Elysabeth is being paid for promoting her publisher’s other books!)
Richard Russell said:
The notion of an author, and a pure amateur promoting a book is laughable. Publishing companies employ professionals to promote books and pay them well to do so. An author promoting his own book or trying to is just as often in the way and counter productive to the entire process. Any author who is approached with the idea that he should promote or participate in the promotion of his book should run, not walk, away from the company making that kind of proposal. Promoting and selling a book is the province of the publisher, not the author and only shady “self-publication” and vanity presses get authors to attempt to do a job that takes trained pros with the right contacts. I publish with F & W, I write and they handle their end. They do a credible job (My book followed by a Warman’s book, also an F & W property.)
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(Mr. Russell apparently believes all publishers promote books the way his does. Nothing could be further from the truth. The sad fact is, in the vast majority of cases, if an author doesn’t promote their book, nobody will.)
I would not use a traditional publisher. At least not without a megabux advance and a percentage of the gross with a pay or play clause.
Either I would publish it myself, or farm out the printing and POD sales to someone like Booklocker.com while I aim at selling to my niche directly. Failing that, I would handle the printing myself — not pay exorbitant rates via the modern day vanity press which is nothing more than POD printers trying to pay for their excess capacity while adding on big profit items that are useless.
Traditional PR only works if you have a wide audience, and are looking for distribution through the bookstore and similar channels. Bookmarks, pens, mugs, advertising, etc. aimed at the general public are not going to sell enough of my books, if any, to be worthwhile.
My understanding is that no publisher does anything meaningful with regards to marketing or promotion unless they think you are going to be a megastar or already have a big name. Think Russ Warren or a JK Rowling with a story that resonates with an editor – someone with name recognition or a manuscript that the publisher really believes in — and that is a minuscule portion of all the slush they receive.
See the book Drunkard’s Walk by Mladinow for some info on how LUCK (a.k.a. Randomness) drives success in publishing, movies, etc. — Janet got lucky, albeit due to her persistence. Most authors in similar circumstances never get accepted, and most of those that do never earn back their advance.
People who just want to write are not going to sell any books past the few to their family. Any author, without name recognition or means to generate it via a TV show or newspaper column, that cannot meet their audience won’t succeed financially. That means an awful lot of time unless you are a consultant and the book complements lectures and other ways to meet large groups of possible buyers at once.
Meg Schneider said:
I just may be that rarest of all created beings: an author who doesn’t expect her publisher to do marketing. Of the eight books I’ve had published (all through traditional publishers), only two were promoted via review copies and press releases. The results were OK, but certainly not overwhelming.
The best media coverage I’ve gotten for my books has come through my own marketing efforts. I have contacts at several media outlets, and I make as much use of my social network as I’m comfortable with. For the most part, I set up my own interviews and my own book signings and other events. You were right on with your column: No one will be as passionate about your book as you are, so leaving the marketing to someone who doesn’t care as much doesn’t really make a lot of sense.
That said, I understand why so many writers are uncomfortable marketing themselves. Most of us have been trained from childhood that it’s not nice to brag, and, as writing is such a solitary activity, perhaps it’s not surprising that we writers feel inadequate and awkward when it comes to turning on the charm that helps make marketing efforts successful. It may help to remember that non-writers are typically quite impressed when they meet authors, even if they’re not particularly interested in the topic of the book.
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L.A. Novelist said:
It’s hard to remember if I’ve ever seen or heard of an actual promotion any of my publishers have done for my books outside of sending ARCs to some of the bookstore accounts. They do co-op in the stores, which is important, but if no one’s heard of the book, they’re not walking into the stores to find it. I’ve had several books published by traditional NY publishers, have had six figure advances, but never heard these words from my editor’s or publisher’s lips: “We’re doing some promotion for your book.”
Promoting a title, with most publishers, is still largely up to the writer. Otherwise, why would bestselling writers do these elaborate websites and blogs and online contests?
– L.A. Novelist
Mel Menzies said:
Having had a number of books and countless articles published over a fifteen year period (followed by ten fallow years when I had to take an office job) I can vouch for all you say. My publishers, all major players (including Hodder & Stoughton, who commissioned me to write several books), would set up various radio and TV appearances, as well as author evenings at bookshops like Waterstones and book signings. But I was the one who had to travel about the country going to this or that broadcasting studio or bookshop.
The rest of it was down to me entirely