Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Awful Truth

Kassia Krozser of Booksquare and Dan Green of The Reading Experience are engaged in a provocative dispute about the need for authors to market their own books. See Kassia's "Not a Formula for Success," Dan's "Living on Earth," and Kassia's riposte, "Life on Venus: Authors Do Market."

I know dozens of writers, both published and unpublished. What surprises them most when their first books are published is learning they'll be responsible for most--or all--of the promotion and marketing.

As aspiring ("pre-published") writers, we all imagined we'd merely need to complete the manuscript. Once we signed that book contract, maybe we'd have to make a few changes here and there based on the editorial letter. After that, however, we would move on to our next manuscript. The publisher would take care of actually selling the book to retail outlets and readers.

T''ain't so. The Awful Truth is that publishers' promotional and marketing resources are allocated to the authors who bring in the most money...i.e., those who are already big sellers. You know, your Stephen Kings, your James Pattersons, your Mary Higgins Clarks.

The average writer is a peon--very low on the list for services from the publisher.

Thus it is that the typical novelist--probably an introvert, almost certainly someone who hates the idea of "selling" anything to anybody--has to get out and beat the streets (and Internet pathways) to promote and market his/her book.

Sigh. Yet another note of harsh reality intruding into our fantasy worlds.


Sidney said...

It is tough if you're an introvert, and you probably are if you're a writer but there are great experiences on the self promotion trail, and you meet some cool people who wander up because they're kind of interested in what you're up to or what your book is about. It's not all fun but it has its moments. Sure there's a bad side and you have to conquer your fears, but it's possible.

Lisa said...

Since it's the kind of problem I hope to one day have, I've been giving it some thought. I actually work in sales, so I've considered how I'd translate what I know about sales and marketing to book promotion. My style is completely different than that of my colleagues and of most technology manufacturer's reps I've encountered. This is despite repeatedly being told early on that you "have to" -- fill in the blank. A lot of the "have to's" went against the grain of how I thought I'd want to be treated as a potential customer, so I did it my own way. People hate to be sold and people hate gimmicks and having their intelligence insulted. I watch how people promote books and themselves and I see a lot of aggressive mass marketing techniques in play and frankly, a lot of it cheapens my perception of some authors and books.

Rather than trying to boil the ocean, I think I'd come up with a very targeted plan to figure out how to maximize the return on my investment of time, and I'd focus on my intended audience and what I could do that might make them interested enough in me or my book to check it out.

I think people have to choose a selling style that reflects who they are, and not get caught up in doing a lot of the things everybody else does.

I don't have specifics, but I know that the only way I've been successful in my industry has been by always putting myself in my customer's place and never being pushy.

That's not to say that I don't find a way to make sales -- it's just that I do it without "selling".

Wow -- I guess I have been thinking about this a lot!

Charles Gramlich said...

I wish it was like your fantasy, that the publisher would take care of promotion and selling, but for me it's nearly a handsell on everything.

Sid's right and there are good moments, meeting good folk, but it is very time consuming and stressful for an introvert, which I am big time.

Shauna Roberts said...

This came up at the last Orange County RWA chapter meeting, where the speaker pointed out that on the Briggs-Meyer [sp?] personality test, most writers test exactly opposite most salespeople, and yet publishers expect writers to promote their own books.

I've been collecting information on marketing oneself and trying to figure out what I'll do when the time comes. I think Lisa's right—you have to look at the options and choose what feels comfortable to you.

Steve Malley said...

But, but... I'll be too busy to building a summer house and shopping for private jets with my generous advance!


Rae Ann Parker said...

We recently had a speaker on this topic at an RWA meeting. She mentioned blogging as a good resource for the pre-published writer, so hopefully all of this blogging time is useful.