Chip MacGregor

November 29, 2011

When My Publisher Does Nothing


Continuing with questions about marketing, Dave wrote to ask, "What should you do if your publisher doesn't have adequate resources for marketing and promotion?"

Um…okay, here's a suggestion to all authors and wannabe authors: Before inking that deal, ask some questions and find out what sort of marketing effort your publisher is going to make on your behalf. I'd say about half the books released every year have zero marketing efforts planned for them. So ask some basic questions: What are some of the things you're planning to do in order to sell books? How have you promoted similar titles in the past? Will there be ads? Will you be sending out review copies? Will radio talk show hosts be contacted? Will you use postcards or bookmarks or shelf-talkers? Do you plan signings or a broadcast fax or in-store promotions? Will you to doing extensive web promotion? Do you expect me to walk around Central Park with a sandwich board?

I won't bore you with sob stories, but it's hard to find an author who is satisfied with the marketing their publisher did for them. I suppose they're out there, but they are rare. Many authors feel they were promised the moon, then handed something considerably less. At the same time, it can be hard to find a good freelance publicist. They are out there, but they're busy — a professional who has the contacts and know-how to actually help an author get the word out. It's why some authors will swear by one publicist or another — they had a good experience, and they want to duplicate it on their next book.

So if you're working with a publisher who apparently doesn't have the resources to support your book, you've got a choice to make: Do I let this book die because the publisher doesn't want to get behind it, or do I decide to promote it myself? (Hint: if you're self-scoring, the answer you want is the latter.) It could mean spending your own money. It will definitely mean doing some looking around to find somebody who has the know-how, the time, and the reasonable budget expectations to help you. I realize this isn't what you were hoping to hear, but this sort of question faces authors every day. I've been talking to a friend just recently who has a book releasing with a major house, but they've had some staffing changes and seem to have forgotten all the conversations they had with the author about marketing her book. She's faced with two crummy choices: leave it in the apparently incompetent hands of the marketing dimwit she's been handed, or invest her own time and money to try and make something happen. She's choosing the latter, since she's already put a year of her life into researching and writing the book, and she'd prefer to not see it die a quick death.

Still, that's a hard choice. There are a million ideas an author can use to try and market his or her own book, and it means doing a lot of research to figure out what the right choices are — who the audience is, how to best reach them, what methods will be effective in getting the word out to the most people possible, etc. You can spend a fortune in no time on ideas that won't generate many sales. In her case, she's going to contract with a freelancer to (a) get review copies into the hands of those most likely to help her, (b) connect with radio hosts in order to get her booked onto every talk show in America, (c) query magazines and e-zines about the author creating short articles and sidebars that will support the book, and (d) give her some guidance on web ads. Fortunately, she ran out of money before she could implement (e), which consisted of the words "have the marketing director whacked." However, the author will be working on her own to set up dozens of blog tours, she's doing a mailing and email blast of her own to loyal readers and those interested in her topic, and she's jammed her schedule with speaking venues to help her promote the book. It ain't perfect, and it's a lot of work…just like everything else in publishing.


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