Bob wrote to ask, "If publishers aren't going to spend much marketing my book, in what areas DO they allocate most of their marketing dollars?"
They're going to provide review copies to some media outlets and reviewers. They're going to include you in the catalog. They're going to assign it to a publicist who will maybe let some media know about the book. But I suppose the answer to the question of "where does the marketing money go" is probably, "It goes toward bestselling books — so if you're not already a bestselling author, you won't see much. "
Look, one of the little secrets of marketing is that there's basically ONE marketing plan, and it's used for nearly everybody's book. It's true — sometimes I think some publishers take the same plan and just keep changing the cover page before passing the document around to authors. Maybe there are only a handful of copies of the same plan, and publishers share them… So if you're hoping to see your marketing plan, your publisher is probably waiting for the people at another house to get done with it and send it to them.
Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. But here's the plan I keep seeing: "We're going to send a half-dozen copies to some magazines you don't read. Then we're going to send another half-dozen to some TV shows you don't watch — the ones where the people all have great hair and talk a lot. We'll have a handful of copies to use as giveaways on various blogs. Then we might send out review copies, if we deem your book reviewable, and ask if you can provide us with friends who love you and are sure to say something nice. Next, we're going to try and set you up to do a blog tour, so the same 300 people can see you on different sites. If you're good at speaking, we'll contact some radio talk shows, so they can fill the early morning drive-time slot in every city of less than 30,000 people between Twin Falls and Grand Forks. We may send out copies of entire chapters to print magazines, so they've got something to fill up their recycling bins. And we'll create a cool press kit that has an actual color image of your book cover, as well as generic author questions any moron can parrot so that he doesn't have to actually read your book. We'll ask if you've got a Facebook page and a blog. Oh — and we'll talk to you about other internet stuff, 'cuz we heard the phrase social media, though we're not sure it really exists, since we don't use it for much of anything besides forwarding those cutesy inspirational stories my aunt sends us. At that point, we're done, except for claiming the whole schlamozzle cost us tens of thousands of dollars."
And the best news of all? This is what they're going to do whether you've written a novel, a self-help book, a memoir, a parenting book, a joke book for teenage boys, or a commentary on Habakkuk. Try not to get too excited.
Hey, those in the industry are welcome to stop by and correct this, but that's the basic plan, isn't it? Now hear me when I say this: I'm not being critical of publishers here. Honest. They're trying to do the best they can with limited resources. The publicist is working on maybe 30 titles at any one time, and you can bet the bulk of her time will be spent on the bestselling author she's been handed, since that generates the most income. The publishing house is trying to find some simple things to do, to try and help you and maybe reach some people you can't reach on your own. So you can stop worrying about how little they're doing, appreciate the things they do that help, and take charge of your own marketing.
So send a thank-you note to your publicist for every good bit of work they do. Learn to say thanks for them spending ANYTHING to try and help you sell books. But have your own plan in place, so that the publisher's work is not the only marketing that gets done on your book.