Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why Won't My Publishing Company Market My Book For Me?

It seems funny, right?

You're the author. You just write the book. Then everyone else should do the rest of the work.

Really? Really?

Please don't tell me you think that way.

I hope I don't have to explain how backwards that is. It's your book. Why would someone else sell it for you?

And yet, so many authors assume that they don't have to market their own book. I'm not sure why. It's probably because they see in movies some author sitting in their nice house, clacking away at the type writer. They are creating their next big hit, which they send into their publisher. And that's it--they're done. They never have to lift a finger, only to write another book.

Sigh. Come on. All of that is fiction, people.

A publishing company is supposed to publish your book. That typically includes editing, formatting, and producing a bound copy. Did you see the work "market" in there somewhere?

And yet, authors expect publishing companies to market. So some publishing companies have marketing people or departments, because after all, the publishing company stands to make a profit if the book sells. But really, they started the publishing company because they love books and editing and making books.

Here is the problem--no one knows if your book is going to sell. And with limited staff and budgets, publishing companies have to put their time and money into books they know will sell.

It's really a Catch-22. And for new authors especially, who have never done this before, they just simply don't know. So many new authors give up way too early. Publishing a book is such a huge risk.

It's a gamble for everyone involved. Everyone wants to see the book succeed, but the person who cares most is the author. The author needs to be the one to jump start this thing.

Think of it as a business. The author starts a small business, and the product is the book. The author takes it to a publishing company to make it shiny and ready to sell. The publishing company has other products to prepare, so it's pretty busy. But it wants the author's book to sell well, because that means job security for them, because they get to keep making the book and earning money too. But they don't know if the public is going to like it, they don't know if it's what people want right now, and they don't know of the author is going to get on TV talk shows or in newspaper articles in order to launch sales.

The publishing company can tell the author what to do, educate them on what works, how the industry has changed, how it has worked for other authors, but they can't DO it for them. The author has to do it. Because no one knows this author's book so well, or no one has developed contacts in this author's genre like they have, or a publishing company is not what people want to see in the interview chair next to Oprah--they want to see the author.

So, author, here is what you do--you make that happen. You prove to the publisher that your book is going to sell. Pound the pavement and get it sold. Give copies to the media so they will review it and write articles about it. Get on local radio and TV, then regional, then national. Get a following via your blog/Facebook/Twitter. Get a website with lots of info and free stuff, and interact with your readers. Give books away as prizes, give talks at events, and keep copies with you wherever you go. Read books about how to be a salesman, because that is what you must do.

Do all this, and don't give up. Keep going for at least a year or more.

Once you produce some numbers, the publishing company will relax a little. They will know that you aren't a risk. "Hey, people actually like that book. And that author is serious about selling it and connecting with people." Those are good words to hear. The publishing company will change its mind about you and your book, and it will clear some space for you and join you in your quest to continue (not start) marketing your book with you.