Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What Do You Bring To the Table?

Independent presses have a lot to offer today's aspiring authors. The slush pile is smaller and the chance for an unknown, untried author to get a contract is greater. Unlike large publishing houses, there's still very personal interaction between editors and writers. Unlike self-pubbed books, the publishing house takes care of cover art, lay-out, printing and distribution. Authors are nurtured and a bond builds between the author and publisher.

What most authors fail to realize is that they are expected to don the hat of promoter once the ink has dried on the paper. The job's not finished when THE END is typed on the last page of the novel. In fact, the hard work has just begun.

Anyone aspiring to a career in publishing cannot be blind to all the posts and forums talking about book marketing. It's the #1 topic discussed today. Yet, when the long-awaited novel is finally on the shelf, there it sits. Why? Because authors are unprepared or unwilling to dirty their hands in selling the book to the public. Isn't that someone else's responsibility?

Depending upon the contract, the average amount a publishing house gets is less than $2 profit per book sold. It takes the sale of approximately 200 books before a small outfit sees any profit on a title. That covers production cost, plus Amazon gets their cut and the author gets royalties. Industry stats say the average book will sell about 500 copies. Nobody is out to get rich, but in order to keep producing more books, money has to come from somewhere.

Independent houses exist only when authors and publishers work side by side to do book promotion. I would be more inclined to recommend to my publisher a well-written book backed by an enthusiastic marketer over a great novel written by a prima donna who has no interest or intention to sell.

16 comments:

Elizabeth Kolodziej said...

I totally agree with this post. I am shocked by the number of people who call themselves authors yet know nothing about marketing. If you become apart of an industry you must learn all aspects of it! I'm not great at graphic design but I do know how it works. It's just not that hard to pick up a book on marketing and figure it out.

<3's and fangs,
Liz ^_^
www.vampyrekisses.com

Julie Luek said...

Sunny, I appreciate your persistent message in the area of self-promotion. It keeps me hopping with my social media outlets and looking for more venues to get my name out there, even before my MS is ready. I recently accepted a biweekly writing assignment on a major writing website, without pay, in part, for this reason. The hope is, of course, the time invested now without pay, will reward me with more books sold when the time comes. Thanks for the reminder.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

As always a good post and a wake up call to authors who are disappointed in their sales.

Terry Ambrose said...

Sunny, great post and, as usual, right on the message. No one realizes that it's easy to write a book in comparison to promoting it. Unfortunately, the market is so saturated that the marketing job is just getting harder and harder.

Julie, just a comment on the writing assignment job. Good choice. There are multiple reasons to do what you're doing. First, the regular assignment will force you to write to a deadline, which will help you become more efficient. If you have a good topic to cover, you'll increase your exposure. And, you might gain contacts in the industry that can help you in the longer term. I've been writing columns for Examiner.com for a couple of years and have to keep reminding myself that the online writing job is not about the money, it's about creating an opportunity to leverage that writing assignment.
Terry Ambrose
On Facebook as suspense.writer"

Timothy Desmond said...

Thank you Sunny for further "down and dirty" reality of the publishing world, agents, editors, writer responsibility, contracts, and more. Keep on it. Also, thanks for directing us to sites like "Novel Spaces." This is great. Tim in Fresno.

Holli said...

I know a lot of people who want to be writers who don't even end up finishing the book they are writing much less think about the next step.

I consider finishing the edited manuscript only the first step. Promotion is the bigger bear, and it has to be constant and ongoing. After two or three years, you still want your first book to keep selling, and the only way it does is if you keep on promoting it.

Holli Castillo
www.hollicastillo.com

marja said...

You're absolutely right, Sunny! Sometimes I think writing is actually the easy part. Well, it is. Marketing can be overwhelming sometimes, but it is so very necessary.

C.L. Swinney said...

Interesting question Sunny. I feel in today's market, all authors need to aggressively promote themselves. To be successful we have to weave through a ton of stuff in the industry. We cannot just sit back and look at out books on the shelf.

I created a website, blog, twitter account, facebook fan page, Linked-In account, Goodreads account, My Space account, joined writing groups, group mailing lists, and went to writing classes ALL BEFORE I EVEN HAD A CONTRACT.

All of the work paid off, but it is minimal compared to what I have planned for the launch of my upcoming book, Gray Ghost, and all the promoting after the launch. A small list of what I plan to do is a media release, book signings, advertising, more conferences, speaking panels, contests, and other goodies. To be honest, I want to be successful and I am extremely excited to get a chance to promote my book. By doing all of these I will meet more people and have more opportunities to grow as an author....and maybe sell a few more books!
Chris Swinney

Patricia Gligor said...

Oh, how right you are, Sunny! I hope that aspiring novelists read this post and "see the light."

Ilene Schneider said...

I just commented to my husband the other day that PR is a full-time job.

What many authors who aspire to be published by one of the Big Six and distain the small presses don't realize is that, regardless of the size or prestige of the publishing house, the author bears the brunt of the responsibility for marketing. The Big Six seem to promote only those authors who don't need it, those whose books are on the best seller lists even in prepublication.

John Brantingham said...

Promotion is conversation with readers. It's direct communication. I don't know why authors are afraid of it. What we want to do in our novels is done most directly through promotion. Keep it up Sunny. True writers love to promote!

Patrick Linder said...

If you've written a book, you know that the actual "writing" is only a small chunk of your effort. Even before you get to promotion and marketing, you will have spent a great deal of time planning/outlining before you write, and a great deal of time editing after you write. Marketing becomes one more layer.

The good news, I think, is that writers have within themselves a natural marketer. I do both: write mysteries and work in marketing. I think it works best to think of marketing as simply crafting another narrative: what story do you want people to hear about your book and what narrative do you want them to associate with you as a brand? Writers are creative folks; it's just a matter of turning that creativity and that ability to create stories in a slightly different direction.

And as others have said, you then have to work just as hard at the marketing as you did at the writing itself. If you think of marketing as just as much art as science, though, there's no need for us as writers to feel out of our element. Quite the contrary, I believe.

--Patrick

Patrick Linder said...

If you've written a book, you know that the actual "writing" is only a small chunk of your effort. Even before you get to promotion and marketing, you will have spent a great deal of time planning/outlining before you write, and a great deal of time editing after you write. Marketing becomes one more layer.

The good news, I think, is that writers have within themselves a natural marketer. I do both: write mysteries and work in marketing. I think it works best to think of marketing as simply crafting another narrative: what story do you want people to hear about your book and what narrative do you want them to associate with you as a brand? Writers are creative folks; it's just a matter of turning that creativity and that ability to create stories in a slightly different direction.

And as others have said, you then have to work just as hard at the marketing as you did at the writing itself. If you think of marketing as just as much art as science, though, there's no need for us as writers to feel out of our element. Quite the contrary, I believe.

--Patrick

Sunny Frazier said...

Just as Terry said, I think writing without pay can help you go far. I have done it all my life and continue to give out marketing advice, formed The Posse, and do much in acquisitions without pay. The rewards are there. Let's face it, my name is not lost on the Internet and I do get paid to speak, which then leads to book sales. Offer everything you've got to the world and you will be repaid ten fold.

Liane Spicer said...

That's a hard truth we all had to learn, and it applies whether you're large press, small press or indie. When I see the biggest names in the business flogging the blogs, tweets and book tours, I know there is no getting away from the marketing part of this job.

Captain Black said...

Given the seemingly inescapable fact that authors are now obliged to additionally train as marketeers, what do independent publishers bring to the table that a simple print-on-demand service doesn't?