It’s a common complaint among authors that their publisher doesn’t do enough publicity for their book: the book tour is too short, if it exists at all; the advertising is too spare, if there is any; the reviews are too few, if any are published. Now, I’ve been in this business long enough to see both ends of the spectrum: books with million-dollar-plus advertising lavished on them that have sold miserably; those with nary a penny laid out for promotion flourishing in the marketplace. Conclusion: marketing, publicity, and advertising don’t necessarily mean sales. So how does one go about marketing one’s book?
First of all, the author needs to understand that if she doesn’t know who the right audience for her book is, and how to reach them, then her publisher won’t either. She needs to ask her contacts to support her work, and not rely on a third party (unknown to the contact) to do the heavy lifting, since it’s much easier for the contact to screen out a third-party pitcher than the contact’s friend or associate who happens to be the author. It’s might make your skin crawl, but you can’t be shy.
Secondly, the author must realize that he needs to take charge of the process. This is true whether he’s published by a big house or a small concern. He needs to make the follow-up calls, book the venues, call in the favors. He does this because he cares and because he can, and not because the publishers are lazy. The author is the best voice for the work: own it.
Thirdly, think of the book as much more than a collection of words. It’s a calling card, a ticket to tenure or speaking engagements, a repository of articles for magazines and blogs that need to be mined and refined for the right audience. Instead of waiting for the sparse royalty checks to come in, use your book in a dynamic and multivalent way. You then have many roads available to you rather than one narrow and potentially potholed pathway to success.
Finally, use social media. This can be difficult. My author Kim Stallwood has written a wonderful, evocative, and telling memoir (called Growl) that talks about the life and strategic lessons he’s learned in forty years of animal advocacy. Yet precisely because of those four decades of work, he doesn’t have much money. He lives in the U.K. and is trying to raise cash on Indiegogo to come to the States to speak: you buy the book and/or a perk or two, and he gets the dough.
I think it would be fair to say that the campaign is not going as well as might be hoped—because (I suspect) people somehow assume that (a) publishers have a lot of money, (b) they should be the ones paying for the tour, and (c) because they’re donating to a charity rather than getting something in return. Fundamentally, everyone—readers, authors, and publishers—needs to get out of the mindset that books have a value only when all the sunk costs (the time and money it takes to write, produce, publicize, and sell the title) have somehow been magically absorbed by a mysterious force, leaving only the retail price behind.
In other words, we need to start paying in advance, which means coughing up cash for your favorite author to produce your content and take it to the world. So, buy Kim’s book! It’s going to take some time to change that mindset, but it is happening. It’s my hope that that reimagining of the author–reader relationship may just save the industry, and make publicity woes such as the above a thing of the past.