Archive: Hand-holding Ain’t Happening

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I’ll be in Salt Lake City from the 29th to the 1st, attending the World Horror Convention. I’ll have something from the archives for you here on the site each day, though. The conversation behind this blog post happened about a year and a half ago (OCT ’10), but my reasoning is as sound and relevant now as it was then. I probably won’t be changing my mind any time soon, either. The “publisher of my upcoming novella” is publishing the sequel later this year, has just pu

This week’s *facepalm* moment is courtesy of an author I spoke to online tonight. The author, who’ll probably come across this blog post given the wide dissemination my website’s material has across a variety of social media, is the father of a bouncing baby book. Self-published, POD-all-the-way-baby. Now, this may not be the kiss o’ death that it was a couple years ago; the marketplace is evolving, as I (and alot of better people than I) have pointed out on multiple occasions. It does have bearing on the rest of the situation, so I wanted to bring it up. Newly self-published author. With me so far?

Author pops up wanting to make small talk, and asks me about my side business, which is a Virtual Assistant company run by my wife and I. Because we mention marketing and promotional services, he thought maybe I did these things for authors. I don’t at present, though I am talking with a company about doing just that, but anyhow, all this led up to a discussion of this author’s marketing efforts. Basically, this guy is doing nothing to promote his book, isn’t sending out review copies (he stopped after ‘a few PDFs’) and is just ‘going to wait until a publisher picks up the next one. Promotion is their job.’ I’m paraphrasing him, but you get the idea.

What makes you think the publisher will have a promotional budget, or that they’ll be willing to spend it on you? I ask him. They’re not going to spend much money on promoting your work unless you’re a bestseller. They want a guaranteed return on that investment.

‘My agent will convince the publisher that I’m a bestseller,’ he responds. ‘That’s his job.’ But the guy isn’t promoting his book, isn’t sending out review copies, AND… I almost forgot… took down his website. Doesn’t have a website. In the third decade of the Information Age, during a time when the entire industry is changing (possibly in his favor, even, if he plays his cards right), when he’s already at a disadvantage by being a plankton in an ocean of self-published work, not all of which is (or will ever be) consumer-ready to begin with. No website, no reviews, and probably no sales numbers, because people aren’t just going to wake up in the morning knowing you exist.

Imagine if I walked into a random biker bar and told all the guys in there that they were going to give me all their money, without a fight, because I’m the best fighter any man has ever seen and they don’t wanna test me.

If your book’s intended audience is more than just friends and family, you need to be ready to market and promote your own work. Even if you have a publisher. Damnation Books, the publisher of my upcoming novella, even wanted my marketing strategy in writing once they decided they wanted the manuscript. Black Bed Sheet, the publisher of my second book, has been a partner in promoting my book since prior to publication, but even then, I’ve had to take the lead. They put the blurb I acquired from a pro author on the cover, but I had to get it. They’ve used quotes from reviews in their marketing material, but I sent the book to the reviewer (and tens of others). They sent print copies to reviewers who insisted upon them, but I made the initial contact and obtained mailing addresses.

I’m not dicking them down for that, either; it’s just a simple fact across the board that small presses have no budget for marketing. Another simple fact is that no one could possibly know the book better or want it to succeed more than the author themselves. It’s also not just a small-press syndrome, either. I’ve had authors from major publishers tell me about the lack of promotional support given them by the publisher. If you’re not Steve King, you’re probably gonna do the lion’s share. Alot of the authors you love are probably great at it, too. They have blogs, message boards, newsletters.

The worst part about the whole deal, though? This author isn’t ignorant. Ignorant, I can understand. In an era where any random asshole can self-publish his own book, it’s a simple matter of statistics that most of them aren’t going to know how to lay a book out, edit a manuscript or design a cover, let alone plan a marketing strategy and implement it. When all was said and done, though, after explaining to him everything outlined in the preceding paragraphs, his response was ‘Yeah, I know where you’re coming from. I used to think like that, but now I don’t.’ I was ignorant once. I did jack-shit when my first book came out, and I got jack-shit in return. Learned my lesson, though.

Seriously? I wish him the best, but I think he’d be better off giving my biker-bar strategy a try. The end would come quicker.

For those who don’t want their hands held, but could use a little hand up, here are my essays on procuring blurbs and reviews and webpage design for writers.

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