Thursday, August 21, 2014

Attributing Success--Or Not

I’ve been in many heated discussions with author’s groups covering many different subjects. However, when the subject of marketing came up, as it always does, the mood turns sour.  Each time I mention that authors must market to succeed, board groupies get very upset.  Most seem to feel an author’s only job is to write and it’s always the publisher’s job to do all the marketing. However, this isn’t and has never been the case in the long history of publishing.

Of course authors should write, but also it’s also in an author’s best interest to get his or her author name and books in front of as many potential readers as possible. Even though a publisher edits and publishes a book, it’s still the author’s book and every author should want to make sure his or her book is successful.

Even suggesting writers must market always opens a fire-storm of protest from the writer board side of the argument. This is because most new authors will trust their fellow supposedly knowledgeable authors who are notorious for giving out bad advice. The tactic board jockeys always use is to make anyone who opposes their argument look stupid by ganging up, misquoting and bullying any opposition into silence.

That an author is going to market his or he book is the expectation of all publishers. To back up this point, here is a quote from Jenny Bent, owner of the Bent Agency and formerly an agent with the Trident Media Group, one of the largest literary agencies in the world. This is from a paper she wrote in 2002 and is entitled, What to Expect When You’re Published?

Q: How much marketing and publicity can I expect from my publisher? Can we put something in the contract about this? And just was is my agent’s role in publishing my book?

A: I don’t know any authors, and this includes multi-published authors with million dollar deals, that are happy with the amount of publicity and marketing they receive from their publisher. Please be prepared to do as much as you possibly can in terms of your own publicity and marketing. Hiring your own publicist is always a good idea, and if handled correctly, will be welcomed by your publisher. If you look at the New York Times bestseller list, at least half of the writers on it will have worked or are still working with independent publicists. The big names in  particular always use an outside publicist in addition to the publicity their publishers provides…

Nothing has changed. Ms. Bent is not alone in saying this. Here is a list of others who go even further in insisting that authors must market to be successful.

Do Authors Really Need to Promote Their Own Books?

Many more articles can be found that also back up the idea that if an author doesn’t market they will not sell many books. You might also ask board jockeys who advocate it’s the publisher’s job to market your book where they got this information and how successful they are using those tactics. Also, don’t take their word for their successes. Always check out their sales ranking on Amazon.


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Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with the comments about writers taking responsibility for their own marketing. The idea that it is the job of someone else (somehow or the other) is a deep-rooted one. I work as a Marketing Director and have noticed the same thing occurs in other professions. When I worked with lawyers, for example, many thought that once they had achieved their qualifications, it was someone else's job to make the phone ring and the email fill up every day. They thought it was beneath them somehow to do anything other than "be a lawyer". The best professionals learnt many years ago, of course, that they needed to be out and about promoting themselves at every turn. The Golden Period when professionals just did the work they enjoy only really exists as a figment of the imagination.

As writers we need to imagine that virtually no marketing support is available from the publisher and go from there. This is what is increasingly expected.

The worst that will happen is that we end up surprised at the "additional support" they can provide.

Martin Brown Publishers said...

Thank you Anonymous for your understanding that marketing is also the author's responsibility and also bringing up that writing is not the only profession where professionals feel this way. It is purely understandable that some authors might not feel they understand how to go about marketing their product. If you find yourself in that situation, the first person you should contact is your publisher. If you're self-published and don't know the first thing about marketing, there's a wealth of information online on this subject. If you really don't want to be bothered, an alternative is to hire a publicist. However, whatever you do, do not feel that books will sell themselves because this a fools errand.