Welcome back readers! Like always, I’ll let you know some general news before we delve into today’s post.
PodCastle (the magazine I’m an Associate Editor at) is going to temporarily close our submissions to the general public sometime in June because our slush pile is getting huge. This is intended to give us time to catch up, but we will reopen unsolicited submissions in the future. If you have a fantasy, short story under 6,000 words and you’ve been wanting to submit to us (we pay $0.06/word) you might want to get on it.
In addition, I’ve been steadily recording podcast episodes and once I have 26 edited and recorded, I will go ahead and schedule them once every two weeks. This will allow a constant stream and since podcasting is a bit more labor intensive than writing, I don’t trust myself to have regular content unless I front-load the majority of the work.
One podcast will supplement the writing posts here, and another will be a tabletop RPG where guests will play characters for some collaborative storytelling. If you are interested in being a guest for either shoot me an email stcapps17(a)gmail.com with some background info and I will get back to you if I feel that you will be a good fit. With that out-of-the-way, on to our post.
Traditional Publishers DO Help with Marketing
For this week, we are going to be discussing marketing primarily from the traditional publishers viewpoint. Though I will be discussing traditional publishing many of these concepts can cross over to small press and self-published authors. The reason why I want to focus this post through trad. pub. lens is because there is a popular piece of “advice” that gets tossed around the writing community, which goes something like this:
“Publishing requires you to do your own marketing. Even if you get with one of the Big 5 publishers, they expect new authors to do their own marketing and are only going to help the writers who already have a name.”
I want to bring this up because this bit of truth is not really truth at all (at least the last little bit isn’t true). I wouldn’t say it is wrong because authors—regardless of how they are published—need to do some marketing if they want to have the best chance for commercial success. The reason why it is wrong is because it implies that a traditional publisher will not help a debut author with marketing. Even the less extreme form of this advice tells new writers that traditional publishers won’t do much to help a new writer. This is a misconception.
Marketing Isn’t Just Commercials
Many people who are just starting to get into publishing believe that marketing is running advertisements, commercials, and things in those veins in order to help increase sales. If you have ever noticed, it is rare to see an advertisement like this for a book. If you do then it is almost always for a huge bestseller like James Patterson, Stephen King, or somebody at that level. This leads many people to believe that the only people whom publishers actively market are the big names.
The reason why publishers do not use traditional advertisements often is because their ROI is incredibly low. According to Chron, the average cost of a commercial during American Idol was $475,000. In order to recoup that loss, a publisher would have to sell almost 24,000 books at $19.95 and that assumes the entire $19.95 is profit that only goes to the publisher. This is for one commercial. Think about that.
On average, it takes about 9,000 copies of a book to be sold in the first week in order qualify for the New York Times Bestseller list (source). Even with a bestseller, a publisher wouldn’t even begin to recoup the cost of a single commercial. Successful book publishing doesn’t justify the expense of using traditional marketing methods.
Book Marketing that Works
Publishers have realized that there is an entire world of marketing that is specific to the industry that is successful. Most people who read blogs often read books, but the same is not true for television. Just because someone sees a commercial for a book, doesn’t mean they will have any interest in buying it.
If you are picked up by a large publisher, you will be assigned a publicist. If you are self-pubbed this might be something you should consider. As long as you let them know that you’d like to do a blog tour, your publicist can help you do it. They have contacts at several, major blogs that are relevant to your genre. They will reach out and organize dates for you to have a guest post, an interview, or anything else that the blogger would want in order for you to be featured in front of their audience.
This allows you to be put in front of a market who are already readers and are interested in the type of book that you are writing. By coming in as a guest on a platform of someone they already trust, it doesn’t seem like you are the guy yelling “Buy my book” behind a table at a convention.
Speaking of conventions, your publicist will also help you get on panels. This is helpful because it is a spot of prominence in front of other experts and die-hard fans. These are the people who will rave to all their friends and help sell books for you. It is common for self-pubbed authors to be pushed to the side at major conventions and kept to the “Self-Published” area. If they are allowed on panels, they are often only put on panels that discuss self-publishing.
Finally, your publicist will help set you up with book signings. These are fantastic, but not for the fact that you get to sign books for your fans (at the beginning, it is common that the only people who will come are friends and family). They are great because they put you in a position to develop relationships with a bookseller.
If you have a signing in a week or two, go in and ask if you can talk to some of their staff that enjoy your genre. Build some rapport and offer to give each a free copy. In addition, request one thing: if they like it, you only want them to keep your book in mind if any of their customers need a recommendation. If your writing is strong, this can be the difference between earning out your advance and having your career die on book one.
All of this stuff is marketing. All of this stuff is much easier to accomplish if you have a publisher. This doesn’t mean indie and small press can’t do it, it is just that the credibility that Penguin, MacMillan, or any of the Big 5 lends to a debut author far outstrips what someone can do by themselves.
Thanks for reading everyone, and we are getting really close to the Writer’s Toolkit giveaway. If you haven’t done so, please sign up to my newsletter and hit the follow button below in order to be entered. I hope you are having a great day, and good luck with your writing.