From the Vault: Turning the Tables

Tommy Hancock posted an interesting piece at his blog (“Ideas Like Bullets“) recently and I wanted to offer some opinion of my own in response. The gist of his post was that books become best sellers in large part through the promotional efforts of those involved — which should go without saying but often I find myself pointing it out to people who seem to ignore that fact. He then goes on to list what he feels is the responsibility of the publisher — “…although the writer(s) are encouraged to promote and obviously have a vested interest in doing such with their material, the publisher steps up and assumes the role of Promoter/Marketer/Singer of Praises from on high. This is the framework used in Publishing houses for many many moons and in the larger houses especially. Now, none of us are a large house, not even Moonstone, so getting the staff of a book involved in the process is still crucial, but there are some who would say that a Publisher, unless that company specifically says ‘I’m printing it, but not promoting it beyond an initial press release,” has a duty to be the primary promoter of that book in any way possible, getting as much out on the story, the writer, and all involved as possible.”

I agree with this wholeheartedly. There are, however, many publishers who do not fall into that model. They feel — and often will state this in a roundabout fashion — that their main function is to publish said work. They may send out a press release announcing it’s out (sometimes just on Facebook or their own mailing list) but the promotional work falls on the author. I understand that not everyone has the time or money to embark on major publicity campaigns but I do feel a publisher — if they’re truly a publisher and not just a facilitator — should help with marketing. I always try to market my own work but I definitely expect the publisher to do their fair share. When I was with my previous publisher, they mostly fell into the facilitator model — they did an excellent job prepping the book for release but the marketing aspect consisted of an announcement that the book was released — anything beyond that really fell upon me. Now, to be fair, they never promised me more than that — but there were times that I felt my work was being lost in the sea of pulp releases. So when I signed on with Pro Se, one of the main reasons I went with them over other publishers was because they promised to be more diligent about promotion.

There are many ways to promote material — via social media, blogs and news releases. You can run contests or offer incentives. You can go on GoodReads and offer up a prize drawing. All of those are things that all authors — and publishers! — should be doing. And you know what? They don’t really cost anything, other than time. To me, if a publisher isn’t going to promote material to the best of their ability, then an author would be better served forming their own publishing imprint and going it alone. You can always find artists, editors and more — many who are actually willing to work for back-end profits or even for free. You want your work to look good and be professionally presented but authors have many avenues of their own these days to make that happen. If you choose to split your profits with a publisher, then the publisher should do some of the legwork after the book is published.

Again, I am NOT saying that a publisher should do ALL the promo work. That’s not possible and it’s not even sensible. As an author, you need to decide what you want out of the publisher/author relationship and then take on the personal responsibility to push your own brand to the masses — and you should have the full assistance of your publisher. If you’re doing all the promo work on your own, though, I’d really ask you what you’re getting out of having a publisher at all. Is it the editing? The graphic design?

Things to think about, my friends. Writers no longer require a publisher. Keep that in mind. It’s not just about you crawling on your knees to please them so they’ll publish your book. Many successes out there, in print and eBooks, show us that you can flourish without a publisher.

And make your publisher work for you. After all, you’re paying them in the form of profits from your work. If your current publisher isn’t cutting it, shop around. Find one who will.

Take the reigns!