Recently my contract with a publisher was coming to term and I decided not to renew it. Sales were non-existent, and aside from that, I just wasn't happy with certain aspects of my novel (my fault). The cover didn't appeal to me either. I explained this to my publisher.
My publisher's response was that there was nothing wrong with my book; the problem was that I had done nothing to promote it.
Okay, there is considerable truth in that. Shy as I am, I did try to get book signings, but I'd have done better and got more respect asking for change to buy a cup of coffee. Having very little money of my own to toss about, I certainly can't afford to advertise. My public library treated me like I was President Obama at a KKK tailgate party. Our newspaper proudly does not do book reviews.
I did join groups like Crime Space and eventually I was able to get my own website as well, but websites can take a long time to gain a following. I notice too that the followers I do get are mostly people trying to promote their own agenda.
Publishers start their presses not only to encourage talent, but to make money, at least I should think so. In any case, once they fire up that publishing company, they are in business, and the goal of any business has to be to make money, otherwise you can't stay in business.
Now if a writer sits down and begins writing his own Davinci Code, he's living in a dream world and there's no help for him, so I'll pass on to the rest of us. I'm sure almost all of us write because we feel the need to do so. Money? Great, but no one in his right mind is going to think, "Let's see now, how can I make a lot of quick money? Got it! I'll become a writer."
Let's face it, whether writers want to believe it or not, writing should nearly always be considered a hobby right alongside ceramics, gardening and building birdhouses.
When you start making a living from your literary efforts, then you're no longer a hobbyist.
Okay, now that we've established that publishers are trying to make money by publishing books, and writers are writing books to satisfy an inner craving, then it becomes pretty obvious that the entity that should have the greatest interest in promotion is the publisher. Of course that doesn't mean that they're going to do it. But at least I can gripe.
Admittedly many small publishing houses are working on a food stamp budget, but I believe advertising should be a good part of that budget. An attractive website is great, but someone has to seek it out. And then on that website they have to seek out a certain book. No one knows of the existance of most of the books on the web so how can they think to look for them. How may readers look for publishing houses on the web?
Even if they look for a certain genre of book, yours will be so far down the list on page 1192 (if you're lucky) that few surfers will venture so deep into the murky water of the Internet. In a brick and mortar bookstore or in the library, readers may actually bump into your book.
Writers, with notable exceptions, are already notoriously introverted unassuming persons who prefer to hide in their dens. In fact they're so much so that many use pen names. If they felt capable of going out and pushing a product, they'd already have a job as an Amway Independent Business Person. With a little money, they too could have a garage full of product. The product being their books.
A publisher, even a very small publisher, should certainly have more clout, more credibility, than an individual writer. I've tried to interest my local library in my books and they sneer at me. (Probably frustrated writers themselves!)
I feel pretty sure that if a publisher sent these same libraries little brochures featuring some of their books, the libraries would at least give them some consideration. If the local bookstores got application for a signing from a publishing house, I think there might be a better chance for the writer to get his pen in the door.
Print-on-demand books were for some time considered to be same as self-published books, but I think the tide is turning. Even e-books are becoming ever more popular with the advent of all the neat hardware the reader can tote around. But for all that, they don't get the respect of a solid printed book you can hold up, even autograph.
Maybe I'm just feeling sorry for myself, but I feel that for small publishers to get anyplace, it's not enough just to find talented writing, but they have to (a) advertise and (b) offer at least pod copies from the day they put the book on the market.