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.




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Comment by C.M. Albrecht on May 26, 2011 at 3:35am
Hi Dorothy. If you know something I don't know about promoting on line, please share your info with me. I try to follow all the suggestions, I have a blog and a website and bathe regularly, but none of that has done much if anything for sales. I note that my "following" on the website is actually composed of people who are promoting on line, not really fans.
Comment by Dorothy Thompson on May 25, 2011 at 3:21pm
My goodness, did you ever think about promoting online?  That's where the biggest sales are coming from nowadays.
Comment by I. J. Parker on May 24, 2011 at 1:02am

Penguin was on the whole very cooperative.  It was St. Martin's that didn't bother to help me with local books stores, turning B&N down until I made an effort to get them to OK it.

As for reviews: the downside is that few papers have review sections. And the big papers tend to cover important titles (usually from the big houses). Publicity departments there build relationships with newspapers. So, I've mailed out books and not got reviewed, even after personally asking a reviewer for permission to submit. I do have one friendly reviewer left who will review if the paper allows it.


I'm also fortunate in that I have old reviews that are very quotable, but I happen to love reviews and miss them.


Comment by Mary McFarland on May 23, 2011 at 11:45pm

I.J., thanks.  Sounds to me like what C.M. is saying is so true.  It definitely jives with what I've been seeing and absorbing about the trend by publishers to have authors do it all, in addition to writing the books. 


Sounds like you declined the book signing tour, and since they (Penguin, who is not a small publisher) didn't arrange your B&N tour, can't say I blame you.  Wow (shaking my head at the lack of promo).  


Are you getting any reviews for your ARCs yet?  

Comment by C.M. Albrecht on May 23, 2011 at 8:51am

Thanks for the info about signings. I have a feeling a signing wouldn't help a lot and didn't like the idea anyway bcause to be truthful I have a condition with my hand so that it's almost impossible for me to write anything legible.  I think signings are great for people like Chaz who get a lot of pub. for a hot item, but for the average fiction book, I don't really think so.

You mentioned Penguin. Even though I don't like it, I can understand most small publishers having a hard time with promotion, but I've heard more than once that the big publishers fall down a lot in that area. I've heard too many stories about hardcover books appearing and then ending up shortly at Big Lots and Dollar Tree.

I'd rather not see my books out there at all if they're going to end up on a messy table in a store full of odds and ends.

I just wish publishers would put a little effort into getting themselves known to public libraries. I know lots of people would read the same book for free, but at least there's the hope of building a following.

Comment by I. J. Parker on May 23, 2011 at 8:27am
Well, Mary, since I've balked at doing their publicity work for them, I can only say that they started by wanting me to do it all. That is, book signings, travel, etc. SMP didn't even arrange my B&N signings.And B&N wouldn't let me sign unless the publisher cleared it first.  Eventually they did, but it certainly shows their lack of interest in promoting the books they publish.  I informed Penguin after a book tour they arranged for me (mostly small stores in-state), that book signings weren't selling enough copies to make it a useful form of publicity.  Small publishers tell you that they do not send out ARCs to enyone but the 4 trade publications.  Naturally, there is no budget.  I'm using my 10 author's copies to beg for a few reviews and submit for an award. 
Comment by Mary McFarland on May 22, 2011 at 9:10am
C.M., I agree.  Small publishers should provide an advertising budget and identify in writing the strategy and the amount they'll use to help sell your book (I'm hoping I.J. will help me answer this: do they?).  That being said, it seems to me the trend is to make authors do a big chunk of their own marketing by developing their marketing platforms and integrating them with Web 2.0 social media.  I think the idea is to make us, the writers, marketing partners who are responsible for driving traffic to our Web sites and blogs and, then, to Amazon and/or small publishing houses.  It's ruthless.  It's cut throat - like any other business.    
Comment by I. J. Parker on May 22, 2011 at 4:26am
The average advance for a first contract with a big house used to be $ 5,000.00.  For small publishers, advances run 2 to 3,000.00.
Comment by C.M. Albrecht on May 22, 2011 at 3:21am
I agree. In my case I don't know what an advance is, small or large. But if an advance were involved, I'd be happy to forego it in favor of some publicity.
Comment by I. J. Parker on May 22, 2011 at 1:09am
What you say goes for all publishers.  If they can't afford that then they have no business taking the book on.  Writers who are anxious to be published the oldfashioned way might do better if they settled for an extremely low advance in exchange for publicity.

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