What does it mean to promote a book in 2011? What can/should an author expect from a publisher when they get signed?
At a bare bones minimum, I'd expect a publisher to:
1) Make the book for sale on its website
2) Get the word out about the book on social media
3) Send copies to reviewers
Ideally, I'd add these others:
4) Get the word out about the book through an e-mail newsletter using e-mails it farmed (i.e. not renting a list)
5) Arrange blog tours, book signings and interviews.
6) Send out press releases to media outlets.
From the author's perspective, a publisher never promotes enough (or at all). From the publisher's perspective, authors should shoulder the majority of the promotion.
Thus, an immovable object meets an unstoppable force.
So, 'Spacers, what do you think? What is "promoting" a book in 2011?
I'll second that. I've been a professional musician for 3-4 decades, and I still practice my trumpet every day. EVERY day, 7 days/week, whether I've got a headache or not, or a cold, or I just plain don't feel like it. It's the same with writing. I wrote 3 novels over ten years (while teaching music and gigging) and threw them away. They were NOT ready for prime time. But writing them wasn't a waste. I learned how to write a novel, learned what pitfalls to avoid, learned how to create characters and streamline plots. We learn by doing. And doing. And doing.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.
You're right on the money with your observations. Konrath works because he puts an inordinate amount of time into his efforts. The kind of time most writers who work for a living can't possibly mimic. For me to hit a bookstore(s) means I may have to travel 70 to 200 miles a week to accomplish.
Can't do it. Can't take that much time off from work to, much less actually afford that much traveling week after week after week.
So my only alternative is to somehow figure a way to establish a presence on the internet. Or . . . dark I say it . . . actually find a publisher who is so mesmerized with my writing ability they are willing to pitch in.
Oh, yes. But these days that's not an option. You decide how low you'll go on advance without promotion in hopes that the book may somehow break out anyway.
If such a deal were to be made, the details of publisher promotion need to be spelled out.
As some of you know, I was with one of the big guys for my last two books and now I'm with a small press. Whoever believes small presses don't promote, let me say that I think a lot promote way more than a big press would. You get closer attention and most indie/smaller presses have fewer authors to deal with so they can concentrate on each author more. The bigger press might have more money or a few more contacts (not necessarily meaning more than some smaller or indie presses in every case) but if they have those things and don't use them for every author, what's the point? The fact is most authors who end up with big houses will end up being neglected and after a while, you'll be on your own.
I won't go into the things I experienced in terms of promotion in the past but let me say I am extremely happy with being with an indie press now and they are helping me ten times more than any other pub I've been with. I agree with Ben that what he says SHOULD be what pubs do at least. Sadly many are not even doing that. It's now getting to where if you want to send a certain amount of books for reviews, you have to order them yourself and ship them out. Pubs are sending out fewer author copies which most authors used for review purposes. The pubs might send a few books out for you but it probably won't be as many as you'd like them to. I've heard of some presses sending as less as five copies for reviews then they leave it to the author to pick up from there.
Another thing I like about indie and smaller presses is that they are more open to the author's input when it comes to promotion. They work with you and take what you say into consideration. They will be honest and let you know what they are able to do and what they can't. I respect that instead of being with a pub where you have made arrangements for some big publicity thing that they were supposed to help you with, only to have them say they can't fulfill the obligation. It's the close attention I like and the fact that I actually feel like I'm being listened to when I have suggestions of my own. With big houses it's their way or the highway whether you like it or not.
As for review copies, I now only send PDF's for reviews. That's my new policy. If a reviewer doesn't wanna accept a PDF for review then I move on but a lot more reviewers are accepting ebooks. It's better and easier for the authors and less expensive if you get to where you have to start ordering your own books. I spent tons of money the last time shipping books out for reviews (yes when I was with a big house). I'm not doing it this time. Authors have to start looking our for themselves and doing what's best for them.
Yep, everything is changing and sadly some pubs won't even put stock in Internet promotion.