(Cross posted at One Bite at a Time.)

Authors have been expected to pick up increasing amounts of the marketing responsibility for their books in recent years. The recent economic slump has not diminished publishers’ inclination in this direction. It is often recommended to include potential marketing hooks, and to describe what the author intended to do as a marketer, in the initial query letter.

Among the marketing ideas often promoted are tchotskies (bookmarks, postcards, pen, pencils, etc.), blogs, guest blogging on others’ blogs, web sites, FaceBook and MySpace pages, book signings (both as part of a tour or drop-ins), setting up print and radio interviews, and several others I’m sure I’m missing off the top of my head. All of these require substantial investments of time, and possibly cash, from the writer.

If this is to be the way of the world, so be it. No one is going to change because I don’t like it. What’s disturbing is how little guidance the publishers seem to provide in this matter. They have the contacts, marketing staffs, experience, and expertise. The author is a writer, who almost certainly lacks all of the above, and may well lack the skills to develop any of them. What works? Which of the current marketing methods are the most efficient, per dollar or hour spent? I do a lot of reading of blogs and Crimespace, and most of what little I have seen on this particular topic comes out as, “It depends.”

I readily admit I am, as yet, unpublished. Maybe the publishers do connect the dots once a contract is signed. If so, I see little public evidence. From my current position, it seems the author is on his own for much marketing, which means the publisher’s responsibilities are reduced to, essentially, advances, production, and distribution. Advances appear to be on the wane. Production and distribution are overhead, which is anathema to any self-respecting MBA, it would be no surprise to see these services cut back, as well.

Are publishers truly leaving authors so much on their own in the area of marketing? Following this to a logical conclusion can lead to the belief that publishing houses may be complicit in their own eventual demise, as they increasingly decline to perform the functions that make them necessary. That seems simplistic, even to me.

What am I missing?

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Comment by Sunny Frazier on March 26, 2009 at 12:13pm
I must be the odd duck because I LOVE marketing! My promo items have included fortune cookies with the title of my book inside (cookies are a clue in the book), miniature book covers with raisins glued on for FOOLS RUSH IN (the book is set in the San Joaquin Valley of CA--we make raisins), astrology themed pencils, camouflage pencils (my Guerrilla Writing Workshop), and now I have pill bottles with my name and book cover labels and filled with candy or cinnamon hearts (a clue in WHERE ANGELS FEAR).
I've been with two small publishers and there is no way they can promote me as well as I can. I'm helping my new publisher, Oak Tree Press, teach the others in the house how to promote. Billie Johnson even gave me a marketing column at the website http://www.oaktreebooks.com I plan to put together some of my techniques in a workbook.
It's my book. Who better to promote it? Why should I let someone else take charge of my career?
Comment by I. J. Parker on March 26, 2009 at 3:55am
Yes. And no, they don't provide advice.
Anything you want to do, you're welcome to do. On your own. My first publisher didn't even offer to arrange book signing dates.
You want to do what is feasible, what you enjoy or what you can afford, and what seems to reach the largest number of people. Book signings are on the bottom of that list. A good web site with e-mail address is at the top.

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