Life On Venus: Authors Do Market

May 21st, 2008 · 36 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

Dan Green is one of my favorite bloggers — smart and provocative — even though we see the world from very different perspectives. I would rather read a 1000 of his words over 10 of most bloggers, even when he takes exception to one my recent comments, one where I was baffled about authors who shun marketing:

Why should this be baffling? If writers wanted to be marketers, presumably they would have become. . .marketers. Instead they chose to be writers, presuming that marketing was the job of publishers.

If one wants to be a “writer” and just write, that is his or her prerogative, but once becomes a published “author”, then you’re moving from the world of art to the world of commerce. Part of the job of the author is to sell books; I am not convinced there was ever an age when publishers put all manner of effort into selling books — and selling books is very much different from selling authors — but it takes thirty seconds in a bookstore to know that a lot of effort is required to rise above the noise.

Some authors might very well limp along without an active marketing strategy, but reality is that you have to sell certain numbers to earn that next contract (there are some, sure, who skate in life, but publishing is a dirty business, and if you don’t meet targets, you don’t win). Self-published authors have to market even harder. If you want someone to read what you’ve written, you have to alert them to the fact that the words exist. I can write endless words (and have), but the moment I deem something publishable and send it off to the world, my relationship with that text changes.

Successful authors engage in active marketing. They get it. It might not be natural, but it’s part of the job, just as writing books is part of the job. Signings, book tours, media appearances, begging for reviews. Authors who get glowing ”New York Times” reviews still find themselves knocking on doors, trying to get their names out. A publisher might give you four weeks of love; after that, what?, your book is dog meat? You don’t get to sell more books?

You’ll note that I distinguished between the book and the author above. The book is that point in time thing, the product being pushed right now (yeah, this is why I so deliberately separate the writing job from the author job) while the author is an entity requiring ongoing effort. The publisher helps to achieve its own goals by publishing a single book (or books, should you be lucky enough to get a multi-book deal) while the author is responsible for the care and feeding of an entire career.

It is peculiar that some believe that authors should be exempt from marketing themselves. It’s expected for musicians — who have a similar relationship with their record labels (yeah, still call them records) — they book tours and sell merchandise. Yes, all obvious business differences are duly noted. While the labels are trying to get a piece of the action, musicians realize that they need to engage in marketing to be successful. Visual artists set up shows; nobody blinks when a photographer sets up an exhibit at a gallery. To say “this is not my job” is to say “well, you know, I’m not really serious about my career.”

It’s not crude capitalism to want to sell your work — for so many writers, this is the fulfillment of their dreams and goals. I’m not going to pull out the tired Johnson quote, because I agree with the sentiment but disagree with the frequent interpretation of it, but wanting to make a living from what you love (and sometimes loathe) doing is not a bad thing.

But to make that living, you have to sell books.

Green sees the need for author-initiated marketing as a failure of capitalism, and while I would take an even harsher view than his when it comes to the failures of modern publishing (and an even harsher view of investors who are so “now” focused that they don’t see sustainability as a business model), I do not agree that taking on the mantel of marketing is “cheerfully” giving in to this. This what authors do. Look at successful authors from all genres — how many are crossing their fingers and hoping for magic beans?

Take advantage of everything your publisher offers and demand even more, but do not cede your career, your image, your future to an entity that views your work as a product in a line of products. Nobody cares more about your future than you do, and if you’re wanting to be precious about your art, then you’re going to be one of those people who grows bitter because you never had a chance. The perfect world where authors don’t market is a bit like a heaven where all the streets are lined with gold and all the lawns are perfectly green and we’re all our most beautiful selves.

I would love to live in a world where writers did just writing and publishers did everything else, but even as I imagine this dream world, one I like, I still see the author engaged in marketing. As a stakeholder in the success of your book — you’ve written this because you have something to say and you certainly want someone to read it — it’s incumbent upon you to make sure you’re reaching the right audience.

Writing a book is art, publishing one is business. Writers don’t like to think this way — I am reminded of would-be first-time author who, prior to meeting with an agent, declared, “I refuse to change a single word. I don’t care.” And I thought, “Good lucky getting published, honey.” — but successful authors tend to be more practical souls.

All entertainment media is changing. Book people, even me, like to see books, reading as somehow different, special, above it all. No, we’re not. Since I’m from Venus (truly, ask my Mom who still lives there, one block down from Mercury), I’ll let Dan Green remain on Earth. But out here in the greater universe, authors engage in active marketing of their work and their careers. Because they care.

File Under: Marketing For Introverts · Perennials

36 responses so far ↓

  • Steven Augustine // May 21, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    “Good lucky getting published, honey.”

    Let’s not forget that there exist not only writers out there who don’t need or want the money, but also a recent technological innovation that can afford them readers without “submitting” (I love that word) work to any agent or publisher.

    As I recently put it to a “fan” (I do get a complimentary letter now and then), “My motto: It’s amazing how much interesting Art you can make when you don’t expect to get paid for it.”

    The truth is, the amount of time spent promoting one’s art can easily equal the hours spent on a job that’s far more lucrative than writing is for all but the luckiest micro-minority of professional writers, especially considering the fact that degree of remuneration is not, necessarily, tied to the quality of one’s writerly product (some would argue that it’s an inverse proportion). I know writers with several books out, under the aegis of bigtime houses, who don’t earn what I pay in heating bills every year.

    It’s an exercise in nostalgia (for an era before television, during which magazines were massmedia) to suggest that writing is a “career”, isn’t it? Of that very small numbers of writers (of literary fiction) who actually manage to earn big time grownup money for one book, how many manage to repeat the trick a second, third and fourth times? Precious few. And having writing as a “career” would necessitate repeating the trick at least a dozen times, wouldn’t it?

    Grasping the new paradigm is merely a matter of catching up with very old news: the literary author who does it for *money* is making a mistake, in all but the lightning-strikes-on-a-sunny-day cases. Do it for the love (that’s a euphemism for rather a darker, deeper compulsion, isn’t it? laugh) of writing, but be smart about it.

    Find a really cool job (a “creative” one, if you have another talent) and pay for your Art that way. That’s how I do it; I only have to work a few days every month, the rest of the time is spent writing (and being a husband/father). I actually sat down, years ago, and carefully plotted the whole thing out.

    Considering recent figures of how many books the “average” literary writer sells, I’ve got *far* more readers (even factoring in the troubled Googlers who’ve wandered in under the false pretenses of “asian granny donkey socks” ) than lots of writers who can brag they’re “published”.

    Even F. Scott Fitzgerald relied on magazine-writing to pay for those parties…. where are those magazines now?

  • Jim Murdoch // May 22, 2008 at 4:04 am

    I read Green’s comment too and, to my mind, if he wants to blame the way publishing is evolving as the failure of capitalism then fine. Now I know who to shout at. But it doesn’t change the fact that this is the way the world now is. I wish it wasn’t. Some people can sing and some can write songs but it’s the singer-songwriters that seem to do best. So too, I imagine, do the writer-marketers.

    The information is readily available on how to do it. The problem is, just as there are too many books out there in competition with yours, there are too many people telling you how to go about it – do this, do that, use this, pay that – that it can be intimidating (I mean, who do you trust?) but it can be done without having to take out a second mortgage on your house. And then again, you might read everything there is to read, follow all the rules and your book still sinks like a brick.

  • Marion Gropen // May 22, 2008 at 6:19 am

    I could not agree with our hostess more! I hear this complaint from unsuccessful authors all the time. And I feel for them, but no one is forcing them to publish. And if their publisher is going to invest the $20,000 or so that launching a typical trade book requires, then that publisher has a right to expect that the author will execute ALL of his or her responsibilities, not just the ones that they like.

    And, let’s face it, publishers are making a LOT less money than most writers, editors and innocent bystanders THINK they’re making. I’m not sure that it’s POSSIBLE for most publishers to do more within the current economic realities.

  • Kirk // May 22, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Steven – correct me if I’m wrong, but I was always under the impression that literary fiction was one small segment of the overall market. There are many types of writers. And lots of them do make a living from their writing.

    I sense that part of the confusion here stems from the belief that only “serious authors” are, well, serious authors.

  • Bella Stander // May 22, 2008 at 11:01 am

    You tell ‘em, Kassia! Fantastic post. I just linked to it in “You have to sell books”.

    Most authors don’t make a living from their books. Most actors don’t make a living from acting either. But that doesn’t mean that writing and acting aren’t worthwhile endeavors, nor that it’s a waste of time to publicize one’s work in order to become better known and thus earn more.

    Cheers,
    Bella

  • Joseph Devon // May 22, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Coming in from a different angle, as I writer I’ve found that whenever I get into the mindset of *having* to market myself, my writing starts to suck. Plain and simple. Whenever I stop worrying about marketing my writing improves. I’d be careful about convincing all authors to be marketers. The two mindsets are opposed to the point of being mutually exclusive.

  • Dan Green // May 22, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    “Take advantage of everything your publisher offers and demand even more, but do not cede your career, your image, your future to an entity that views your work as a product in a line of products. ”

    I understand this perspective. Under current circumstances, I can’t deny it makes sense. I just find it very sad that even book publishing has come to be an activity that regards books “as a product in a line of products.” For some writers who don’t see what they write as “product,” the best course of action might simply be to opt out. Or to do what Steven Augustine has done.

  • Kassia Krozser // May 22, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Steven — What is a career? I have several, simultaneously. In my lucrative job, I am a consultant. That allows me to indulge less lucrative careers. But I take my writing career as seriously as I take that consulting job. And you didn’t address the issue of marketing yourself as an author.

    I’m guessing that, like most writers, you have sufficient ego to want to be read (I’m not ashamed to admit that the reason I publish so publicly is because I want people to read and react to my words). How do you expect readers to find you? Do you not engage in some sort of marketing? C’mon, it’s okay to admit it.

    I’ve addressed alternative forms of publishing, and alternative forms of compensation, including free, many times before. I’m a massive advocate of breaking down the status quo. I acknowledge the pros and cons of each choice. You clearly weighed these in making your decision; others do the same.

    But your model isn’t going to work for everyone. Many, many authors want to get paid and want to publish physical books. They enter into commercial relationships with publishers because, while they’ll never earn what their time is worth, they see that deal as the best way to achieve their goals. I don’t judge your publishing model, but if you’re going to pretend that marketing isn’t a component, then I have to wonder what you think marketing is.

    If you were lucky enough to build a decent readership by simply posting content and allowing random readers to find you in the great morass that is the Internet, I am in awe. Truly. Finding a serious, devoted readership is hard work. Is your blogroll not a form of marketing?

    I have a horribly practical soul, which wars with my equally rich fantasy world. But I know that authors who are serious about their work engage in marketing. They don’t have to like it, but they have to do it.

    Unless, as noted in my original post, you are lucky enough to be Thomas Pynchon or J.D. Salinger. Then your marketing campaign becomes a passive process due to your perceived reputation.

  • Kassia Krozser // May 22, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Dan — In my previous comment, I noted that my practical side fights my fantasy life. Books are products to a certain segment of the market. They are treasures to another. For them to be product for some people doesn’t make them any less magical for others.

    Book publishing has always been a business, at least since books began to be sold. This is a good thing, and the delicate balance this creates allows publishers to indulge in as many financially unviable books as they do quick buck titles. To disregard the business of publishing — and a lot of book people do — is to do the object you love a disservice. I remain unconvinced that marketing is a modern phenomenon. Authors have always engaged in self-marketing.

    It doesn’t make me sad, but it makes me realize that my role in the process (as a reader) is so important. Modern technology allows us to publish in new and exciting ways, but it doesn’t change the fact that the book — the physical object — remains a critical part of our culture. It doesn’t change the fact that there are far more authors out there than publishing dollars.

    And I am thankful for those authors who self-market and introduce me to good books that might have been lost in the mist.

  • Kassia Krozser // May 22, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    Joseph — it’s two sides of the brain. You don’t write all the time and you don’t market all the time. Finding balance between your two jobs is, well, part of the job.

    Nobody can or will force you to market. It’s your choice, but you can’t expect readers to do all the heavy lifting. At least give them a way to find you.

  • Steven Augustine // May 23, 2008 at 10:45 am

    “Is your blogroll not a form of marketing?”

    (Picks self off floor, red-eyed and breathless, after laughting several hours)

    Have you seen my blogroll?

  • Clive Warner // May 23, 2008 at 11:44 am

    I’ve got it now …. I think. My next novel will have a protagonist who plays GTA and Halo all the time, so I will liberally sprinkle references and cheats throughout the text, then whenever anyone searches for cheats for the games my novel will appear as a Google hit. Whatever story it might contain will be irrelevant. . .

  • Clive Warner // May 24, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Yep, this has been the key to a new concept, all right. Bound to get lots of hits for my new novel, I’ve written the opening already:

    Britney Lance’s eyes were like spears piercing the gloom in the Starbucks on Fifth Avenue. She twisted her Rolex with one hand while Googling “sex” + “love” + “rock” on her Sony Vaio with the other. Just then her latest boyfriend, Johnny from the DEPartment store, poked her Blackberry in the Face on iPhone Book, or was it the other way around, life was so confusing these days …

  • Digital readers, Gladwell, fields of study, Invisible Universe | WriteBlack // May 25, 2008 at 1:44 am

    [...] you’re going to have be responsible for your own marketing. Get over [...]

  • Joseph Devon // May 25, 2008 at 6:01 am

    I’m not saying an author should hold their breath, cross their arms, and stubbornly insist that they do NO marketing (that’ just as preposterous a stance as saying they should do all their marketing). So, K, yes, I’ll concede some of your point. But I don’t believe the abilities are evenly divided. In other words, I probably wind up in “marketer mindset” five, or ten percent of the time, just inadvertently getting into conversations about writing and what have you. But to force beyond that to fifty-fifty isn’t such a good idea in my experience. There was a time when I was convinced I should become my own best marketer and I became so stressed out I herniated a disc in my neck. I also wrote garbage. So, no, I don’t believe in *never* marketing myself, but I do believe an author paired with a marketer, not necessarily a publisher, is the duo of the future. I’m not even sure what services a publisher would provide for me nowadays. Someone whose natural mindset is ninety percent writing teamed up with someone whose mindset is ninety percent marketing could make a tremendous impact. Maybe. Distribution is a problem.
    Anyway, I still think telling authors to be their own marketers is a mistake. Come at it from the other way. If you understand marketing so much, why don’t you be the one to complete the package by taking up book writing?

  • Joseph Devon // May 25, 2008 at 6:44 am

    Oh, and I do have a place where readers can find me. My website.
    Go there. Read stories. Enjoy.

  • Kassia Krozser // May 25, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Joseph — I’m certainly not saying this should be a 50/50 split. Each author has to find his or her own balance. And, if you’re wandering out there on the Internets, you’re seeing a large number of authors who are, with varying degrees of success, working those roles.

    Publishers do several things very well: editorial (okay, I’ll concede up front that point is debatable, but I’m one who firmly believes in the power of a good editor), manufacturing/print, distribution (physical distribution still matters in a huge way), and advertising — of the single book. They might even engage in some marketing, some serious promotion, but those dollars tend not to trickle down to mid-list and below.

    Your idea that a third party marketer could fill the void is intriguing, and I think that’s the direction you’re seeing traditional book promoters head. But then comes the cost — most writers simply don’t make enough money to pay a good marketer. Sad but true.

    For me (and thank you for asking!), I divide my schedule between a lot of commitments, including one to writing fiction and non-fiction. It’s a hugely delicate balance — clients, remodel, writing, marketing, family, friends, mental health, physical health, you know the stuff that goes into life — but it’s a constant process, one that I have to tweak and refine as things come and go. I ignored your comment this morning because fiction writing took priority. Tomorrow, even though it’s a holiday, will probably dawn with fulfillment of non-fiction responsibilities. Later, fiction again, then other projects.

    So I’m doing the whole package, just like lots of other people. Some work, I know will only succeed in printed/bound format (in order to reach the right readership), other work reaches the right audience online, and another project is, after much forcing of square pegs into round holes, taking on a decidedly non-book, minimal text format. Again, it’s about the audience. Took a while to wrap my head around doing something in a different format — I am, after all, a writer and think in words — but I had to concede that it wasn’t about me. That hurt.

  • Kassia Krozser // May 25, 2008 at 9:19 am

    BTW, Steven, yeah, saw your blogroll. That’s why I made my comment. Think about it…

  • Joseph Devon // May 25, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    K,
    When I mentioned that I wasn’t sure what roles a traditional publisher could provide for me anymore, what I meant to say was I’m not sure what roles they could provide that I wouldn’t be able to cobble together here and there from other sources. You mentioned editing, which I’ll split with you (you believe in great editing, I’m fine with someone who will point out my typos and massive mistakes). So, for my part I could get that elsewhere. As for book manufacturing, that’s no longer the domain of the publisher. Books are preposterously cheap. That’s a big reason things are the way they are. No more than two decades ago the best way to produce large amounts of books involved etching large silver slabs with the text, running ink over them, then running those engravings over paper (this is obviously a little oversimplified but it’s not too far off). It was a huge cost and required large print runs to make it cost effective. When it became possible to store the text on a hard drive instead of a giant silver tablet things changed and it was much much easier to publish a book. The downside was that it became much much easier to agree to publish a book as well. I really think that’s how the industry got to where it is today. Publishers slowly realized that they could acquire far more titles, taking that many more chances at bestsellers, and increase their successes. What few people grasped was that *everyone* was going to do this, the market was going to flood with titles, and attention per book was going to decrease. It’s not a good thing, it’s not a bad thing, it’s just what happened. Books became cheap.
    What was I talking about? Oh, so as far as things I need from a traditional publisher, book manufacturing isn’t one of them. There are hundreds of companies who will offer you publishing abilities for a small fee (and yes, this is a very new and clunky industry, but it’s getting better and better every day).
    So that leaves marketing and distribution as far as what I need from my publisher (although I wouldn’t call them my publisher seeing as how publishing isn’t one of the services I need them for). Marketing is what we’re discussing now and I’ll come back to that. Distribution I’ll happily give you. That’s the toughest nut to crack. Although part of me also thinks that the best way to crack it is to ignore it. The distribution problem could possibly solve itself if great authors and great marketers started pairing up and generated enough demand, even on the small scale at first. I get the feeling someone out there would step up (for a fee) to get the right books into the right reader’s hands if proof of an audience was found.
    And with distribution (shakily) out of the way, I’m back to only needing one thing from a dedicated outside source. Marketing. And it doesn’t have to be a huge, flashy, guru marketer type. The internet has changed marketing as well and I’m pretty sure that some rather simple internet grassroots stuff would do wonders to start with.
    Just please don’t make me be the one who has to do it. I’ll leave off with the most compelling reason of all as to why I shouldn’t be in charge of my own marketing. I’m HORRIBLE at it. I mean truly awful. A week of marketing from me could probably be accomplished in an hour by someone who actually enjoyed marketing. This is another element of the divergent writing/marketing mindsets. Most writers I’ve come across are rather bad at selling themselves.
    You, dear K, appear to be the exception.

  • Kassia Krozser // May 25, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    It seems we agree more than we disagree, though I come down strong in favor of editorial and distribution. A good editor is like titanium; I agree with Dan Green about the corporate mentality and how it impacts publishing — bad editing can kill books. Until we — the industry at large, not the here-and-there individual — move beyond the physical book and physical bookstore, then getting the product (yes I said it!) out there remains paramount. Internet sales are still not where they could be…and where they will be.

    Anyone can publish a book. Anyone. Even if you define “book” in the most traditional sense of the word, anyone can publish a book. I think that’s beautiful and sad. I’m on the receiving end of a lot of people who have published books that should have stayed very, very, very unpublished.

    On the other side, I am on the receiving end of a lot of unpublished — in whatever sense of the word you chose — works that wouldn’t pass muster with a traditional house, but are great reads. I love that so many opportunities have presented themselves to authors, and am proud to champion them.

    I do agree that most authors are appalling bad at marketing themselves — I count myself among them, though practice has made me better — but I ask the same question I asked before: if not you, then who? The kind of marketing you’re talking about costs money — the kind of money most authors make simply won’t foot that bill.

    Marketing is not a dirty word, and it doesn’t have to be painful. I think that most people see it in the worst light, mostly because most people aren’t educated on the process (and I’m not saying I have all the answers). Each author has to do what he or she deems comfortable, but each author has to take responsibility for his or her career. Traditionally published, epublished, self-published, even if you pay someone to execute a strategy, you’re still part of that process. If you want to be read, you have to be found.

    I am a firm believer in taking control of your destiny. You don’t have to market yourself (I am not going to hold a gun to your head, and not just because, well, I’m a horrible shot), but, well, you note the noise, the number of books, how do you get yourself read?

    PS — friends call me k2 (K is far too formal for a girl like me)

  • Joseph Devon // May 26, 2008 at 2:19 am

    Wouldn’t it be k-squared?
    I also think we agree on the main points, we seem to disagree mostly over definitions. What “marketing” entails, when a book becomes “published,” things like that.
    You still seem a little hung up on the cost of dedicated marketing being unreachable by most authors. Which I agree with. It’s too big of an upfront cost. But getting published used to be too big of an upfront cost, so publishing houses arose to seek out good work, front those authors the money to put their books in print, and profit only after sales came in. That service isn’t needed anymore. Self publishing is so cheap (and getting better and better everyday in tons of different forms) that a publishing house that only offers publishing services isn’t exactly offering much. So why not have the same structure with marketing? Authors get selected, marketing is performed at no upfront cost, and instead a percentage of the profits go to the marketing house?
    Although I guess you could argue that this is what traditional publishing used to do before they became more “Title Acquiring Houses” than “Publishing Houses,” and they just need to return to their roots.

  • Melissa Breau // May 27, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Joseph,

    Just a quick note – you have to keep in mind, even with the internet, there is a digital divide. I subscribe to BoSacks and he recently sent out an article that reminded me : not everyone is wired. (the link is: http://www.talentzoo.com/website/columns/columncontent.aspx?Id=2181)

    I know, it’s hard to believe, but there are people like that still out there. Someone I know, actually, fits mostly into this category. Unlike the couple mentioned in the article, he does use email and occasionally ventures into other parts of the internet. But for the most part, using the computer itself is enough of a task.

    I agreed to write up a small booklet explaining how to do some of the things he needed to do and one of the questions he wanted answered was “Whats the right click for”?”

    We can’t forget that people like that still exist. And, as is mentioned in the article, (though from a marketers view point) “it’s still important to remember the people on the other side of the digital divide. Perhaps all the money they don’t spend on ISP service, laptops, and other technology is spent on your client’s products.”

  • Joseph Devon // May 29, 2008 at 9:17 am

    Mel,
    No, not everyone is wired. There will always be people who don’t use the internet. There will also always be people who only read books in Japanese. As an emerging author I am not very well geared to convert someone in either of those markets into a fan. In the long term I’d of course want to expand into brick and mortar bookstores, as well as other languages and, really, anything that could find me more readers, but while I exist only online I have a very unique opportunity to slowly build up a solid audience of actual fans using cheap marketing and free content.
    Once I get a large enough core audience, then I’ll be able to approach larger booksellers with some thing real to offer. Or not. Who knows? I don’t exactly have every little thing worked out.
    In other words, though, I don’t view the internet as a magic bullet that will wipe out all other forms of reading and book selling, but I do think it’s a great place to showcase one’s work and begin scratching together some fans. It’s a stepping stone. And my point (sort of) throughout my comments here are that the rules are different and basically up for grabs in this new arena.
    And that I’m bad at marketing.

  • Kassia Krozser // May 29, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Joseph — I like that final sentiment a lot. The rules *are* different, and nobody’s figured it all out. Readers are everywhere, and to find them, an author has to, well, find them. After a whole day of listening to future of publishing/future of marketing panels (eyes, toothpicks and more), I know that no one approach is the great white hope. And if it’s better to experiment and try new concepts than to do nothing.

    Oh, and to find readers rather than hoping they’ll find you. I think that’s really the thing, yet I think the finding remains an individual task for the author. And, yes, there will be further posts on the topic once I’ve detoxed from a full day of publishing happiness and joy.

  • bowerbird // Jun 29, 2008 at 10:43 am

    steven said:
    > “My motto: It’s amazing how much
    > interesting Art you can make when
    > you don’t expect to get paid for it.”

    i love that.

    because it’s true.

    print-on-demand and the internet
    enable artists to be truly _free_ of
    the need to please any gatekeepers.

    artists can do whatever we want now,
    and _still_ make it to the end-users.

    and i have a sneaking feeling that
    this new-found ability to do whatever
    the muse instructs us will produce
    _better_ art, that has a _much_bigger_
    audience, for a good number of artists.

    rather than aiming for “the masses”
    – that ever-dwindling audience of
    the broadcast networks — we can now
    aim for the “niches” of cable stations.

    we won’t have as many _rich_ writers,
    of course, but we won’t have _nearly_
    as many starvation-poor ones either…

    ***

    steven said:
    > Considering recent figures of
    > how many books the “average”
    > literary writer sells, I’ve got
    > *far* more readers

    that’s _exactly_ what i’m talking about.

    and your readers are far more dedicated.

    ***

    kassia said:
    > How do you expect readers to find you?

    collaborative filtering — the large-scale
    computer-aided version of “word of mouth”.

    once that system kicks in, old-fashioned
    “marketing” — whether it’s by publishers or
    authors themselves — will soon be rejected
    _entirely_ as the self-serving garbage it is.

    -bowerbird

  • Kathleen Puckett // Dec 31, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Thank god for the flu and our wonderful, tireless, indefatigable publicist Susan Schwartzman. After a call from Susan today (during which we also talked about the flu…), I’ve finally found the kind of discussion about publishing that I’ve been looking for ever since I got involved in this business. And that’s exactly what it is, I now understand: a business – which, yes, inevitably involves the need for marketing, both of which were concepts so foreign to me when I started that I now look back five years ago to the starry-eyed wannabe author I was with amazement and outright pity.

    In 2003 my co-author and I had a very compelling (well, that’s what lots of people said when they heard the idea!) book in mind, based on our pretty unique work experience ( http://www.tkassociatesllc.com/HUNTING_THE_AMERICAN_TERRORIST.html ). We got a draft together, and busy bee me went to the San Francisco Writer’s Conference that Fall, where I Paid $25. to queue up at “Speed Dating For Agents.” There were several interested parties, but one young agent in particular was very smitten with the idea, and in subsequent meetings with us he said he was “thinking in the high six figures” where a publisher’s advance was concerned. (!)

    Well, this was more than musical to our ears, and since he was also an attorney we were very happy to sign a contract with him to represent us. We started running drafts by him, and he put lots of effort into making them better, whereupon he began making his rounds of publishers and pitching the book (non-fiction, so we’d developed a full proposal, chapter outline and several finished chapters – which I’d learned how to do by buying every book I could find on the subject and researching endlessly online).

    We assumed he knew what he was doing, and we also assumed publishers would be eager for the chance to publish us. :-). The idea of an advance put me into furnishing a dream cottage on a cliffside at the edge of the Pacific, the cries of seagulls sounding faintly above the thunderous waves surging below. (This was after I paid off all my debts and had returned from a month in an Italian villa during the harvest.)

    Often we didn’t hear from our young agent for months. Then he’d call and we’d have a meeting with him at his law office in San Francisco, where he’d go on just as enthusiastically as ever about the book – and perhaps even a second book, had we thought about that? He’d make some calls and we’d brainstorm some changes about the developing manuscript, and we’d take our leave of him just as starry eyed as we’d been at the outset. Then we wouldn’t hear from him again for a long time. He’d be traveling, busy with other things (he was also a new father), had a few new contacts he was developing, including some film folks in LA (imagine our wide eyes at this prospective development!), etc.

    Long story short: After about a year and half of this, I was vacationing with friends at a B&B on Martha’s Vineyard, which was run by the wonderful mystery novelist Cynthia Riggs ( http://cynthiariggs.com/ ) – related to one of our number by marriage. She loved what I told her about the book, and I emailed the proposal to her when I got home. When I told her we had an agent – and that we’d had one for well over a year with no results – she arched an eyebrow at me and said, “No, he won’t do – go ahead and terminate your contract and get back to me.” When we told our young stalwart about our decision, he said rather wistfully on the phone that it was true he’d recently “lost some momentum” (If he’d ever had any we were never aware of it), and wished us well. Two weeks later, although her own agent had passed on representing us, Cynthia put us together with a new, small publisher ( http://historypublishingco.com/ ), who worked tirelessly with us and a very experienced author to finally produce the book. There was no advance, and very little money for publicity, though he tried.

    Late in 2007 we took the bull by the horns (ouchy) and hired our own independent publicist, the aforementioned and wildly competent Susan Schwartzman, who began marketing our second book months before it was published and is continuing to champion it even after her campaign on our behalf was over. Sales are getting better and better as a result, although, of course, we seem to have picked a hell of a time to become authors in this current chaotic, sky-is-falling publishing scene.

    Our advice? Read Susan’s advice on this blog, for one thing, and be aware that if you want your books to sell, you are every bit as responsible to make that happen – and to market yourself – as anyone else in this currently turbulent publishing environment. If you don’t want to sell your book, don’t worry about marketing – but don’t be surprised if you’re either forever obscure or the next John Kennedy O’Toole.

  • Adam Lowe // Jan 20, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Marketing is vital to success in the book world, unfortunately. If you want to write and publish but not put the work in, go to Lulu and create all the art you want. The truth of the matter is, to make writing a paying gig, you have to have demand for your product and you have to meet that demand. Lulu can satisfy demand, within certain perameters, but it cannot create that demand. There are so many books out there, why will anyone pick yours? How will they even know it exists?

    Imagine this: one in ten people who find your book will be interested in it (this is being generous); one in two of those will buy it straight away. But let’s say you’re listed alongside 1,000 other books and your potential customer only has 10 minutes to find a book and buy it. They can only look at three or so books before they log off the PC. That gives you maybe a 1/300 chance of them finding your book. Factor in the figures above (10% like the sound of your book; 50% of those buy), you have a 1/6,000 chance of selling a single copy. It would take everyone in the world to log onto Lulu before you’d become a millionaire, and I’m sure that, in the real world, the figure of 1/6,000 is still way too optimistic.

    Every time you tell someone from your target audience about your book, you’re marketing it. You’re publicising it whenever you tell _anyone_ about it. Even if you tell 100 people about your book, how many do you seriously think will pick up a copy? That’s why marketing is essential. Telling 100 nuns to buy a book about Satanism would be a waste of time. It’s publicity, but not the right kind. If you sat down and planned things a bit (this is the difference between marketing and publicising, BTW), it then becomes marketing. Don’t tell the nuns when you could be with the local infernalists’ cabal, helping them sacrifice a bull so that when they all take off their robes and have dinner, you can mention your book.

    Marketing isn’t as difficult as you’d think; it’s just time consuming. Most marketing is common sense. You need to get your book into the right hands at the right time. Publishers will help with this, and do everything they can, but if you don’t play along with them, you shouldn’t expect wonders. Whether you like it or not, you are your book. You’re part of your brand value as much as your book is. No one can be more enthusiastic about your own book than you can. You know it inside out (or you should do).

  • Adam Lowe // Jan 20, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    [The end got cut off that last post:]

    So ultimately you’re your own best PR. Taking part in booksignings and interviews, selling copies to your friends, carrying copies in your trunk to sell in case you meet random individuals who may be interested, leaving business cards, etc, are all useful tools. These are all things that can have a direct impact because if you meet a potential reader, you can tell them as much as you can about the book without it sounding like corporate hard-sell. You can discuss it with people individually. A publisher doesn’t have the time to do that. You also have the opportunity to tap into an important market: your own friends, colleagues and family; your local community; people whose expertise or interests are similar to your own.

    Ergo, you need to market if you want to maximise the results. If you don’t, you’re leaving your destiny in the hands of a publishing company which has twenty or a hundred other titles to publicise and whose authors are far more helpful. Make it easier for themselves and for you.

  • Authors as Marketers | Beneath the Cover // Sep 9, 2009 at 10:35 am

    [...] need to get it out there and shared. As Kassia Krozser thoughtfully wrote in a blog post last year, Life on Venus: Authors Do Market: The publisher helps to achieve its own goals by publishing a single book while the author is [...]

  • Roger Neetz // Nov 30, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Greetings; I read a lot of words. most suggesting that a writer take on the role of a marketeer because that is what the publisher expects him to do.
    None of the comments stated or advised what a writer should do , nor stated what the publisher does..

    If marketing is not a writers niche , he must spend time learning and that changes the entire scenario. Publishers should at least provide a list of contacts for media comments, and along with the author should prepare an announcement that canbe sent to approprioate reviewers. Getting a book reviewed is mindboggling and may take a year even if you pay a reviewer. A book signing tour is out of the question for 99% of writers.Doing local and immediate surrounding areas is also expensive, . What all the comments lacked or refused to say is that the one and probably only way to get publicity is to hire an agent. If that is what publishers expect an author to do, most of us will just fade away.Internet publicity is also oversold. You may get lots of hits by people who scan for no other purpose than curiosity. I believe there is a market for most books and the publisher and author should concentrate on that market rather than reaching for the stars.
    Thank you for listening. Roger Neetz

  • Roger Neetz // Nov 30, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    My comment is listed above.

  • Michele Cozzens // Sep 4, 2010 at 11:48 am

    This is an empowering post for those with books to sell–especially those with freshly-published work who need a nudge to take off the WRITER cap and put on the AUTHOR cap. Thank you.

  • dr. kimberley garth-james // Mar 25, 2011 at 11:17 am

    I agree that selling is scary and a challenge. As the author of Eleuthera: Improve Corrections and Save Our Communities, it’s difficult to find the audience most interested in buying the book. People are interested in corrections, crime and revitalizing their community. Will they pay to hear an academic? How do I make the words come to life?
    thanks

  • Momof Seven // Apr 14, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    I’m okay with the writer needing to market his/her book. I am willing to do radio/tv interviews, speak to audiences, etc. However, my publisher expects me to purchase 500 of my books from them (a 55 % discount if I buy 1,000 copies!) and mail these “review copies, not for resale” to 500 reviewers and famous persons, in an attempt to solicit “blurbs” for the cover, and possibly a foreword. Because the price they have set for my little paperback is $19.95, I would have to spend thousands of dollars to purchase my books and thousands more to send them out to reviewers, etc. I am curious if this is the standard procedure. Are all authors expected by their publishers to do this? I need to know!
    Thank you.

  • Kassia Krozser // Apr 14, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    @ MomofSeven — no, this is not normal. A reputable traditional publisher will send review copies to people, though many authors do send their own ARCs. However, they are not expected to purchase the books they send for review.

    I am assuming you have gone with a self-publishing company, and this sounds like a horrible deal. In fact, it sounds like a scam to me. I strongly advocate doing more research about your publisher, and, frankly, doing more research about self-publishing option (and traditional publishing options).

  • P. Pennington Douros // Mar 10, 2013 at 11:15 am

    I’ve written eight books. One novel is self-published, one is being published by a trade publisher. Already at times I feel overwhelmed, even despaired, by the amount that the publisher wants me do to market the book and the expense. But I’m learning at those times to ground myself by remembering my main purpose as a writer/artist: to put truthful concepts and experiences into creative forms that communicate powerfully and to share that with people who would benefit. I also remember that it is never really about publishers. They ultimately matter little in the realization of artist visions and purposes. As long as our purposes align enough, we can work together. If not, then not, and I continue anyway.

    It also helps that I have past experience as a visual artist, a painter, and an art director in the film industry. I learned how the systems work and also overcame many of the the ego problems that can plague and destroy an artist. I feel more confident and self-assured now.
    So my suggestion is to work with publishers for mutual purposes but always keep artistic vision and purpose first. That is what we are about and what will keep us sane.