Monday, August 03, 2009

Q & A 172

If your publishing house acquired a debut novelist with radically ambitious (by traditional standards) marketing ideas for the book (ex: corporate-sponsored book tour; alternate reality game played by fans in real time around the country; basically, any idea that hasn’t yet been proven effective):

  1. How likely would you support those efforts?
  2. If you found the ideas sound and would pledge support, what form of support would likely be offered (contacts/mailing lists, media training, money…)?
  3. If you would deny support to any ideas outside of those previously tested and proven (ex: book review copies, press materials, author page on house website) on what would you base this opinion?

The corporation you work for is welcome to sponsor your book tour with our blessing. If you expect your publisher to sponsor it, you're living in a real-time alternate reality game.

Nowadays authors are expected to promote themselves. Print up bookmarks and other crap and send them to bookstores in hopes that they'll give it away to customers. Or take them to conventions and put them on the freebies table. Negotiate for dozens of author copies so you can send them to booksellers in hopes that they'll talk up your book. Get yourself booked on Oprah. Arrange a book tour and spend hours sitting in entrances to mall bookstores being ignored by customers.

If you don't spend at least twice your advance promoting your book, you aren't doing enough. If we think you might be the next Grisham, we might pony up the money to have your book placed in the front of the store, but we don't think you're the next Grisham.

1. Not likely at all.
2. A telephone call offering encouragement and a figurative pat on the back.
3. We're poor.


Wes said...

EE, are you saying there is no Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and (gulp) Santa Claus?

_*Rachel*_ said...

I think EE, Miss Snark, and the Rejecter are rubbing off on me--I guessed the general idea of that answer before reading the response. I guess I'm getting jaded and disillusioned.


--And yes, Asker, I dream, too. Wouldn't it be nice?

Roger E. said...

Other than springing for a few postcards (and believe me, I knew I was lucky to get that much), my publisher did nothing for my picture book and it was COMPLETELY up to me to promote it. From what I understand that's pretty much par for the course in all formats.

When looking to get some help, I had an acquaintance at one of the big pr firms generously offer to set up a book tour at a substantial discount -- 3500/month, down from their usual 5000/month.

Unfortunately for me, that was kind of like getting the good news that Rolls Royce is having a sale.

Adam Heine said...

An alternate reality game? Like Second Life or World of Warcraft? That's like asking the publisher to create a computer games division - with 50 employees and a six-figure budget - just for one book.

The US Army managed to do it I guess, but they had more money behind them than most publishers.

BuffySquirrel said...

I'm trying to imagine any other industry in which people are expected to spend their income from it on promoting the industry's products.

Yeah, I get that publishers are poor. Authors are poor too.

Evil Editor said...

Of course it's not so much that authors are expected to promote as it is a fact that the better your book/series does, the more likely you'll be paid to do another one. If your book can hold its own against the books of authors who are self-promoting, or if the publisher is confident your book is the next hot commodity, and mounts a huge advertising campaign, you can be a recluse. But most authors are a bit insecure, and making it to a convention or a group signing can be a useful ego-building experience for them, and a thrill for their fans. Discovering that you have fans can be a confidence builder.

A trip to a bunch of bookstores to autograph copies is no huge expense, and maybe that "autographed copy" sticker won't increase your income as much as you spent on gas, but you also make connections with bookstore CRMs who are book lovers and might be thrilled that an author of a current book stopped in to their store and might talk up your book, give it preferred placement, etc. Stuff that isn't profitable to the publisher may be profitable to (or fun for) the author.

BuffySquirrel said...

That all sounds very reasonable, EE, and nobody in their right mind expects to make money from this writing thing. But it does feel a bit like giving you money with one hand and taking it back with the other....

Anonymous said...

I would think that in most creative endeavours, one would sink quite a lot of one's own money before it starts to roll the other way. Musicians, actors, artists all need to walk the streets before the they become paid professionals.

And, of course, in the real world, anyone who is self-employed needs to put themselves out there and get noticed, and that mostly takes cash.

Evil Editor said...

True enough. My tuba cost me $3700, and I've yet to get a single paying gig.

Robin S. said...

Your tuba, huh? Now there's a fantasy image-killer for me.

Anyway, I'd enjoy bookstore stuff. I can chat up the dead or the almost dead or the boring living or the actually living. Whatever.
I love bookstores. My house would actually look like a bookstore if my husband would go for it.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it but I think there is a huge expectation that the author should spend some money promoting the book.

Cost would be a huge factor in whether I would support a radical marketing plan or not.

I agree with anon - I have a friend who is in a harmony group and they have made 4 CDs and working on the 5th. After about five years of very hard work they are now making money. They do their own marketing, pay for producing the CDs and on and on.

I also compare this with education endeavors. No one offered to pay for my advanced degrees - I paid for it then I was hired and my universities didn't send out my resume for me nor did they do my job hunting.

Painters, musicians, pottery makers, stained glass creators - on and on and on are expected to promote themselves. Authors should not be any different.

My only complaint - the more an author is expected to do - the higher the percentage their cut should be. That's the trend I don't see happening - I could be wrong but it seems authors are required to do more marketing but are getting the same amount of money.


_*Rachel*_ said...

EE has a TUBA?!

That's the thing I imagine most--finding a random person reading something I will have published. Bliss!

I'm guessing an agent will be able to give tips on how and to whom to promote your book. That's one of the reasons for them, right?

sylvia said...

Cross-referencing: Editorial Anonymous: In Which I Form an "Opinion"