Growth, not Guilt

I was reviewing my first post and I wanted to clarify something. I stated that I’ve noticed (through my experience with VT) that “some” authors don’t seem to be actively trying to sell their books. What I want to make clear now is that I don’t think it’s because they don’t WANT their books to sell. More than anything, I think it’s that they just don’t know what they should/could be doing.

So this blog isn’t going to be a “blame game.” There’s enough guilt to spread around in all of our lives, each and everyday. This is not about pointing fingers. My intention is for this to be about growth, not guilt. You’ve written a book and it’s been accepted for publication. You’ve gone through the editing process, the galley drafts and now, your book is out there on and a whole lot of other places. You want people to find out about your book and read it… even more importantly, you’d like people to actually BUY it so you can earn some royalties.

But that’s not YOUR job, is it? I mean, you wrote the book. You did all this work to actually write the darn thing, and then you practically rewrote it during the editing process (at least, it felt that way). You’ve done your part… now you get to sit back and watch the money roll in.

The problem is, if you really believe that, the money won’t roll in. Because your book won’t sell unless you are willing to help market it.

You’d be surprised how many authors think that their publisher is going to handle all the marketing and promotion. But even authors with books published by “the majors” tell me that their publishers expect them to do the vast majority of the marketing. Oh, they’ll send out a few ARCs to get some reviews, generate a few press releases, maybe even include it in an ad or two. But, there it is. They are done with your title and have already moved onto the next. If you want them to consider your next title, they’ll take a look at how your first book did for them and they’ll let you know.

I think this is the most surprising “surprise” to newbie authors, and I also understand where they’re coming from. Unless your book is self-published, the publisher has picked up all of the expenses involved in getting your book out in print and/or eBook form. They may or may not have given you an advance, too. So it’s natural to think that because they’ve laid out a nice chunk of change to get your book published, they will want to market it heavily to ensure they not only make back their initial investment, but they also make a profit.

Therein lies the problem. The publisher has already put their money out on the table, in addition to the sweat-equity they and their staff have invested to produce your book. Now, they expect you to put your share out on the table, so to speak, by promoting it. That doesn’t mean you’re totally out on your own, but it means they expect you to take the lead on getting the word out.

Case in point — going back to my first post, your publisher is not your secretary. They can’t possibly know that you are unavailable on Monday and Thursday afternoons betweeen 4:00 and 5:30 p.m. because your kids have soccer practice. They don’t know that you go to church on Sunday or Saturday or Friday or whenever it is that you go. We’re all adults here, and no one knows your calendar better than you.

From that perspective, let’s say you want to get a signing at a particular bookstore near your home, but you don’t know who to contact. What you really want is an introduction to the right person(s) so that you can work out a mutually convenient time with the bookstore to do the signing, right? You don’t want your publisher to contact them, set up a date and time and then tell you to cancel all your plans, rearrange your schedule and show up to sign books on such and such a date. Screw your aunt’s wedding or your son’s graduation! Show up at that signing!

Here’s a  “mea culpa” moment that drove that point home. I learned that there was going to be a “con” in a city close to where a couple of our authors lived. I queried the show organizers and they were very interested in having these authors come and do signings. So I contacted the authors and… one had moved out the area (thanks for us letting us know!), and another already had other plans for that weekend. One said yes… but then cancelled a few days before the show.

It was awkward, to say the least. I don’t think I will ever be able to get another author in on that show. I’m not upset with the authors however, because they were not the problem. I (the marketing director) was the problem. Or rather, none of those authors was invested in my promotion idea, which wasn’t theirs to begin with. So I learned something from that experience, which I probably should have known all along. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him or her drink. Especially if they’re not thirsty… or they have a crazy hectic life like everyone else and prefer to do things on their own schedule.

Lesson learned.

Nowadays, I wait for them. If an author contacts me because they want help in getting a review, setting up a signing, getting flyers or posters, going to a convention, I do everything in my power to help. But I wait for them to make the first move, because if they are behind it, it won’t be a waste of time and effort.


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