Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Marketing and the Publisher's Role

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I readily admit I am, as yet, unpublished.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?

1 comment:

pattinase (abbott) said...

From what I hear, they sure are leaving it up to them.