Monday, September 9, 2013

Are You a Marketing Chump?

Never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a marketing chump. Notice I didn't say promotion chump. I said marketing. There is a difference. Marketing has everything to do with what your publisher is supposed to do. Here's some givens, and this list is woefully incomplete:

Publish and distribute ARCs (advance reader copies) to main-list reviewers and library sources.

Create press kits to attract reviews, garner bookstore interest and alert all potential buyers on the publisher's mailing list.

Provide postcards, fliers, banners, bookmarks, press releases, bag stuffers, etc. 

Arrange book signings and provide print copies

Press kits to radio, TV and newspapers with requests for interviews

Trade advertising and product placement at retailers, magazines and online genre venues

Print and online ads to distributors, bookstores, newsletters or social media groups--Twitter, FB...

Publisher website listing

Organize giveaways and contests

Arrange blog tours, interviews and excerpt placements.

Create video trailers (if applicable)

Pitch to trade magazines

Trade show attendance 

Seek notable author endorsements (jacket blurbs)

Now, one thing is patently clear; these tasks, even though part of every publisher's job, are not always carried out to the fullest extent. Every publisher should commit themselves to at least 60% of the above list. Some of the major NYC publishers ring all the bells and blow all the whistles, even purchasing end cap displays. However, dear friend, such treatment is reserved for the authors who have brand names and bring in the bucks via their best-selling titles. It's not true that publishers don't do any marketing any longer; they're just doing less of it--especially for the debut or new author. They'll watch a new-author title for signs of a breakout. That means if the book picks up sales speed, you can bet your butt they'll toss some marketing dollars at it. As far as these marketing tasks, you can expect quite a few of them from a large or mid-sized independent house that has distributions, pays advances and has solid bookstore placement. I liken marketing to a publisher spending money, time and labor on my book. That's the good news--you'll get a good basic marketing package from a biggie.

What's promotion? Promotion is something the author does--mainly, she/he gets kissy faced with all their friends, relatives and family, begging/asking to buy their book. It involves all social media, interacting in and on writing groups, FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs, websites, display sites and anywhere else you can shout out your news.  This is basic promotion and just about every author on the planet does some of this. Although, some authors have admitted to doing nothing in this vein but writing the next book. Uh, either those authors have a big six monster behind them, or they're lying through the teeth. You don't write a book and tell me you don't mention it 'round town or give it a push. I don't believe you. If anyone asks you if you've written such and such a title and wants to know where to pick it up, if you tell them--you've done something, my friend. You're guilty of promotion.

It's true that many authors routinely send out free review copies (at their own expense), arrange blog and video tours, buy bookmarks, bag stuffers, arrange giveaways, solicit and attend signings (providing their own copies), and go hell-bent for indie bookstore (consignment) and library placement (donation). Ya, know, that's okay. It's understood. It's the thrill of a first publication or the desire to establish or keep a fan base. We've all been there. Stunningly, I found myself busy for 35 days straight writing to every major book reviewer in the U.S.A and Canada--I think I got personalized press releases out to 1,700 editors/reviewers before I collapsed of exhaustion. I pulled about 55 positive responses. Problem is, my publisher only sent out five review copies then declared bankruptcy a week later.

Here's my point: if you're doing any more than that, or spending money on your campaign, you're a bona fide marketing chump. You've willingly infringed upon your publisher's marketing territory because either you think that your efforts are going to help, you don't believe your publisher will do it, or you suspect (or know) they never intended to do it in the first place. If you cover, or try to cover all of the long list major marketing chores (above), you're a dumb-ass chump. 

It's NOT your job to market like that. Market a little and promote all you want, but don't shoulder the whole G-Damned production! In the first place, if you are orchestrating this whole show, what makes you think you know what you're doing? Do you have all the contacts? Do you personally know who the contacts are? Do you know how to reach them and know what to say? Are you aware that Library Journal is not going to jump up and click their heals because you sent them a press release? Do you know that if you donate a POD book to a library they're likely to reject it, or if you mail it in, they'll trash it? You do know that your publisher's name carries more weight and they are more impartial when it comes to direct solicitations? You are aware that better than 98 percent of advertising is wasted and doesn't show a return?

Small Press--the devil's in the details. Here's where it really gets interesting. For the sake of simplicity, we'll use a small press business model that doesn't include an advance, solid distribution to the trades or any bookstore placement. I've just described about 90 percent of them out there. Very rarely does a small press outfit have all three of those in place. They are out there, but they're swamped like the Boggy Creek Monster in Fouke, Arkansas. More and more each year, we're seeing small press asking for Marketing Plans from authors. This is usually before the contract is signed or just prior to release. Here be monsters, friend. These editors and CEOs know exactly what their asking. Look at the long list up at the top. You know, the things a publisher is obligated to do if they're serious about selling books to the trade. Do you know that it's highly likely that your acceptance and a contract might hinge on this point--your answer about what you intend to do...FOR THEM?

Your answer: "Oh, I expect to promote quite a bit. I don't intend to spend any money on marketing, though. What do YOU INTEND TO DO FOR ME IN A MARKETING SENSE?" That's right, turn it around and see where they stand on the issue. Don't take their word for it. Google some of their titles and see where they pop up. If the titles show primarily on a handful of retail sites and nothing more, chances are they're getting ready to dump the whole shebang in your lap. Case in point: I had one publisher cop me a guest blog on a romance site and that was the end of their two-year commitment to my book. Two other small press publishers did no better in their marketing attempts, with not only me but the whole stable, including their best-sellers. I've had one decent small press publisher fire off the big guns and pull its weight. And that was an exception. 

Do I recommend that you do nothing and start on the next book? Oh, hell no. And I've seen-heard those declarations from some of my peers. I think a good promo push by the author is essential to getting the word out. Who in the name of the seven sisters is going to find your book if you don't send up some flags or blow the horn? You think magic and luck will propel you and your book to stardom? Oh, please don't tell me that a voracious reading public always finds a great book and spreads the word via mucho mouths. There's two exceptions to that way of thinking: either great marking is in place, or you have more friends and relatives than Carter has pills and you've just hit the Amazon best seller list in your genre because you had a purchase flood in the first week. 

Well how do I know which publisher does what? Research. Look up the directory in the Bewares section of and read all about it. You'll eventually come to know the difference between a publisher like Entangled and Eternal. You'll find out that the highest selling and ranking e-book publishers appear over and over again in the trade journals, Publishers Market and best seller lists. Names like Samhain, Ellora's Cave, Liquid Silver, Loose I.D. and others. These publishers not only market well but they have established huge fan bases BECAUSE OF THEIR MARKETING EFFORTS.

Remember this: any publisher who wants a detailed, in depth marketing plan from you has got some serious issues going on behind the scenes. Author mills are the spring from which these types of publishers flow. Start at the top of the publishing chain and work your way down. But not down so far that you'll accept any type of contract that identifies you as the principle marketer in charge. 


"He's a galoot" was the first thing the mother said upon her son's birth. The father, a large man by any standards, agreed and knew that his son would be very special some day. Galoot's first baby rattle was a piston from an old diesel engine. As the child grew, his interests in anything mechanical opened up a new world for him. After working in the space port ship yards for 20 years, Galoot earned his masters certificate in aerospace engineering and function. When he joined Zaz's crew, Galoot was single, lonely and almost eight-feet tall and 500 pounds. Shunned by those who feared him, rejected by women for his awkward mannerisms, Galoot soon found his home in the company of true friends aboard the Shenandoah. He would also find the love of his life.


  1. Good overview. I appreciated the summary of the process. (I clicked over here from AW's blog thread.)

  2. Thanks for your viewpoint. I was pleased to see that my small publisher covered a lot of those bases. One of the free promotions I did was send out emails to libraries attaching a pic of the cover and back blurb of my novel, letting them know it would be in the next catalog from my publisher. This may seem pointless as readers don't buy books from libraries they borrow from them. However, in Canada annual samplings are taken of libraries across Canada by Canada Council for the Arts and the Public Lending Right Commission pays the author according to the number of sampled libraries that carry their title. I'm still getting an annual cheque from the PLRC even after 6 years.