Whenever I speak to audiences about publishing, it still surprises me that so many new authors think that a traditional book deal is the ultimate solution to all-things-publishing. Most believe that with a big house deal they won’t have to worry about marketing.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case at all.
The hard truth is that traditional publishers don’t have the budgets to invest in all of their authors—especially new authors with no proven track record. Marketing budgets are primarily reserved for authors who already have established name recognition. The way they see it, a full page magazine ad for the newest James Patterson book is a sure thing. The audience is already there—they just need to know that a new title is available. It’s an easy sale.
How many full-page, glossy ads do you see for authors you’ve never heard of before?
In my own experience and from the experiences of my author friends, I can tell you that most traditional publishers do very little. They might print up some fliers or bookmarks for you to distribute. They will list your book in their catalog. If you’re really lucky, your book will get mentioned alongside several others in an ad, though don’t count on it.
Sometimes they have a publicity contact and that person will send out press releases and pitches for media. I worked with a publisher’s publicist once. She managed to get a couple of blogs to mention my book and landed me ONE radio interview. I could spend the next hour sending out radio pitches and book at least three interviews on my own by the end of the day!
The unfortunate reality is that publishers want authors to come to the table with a platform, which simply means they want you to have an audience. You will be expected to do the marketing work, and not just upon release of the book—marketing is an ongoing effort.
And sadly, you will not be sent on an all-expenses-paid book tour. In fact, if you’re trying to land a traditional book deal, here’s a tip that will get some attention from publishers: Commit to spending $10,000 or more on the marketing for your book. That’s right, list in your proposal that you will be spending money on a book tour or publicist or other marketing campaign and you will get the attention of publishers because they know they can’t do it.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule and some authors have gotten lucky with a hot topic or special attention from the publisher. But more often than not, the marketing effort will fall in the author’s lap.
It’s reasons like these that more and more authors are choosing to self-publish.