Barrett Manor

Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Publishing Myths, Part 6: If I Could Just Get My Name Out There...

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

(Update at the bottom.)

It seems that hardly a week goes by that I don't see a post from someone who has just signed with (or just had a book published by) a very small press. The post generally says something along the lines of, "they'll get the book at Amazon, and all I have to do is get my name out there."

I've said this before, and it bears repeating: Your job is not to market your book. Most authors are lousy at marketing. While I've had some marketing experience (I've written a lot of copy and have helped some non-profits out), I'm not qualified to market a book, and I'd be lousy at it. My job is to write the damn words. I can do self-promotion if I choose, but that should NEVER be confused with marketing.

(Time out for the self-publishing exception. If you are truly self-publishing then you are responsible for marketing, or hiring the right people to do the job.)

The problem is that it's easy to get marketing and promotion confused. Sometimes the lines blur. Your publisher is responsible for marketing. This means securing distribution, sending out review copies, and making sure the book stores know your book is coming out. They may do other advertising on your behalf, such as taking out an ad in the program book if you appear at a convention, or providing other promotional materials. I go to plenty of conventions and see giveaway booklets that contain excerpts from three or four new novels. The publisher puts these out as part of their marketing effort.

Promotion is stuff you do on your own such as blogging, creating your own giveaways, making appearances at conventions, and so on. I'm here to tell you that none of your promotion efforts will work very well if you don't have the marketing muscle of your publisher behind you. I'm perfectly aware that small presses ask the authors to take on more in terms of self-promotion than larger publishers will. I'm also aware that the amount of marketing a small publisher is able to do varies. There are a number of small publishers that do a really good job of regional marketing on a shoestring budget. They have a distributor or offer attractive discount and return policies to bookstores.

But "getting your name out" without anything to back it up is a waste of effort, IMO. "Getting your name out" on the Internet is a constant job. Do you have eight or more hours a day to spend on Twitter, FriendFeed, blogs (writing and commenting), message boards, and STILL have the time to work on your next book? And what is the quality of those posts and comments? If all of your posts are shameless self-promotion and don't contribute to the conversation at hand, then you're part of the noise. And forget the "targeted e-mail" campaign. Spam by any other name is just as nasty.

Don't get me wrong: It's good to blog, and it's good to show up and participate in conversations. But it doesn't do any good of people can't buy your book!

Case in point: I saw someone talking about being with a new publisher and bucking the New York houses, and so on. I checked out the publisher's site. The books have ISBN numbers, but I can't find them online anywhere except the publisher's web site. I wish this author success, but it's going to be difficult to sell books. Sure, this publisher may eventually build a reputation for quality, quirky books, but they aren't going to do it overnight. But how is going it totally yourself without distribution of any kind (how do you get into a non-regional bookstore?) going to make those big NY publishers quake in their boots? I'm confused.

Of course, there are exceptions, but generally those exceptions represent a lot of hard work. There's an old saying about there being no such thing as an overnight success. The Internet has a short attention span. This is why marketing is best done by the people with experience. They'll get your book out there. You follow up with your own self-promotion efforts. 

(Update 3/12/2015: A lot remains the same here, but I would like to reiterate that if you plan to have print books you MUST have a way to get them into the hands of readers. Also, beware of publishers and services that prey on authors. Buying your own books to resell is rarely a good idea, and you may end up with a garage full of overpriced books. If you're going to hand sell your own books, at least publish yourself so you can control pricing and keep more of the profits.)

Check out the previous installments:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Tags: Publishing Myths

Filed under: Publishing Myths            
3/2/2009 10:40:01 AM
Comments are currently closed
C'mon, leave a comment.
Comments so far: 0 | Permalink

Leave a comment

Search the Journal:


Search Tags:

Events and Appearances:
9/17/2021  - 9/19/2021

Buy Me a Coffee at