Marketing Mayhem and How to Avoid It

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Let’s say your relationship with your publisher has gone swimmingly through the editorial process. Your editor got you, and you got your editor. What a team!

Now your manuscript is polished into a gleaming specimen and is turned over to marketing where…no one seems to even know who you are. Or you discover the budget to promote your book is baseline tiny.

What to do, what to do…

Ask Your Agent to Help

First, I would suggest you bring your agent onto the scene to nose around and try to find what the disconnect might be. Sometimes personnel changes are afoot in the marketing department, and no one knows who’s supposed to be working with you.

Regarding the budget concern, the agent might not be able to convince the publisher to increase the funds, but your agent can help to pull everyone together to brainstorm how to make the most of what is available. Hopefully the agent’s intervention will solve the problem, and soon you and the marketing team will hit your stride.

Create a Marketing Campaign

But sometimes the agent can’t figure out why a disconnect exists. That means you need to create your own marketing campaign–not to sell your book to readers but to sell you and your book to the marketing team.

Authors seldom seem to think of this as a solution, but if you know how to work at promoting your book and contributing to what the publisher has to offer, let the right folks know that you’re plugging away right along with them.

Case in Point

I recently took on a new client who had published five books. One of my first tasks was to sit down with the editor and the head of marketing to find out what they thought of my client’s promotional skills. They thought she sucked at it.

Oops.

I asked the author what she had done to promote her last book. Wow, the list was impressive. From calling on local bookstores and asking them to carry her book to online zany book contests that brought a significant response, my client was out there, working every promo angle I could think of.

“Sandy,” I asked, “how much of what you did was communicated to the marketing team?”

“Well, none I guess,” she responded. “I just thought they’d check my blog or my website and see what I was doing.”

Lesson Learned

Ah-ha! We had discovered the missing communication link. A publishing team doesn’t have time to regularly check what each author does to promote his or her book.

I gave my client an assignment: Every week, drop a friendly email to her editor and the person in marketing responsible for her campaign. List (no paragraphs with tons to read, but a list the reader could just scan) everything Sandy had done in the past week to promote her book.

What a change occurred. The publisher stopped grumbling that Sandy didn’t contribute to the promotion of her books. Instead, the marketing department stepped up what was being done for Sandy because they realized she’s investing plenty of her own time and money.

So what’s the lesson to be learned from my client? You are the most important participant in your marketing. Put together a marketing plan for your next book and tell your publisher what that plan is. Then go for it!

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23 Responses

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  1. I used to have a sign in my office: Every problem is a communication problem.
    * Note to self for future reference (ever hopeful that I will one day need it): Ask publisher to whom and how often I should send marketing updates.
    * As always, Janet, thanks for your advice.

  2. Carol Ashby says:

    Thought-provoking story, Janet. While I wouldn’t expect the marketing people to be checking your author’s website often, wouldn’t it have been reasonable for them to have at least checked it once without being prompted? Surely even a single visit would have told them your author was working hard herself. Do you often find that a marketing team is that far off the mark in assessing what’s happening already so they can plan their own efforts wisely?

    • Janet Grant says:

      Carol, most publishers only note what an author is doing if, by happenstance, they run across the author’s promo effort. That’s why I always encourage my clients to create a marketing plan and share it with the marketing team. Coordinating marketing efforts with your publisher is a good idea so you aren’t duplicating but complimenting each other.

  3. Ain’t no one gonna be motivated to promote yer books like you is. Work like y’all’s alone. Anything extra is gravy.

  4. Terry Whalin says:

    Janet,

    Thank you for this article. Communication between the author and the publisher is a critical step in the process. As an editor, we are always encouraging our authors to let us know what they are doing because we pass this information on to our sales team every week. We give our authors online forms and easy ways to communicate their activity. As an author, I also need this reminder to continually communicate with my publisher about my own activity. It may seem like I’m doing nothing but behind the scenes I’m continuing to gather book reviews and other things which help promote my book. It’s a process and you have highlighted a key connection.

    Terry

    • Janet Grant says:

      Terry, having a publisher that regularly asked for updates and gave a form to fill out is an awesome idea. I’m sure that spurs authors on to have something to report.

  5. Janet, It seems to be a frequent complaint from authors that their publisher doesn’t do enough to market their books. Of course the company wants to sell them, but if that doesn’t occur, the pub house can move on to the next author, while the author has a bad sales history. The saying is still true: No one wants to sell your book as much as you do. Authors have to work at it. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Richard, it’s so true that the author’s motivation is the highest of everyone involved in the publishing process. For those at the publishing house, their risk of having book with bad sales numbers is spread out over multiple books every year. The author might have one or two books release within a year. And the author must report those numbers to every potentially interested publisher in the future.

  6. CJ Myerly says:

    Oh, wow. This information is all new to me. I bookmarked it to save for later. I’m working on putting together a marketing plan for my debut novel when the time comes, but I don’t have an agent, publisher, or editor yet so that’s about it. 🙂

  7. I hadn’t thought of marketing like this. Thanks so much for this post Janet. I think our first thought is that we would be bothering the editor or marketing department with all of those emails. I guess not …

    • Janet Grant says:

      Kristen, there’s nothing like a hard-working, motivated author to warm the cockles of everyone’s heart at the publishing house. Knowing the author is working hard and smart causes the publishing house staff to step up their game. It’s a win-win.

  8. Janet, your post highlights the importance of good communication between author, agent and publisher. It’s easy for us as writers to work hard and not mention what we’re doing to those who need to know. I can see how it’s truly a team effort to make the marketing adventure successful. And for a writer, being intentional about keeping the marketing team updated (nicely and succinctly) makes perfect sense.
    *Great post!

  9. Excellent advice.
    Since I write about a culture that is not my own, sometimes I’ve erred on the side of “I’m not sure where this fits, or if it matters” kinds of emails to address things for which my knowledge is vague.
    And I know if I never ask for clarification, my brain won’t just osmote the answer from somewhere.
    For me, this is why it’s important to help each other and promote the work of our colleagues. Not only do we happily brag up our friends, but we help sell their books. When done with sincerity, this is a marvelous way to spread the love. It goes without saying that when it comes time to turn the tables, those same friends will return the favour. AND we can share marketing ideas in the process.
    With the right planning, social media is a perfect tool to be used to our benefit, not a wild horse to contain.

  10. Sarah Thomas says:

    Hmmmm. Too often I’ve erred on the side of not wanting to bug the marketing team. Just added a member of that group to my Facebook launch page!

  11. Lynn Horton says:

    What a joy it will be to unleash my rusty old marketing muscles! Thanks for the post, Janet.

  12. Great to know, thanks for sharing this article, Janet. Communication is key in every relationship, it seems. 🙂

  13. Janet, a question: how far in advance of the book launch does the publisher’s publicity team typically start planning their campaign? I think that knowing this timeframe might be useful, especially for a new author, in making sure that author and publisher publicity paths dovetail smoothly..?

    • Janet Grant says:

      Generally the editor you’ve been working with will send you an introductory email, connecting you with the marketing and publicity people you’ll be working with. When that email arrives, you’re being put on alert that marketing is turning its attention to your book. This occurs about six months before your book releases.

  14. Jerusha Agen says:

    Thanks for this informative post, Janet. I hadn’t thought about the benefits of telling the marketing team what the author is doing to market and promote. Sounds like a wonderful way to handle the marketing and bring people together as a team. I will add this to my list of things to do when I’m in this situation with a publisher!

  15. I had a marketing mayhem story recently. I had been doing my best to keep in touch with the marketing team at my publisher, and then they stopped responding to me. Finally I discovered – 4 days prior to book launch!! – that the team had changed their plans and had stopped doing some of the things they had agreed to do.
    I gave myself a couple hours to calm down from my appropriate RANT before taking any action. And then I simply gathered all the people/skills/resources I DID have (including my agent!), and made the best of it. Even if launch week itself wasn’t quite all that was hoped for, my own actions helped me keep my sanity – and sold some books.
    And using all my own resources helped me further connect with readers – and that’s what readers enjoy most anyway.