What Publishers Do That Authors Can’t
Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
How many times have we heard the question: Why should I go with a traditional publisher? They just ask me to do all the heavy lifting with the marketing anyway. New light was shed on that issue for me when I recently attended a writers conference. I moderated a conversation with two publishing house representatives in which I posed that very question to them.
Here are a couple of items they mentioned that were news to me and might be to you as well. Did you know…
- One publishing house invites buyers from box stores, Barnes and Noble, and Books-a-Million to attend the publisher’s sales meetings. The buyers are introduced to the new titles by editors and marketing folks at the same time the sales reps learn about the product. That creates great synergy, with key individuals in the publishing house hearing the buyers’ responses and the buyers having the benefit of the editors’ and marketing personnels’ enthusiasm for a title as well as for the author. If a series is in the mix, the editor can talk up how the future titles will build off of the current offering.
- Another publisher sees its marketing job as finding new readers for an author; the author’s job is to care for everyone who already has discovered the writer. That sort of task distribution helps both the publishing house and the author to understand what each should be doing. And each party can present ideas on how the other could maximize efforts. It’s a give-and-take relationship, but certain duties (e.g., connecting via Facebook, Twitter and blogging) fall on the author’s shoulders while other duties (e.g., creating blog tours, arranging interviews, making book trailers, sending out sales reps) fall to the publisher.
- Using sales representatives as more than order takers is a key component for one of these publishing houses. The head of sales believes taking orders needs to be as streamlined as possible so the rep is freed up to be a creative community builder. That means the reps are blogging, speaking at corporations, even setting up retreats where readers can pay to join a group. And what the reps are saying through these venues isn’t being “channeled”‘ through them from headquarters; the salespeople’s content isn’t being monitored from on high. The reps are engaging not just with book buyers but also with book readers–and working to build enthusiasm for books via word-of-mouth. Who would have thought!?
These examples are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The conversation at the writers conference that day made me realize I don’t know as much as I thought I did about what’s going on at publishing houses. It was a pleasant surprise.
Now, I’m not sugar-coating the publishing situation. Some publishers are snoozing at their desks when it comes to marketing while others have put every author in their lineup in a box that says, “Your books will never sell more than copies; so we’ll put -copies worth of marketing effort behind your titles.” Yup, that definitely happens. Over and over and over again. That’s when gaining momentum really does fall on the author’s shoulders, and that’s a tough position to be in.
But today I want to present the sunny side of the picture–the side that shows some publishers being innovative and thoughtful about how to help you to grow your readership.
Now, you tell me. What about this blog post encourages you? What discourages? What else do you wish publishers would do?
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