I’m not going to get into a debate about how Big Five promotes authors and books all over the place and how, if you’re with a small press, you’re out of luck; I’m not going to discuss how Stephen King gets everything he wants in the way of promotion and touring, etc., and all those poor mid-list authors get diddly squat, even from the Big Five.
The fact is that ANY author, unless his name is nationally recognizable, isn’t going to get much in the way of publicity from the Big Five. How does he become recognizable? From publicity and promotion.
You get it, right? Chicken and egg; getting a job with no experience; the anomalies of life.
So let’s forget New York. Let’s forget Random Penguin, et al. We’re going to look at indie and small press because, in reality, that’s where most of us are starting.
Indie and small press publishing have quite a few things in common; the difference is that small press can offer your book a “name,” i.e., a publisher, and that a reputable press won’t cost you any money.
Now, if you SP, you can put any name you want as the “publisher.” Sure. But those who know will STILL know it’s you. It’s not hard to guess, or to find out. Let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with this. If you do SP, you have to do it all—oh, you can pay for help with editing, cover design, etc., but you’re the boss, the chief, the one responsible for how it all turns out. Of course, you get to make all the decisions too. And that includes your marketing strategy. You’re on your own, kiddo.
With a small press, there’s someone (or several someones) to do most of this for you. And a good small press will ALSO handle your marketing and promotion. Some of it. Maybe even most of it. Small press will also hold your hand, pass along opportunities, commiserate with you, answer questions about all kinds of publishing “stuff,” and maybe even other, general “stuff.”
A small press canNOT do it all. Yes, even Big Five expects some author promo and marketing and as long as I brought it up again, the reason Stephen King and his cronies don’t have to do much of anything is because WE ALL KNOW THEM. Be honest, would you run to see SK at an event, or would you blow it off to go see [insert unknown author here]? He doesn’t need to glom onto social media on a daily basis. He doesn’t have to call local bookstores and try to finagle an event. I imagine if he did that, the bookseller would probably keel over . . .
All that said, an author has to bust his own butt to do promo and marketing. Nearly all of them, in fact, and here’s where we leave SK and get into what YOU can do (or not, as the case may be):
DO have a steady presence on social media.
DO NOT disappear for months or weeks or even days.
DO have a plan for posting and make those public, so others can share them.
DO NOT scream “buy my book” at every opportunity.
DO read blogs about writing and marketing.
DO NOT spend money for this.
DO try to arrange your own book events.
DO NOT get pissy when the answer is “no.”
DO keep your reputation in mind when you say or write or do anything in public.
DO NOT moan and groan and get bitchy, in public. Talk to the hand, man.
DO put yourself out there: writers’ groups, conferences, events.
DO NOT continuously talk about yourself, your books, your achievements.
Book sales are a cumulative deal. It’s sales, plain and simple, that grown your audience and your name. It takes time, and it takes effort. And it takes more than one person, usually, to do it all. Now, if you are just one person, SP-ing your books, there is certainly a lot you can do; if you’re with a small press, you still have to do it. Heck, if you’re with one of the Big Five, YOU HAVE TO DO IT.
The advantage of being with a publisher is that you DO NOT have to do it alone. And this is very important:
The more you do, the more your publisher will do.
If you disappear, if you whine about low sales, if you aren’t involved in a writing community, if you continuously bitch about everything, or if you do nothing at all, your publisher is less likely to do anything either. Fact.
People, in general, need to see something over and over before they’ll recognize a product and take action. Your book is a product. You are a product. If they like the book, they’ll buy it. If they like YOU, they’ll buy the book. Truth.
Join a group. Or groups. Even an online one. Set aside a half-hour at least five days a week to do online promo. Pick a couple hours a week to make phone calls or send press releases or make contacts. Pay attention to what’s going on in your community. If you get ten “no, thanks” answers, call ten more event coordinators. Be persistent.
A long time ago, we placed a measly little classified ad for a business we owned. Nothing. Nada. Three months later, the phone rang. A lady had cut out and kept that ad for THREE MONTHS. She hired us, and we got two more clients from her referrals. The whole thing took six months, not six hours.
You can do it.