Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Shift in Promoting

I can almost guarantee that every writer who regularly stops by, reads and comments here on Straight From Hel knows something publishers either don’t or aren’t supporting. Care to guess?
The future of book promotion is online and by the author.
You already knew that, didn’t you? That’s because you’re in the trenches, working to get your name and book in front of the public’s eyes. You’re building a website, a blog, a Facebook presence, and a LinkedIn account with umpteen-hundred connections. You’re tweeting and befriending and guest posting as yourself and as your characters.

Jesse Kornbluth shouts out to publishers, in hopes of waking them up to what authors are already doing and to what they, the publishers, need to be doing, in a Publishers Weekly article called “Authors’ -- and Publishers’ -- Shifting Responsibilities.”

Here are some snippets of what he has to say -- and as I said at the top of this post, some of it, you already know and practice:
Book publishing has been trying to commit suicide for all the decades I've been writing, and now it's finally getting some traction on that project.

Authors are beginning to grasp that the job description of “writer” has changed. Writers may be artists. They are also brands.

More typically, publishing contracts are for one or two books; in that truncated relationship, a publisher can only do so much for its writers. The heavy lifting of a career will fall to writers and their agents, or it just won't get done.

So unless they are geniuses—and recognized as such—writers who want attention for their work need to cultivate some 21st-century media skills. They should be camera-ready, because they'll want to make YouTube videos. They should know their way around social networking sites. They should have some experience with book clubs, and they should be willing to spend as much time there as they used to spend on book tours.

My vote is for the publishers of books that stand a chance to succeed to attach $5,000 to $10,000 to the advance, money the writer can use only for digital marketing expenses and Web site enhancement.

It's equally sane to demand that writers take major responsibility for their careers.
I think up and coming writers already know most of this. The responsibility has shifted to our shoulders. It’s a burden we don’t necessarily want to carry, but times have changed.

Kornbluth had some recommendations for publishers, ones authors may or may not like:
Meanwhile, like everyone else, I have a laundry list of changes that publishers might make in the interest of their survival. Some of my thoughts are obvious and universal: a massive scaling-down of the number of books published, more aggressive editing of what does get released, and a shattering of the template that says a new book must be bound between hard covers.
While all this may not be new news to you, it does indicate a possible shift in not just the thinking of the publishing world, but the reality.
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  1. This has really taken hold in the past year, when the economy took such a dip. I've heard from many publishers that they can't afford marketing, so it is up to the author.

    In his final suggestions, I'd like to add that publishers can also cut back costs by printing fewer books. The amount of returns in this industry would put any other business under.

  2. "Authors are a brand"- yep I agree. and thus I think you have to know how to market yourself. You have to know what you offer and who you are offering it to. Great post Helen. Made me think. I like that:)

  3. As you say, most of us here know this. I wonder if the publishing houses will take note in time?
    Great post, Helen!

  4. What I'm wondering is exactly why does "publishing" have its heels dug into the old fashioned ground, going kicking and crying into the 21st Century? Why do you suppose they are so resistant to being at the forefront of change? It would be interesting to read an exploration of their resistance.

  5. And also, Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Helen!

  6. In addition to printing fewer books (or converting to POD models), publishers might consider putting boundaries around returns - time limits and quality requirements. No other industry accepts returns a year after purchase and no other industry allows damaged/defaced merchandise to be returned.

    Thanks, Helen, for another enlightening post.

  7. This is an interesting article--summing up in a compelling way what we already knew. Thanks for sharing it, Helen.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  8. Joanne, I have to agree. Wouldn't it be interesting to sit in on a meeting with a group of publishers? The world is changing and moving forward. They need to not only catch up, but lead the pack before the pack turns into a mob. IMO, anyway.

  9. Great post. Whether we like it or not, authors are a brand and we as authors need to be willing to spread the word about ourselves and our books. The internet and social media has opened a big door for publicity that we can turn our back on.

  10. The trend of authors taking greater responsibility for there work by promoting it has been very evident the last 3 years. Much of what he says, I did know.

    I'm thinking that digital and print on demand is going to play or needs to play a larger role with NY publishers. Runs, as they do now, are insane. The return prices they have to pay are losses and heafty ones at that. Smarter to print the orders as needed and send them to their markets.

    Self promotion on the part of authors eats time. Time they'd prefer to use writing the next book, but really, if you don't take care of the book you have out currently, build a readership, who's going buy the next one?

    I'm seeing a trend with authors recently, where they allow X amount of time to promote their current books with an intro to the next. They're scheduling and during that time period, are aggressive. Their willing to work for their success. They're personally invested in that success.

    These days, I want to find a new author to read, I check out blogs and not just because I have one, but because I get a picture of what's out there and buy accordingly. Walking into a bookstore, I'm faced with thousands of books and they all blur after awhile.

    Another thing, many purchases are made online rather than stores. Makes sense for an author to also be online.

    Have a grand holiday with your family, Helen. :-)

  11. What a great article. Thanks for taking the time to find it and post it. Obviously the whole industry is in a state of flux and I hope that industry leaders are paying attention to articles like this.

  12. I think publishers and publicists and authors have no choice but to pay attention to what's happening in the cyberworld and in the world of e-books. As the saying goes: Resistance is futile.

  13. In some ways the quote is true but we still can't crack physical bookshops around the world.

  14. Good post, although I find all these new responsibilities a bit daunting. Nonetheless, we do what we must and branding and publicity has fallen on authors' shoulders. Better that than dandruff, I guess.
    Have a good holiday, Helen.

  15. ...shifts the cost of marketing to authors, too. Any adjustment in royalties???

  16. I've been learning all this the hard way, Helen. And learning, and learning....

  17. Great post and very helpful comments as well. I love the idea of POD publishing. It is so much more environmentally friendly and makes economic sense as well.

    It seems to me that the future may involve some combination of indie and self-publishing.

    I think free-lance editors and proof-readers will be important in the process.

    Maybe print publishers could look at successful POD books as sources for traditional publication.

    I tend to think there's room for everybody. I'd sure like to be able to spend a little more time writing and a little less time promoting my "brand".

  18. Publishers are going the way of the suppliers of photographic film.

    Some few will adapt and the rest will be history!

  19. Yes, Helen, branding is all the buzz...excellent post!

  20. I suddenly find myself imagining a shy author offering to pay someone to pretend to be the writer.

  21. Ooh, Sheila, good idea. Are you available?


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