I have watched a handful of “professionals” share insights about how authors should take their marketing into their own hands, all the while slamming what is being done at the publishing house. In this post, I hope to help authors see the work from the publishing side and calm fears that some “fresh-out-of-college, overloaded idiot” is the person charged with promoting your books. *Note: I’ll be saying “Marketing” often in this post–in this case the term covers everything touching promotion of your book-from the folks who book advertising to the publicists who talk to media outlets.
Yep, marketing teams are busy. Often, we’re slammed. The whole world of publishing is cyclical, and there is never a time when we have just one book to work on. But there’s a big gap between being busy and being ineffective.
Here’s what you should know:
- We marketers love our jobs, or we wouldn’t be doing them–Your dreams of becoming a bestseller are put before our own dreams. We work far more than 40 hours each week making sure you shine. Managing relationships and egos is one thing, but knowing we are usually the first people asked “what happened?” if a book doesn’t work is pressure we don’t take lightly.
- We do not regurgitate ideas–Sure, there are certain things that can and should be done on most books that are added into marketing plans, but each book is given it’s own set of objectives and goals, and we form a plan around things like the hooks of the story, topical interest in the media, and partnership opportunity potential.
- We employ outside vendors when needed-We spend a huge portion of yearly budgets on outside companies to manage online campaigns, street teams, and pr campaigns. Why? So that we can focus on the execution, strategy, and end result. But sometimes the best focus we can give your book is to keep things in-house. Let’s face it-even at an outside pr firm you are not someone’s only project, and the expertise of in-house members is exceptional.
- We are educated, experienced, and professional– Almost all of the people in marketing have a degree tied to it (though I admit that I did not have any prior marketing experience when I joined our team, I had been at Nelson for seven years and knew a lot about publishing). And while we do have interns and jr. teammembers, those are not the people charged with creating strategies, building relationships with media, or working with sales reps and accounts to get your titles promoted at retail.
- We look at projects with an end goal in mind, not just a budget that must be managed-Every marketer I know has gone over budget on projects. Yes, we are accountable to bottom line numbers, but we go into each project knowing that sometimes the dollars must come second to the strategy.
The points above speak to the marketers at the publishing house, but You, the author, must take an active role in promoting your books. While we know that your first priority is to write the books, there are things you can do that don’t take up a ton of time that will pay off for your brand in the long run. And without you, all we have is a book. Here’s how you can help make the partnership better:
- Build a relationship with us– We need to know more about you than the bio on your book jacket. Let’s chat.
- Share ideas–We don’t presume to have all the answers. You know the book better than anyone. I’ve created a worksheet of questions for our authors to help get to the core questions. If your team doesn’t have one, start the discussion.
- Get engaged-You can’t write a book and just return to your cave. Your competitors will take your spot on the shelf by creating connections with people online, blogging, and plugging their projects at stores, events, etc.
- Step up when needed-The publishing house is not a checkbook. It’s hard for us to respect authors who are never willing to invest in themselves. We know we’ll be handling the bulk of the expenses, but when you aren’t willing to pay for a night of hotel or extra bookmarks, you are sending the wrong message.
I can’t speak for how other houses run, though I’ve made some assumptions here. But I can say that my team works this way at Nelson Fiction, and we have a track record to back up the discipline and forward thinking needed to make us the #1 Christian Fiction publisher.
Publishers have a purpose. And it’s only when you win that we win.