2) Marketing Advantage of a Traditional Publisher
After a publisher has accepted your manuscript and has edited it into a printable book, he will hopefully promote your book, but will at least:
- let someone in the publicity department write a press release,
- create the additionally needed marketing material,
- will go through his list of media contacts and
- will send out the material to those media contacts, thus doing his best to get press coverage for your book.
The beforementioned material will include a PDF containing (maybe an early version of) your book. I’ve heard that many reviewers like to get the reviewing copies at least three months before the official release date. Given the time it takes to read a book, write a review about it and send it to the graphics department where the text will be incorporated into the next issue, three months sound rather reasonable.
Reaching a greater Audience
This is an important step. An established publisher will be able to reach other opinion leaders and will be able to get other clippings (media placements / coverage) than most unknown authors if they contacted the same people by themselves. And if the publisher is really excited about your book, he will organise book tours, signing hours, and will try to get you and your book into newspapers and radio interviews – which means that you will reach a greater audience. Reaching a greater audience is, in my opinion, the biggest advantage when you work with a traditional publisher. In the end, you want to reach and inspire a lot of people, right?
Making Money costs Money
In case the publisher does not send out PDFs, but printed copies of your book to journalists or reviewers, he will pay for printing and postage, besides of paying the editors and marketing people.
I have heard that there are publishers who ask you to pay a part of the printing and advertising costs. These are usually unprofessional publishers whom I would not recommend working with. Something totally different are print-on-demand services of course, which are more like printing service companies than publishers.
Putting it with the words of Chuck Sambuchino, a publisher can also push a book into the market:
Question: Do you possess extraordinary talent if your work becomes a bestseller?
Sambuchino: (…) All you have to do is print 250,000 copies of the book and make it your lead title and push it down readers’ throats, and they’ll buy it.” And the agent was basically right. Bestsellers often happen because (1) the author’s name is one the populace recognizes, so they buy the book without scrutiny, or (2) the book is just visible everywhere (every bookstore, in Target, Walmart, etc.), so a reader thinks, Hmmm, this book is everywhere—maybe I should see what the fuss is about (…)
Doing a stunt like this costs a lot money, and of course there is no guarantee that a publisher really will produce a bestseller. In an interview, George R.R. Martin (Song of Fire and Ice aka Game of Thrones) talks about one of his earlier books being pushed into the market by the publisher, without selling as many books as they had hoped for. As soon as I have found the interview again, I will link it here.
The Author as Promoter of his own Book?
Commercial publishing houses are profit oriented companies. We, the creative people, sometimes forget that.
So what does that mean? It means that a publisher will try to minimize the risks involved with publishing a book from an unknown author. Apart from inspecting if the story and voice of the book is any good, he will calculate how much money he can spend on promoting the first book from an unknown author. And here is where the misunderstanding takes place: I have talked to many friends who are authors and comic artists and they all shared the same experience: They were – to a certain degree – disappointed by the steps and efforts taken by the publisher in promoting their book or comic.
I do not believe that there is some sinister intention behind that, but I do believe that publishers expect the authors to actively promote their book as well. Sure, there are the J.K. Rowlings, who can spend most of their energy on writing. But for authors and creators just starting out the world looks a bit different. 🙂
But I’ll write a book and the publisher does the advertising, I don’t want to spend time on that.
That’s what some friends of mine say.
Honestly, I’m not sure that it works that way.
As mentioned before, a commercial publisher is a profit driven entity. Therefore, sales are important to him. Don’t forget: He has to pay the graphic designer, the editors, the marketing people, the advertisements in the newspaper. He has to pay the overall costs such as the secretary who answered your calls, the editors who read all the manuscripts, the coffee, the heating, the electricity… you get it 🙂 So, given that two unknown authors both offer an equally genius manuscript, which one is more likely to get a contract: The author with no social media presence at all, or the one with 30,000 facebook followers and 60,000 twitter followers and 1,000,000 youtube channel subscribers?
So, you are telling me that I will have to promote my book even though I have a publisher?
I think: Yes.
Of course, there is also the possibility of doing it all by yourself from the very beginning, which we will look at in the next blog post: Self Publishing.
What do you think or which is your experience with book publishers? Feel free to leave a comment below!