Reality Check: Looking For Marketing in All The Wrong Places

Last week I posted about the Cost of Self-Publishing — an overview of the process I went through on my journey to self-publishing Gwynneth Ever After. While my post didn’t address the issue of marketing costs, a number of people (here and on my Linked In discussion groups) commented to the effect that marketing support was one of their top reasons for going after a traditional publisher.

Given that I’ve also had the experience of the traditional route, I wanted to clear up a few misconceptions on this topic…because the truth is even if you are traditionally published, chances are overwhelming that you’ll still be doing the majority of your own marketing and promotions. In fact, unless you’re J.K. Rowling or Stephen King or some such similar name (or at least well on your way to getting there), I’m pretty much willing to guarantee it.

Before I continue, please don’t think I’m whining over the level of promotional support I’ve received, because I’m not. I have an excellent relationship with my publisher (Sins of the Angels and Sins of the Son are both published through Ace/Roc) and I’m confident they’ve done everything for me that they’ve done for any other debut or mid-list author. But the reality is that marketing dollars are very tight, even for the Big Five, and so, traditional publisher or not, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll end up doing — and paying for — the lion’s share of your own marketing/promotion.

What exactly will that entail? Let’s break it down into two parts: what the publisher covers, and what you’ll most likely have to do yourself.

While I can’t speak for all traditional publishers, here’s what mine has provided for me so far:

  • Marketing the physical books to bookstores. For Sins of the Angels (but not for Sins of the Son), this included putting an excerpt of my book into a sampler along with works of other authors
  • Sending out review copies to their list of reviewers (and to additional reviewers solicited by me)
  • Putting the books up on Netgalley for reviewers to request
  • Running a Goodreads contest
  • Sending out a press release
  • Providing me with giveaway copies for a blog tour and covering mailing costs to North American addresses

Now, getting a book into stores and onto shelves is huge, of course, but when you’re one of several thousand titles on those shelves, you still have to find ways to get the word out so that readers will go looking for it.

To that end, this is what I took on myself:

  • Setting up a book launch
  • Doing a blog tour (either on your own or through a tour organizer)
  • Soliciting additional reviews
  • Sending out additional press releases (targeted to local media)
  • Trying to get interviews
  • Arranging book signings
  • Writing guest posts for other blogs
  • Managing giveaways
  • Building a presence on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. (you may also want to check out my post on Twitterquette for Authors)
  • Having bookmarks designed and printed
  • Designing and purchasing swag items for giveaways (tote bags, mugs, pens, etc.)
  • Handling international mailings
  • Obtaining a list of book clubs and sending mail-outs to those interested in my genre
  • Advertising (print advertising wasn’t in my budget, but I did do limited advertising on blogs, Facebook, and Goodreads)

While some debut/mid-list authors may have received somewhat more/less support from their traditional publishers, I suspect my own experience has been pretty much the norm. Am I discouraging you from seeking a traditional publisher? Not at all. Just be aware of what you can realistically expect from one — and be prepared to put in about the same amount of marketing effort as you would if you self-published.

Questions? Comments? I’m all ears. 😉


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