A business blogger tells writers to take responsibility for their own marketing, to have skin in the game. Kirkus invites publishers of all sizes to submit books for review with the stipulation that “authors must have zero financial responsibility for the book’s publication (note: this does not include marketing).”
Small publishers do what they can to support their writers and remain financially viable. At AWP 2014, a literary publicist said most publisher expect writers to use advances to pay for promotion of the book. Large publishers while placing major marketing budgets behind big name authors do also create a solid backdrop for all other authors to go out and sell. Advance reader copies, a sales force, point of sales items, website pages, the power of a big imprint are significant. Most writers published by small presses receive a handful of free advance reader copies, pay their own publicist and bear the cost of book travel.
Of course the small press might be looking for sales of seven hundred or fifteen hundred books over a year to break even versus ten thousand in ninety days so there is less pressure. Unless the author wants to cover expenses like that publicist’s contract, printed marketing materials, and travel. Added to the hundreds of hours spent writing the book, writers do have a very lot of skin in this game.
What does it cost to market a book? There are companies willing to sell self-published authors all kinds of services ranging from around a thousand dollars upwards to twenty or thirty thousand. Think of what is needed in today’s market: website, social media presence, publicity, travel, free give aways. With over a million new titles released each year, grabbing an audience of a thousand or two thousand readers is part strategy, part magic.
Harvesting Ashwood sold over 4,100 electronic copies in six months. The royalties weren’t much because of discounts and distributor expenses. My publisher feels the groundwork has been laid for Leaving Ashwood this summer. A possible publisher of a second novel to be released later this year feels the same.
The dirty little secret for most writers is the road to success is a whole lot like the South Park’s Underpants Gnomes model– Phase 1: Sell book to publisher. Phase 2: ? Phase 3: Big Profit!