Last week, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and a post caught my eyes. I’m in a lot of groups of Facebook, mainly ones where we discuss marketing tips, and where I can meet authors and can exchange launch takeovers or blog interviews or other fun ways to help each other promote books.
The post that caught my eye was something along the lines of “I can’t wait until I get picked up by a publishing company. All of this marketing is tiresome and I don’t really have time for it.”
I had to laugh. Okay, I didn’t really laugh, because it was really early and I hadn’t had enough tea yet and if you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’m super cranky in the mornings. Like really. So I wasn’t laughing. But I’m not sure that I’ve read a more untrue statement since I first got involved in the writing community.
Here’s the deal. Yes, marketing is tiresome. I once watched an author I love do five author takeovers in a week. If you’re unfamiliar, an author takeover is generally done when an author is having a party to celebrate the launch of their latest book. He or she will invite other authors over to her Facebook page to “take over” during the launch party. This means the author who is launching doesn’t have to entertain his or her fans entirely on her own for a few hours, and authors and fans who hadn’t previously been connected get introduced to each other. It’s beneficial all the way around. But it’s tiring, especially given that most authors are still rocking a full time job in addition to writing and marketing their books. Chances are, the author I watched do five takeovers in one week also worked forty hours that week, and had a commute. Maybe she even had a family.
Marketing is also ever ongoing. If you stop marketing, you stop selling books, until you become a household name. For most of us, we’ll have to market until we die, or at least until we get so tired of it that we retire from trying to sell books.
But getting picked up by a traditional publisher isn’t going to end that.
Let me repeat myself. If you get picked up by a traditional publisher, you’re not going to find that you’ve sold a mountain of books and magically have eleventy billion dollars in your bank account without doing any marketing.
It’s just not going to happen.
First of all, marketing budgets have shrunk, all the way around. Even the Big Five publishing companies aren’t going to sink marketing dollars into a relatively unknown author. They’re already in to you for editing, cover design, formatting, and maybe, if you’re lucky, a small print run. There’s no money left for marketing. I’ve read that some publishing houses are even looking at your author platform to see if you already have a following. So even if you’re hoping to get signed by a publishing house, you need to have already done some marketing to get some people interested in what you have to offer. Oh, and that author I watched do five takeovers a week? She’s signed to a publishing house.
Not only that, but the time frame from being signed to releasing your first book through a traditional publisher generally takes months. Months. I’ve seen people who have waited over a year from the time they signed their contract until their book was available for sale.
Advances have shrunk, too. As self-publishers and e-books have driven down the price of books overall, there’s not much money left for huge advances. I’ve known some authors to be signed to major houses who got no advances. I predict that advances will continue to shrink as bookstores like Barnes and Noble continue to close, leaving Amazon with all of the bargaining chips.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to get picked up by a traditional publishing house. Hell, I’ve just booked an editor to go over my manuscript before my first round of queries. Oh, I’ll self publish if I don’t land an agent or a publishing house, but I do want to at least try. I’m going to start talking about my efforts in a few weeks, and I’ll probably update monthly.
I just don’t want you going into the game thinking that if you get picked up by a publishing house that you’re going to be living on steak and lobster for the rest of your life. That’s an unrealistic expectation in today’s publishing world, and to let you think any differently is a disservice. If you do get a big fat advance, I’m really happy for you. And yes, a little jealous. But, truthfully, the chances of that happening are fairly small. Be realistic about your expectations. Educate yourself. Learn about the business that you want to be involved in, rather than walking around holding out your hand, and asking where’s your eleventy billion dollars.