Monday, October 14, 2013

Traditional Publishing: One Reason Not to Choose It

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Back in March, I wrote a post weighing in on the self-publishing vs. traditional publishing choice.  At the time, I was stunned by a report from a Digital Book World survey .  Although I didn’t mention it in the post, I couldn’t believe that one of the main reasons surveyed writers said they were interested in pursuing traditional publishing (76%) was the “marketing support from a publisher.”
At the time, I didn’t really want to pooh-pooh that on the blog—I wasn’t trying to slam my publisher(s) by outing this myth.  So I ignored it, figuring those were just ill-informed writers who wouldn’t be reading my blog anyway.

But now, there’s been another survey published. The Bookseller’s and FutureBook’s annual publishing survey.  Porter Anderson in his weekly Writing on the Ether column for industry expert Jane Friedman’s blog, quoted Sam Missingham: “Traditionally published authors say they need more marketing and publicity support. But self-publishing authors say they want to get contracts because they think a publisher will give them the very marketing and publicity support the traditionally published writers say they don’t get.”
It’s time to put this marketing myth to bed.  Marketing support should not be your reason to go to traditional publishing, y'all. 
There are other reasons to be interested in traditional publishing.  Some writers cite validation.  Some hope for excellent editing.  Some feel strongly about bookstore distribution.  Some have just always wanted to see their book on a bookstore shelf.
Marketing support from the publisher should not factor into your reasoning unless you’ve written a blockbuster-style, high-concept book.  The kind of book that really will get a push from publishers, but doesn’t—ironically—need a push from publishers.
If you’ve written standard commercial fiction, most literary fiction, 95% of genre fiction…you’re not going to get much marketing from your publisher…or what I’m imagining that writers consider marketing support.
You might possibly get an ad in one of your genre’s magazines…I’ve heard of this occasionally happening—I haven’t experienced it, myself. You’ll get good shelf placement in stores on some occasions, depending on your publisher (more likely if it’s a very large publisher) and their deals with individual bookstores and chains…I get books on a tower near the B&N cafĂ© the first month of the launch.  They’ll send out review copies for you (usually only for the first book of the series, although I’ve lately gotten more ARCs).  They list your book in the publisher's catalog. This is your marketing.  A lot of it depends on print and bookstores, both of which seem to be on the decline. If you get it, it will be a short-term push…not a long-term effort. 
They’ve tweeted and done a giveaway for me on Twitter once.  I’ve written for Penguin’s blog on several occasions.  I’ve been interviewed for their newsletter.
On the other hand, I’ve paid in the past for the design and creation of my own bookmarks, business cards, postcards.  I’ve always put together my own blog tours when I’ve done them.  I’ve never been sent on a book tour—although I did tour once—on my dime—in a very small region.  I’ve set up my own book signings.  I pay for my own copies of books for promo reasons (I do get a discount) after I’ve used up my contracted author copies.  I’ve set up my own online giveaways.  Facebook (2 pages, 2 profiles), Twitter, blogging, LinkedIn, Google +?  Me, me, me, me, me.   I set them up, I branded myself.  My website?  Me.  Designed by…me. Paid for by…me.  Press kit?  When mine was updated, it was all by me for me on the website I designed and created.
My friends who are traditionally published came up with their own book trailers.  I’ve not done this, myself.
This isn’t intended as a slap at the PR folks at my publisher or any publisher.  I’m sure they’re overwhelmed with work and represent many writers. It’s simply the way it is.
If you, in fact, are a traditionally published author and you’re waiting for your publisher to promote your book…you’re already in trouble.  If you don’t earn out, you might not end up with a contract for more books.  It’s the author’s responsibility to promote and brand…not the publisher’s.
Publishers do differ.  Someone else’s experience will be very different from mine.  But, speaking as a midlist author who has a couple of different series who isn’t brand-new to the business…I know I’m not alone in what I’ve experienced.
If you self-publish, you’ll be doing the same promo as if you were traditionally published. 
This has been my public service announcement for writers today. :)  I find plenty of reasons to enjoy being a hybrid writer…I just wouldn’t list marketing support among them since I find my efforts a good deal more focused, long-term, and effective than my publishers’. 
Image: MorgueFile: Edouardo