After years of querying, when I finally got my first book contract, I heard something shocking: books are more work after you sign the contract than before.
I assumed they meant editing. Turns out, they meant promotion.
Wait, what did I even need a publisher for if not to take care of all the business and marketing? I wrote the next great American novel, so shouldn’t they earn their share of the royalties by doing all the sales?
The book market has changed dramatically. The days of passive authors showing up for the odd signing while the checks roll in are over… if they ever existed. Amazon and the Internet have forever changed publishing. Whether it’s better or worse now is entirely another matter. More authors get their books out, but fewer authors can live off their book sales. Whatever your opinion, the reality now is that readers are inundated with the constant white noise of book ads. The only way for a new author to make any sales is by doing it one book at a time.
That sounds harsh, but it’s just the nature of the modern publishing game. It’s not much different than if you were at a bookstore with a pile of paperbacks sitting in the middle of shelves full of books. Few if any of the patrons came in to buy your book. But some of them may have come in willing to discover a new world. And if you reach out and connect with them, it will probably be yours. E-book sales are no different. If you make a connection, readers will be willing to give your novel a try. If you just blast cover graphics and blurbs all over social media, few if any of those who actually see it will even give it a second thought.
How many random authors’ books you saw ads for online do you seek out and buy?
Before you throw up your hands and abandon hope, remember that if your book is really as great as you mother said, it will eventually find nodes of fans who recommend it for you. Someday, the readers will take up the cause and begin sharing and promoting it. Before then, you have to be the one to find interested people and get them to buy your book. More than that, to read it. More than that, to review it. More than that, to recommend it. See, you’re really asking a lot of them. Is it too much for them to expect you to reach a little, too?
It’s not as gloomy as it may seem at first. The readers are out there. They are ravenous. They are constantly on the prowl for the next amazing story. They want to find something so incredible they can show it to all their friends with no fear it will be adored. It’s not their fault that there are so many books as to make it hard to find the good ones. So help them out. Meet them half way. Go where they are, be where they look, and put lots of smile emojis in your posts.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to list all the social media platforms or to try and suggest the myriad ways an author can connect with readers. But let me assure you, it’s a lot more work than writing the book.
So, if you’re doing all that work, what do you need a publisher for anyway?
Because more people working toward the same goal is always better. Get an agent, a publicist, and a street team if you can, too. Find allies among your peers in the publishing world. The publisher invests in your book by putting a marketable cover on it (which authors are notoriously bad at doing on their own). They add legitimacy so readers know somebody besides you thought the story had merit. They pay for editors, proofreading, and marketing. Often, they have access to ads and promotional venues you just can’t access.
All my publishers have earned their share of the royalties. I’ve made more because of them than I would have made alone, even with my share being less. However, you can do it all on your own. You just have to do that much more work to advertise and connect. Most self-published authors don’t.
In my experience, however, the best reach is when I work as a team with the publisher. If I tried to do it all on my own, I wouldn’t have time to write anything ever again. That or I would do no promotion while I write something else and my books would slowly settle down into the abyss where books on Amazon go to languish in obscurity. You’ll have to find your own balance. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking a publisher will do all the advertising. In the new world of books, it’s literally impossible for them to sell books without you doing your part. In fact, presses regularly check an author’s social media presence before deciding if they will publish a book, just because they know how vital it is. Maybe if you haven’t managed to sign with one, that’s a good place for you to start. Improve your online presence so they know you’ll be ready to do your part when they invest in printing your book. Then, once your book is out, work hard to show them they can be sure they won’t be wasting the money and time they spend on it.
The flip side of that coin is you should check on a publisher before working with them. Do they have a strong marketing plan? How much are they going to invest in your book? Have they succeeded in selling books like yours? Do they understand how to make a relationship with an author into a profitable partnership? If you don’t believe they will do their part, don’t sign no matter how tempting an flattering a contract seems.
Really, publishers are investing in you, not your book. The same is true for readers. So you need to be part of the communication all the time.
About James Wymore
Growing up on a steady diet of Spider-man cartoons and television shows like Batman and Wonder Woman, James Wymore knew he would someday find his own super power and join the fight for justice. He did everything right, from experimenting with arson to jumping from great heights, but his ability to control fire or fly never kicked in.
As he went past the teenage years, he accepted that he probably didn’t have a hidden mutant power waiting to manifest. Neither would he uncover any unexplained alien origins, so he threw himself into searching for enhancements designed to bring his latent abilities to the surface. He travelled the world studying arcane magic. Throughout college, he experimented with volatile chemicals, extreme temperatures, lasers, and various forms of radiation.
Eventually, he discovered the power of hypnosis through fantastic stories. He plunged into writing, filling his work with the subtle triggers that would allow him to one day take control of all his readers’ minds and use them as an army to conquer the literary world. Until that day, he works tirelessly to create more and better books. Follow his progress at http://jameswymore.wordpress.com
Released this week on Amazon!
Superheroes and villains constantly battle for control of Denver, Colorado, so somebody has to do the heavy lifting. CJ Cruz found his niche working for whichever super-flavor-of-the-day happens to be running the show at the time. Since most of the self-labeled heroes claiming to be on the side of justice don’t hire henchmen, he usually winds up doing the street-level work for supers operating outside the law. His family and priest just think he’s a gangster, but CJ knows his motivation is pure. He keeps on the windy side of law enforcement by following a few simple rules, the first of which is keep your head down and never be the boss’s right-hand man. People tell him he should get a new job, but he likes working around supers. Besides, except for intimidation and roughing-people-up he doesn’t have any other skills necessary to make rent and pay child support.
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.