Marketing myths, promofail and some WTF

Hello world! Did you think I was dead? Sadly for you, I wasn’t. And I’m still not. I was taking a break from Twitter because of all the conference talk which drives me bonkers, and as for blogging…well, I had nothing (or very little) to blog about. Never stopped me before, but oh well, I’m back now.

So. Recently my chum Luke Walker blogged something classy:

Publishing, Marketing and Complete and Utter Bollocks, Part 2.

All joking aside, he refers here to a conversation to which I was also privy. (No longer, as I deleted myself from the Yahoo loop concerned because it was getting quite painful banging my head against a brick wall.)

There are folks who think that it’s an author’s duty to do all of the promotion. No, I didn’t say ‘some’. I said ‘all’. Apparently, we have no right to expect a publisher to expend themselves in this regard because times are tough, funds are limited and reasons. Or something.

Let me tackle this allegation that we shouldn’t expect epublishers to promote because money. As well as the fact it’s utterly ridiculous, there’s also a massive failure of logic here. If a publishing house – a business, remember, or at least it should be – doesn’t have enough money, or even time, to promote my book, then how the heck can anyone expect me to?

Putting the money issue aside, let’s look at the logistics of it. There are more people working for a publishing house than there are versions of you writing your book, right? That’s X-number of staff against one. Logic dictates that a publisher would have more contacts in the business than you. More ‘reach’, as it were. More opportunities to reach the people who matter – readers. This is especially true of startup authors who know virtually no-one in the industry.

And I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – an author’s best chance of promoting their backlist is to maintain their frontlist. They should be spending the majority of their writing time writing the next book, not carrying the last one.

If a publisher (or its cheerleaders) think I should spend money I haven’t earned yet on promo which won’t reach all that many people because I’m only one person, there’s something seriously wrong here. If I have more money and contacts than a damned publisher, I’d be as well setting up myself, wouldn’t I? (And self-publishing is becoming more and more attractive, lately.) Let’s face it, there are only so many hours in the day. If I spend what little free time I have promoting Book 1, I’ll never have any time or energy to come up with Book 2! A publisher on the other hand? That’s kinda their bag, man. Or should be.

Too, this conversation about promo also threw up some interesting (as in, shit of the bull) ideas about street teams. It boggles my mind that there could be anyone who uses a street team to spot typos in their manuscripts. It is also another matter of bogglination that, if I were to ask “What are editors for?” someone could make a sly remark designed to tell me (though not directly) that my ideas are wrong. Silly me, eh? Expecting editors to edit. CLUE IS IN THE JOB TITLE, PEOPLE.

Street teams can, I’m told, also be used when you “need” someone to nominate you for an award online on sites that ban you from nominating yourself. (There’s a reason for that, dudes and dudettes – to avoid corruption and skewing the results!!!)

In short, newbie and naive authors are startlingly ready to absolve their publisher of all responsibility for promo. And they are worryingly ready to make use of so-called street teams to take care of jobs that publishers and editors should be doing.

Am I saying authors shouldn’t promo at all? No. I’m saying it should not be left up to them entirely. It’s a matter of logistics. I can’t reach as many people as a business made up of multiple people can. And if a publisher takes a percentage of the profits as per the contract but leaves me to do the donkey work, why sign the contract in the first place? If I only sell 10 copies of a book, I’d rather have 100% of that, than 35% or 40% or whatever a publisher’s royalty rate is. If promo is minimal anyway, I won’t be losing out on anything by going it alone, especially if I’m established in the genre with a slowly-growing list of readers.

What I’m saying is, if a publisher can’t help me reach more people than I already can myself, and if they can’t do anything else for me that I cannot do myself, one has to ask…of what benefit are they?

Why not just self-publish? Especially if, when you ask questions to clarify all of the above, you’re shouted down by cheerleaders who seem to believe that asking simple business-related questions makes you a Nasty McNasterson?

Here’s a brief summary of what I’m saying in this blog post for the benefit of anyone with reading comprehension problems:

  • It is not entirely up to the author to promo their book(s). The publisher must play their part too. If their promo is ineffective or non-existent, there has been a breakdown somewhere and whatever the causes of that breakdown, the author would be as well taking their work elsewhere, and/or self-publishing.
  • Street teams are not the go-to guys for editing. An author has a duty to polish their manuscript until its pips squeak before submission, but beyond that, a book should be edited by…brace yourselves…an editor! I know; astounding, huh? Expecting a fucking professional to do the job instead of a bunch of amateurs who can be bought off with a pat on the head and a cheap keyring in exchange for a quick ego-wank.
  • If you speak to members of your street team to get them to nominate you for some Mickey Mouse online award, you’re gaming the system. Put some energy into writing a better book then your readers won’t have to be prompted. I mean, doesn’t it tell you something when you have to press someone into publicly praising your book? Oh, they’d do it anyway? Good. Let them. Keep out of it, Mr Systemgaming Systemson.

Whew. That’s one hell of a rant to whack you all with on  my return to blogging and Twitter, but, you know…if I were nice and polite you’d wonder “Where’s Scarlett and what have you done with her,” wouldn’t you? :)

8 thoughts on “Marketing myths, promofail and some WTF

  1. *scratches head* Publishers want to make money off a book, no? How are they going to make money off a product they don’t promote?

    And this whole “street team” thing? Has to be the worst idea I’ve ever heard of. I don’t think they’ve made it to SF/F yet (or if they have, I missed the memo), fortunately. What a terrible idea. It’s been said elseweb, but you don’t control them. And unlike the people at the publisher, they aren’t professionals. They don’t necessarily know, or care, how bad it looks for the author if they, say, harass people for writing bad reviews of the book. And editing books? Seriously? I can see fans beta-reading, but… wow. Asking a fan to edit for free is at least as bad as asking an author to write for free. I think it’s even worse, given the power differential.

    1. I’m absolutely stunned that someone could say in public (okay, on a Yahoo loop) that their street teams spots typos that they and the editor miss. As if they’re PROUD of that. That shows an amazing sense of entitlement on behalf of the author, and a lack of professionalism on the part of the editor involved. (Mind, I’ve heard and experienced horror stories regarding this particular publisher, so…)

  2. I’m particularly fond of the Red Pen of Doom’s “The Twitter, it is not for selling books” breakdown (it’s an old post, but still valid: I mute every. single. author. whose tweets are incessant chatter about their books. I don’t care if you got a 5 star review. I don’t care if X person loved your book. Say something interesting on Twitter or go home. Engage in conversation. I don’t follow people who don’t interact with others, because they’re missing the point of *social* media. If I wanted to listen to a PR hack, well, I’d follow a bunch of PR hacks. All the “Gosh, my book just got ANOTHER five star review” come across as narcissistic (and pathetic) and…there are lots of ways I can spend my book dollars (I live near Powell’s, after all).

    1. Completely agree about people losing sight of what SOCIAL media should be all about. Do I mention my books? Sure. But not exclusively. I interact with people, swap book recs, talk about what I saw on telly last night, mention this and that. Enough to make me seem human without invading my own privacy. I don’t believe in putting your entire life online; you need to keep something for yourself, but you also need to keep something for your followers, otherwise it comes across like you’re a robot who treats them like numbers on a conveyor belt of pap.

  3. “but, you know…if I were nice and polite you’d wonder “Where’s Scarlett and what have you done with her,” wouldn’t you? ”

    To be honest I started wondering that when you said that self-publishing was looking more and more attractive to you.

    Anyhoo, yes, I agree, especially on the thought that the publisher has a better chance of getting to the readers. Where us writers can end up spending a lot of time promoting our books at each other, which is a fat lot of good to anybody.

    1. Self-publishing was never in my career plan. (I say career plan; does ‘write, submit, profit’ count?) However, given the number of dodgy epublishers out there, going hybrid seems the best bet for an erotic romance author. Or should I say, seems the best fit FOR ME. I can’t speak for everyone.

      The bottom line is, I want to make more money. Staying with one or two reputable publishers would validate my writing, I believe, and I could still self-publish other works which would take care of the bank balance side of things. Publishers for prestige (which only works if they’re GOOD publishers!) and self-publishing for a larger share of the profits.

      I still have ‘write an agent-bait novel’ on my list, so I’m not restricting myself to epublishing, whether self- or otherwise. In fact, I never saw myself as staying wholly in this industry, but it sucks you in, it does! I’ve stayed in the erotic romance genre longer than I intended, but then again, there’s nothing to stop me having two careers, one as Scarlett Parrish and another as someone else. That’s if I can write enough to maintain two writing names. We’ll see.

Spew your brains all over my blog if you dare!

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