Why writing a book isn’t enough to sell it


I sometimes come across the occasional author who will write a book and get it published, and once that’s all done s/he thinks their job is done. S/he waits for the sales to come in, and does very little, if anything, to promote the book. S/he might even argue that it isn’t his/her job to promote the book. Unfortunately such an argument is a denial of the reality that the best sales person for a book is the person who wrote it.

I’m an author myself, as well as an editor/publisher, which gives me a holistic perspective of the entire industry. Immanion Press is a small publisher. We have a tight budget, and so while we edit and publish the book and even promote it by sending out review copies to the appropriate reviewers and offering publicity advice to our authors, in the end we expect that authors will do a lot of the foot work of promoting and marketing their books. Additionally, while we have some distribution channels, we are a print on demand publisher, which means our books don’t get put on the shelves of the big book stories. because if not enough copies sell those books get returned to us, which can actually cause a significant financial issue and has killed many a small press in its time. Anyone who wants to get published by us is expected to be ready to promote and market themselves. We can help, but you also have to help.

However, even with larger publishers that operate on a conventional model of publishing, and can offer some publicity and marketing resources we don’t have to offer, there is still an expectation that the author will actually market his/her book to the target audience that will read the book. Unfortunately a lot of authors don’t promote their books. They are in love with writing the book, and getting royalties from it, and perhaps being recognized and asked to sign a copy of the book. What they don’t realize is that their books is carried as a result of the very successful authors who are marketing and promoting their books. Each year a publisher has to pay a fee to keep a book in print and usually that fee is covered by the income derived from the sale of the successful books. The less than successful books are carried along, and the author who doesn’t promote his/her books just sits on his/her laurel, content to let others do the work.

I think it should be an industry expectation that a given author will actually go out and sell his/her book. S/he may say it’s not her job and that s/he just wanted to write the book, but the truth is that while a book is a commitment, the truly hard work doesn’t begin until the book is published and the author actually needs to promote it.

This means the author needs to present workshops at conventions, but also at book stores. This means the author needs to write articles for relevant sites that reach his/her target audience. This means the author needs to get interviewed on radio shows and in magazines that his/her target audiences listens to and/or reads. This means the author has to create a website/blog and maintain a social media presence that is used to connect with his/her target audience on a regular basis. This means an author has to realize that by writing a book s/he started a business and if s/he wants that business to succeed then s/he has to get off the laurels and start working. Any author who doesn’t want to do all of that work shouldn’t write a book and certainly shouldn’t expect a publisher to bear the onus of selling the book.

A good author works with his/her publisher. S/he actively markets his/her book and keeps the publisher in the loop so the that the publisher can actively help in the promotion of the book. And the publisher in turn does what it can to distribute the book, and market the author by promoting what the author is doing via their own social media channels and through other mediums as well. The job isn’t done by just one or the other but by both to make the book successful.


2 thoughts on “Why writing a book isn’t enough to sell it

  1. Excellent Taylor! In fact, I wonder what ever made potential authors think they didn’t have to promote. Even in the “old days” they needed to be visible for TV interviews, book signings around the country, responding to fans via letter – all that stuff. In the new world of publishing, it is even more important to promote. I agree wholeheartedly with your position here! 🙂

    • I think some authors just don’t want to have to work on selling their book or promoting it and I think publishers are partly to blame because they don’t take the time to enforce those standards.

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