AND THAT IT'S UNREASONABLE TO PUT IT ON THE AUTHOR'S BACK?
People are led to believe buying QuickBooks will make them into an accountant.
Ha, ha, I've recently installed that am looking forward to learning the hard way that I am no %$^ accountant.
You are absolutely right, of course. In reality, publishers have been cutting corners on marketing and everything else (except design...it seems books are still judged by their covers). But in my experience as a book publicist, publishers are still investing in publicity (all my friends still have jobs, after all). The question Jeff originally posted was Whose job SHOULD publicity be, and I think in that we are on agreement. But as the Internet continues to revolutionize publishing (a subject I've written about recently and extensively) smart authors are, as Aretha would say, "Doin' It for Themselves."
Actually, there's nothing in the standard book contract even suggesting that that the publisher will promote the book. The author's expectations to the contrary are unilaterally and unsupported by history or mandates. Publishers are not marketers or merchandisers, nor do they don't really want to be, and therein lies the conflict.
No, it's not a mandate, it's just good common sense. If you have a product to sell, it will sell best if people know it exists.
I disagree that publishers aren't marketers or merchandisers. They are in a business that makes products and those products only sell when people discover them. There are 100,000 NEW titles released every year, to say nothing of reprints. And that's just books, which have flashier arts like video, gaming, and music to compete with. The most cynical business man will want to spend money to promote his product, it's protection of the investment. If publishers don't want to promote, it's because every business looks for ways to cut corners and save a buck wherever they can. I'm sure if some publishers could convince us that books don't need binding, authors would be taking notes in webinars on "Glues That Bind Best: Get Your Book Professionally Bound."
They don't promote because they are rewarded not to. If they needed to, they would hire real in-house talent for that purpose. The standing model is to sign books and authors that have strong potential to succeed with the publisher having to do much about it. Anyway, like it or not, this is the way it is.
It is certainly the case that publishers are looking for authors with an audience but it is also still true that publishers "hire real in-house talent for that purpose." Where are you located? I'm in San Francisco, and I can't think of a single publisher with at staff greater than three who doesn't have an in-house publicist.
Granted, not every book gets publicity. Some books don't need it (new translation of Sun Tzu's Art of War), some books couldn't get it even if they wanted it (good luck publicizing a Chinese-English phrase book), and some books will sell like hotcakes on Amazon (got the only book in the market on healing injured shoulders? Don't need and won't get publicity for that).
The dirty secret of the publicity department is that publishers take on more books than will profit (they've always done this) and only invest lots of money in the ones they think will bring the most success. But that means that some of those books are still getting publicity and it also means that the publisher likes every author to think their book is one of those books.
Well Jeff, you posted this question. And you didn't ask about the way it is, you asked about who's job it should be. And historically, it has been the publisher's job. As for the future...all bets are off in the middle of a revolution. While there's a good chance traditional publishing will shrink to nonexistence, I think there's an equally good chance that it will become more of a luxury retailer, offering limited print-runs with expensive hard back sold only as collectors items. And that would still require publicity.
As Karma says, that's a really bad business model on the part of publishers, and is actually very sad when one really thinks about it.
Nicely stated. Very well thought out.
Also, though he author only makes a fraction of the revenue, having and promoting a book can create many lucrative opportunities. And selling a lot of copies is rewarding.
Yes! Authors make a fraction, but you can build on that to make more money! Selling a lot of copies is very rewarding. It just makes my beady little eyes light up with joy.
And selling a lot of copies is rewarding.
Much more so for the publisher than the author.
You're so right, Karma. I think one of the primary factors in authors choosing to self publish is not just that they can't get picked up by trade publishers, but that they also want to be able to keep the lion's share of any profits for themselves instead of publishers taking most of it.
I had a client who had self-published a non-fiction book. He also happened to be an excellent marketer, so he managed to make over $250,000 on his book in one year. He had an ingenious way of driving sales through his many speaking engagements. Because of his good numbers, he was offered a contract from one of the Big Six to publish a new edition of the book. Because he had a good platform, the publisher did make an effort to pitch media and other good marketing support, and together they achieved even more in overall sales than the self-published version. But the royalties he received were significantly less than what he had done on his own with the self-help version because the greatest percentage went to the publisher, not to him (which majorly pissed him off). So with his next book, he turned down the publisher, saying, "I can make more money for myself by targeting my natural audience than you can by selling my book more widely." Unfortunately for many other authors, however, they don't have that particular author's marketing smarts and his great connections into his marketplace.