AND THAT IT'S UNREASONABLE TO PUT IT ON THE AUTHOR'S BACK?
I've also seen this happen, where self-publishers turn down a contract because they can make more on their own.
Yes. And yes.
I believe it should be a joint effort. If the writer believes in thier works they should be willing to help promote it. It goes the same for the publishers, you chose that piece for a reason. I understand that small and midsize houses don't have the funds, and maybe not even the experience or knowledge of what works. But they have knowledge of what others in thier stables are doing that might work for others in the same genre. Brow beating and blaming the authors for slow sells when they are willing to back thier authors doesn't help in promotions.
A few points of clarification. Yes, publisher's tend to have in-house publicity "departments". But they are staffed by recent college grads without genuine experience or educational credentials in the field, and are poorly compensated. Consumer product companies will raid MBA programs and each other for top marketing talent and start them in the six-figures. They are at the top of the corporate food chain. The opposite is true in publishing, where new ideas are discouraged. Independent houses, where there's an actual connection between ownership and accountability, are often the exceptions. For the Big Six and others, pitching the book to retailers, not consumers, is the gist of the effort. Beyond that, favorable circumstances and author efforts are crucial. I've been in it for 23 years, this has been and remains the status quo.
I agree 100% with your clarification. It's never occurred to me to compare the amount spent marketing the book to retailers to that of the budget of the publicity department, because the former has always been the most important thing. If you get lots of publicity and the book isn't in bookstores, you still have no sales. Of course, now that there's Amazon (and Amazon turns nothing down) that's not as much an issue, but it's still the approach for good reason. What saddens me about this state of affairs isn't the lack of money spent on publicity, it's that the "pitching the book to retailers" now = "Does Barnes & Noble want this?" If not, good chance the book will get scrapped. It's not good for an industry to base all their decisions on what the buyer at one retailer wants...but I digress.
Karma, And that's the inherent weakness of the Big Six, they are essentially a feeder for BN. Independent presses tend to have more diverse markets and the range of what they choose to publish reflects that.
This is so true, and it's surprising, really, that the Big Six don't have the imagination to find lucrative adjunct markets other than BN (or in Canada, Chapters). A client of mine wrote a book about grieving and it was picked up by one of the major Canadian publishers (that actually is a subsidiary of one of the Big Six). OK, so the publisher got the book into bookstore distribution where it sat on the shelf with the other books about grieving. However, the author, who is a skilled grief counsellor, compiled a list of all the funeral homes across Canada that offer supportive bereavement counselling services, and then emailed all these funeral homes with information about her book, suggesting that this could be an excellent value-added item that a funeral home could offer families who participate in the groups. She got a great response--more than 30 funeral homes ordered multiple copies of the book with more coming in as I write this--and her publisher was astounded that there were all these orders coming in! What astounds me is that no one in the marketing department of that publisher thought of the fact that a natural audience for a book on grieving might be the clients of funeral homes! (The same author also managed to make a bulk sale of her book to a university certification program in bereavement studies--that surprised the publisher too!) How can businesses (publishing) that are supposed to be in the business of publishing works of imagination, usefulness, and knowledge, not see where their logical adjunct markets would be?
Sharon, Sometimes in-house sales departments will proactively seek out bulk special sales opportunities. But they are basically modeled to shape and sell the books for retailers, and are not anxious to adjust that focus.
So would you say, Jeff, that in order for independent/diverse titles to get to market they could use a distribution channel or channels or their own? This is something Amazon offers, what else?
Good question that defies a simple answer. Amazon is your best bet, but you will still need to drive your customers to buy the book. Other retail channels are very difficult to access but far from impossible.
No, Karma, you have not digressed, you bring up an interesting tidbit I'd like to know more about. "pitching the book to retailers" now = "Does Barnes & Noble want this?"
Are you saying that the retailer will make or break a book deal? How does that work? Who at the retail end is making that decision? What are they considering in their decision? So pubs are beholden to retailers? Do retailers work in regional buying or national store buying? Is it like the Walmart model where if they trim the buying price to such a low level that the profit is in quantity sales?
This is interesting phenom - what say you?
Good question again that defies simple answer. The publishers and retailers are locked into a comfortable relationship. Newcomers are unwelcome until they are able to knock the door down, like 50 shades of gray.