Let’s Outsource Breathing While We’re At It

Here’s the most irritating quote I’ve seen this year.

“Do not publish any author who does not understand or is disinclined to co-operate with the notion that they are your most important salesperson, no matter how important what they have to say might be.”

I won’t say who said that or who sent it to me without a trace of irony, in the interests of protecting the guilty. Nor will I say who sent me a contract including the boilerplate phrase “the publisher will do no marketing beyond maintaining a web page,” or something of the like (I’m not looking it up, it would only make me cross). But it made me think about marketing and the author’s role in it from a new perspective — its importance for the publisher.

I’m a crappy marketer, but at least I’ve made a good-faith effort — website, blog, twitter, Facebook. I’ve sent out over a hundred requests for reviews, which netted about 3 actual reviews, and I gave Ms. Mentor at the Chronicle of Higher Ed. no peace whenever she sent out a call for academic fiction recommendations. I’ve done blog interviews, sent elegant promotional bookmarks to all sorts of conventions, and dramatically inclined friends have given readings from my works at others. I haven’t yet taken advantage of my publisher’s new site for posting reviews, but that’s about the only base I haven’t touched.

And you know what? I make more money off the reissued novellas that I haven’t promoted at all, which tells you about how much my marketing skills are worth. Thank god I have a day job paying the rent.

But this post isn’t about me — as I began, it’s about how that quote made me think about the significance of marketing for a publisher. I’m not an expert on publishers, but I doubt that many of them have day jobs paying the rent. If my books don’t sell my ego is hurt, but if a publisher’s books don’t sell he or she goes out of business.

So here you are, the publisher. Your livelihood depends on selling a product. Marketing, and marketing alone, makes the difference between your financial survival and demise. What will you do?

Why, you’ll ask a bunch of untrained authors to do it for you in their spare time, motivated by nothing more than ambition and vanity.

Ambition and vanity are wonderful things, but if my livelihood depended on my books selling I would hire a bygod marketing professional.

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