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View Full Version : Authors & small press publishing. Help promote your work or not?



Donnettetxgirl
04-28-2008, 07:08 PM
h

Sheryl Nantus
04-28-2008, 07:50 PM
If your small press publisher (or micropress, as some are called) doesn't have a deal with a distributor to try and get your books into bookstores then all the work the author does is pretty well useless.

A distributor will try to sell your book to the bookstore chains who will then at least attempt to put them on shelves in stores. Without a distributor it's up to the author to make personal contact with bookstores and beg them to take a chance - and even if you're a great salesperson there's only so many stores you can reach within your area.

Without a distributor you're behind the eight-ball before you even get started, sorry to say - all the work an author puts into promotion pales beside having a distributor who will get your book into stores far beyond who you can call and mail to and meet.

A lot of small presses/micropresses will use the excuse that the author must do all the promotion so that if there are low sales then it falls back on the shoulders of the author - who, in all good faith, may have done everything asked - but unless the publisher has a proper avenue of distributing the book (and NOT the "it's available through Ingram's/B&T mantra) then it's an uphill battle that few authors can afford or who have the time to do.

jmo, of course...

Sheryl Nantus
04-28-2008, 08:35 PM
I would say some of the promotion but not all of it. A publisher should at least send out review copies and attempt to generate some publicity through press releases and the like.

An author should promote his/her book - after all, why not? But the success of the book can't lie solely on the author's shoulders and should be shared with the publisher since, after all, the publisher has a lot more to gain from the success of the book than the author financially.

Jackfishwoman
04-28-2008, 10:02 PM
yep, I agree with the above posts.
I was published by a small press and they did press releases and sent out a gazillion review copies and did some marketing to universities but the rest was up to me. I live in a different country than my publisher so perhaps they could have helped more had I lived in the same city as them (such as organizing sigings and book launch - they organized those for other authors who live in the same area as them).
There is no question that you are at a disadvantage when it comes to marketing & promotion if you are published by a small press. They just don't have the budget to do much promotion so it is really a grass-roots effort. And yes, when you are up against the big guys and they get all the attention and press time, your sales are lacking. I feel like I have put in a Herculean effort of trying to promote my book but still, nobody knows about it. :cry:

Jackfishwoman
04-28-2008, 10:05 PM
But, as fellow writers on this forum keep reminding me - being published by a small press is a hundred times better than no publisher at all! :)

Sheryl Nantus
04-28-2008, 10:15 PM
yes, but as Uncle Jim also said - being published BADLY is worse than not being published at all...

;)

Jackfishwoman
04-28-2008, 11:29 PM
who is this Uncle Jim guy I keep hearing about on here?

veinglory
04-29-2008, 03:07 AM
"Had to" promote. No. It's not in any of my contracts and there is no stipulated obligation.

I publish predominantly with four small presses. Two have at some time pressured/suggested that I promote in certain ways, one has mentioned I should promote a certain title more. However two of them haven't mentioned it at all.

I promote when I can because I want the books to sell well but I don't accept that promotion is a compulsary obligation rather than something done out of enlightnened self-interest. And I promote most for the presses that have marketing and promotion staff to help me out.

Jersey Chick
04-29-2008, 03:21 AM
I think there's a huge difference between promotion and marketing. It's not up to me to market - nor should I be expected to. I'm not a salesperson and that's something that should definitely be handled by a salesperson of sorts. Both of my publishers handle that for the most part - they're both small presses and one (I think) succeeds a bit more than the other.

Promotion, on the other hand - is something we do together. Sure, I do what I can to promote - website, blogs, contests, etc. Promoting I don't mind - it's not (IMHO) nearly as time consuming, so it doesn't eat into my writing time, or whatever real life stuff is going on.

Jersey Chick
04-29-2008, 04:39 AM
I can't say if I am or not - one book was only just released about 5 weeks ago and the other one doesn't come out until the end of May - both are first books with each publisher... :) But - from what I've seen on Fictionwise and Amazon - I probably won't be too unhappy. :D

veinglory
04-29-2008, 04:52 AM
p.s. if authors are disappointed in their sales they probably didn't do their research. I compile data on romance ebook sales. By far the most important factor is the publisher. How much the author promotes doesn't seem to matter all that much. Not to say you shouldn't do it, but if you pick FriendlyButFeeble Press over WeSellBooks LLC even heroic promotion efforts will generally not make up the difference. If an author has certain sales expectations they should check out a press's typical sales volumes before submitting to them.

Susan B
04-29-2008, 06:48 PM
If you read posts by Doreen Orion (prevostprincess) you'll see that even authors with books coming out with the "big houses" (her publisher is Random House) may opt to take on a significant amount of promotion.

Everything you read suggests the same thing. Most of us are/will be "midlist authors" (not stars--not yet, at least :-) and the more we can be partners in promotion the better.

My publisher, a university press, appears to do pretty well with distribution and marketing/publicity. But I'm certainly gearing up to do whatever I can on my own, to supplement their efforts and especially to focus on the potential audience where I may have better access (like the local SF Bay Area audience.)

I agree, though, that if the publisher doesn't at least have distribution set up--and ideally, at least some kind of sales force--it is going to be a real uphill climb. But even with that, there is a lot we can/should do.

Good luck!

ResearchGuy
04-29-2008, 07:00 PM
yes, but as Uncle Jim also said - being published BADLY is worse than not being published at all...


Kinda like saying that being disabled is worse than not being alive at all.

Or like being fed badly is worse than outright starvation.

Or having to wear glasses is worse than total blindness.

Or living in a shabby home is worse than being homeless.

--Ken

Sheryl Nantus
04-29-2008, 07:23 PM
no... rather like saying that being "published" by, say... PublishAmerica is worse than not being published at all.

take it up with Jim if you disagree.

veinglory
05-02-2008, 03:11 AM
The point about books stores carrying a book is that authors can't do any awful lot about it. The press *must* produce books that are deeply discounted, have unlimited returns and have a distributor. Most small presses don't provide these terms ergo they are not elligable for shelving. Without that you might get a it in few in local stores if you go door to door and ask, but maybe not even then.

ResearchGuy
05-02-2008, 05:31 AM
. . . are deeply discounted . . .
Well, standard discount. "Deeply" might be in the eye of the beholder. But yeah, 40% to bookstore, 55% or more to distributor (or to Amazon), ouch. Gotta be printing in big quantity to make that happen. Look at it from the retailer's view, though -- they have to have a sizable margin, whether it is potato chips or batteries or books. And the rest of the trade chain gets its cut, too. Gotta pay for staff and other costs.

BTW, even with normal kinds of distribution, it can get pretty hairy for a small publisher. In a case I've heard of from a reliable source, the publisher got stiffed by Baker & Taylor (wholesaler -- don't know if the publisher dealt through a distributor or directly with B&T) for a good many thousands of dollars (big money for a small operation). They can run roughshod over small publishers and get away with it. One major distributor went belly up and screwed many small presses.

However, one-person publishing companies can get books on shelves. Does not mean that part of the business is profitable, but they can do it by jumping through the usual hoops.

--Ken

veinglory
05-02-2008, 05:50 AM
Some PODders (with small or no print runs) manage to give enough of a discount to get on chains store shelves via normal channels. But it's the exception to the rule.

ResearchGuy
05-02-2008, 06:00 PM
Some PODders (with small or no print runs) manage to give enough of a discount to get on chains store shelves via normal channels. But it's the exception to the rule.
How?

"Normal channels" require enough copies IN the channels (even aside from the cost-vs-discount challenge), not one-at-a-time ordering of non-returnable books. If you know of an exception, I would love to talk to that publisher.

--Ken

veinglory
05-03-2008, 02:56 AM
Samhain publishing. They may do short runs, I don't know for sure, but they use POD. Many of their books are seen in stores including (full disclosure) one of mine in a few places.

ResearchGuy
05-03-2008, 03:48 AM
Samhain publishing. They may do short runs, I don't know for sure, but they use POD. Many of their books are seen in stores including (full disclosure) one of mine in a few places.
Ok, short runs (hundreds of copies) I can see. It was the strictly POD option (no print run -- ordered one at a time, presumably not returnable) that I find hard to envision.

--Ken

Jersey Chick
05-03-2008, 04:11 AM
From what I understand - Samhain does small print runs - and I've seen their books both in B&N and Borders here.

veinglory
05-03-2008, 06:14 AM
I tend to think of POD as including digital short run printing. The language gets a bit fuzzy. The printer, product and pricing are the same for both. All that differs is the press creates a 'demand' in advance of the reader so that stock is in the supply chain prior to the actual purchase click.

ResearchGuy
05-03-2008, 06:23 AM
I tend to think of POD as including digital short run printing. The language gets a bit fuzzy. The printer, product and pricing are the same for both. All that differs is the press creates a 'demand' in advance of the reader so that stock is in the supply chain prior to the actual purchase click.
It gets confusing, as there is the technology and there is the business model.

I am using digital printing to serve both purposes (see www.umbachconsulting.com (http://www.umbachconsulting.com)). The books are available one at a time, literally printed on demand, and I am also buying printings of 200 to 500 copies to supply local needs (author sales, promotions, my own direct sales, and bookstores). One book is in its third printing (500, then 50, then 500). It is a risk-minimizing approach at the cost of limited upside.

--Ken

Sheryl Nantus
05-03-2008, 05:02 PM
I would say, however, that this all comes back around to Yog's Law.

Unless you are self-pubbing, there's no reason why YOU the WRITER should be purchasing large numbers of your own book to get them into stores through consignment. I'm still leery of the idea of renting tables at conventions and selling them there; I've yet to hear a good sales story of that working out.

A legitimate publisher should not count on the author for large-number sales and for them to do the work to get the book into stores. That's the job of a distributor and of a sales/publicity force.

If you self-pub - more power to you. If you're signed with a publisher then you shouldn't be dumping money getting copies of your own books.

ResearchGuy
05-03-2008, 07:59 PM
I would say, however, that this all comes back around to Yog's Law.

Unless you are self-pubbing, there's no reason why YOU the WRITER should be purchasing large numbers of your own book to get them into stores through consignment. I'm still leery of the idea of renting tables at conventions and selling them there; I've yet to hear a good sales story of that working out.

A legitimate publisher should not count on the author for large-number sales and for them to do the work to get the book into stores. That's the job of a distributor and of a sales/publicity force.

If you self-pub - more power to you. If you're signed with a publisher then you shouldn't be dumping money getting copies of your own books.

With all due respect, there is an enormous amount of "it depends."

Let me give an example.

Although I had never planned on doing so, I ended up publishing an anthology by a group of local writers (you can track it down via my home page easily enough). To my astonishment, right off the bat I had to kick the first printing up to 500 copies because the authors/editors wanted 380 immediately for their own sales to members of the organization, to friends and family, and at events the authors and editors were arranging.

The book is a fund-raiser for the authors' organization, and they do very well on those direct sales.

The authors themselves have arranged signings at several venues, including bookstores. The largest event so far was at a Borders store, which gave me a purchase order for 100 copies that I hand-delivered (billing Borders corporate, which might or might not ever get around to actually paying for the books). Another was at a local independent bookstore that requested and received 15 copies on consignment. Those sold immediately at the event, and fortunately the authors had books themselves to meet the rest of the demand for that day. (Alas, I am still waiting for THAT bookstore to pay me.) For some other events, the authors/editors can do much better for the group by selling directly rather than by my supplying books and taking a cut. BTW, I had to order a second (much smaller) printing because bookstores gobbled up all of remaining copies from the first printing, plus more, and have gone back for another 500-copy printing because the authors are selling the things like hotcakes and want more. (I increased the order so that I'll have enough on hand for bookstore placement where opportunities arise, and for my own direct sales to readers.) What, exactly, is wrong with that?

Another author whose book I have just published wants a supply to take to a conference -- not something to which I could provide books and that could not get them (and definitely not that fast) from Ingram. I'll arrange to get the book into local bookstores myself, though, whether through purchase order or on consignment. But the author will do much better financially on copies he sells directly at his (non-bookstore) appearances.

Another author, two of whose novels I'm publishing (one out already, another coming out in September) wants to make personal appearances. She wants a supply of books for resale (and she is accustomed to that practice with her previous books). For bookstores, I'll place books on consignment or via store purchase order, but for other events, she will do much better reselling herself -- much bigger profit than the percentage of list price royalty I am paying.

But indeed, it is ordinarily going to be a bad practice for authors who are not their own publishers to do consignment sales to bookstores -- the discount will kill them. But it depends. That is, it depends on who is able to connect with the bookstore owner/manager/buyer, what the dollar figures are (cost of books, royalty, or other revenue split) . . .

Now, what do you mean by "legitimate"? While I have a very small publishing operation (never intended to have one at all, but that is how things worked out -- there are dues to pay for steering people away from exploitive/vanity publishers), I'd like to think it is legitimate. But I am also happy to work with authors who like to personally promote and, yes, even sell their books. Some want to do that. And if so, I can increase my print order to take advantage of reduced cost per copy (and can reduce my financial risk). Win-win.

An author with whom I am well acquainted wrote a book published by a small independent publisher. The author buys case after case of books from the publisher, at the bookstore discount (and gets royalties on those books, too) because every time she speaks anywhere, people want to buy copies -- sometimes several copies each. There is no way for the publisher to deliver books to scattered speaking engagements, but the author is, obviously, already there to speak. What, exactly, is wrong with that? The publication of that book was not predicated on that role for the author, but that is how it has worked out. The publisher still sells books via a wholesaler (which might or might not ever actually pay for them -- that wholesaler has a reputation for screwing small publishers) and via Amazon (which takes an obscene cut off the top, 55%) and directly to buyers, but would be foolish not to enable the author to sell at speaking engagements. (The author usually has sold the books before paying the publisher for them, by the way.)

So, it depends.

Oh . . . distributor? Sales force? Distributors require 65 percent discount (that is typical, I believe), and are picky about what publishers they will represent. (Most will NOT deal with very small publishers with few books.) AND they, too, can and do pay very slowly or not at all. Sales force? Dunno about others, but my sales force is myself, period. Anyway, for books with primarily local or regional appeal, it is not clear that a distributor, taking a huge cut of the action and guaranteeing nothing (not even payment) makes any sense.

One of these days I'll write about my experiences as an accidental publisher. This is an ongoing learning experience. But I am convinced that the platitudes so regularly spouted by those who have not had the experience can be misleading or simply beside the point.

My views, for whatever they are worth.

--Ken

Branwyn
05-10-2008, 11:45 PM
I'm published with Samhain and would love to know why when I check with the availability of my book it's not in stock. It's tough getting the word out and then to have people unable to buy the book in stores is frustrating to say the least.

An author with whom I am well acquainted wrote a book published by a small independent publisher. The author buys case after case of books from the publisher, at the bookstore discount (and gets royalties on those books, too) because every time she speaks anywhere, people want to buy copies -- sometimes several copies each. There is no way for the publisher to deliver books to scattered speaking engagements, but the author is, obviously, already there to speak. What, exactly, is wrong with that?
I've done that, for book signings and fairs I've attended.

flashgordon
06-01-2008, 07:47 PM
The reason stores say that Samhain books are not in stock is because they use Lightning Source for their printing. No one "stocks" lightning source books unless there is demand. Ingrams will list 100 copies as being "in stock" at their Tennessee warehouse, but on some bookstore databases it says "not in stock." If they order it - like a back order - then it will trigger Ingram to put it into "stock" and then it will ship. This is a funny glitch with all LS books - they are available and in stock, you just need to get them to go ahead and place that first virtual order.

artemis31386
02-05-2010, 06:29 AM
Thank you for that information Flash Gordon (I know I'm almost two years too late, but give me a break, I just read your post). Its good to know that about LS.

mshaw2268
03-30-2010, 12:38 AM
Timely post - or at least found by me at a timely time :P. I just started a thread in the Publishing section asking if book promoting might be a growing field for freelancers interested in that particular area because of the small publishers and self publishers getting a boost from the growing popularity of e-books and online bookstores.

stormie
03-30-2010, 12:43 AM
My first book was published with a very small publisher. No promotion, though they said they submitted copies to newspapers,etc. Doubt it. They didn't use a distributor. The only good things they did were give me 25 free copies to do as I please with, bookmarks, and bookstores could return the unsold copies and I didn't have to buy any. Other than that, no advance, no promotion except on their website. I did all of the promotion. I didn't do too bad considering I was so new to writing. That was years ago.

Susie
03-30-2010, 06:05 PM
That's super about your sales, stormie!

nitaworm
04-25-2010, 11:14 AM
I believe promotion of your work means investment in your writing career. I just talked with several agents and editors at a conference today and they tipped me off and said they loved authors that appeared to be motivated to improve sales. To build a platform and audience that become loyal purchasers of their works.

veinglory
04-25-2010, 09:32 PM
Actually Samhain books are offered with a commerical deep discount and are fully returnable so they can be ordered just the same way and on the same terms as Harry Potter of any normal commercial paperback. I have sold a few hundred through normal chain store sales with no input from me.

The thing is chain store stocking of small press books is hit and miss and Samhain is a high output. Some Samhain books get in a lot of stores, some get in none, most get in a few at least when they are a new release. I always see a few Samhain books in my local borders store.