Self-Marketing – Do You Really Want a Book Publisher to be in Control of Your Book’s Publicity? Six Reasons I Don’t.

by Karen Jonson

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Self-published authors also need to become self-promoted authors – and that is a good thing.

A year and a half ago, I met a local author at a monthly meeting sponsored by one of our local writers organizations. She was writing a book, and so was I. So we shared progress notes.

I ran into her one year ago and learned she had finished her book, and had sent it off to her agent who was going to send it out to publishers. I just read on her blog that Penguin is publishing her book. The publisher’s publicity team is now working on her early October launch. So far the book launch activities, according to her blog, include a Facebook page, a facelift for her website, review copies sent to reviewers, and book signings, including an obvious one at the main local bookstore. They will naturally also work on getting her the ubiquitous new-book press coverage.

Having the assistance of a publisher’s publicity team puts this author in an enviable position – especially among self-published authors, like me. Unlike her, we have to do all of the work to publish our books ourselves. There is no group of elves or magic fairies off in New York City working on our behalf to launch our books into the marketplace.

So, why am I not jealous?

I’m not jealous because when I chose to self-publish, I also accepted responsibility for all of the other aspects involved in book publishing – including publicity and marketing. For me, this author’s update doesn’t provoke envy, but relief that my book publicity campaign is in my hands.

In this case, specifically, I was not impressed. After all, I don’t think creating a Facebook page is a big deal whatsoever. Anyone can (and should) launch a Facebook page for his or her book(s). It only takes in a few minutes. Giving her existing website a new look is equally not impressive. Anyway can give their websites new a new look-and-feel with the help of templates. To give your publicity team credit for these simple tasks is to damn them with faint praise.

And for the rest, book reviews, signings, and press clips, well that is their JOB. If a book publisher doesn’t supply those three book publicity staples, they are really falling down on the job.

Just as I have good reasons for why I chose to self-publish (getting to market faster, maintaining control, receiving higher profits, etc.), I have six good reasons for wanting to manage my book’s marketing program myself.

1. I’m in charge.

Just as I’m in charge in the publishing of my book, from telling the story I want to tell the way I want to tell it to the cover design, no one can override what I feel is the best possible publicity for my book. Of course, there are certain publicity opportunities that are not available to me as a self-published author, such as traditional book reviews. However, there are other opportunities I can leverage on my own, such as blog tours.

2. I can easily handle the small stuff myself.

Frankly, I can set up my own Facebook page and redesign my website myself, thank you very much. I would expect something extraordinary from experienced book publicists working for big publishing companies, not these trivialities.

3. I can be creative.

And, speaking of extraordinary, I have yet to read any stories of publicity teams at publishing companies launching truly creative book publicity campaign. On the other hand, I have heard of many creative concepts employed by indie authors to get their books out there. I even experienced one at an author’s recent book reading! The author had the genius idea to perform a rap about his book at the end of his already-entertaining book reading. But that’s not all. He also asked all of us in the audience to video him on our smart phones and send him the videos. He’s going to edit them together to create his book’s promotional video. Like I said, genius.

4. There are no guarantees.

Although the author is getting some publicity attention from her book publisher, there are no guarantees. I’ve heard many other authors, including published authors, talk about the dearth of PR and marketing provided by their publishers. And it’s dropping off every year. This is leaving authors to conduct – and pay for – their own publicity campaigns anyway! (Perhaps this author is even paying the publisher for her publicity out of her royalties.)

5. I can market my book long after the “launch.”

It’s a well-known fact that traditional publishers are all about the launch of a new book, which lasts anywhere from three to six months on average. Once it’s launched, they move on to their next new book. Yesterday’s books are quickly back-listed, often never to be heard from again. One of the most important benefits of self-publishing in my opinion is the opportunity to keep our books “ever-new.” Sure the marketplace loves new things, but your book will always be new to people who’ve never heard of it before. As you continue your marketing campaign long into the future, you don’t have to tell anyone that it was launched last year or 10 years ago. If the material is still timely, you can still market it.

6. I am building a repeatable model.

This is the most important reason of all that I want to set up my book’s publicity program myself. I am not just writing, self-publishing, and self-marketing only one book. I plan to keep writing books until the day I die. As a result, I need to create a self-marketing system that I can implement over and over again. By doing it all myself now for my first book, I will build the process, the relationships, and the knowledge to launch all of my future books into the marketplace.

So, how do you feel? Do you really want a book publisher to be in charge of your book’s publicity campaign – or do you want to learn how to do it yourself?

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Mohan's Book: A Child Lost in Flight July 18, 2012 at 6:40 am

Great tips! Of course, there is lot of hard work behind the scenes even to self-promote but I guess it is an opportunity to be seized!

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Karen Jonson August 15, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Hi Mohan,

Sorry for the late reply. I just learned my spam filter stopped several comments that were not spam.

Yes, it’s hard work – but I’m hoping to find a way to streamline it.

Take care, Karen

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Celia Hayes July 18, 2012 at 6:51 am

Hi, there – another indy auther here, affirming that one can keep one’s books “ever new.” My first historical novel, To Truckee’s Trail, came out in mid 2007 – I’ve since done five more, and since they are set in the local area, all my marketing efforts are focused on them … but Truckee remains my consistent best-seller. Usually, a third to a half of my sales per month are of that one book. It just keeps chugging along. Which perhaps indicates that I ought to write another one about the California wagon-train trail, maybe!

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Karen Jonson August 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Hi Celia,

Thank you for sharing your success story. It’s great to hear them and I hope other writers will share theirs too. I think it will boost everyone’s moral. (BTW, Sorry for the late reply. I just learned my spam filter stopped several comments that were not spam.)

I have been to the Truckee are of California. It’s so beautiful. I’m not surprised that book is selling well. Definitely may want to consider another one.

Looking forward to hearing more about your success.

Best,
Karen

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Edward Smith July 18, 2012 at 9:34 am

And you can make a lot more money. I coach authors how to get on TV and with any stigma over who published your book gone as far as TV producers go, the road is clear to some serious promotion. Getting away form the marketing dept of a traditional publisher is the right move. If you use the right system, you can get yourself on shows like Good Morning America and sell a ton of books. And since you net a lot more money on a self-published book, the profits from one appearance can be huge. Thanks, Edward Smith.

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Karen Jonson August 15, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Hi Edward.

Thank you for sharing those words of encouragement. It pays to think big! I’m so happy the days of the self-publish stigma are over with. Many good writers are able to enjoy the fruits of the labor without the traditional gatekeepers keeping them out.

I’m going to aim high thanks to your suggestion!

Hope you’ll stay connected.

Best Paige

P.S. Sorry for the late reply. I just learned my spam filter stopped several comments that were not spam.

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MIAKPO EMIASO July 18, 2012 at 9:54 am

Good thinking. I have in 3 years self-published 3 books on Law and am at home with the results!

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Gwendoline Y. Fortune July 18, 2012 at 1:41 pm

I read this with admiration and envy. I am an older, former academic, who calls herself techo-dodo. I won’t recount my sad tale, except to say that I have been at this since the mid 1980s, with two traditionally published novels, and one that was supposedly, Co-op, that really was subsidy. I’ve learned a lot about marketing, the old ways, tours, book festivals, online companies, etc. I am sure that all books sold were by personal effort.

I have a “Memory” ready to launch, and a novel to re-produce (the awful subsidy error).

If one does do it oneself, the skills needed are tremendous.

best to you.

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Karen Jonson July 18, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Hi Gwendoline,

Thank you for your comment. Everyone will agree that marketing a book takes a lot of hard work. I do believe though that there is a great deal of misunderstanding and misinformation out there about what to do to launch your book into the marketplace and find people who will buy it and read it. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed and disheartened (which is typically caused by wrong expectations). I hope to bring some clarity and solutions to this crazy world of book self-publishing — which is filled with a lot of opportunity and a lot of potholes in the road.

Please stay tuned here on my blog as I experiment with the launch of my first book. I’ll report back with some information others writers can use. If you sign up, you’ll get my free report on my attendance at SXSW Interactive this year.

Best, Karen

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Grace Peterson July 18, 2012 at 5:59 pm

My biggest hesitation with self publishing is paying the fee for an editor. I’d like to think I’ve done a decent job of editing but every writer can use a good second set of eyes to shape and polish a manuscript. I don’t mind undertaking the promotion of my book but I want my product to be as perfect as possible.

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Karen Jonson August 15, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Hi Grace,

Every single author I’ve ever heard speak has said that every author, no matter how savvy, needs an editor. I hired one, then had three wordsmith friends read it. In traditional publishing, the rounds of editing are endless to shape the book into the final product.

Best Karen

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Liz Raptis Picco July 19, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I agree with # 1-6! Plus you can purchase services a la carte from LuLu.com, i.e., Media Lists, Cover Art Design packages and Press Release writing for reasonable $$. Thanks for the encouragement!

Please checkout http://stretchmarks.me and read about my memoir…

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Karen Jonson July 20, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Thank You Liz.

Yes, authors today can access everything they need to do-it-theirselves. They just need a good plan. I hope to help them create that here. Please keep following.

Best, Karen

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William Spencer July 22, 2012 at 12:45 pm

I too am a techno-dodo — Facebook page ????? At 65 years old, I really know nothing about utilizing social media. I went with the self-publishing route – different company for both books – and feel like that I am nothing more than a never-ending credit card charge for either company… Both books have been bought(?) and are in use at some college classrooms in California and Oregon (I have received a few e-mail comments from students), but according to publisher/printer records, I have made no sales.. So just what is the difference, and what can be done ?????

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Karen Jonson July 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Hi William,

Which publishing companies did you use? I’m afraid some of them are definitely in the game with only one goal: to make money — not support authors. It’s very troubling that they say you’ve had no sales. I have no experience with these vanity presses. I will just be self-publishing on Amazon.

It’s very easy to learn to use Facebook and Twitter. If you are interested just search online for some step-by-step guides. What are your books about?

Best Karen

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Jamie Cawley July 25, 2012 at 7:55 am

I agree completely. There is absolutely no publisher or promoter that is invested as much in your books success as yourself.

Anything you can do yourself is worth doing.

If you plan to publish more than twice per year then it is also worth learning how to do any tasks that you don’t know so that you can build your own contacts and templates.

I have been a ghostwriter for a number of years and have also self-published. Overall major publishing companies seem to be providing underwhelming levels of service and support to writers.

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Shirlene July 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Thank you for your sane article! It’s a down-to-earth approach in a field that unfortunately sometimes seems to be crowded with people willing to help others – for a fee.

Although I have 30+ years of experience in various educational and training contexts, I am a newbie when it comes to social media and publishing. I’ve really just started observing what’s going on out there. What I’m seeing is that there are plenty of people willing to exploit others lack of experience/skill etc. Some of the forums seem to be monopolized by those giving advice cloaked in sales pitches for information packages that are no different than you can find for yourself.

I have just recently published 2 ebooks on behalf of someone else, because she is a ‘good’ writer, and her work deserves to be out there. (No fee) She would never be able to do that part herself, so I’ve learned, and learned, and got extremely frustrated at times, and researched, and then researched again! It takes a lot of time and effort, and one has to discount a lot of ‘advice’.

As I’m neither a techie or young, I’m of the opinion that, with perseverance and patience, the only way I’m going to feel any satisfaction with all this, is if it’s by my own effort. I care about the final product, and the quality of it. The publishing part is just the start of course. Now comes the hard part – the promotion and marketing of it – very tricky, especially if you’re shy about such things. (It sometimes seems that people have to sell their souls for this part)! I’ve basically done everything myself – created a website even – which I had no clue about a couple of months ago – but you can learn, and that’s where the satisfaction comes from. I do feel it’s extremely important to go with one’s best instincts, be discriminating, observe a lot, and watch out for the predators in all their often very convincing forms.

Thank you for sharing your perspective on all this. It’s gratifying that people take the time to give their experience and knowledge freely.

Shirlene.

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quinceanera dresses las vegas July 25, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Im no professional, but I imagine you just made the best point. You obviously fully understand what youre talking about, and I can really get behind that. Thanks for being so upfront and so honest.

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Maria August 6, 2012 at 8:44 am

Hi,
I hope to add to this conversation of publishing books. I wrote my first cookbook.
“Recipes from New Mexico, Back to Simplicity from the Land of Enchantment , by Maria Phyllis.
I am self publishing this book. After many marketing attempts online myself and with my webpage, I did have some sales, but not enough, books selling at a glacial pace. Then I decided to sell through Amazon Kindle. Started selling electronic books and it became more known. Now I have it through the KDPS where you give your books for free and you have free promotions. Last I checked, I had given 1500 Ebooks. No sales just free, however, it is a promotion and my books are out there. Now they are through the lending library, which a small fund is awarded to you depending on the amount of books that are borrowed. Don’t know how this will turn out, except that I’m happy my books are all over including the territories which is a big plus for self publishing your books. Will check in here from time to time and let you know how things are progressing. Thanks and good luck to you all.
Maria

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John Bushby August 15, 2012 at 8:39 am

I guess the operative word in independent publishing is ‘independent’. My book, Shadow Soldiers, is on Kindle and CreateSpace and I am the one in charge of its success. Who better to believe in my work than me? That said, I am selling 20 copies a day with only word of mouth to support me. Not much by bestseller standards, but it is real and maybe, just maybe the book will catch on. My next book, Warszaw Express will be out next month. Same formula.

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David Nelson August 18, 2012 at 7:56 am

I agree with you 100%..My first novel is due out in a few weeks followed by a second shortly after that. Instead of doing a reading at a book store and giving them some of my profit, I already have in place my marketing along those lines: Libraries at colleges / universities, public speaking to students in Creative Writing classes, private room reserved at various restaurants, Coffee Shops and local libraries. I will then approach the book stores AFTER my signings / readings and tell them there is local interest. Plus I have many more programs lined up. Thanks for your report I enjoyed it.

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Karen Jonson October 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Hi David,

I posted this late, because I just found it in my apparently overly aggressive spam folder! 🙂

I love your plan and would like to hear more about it as you execute it. Please share what you do and the result.

I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the report on SXSW.

Best,
Karen

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Paul Atanya August 21, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Thank you for sharing, Karen! It is only a matter of time before self-published authors are sought after by the big sharks. If I can create my work, why can I not have control over it in this day age of information technology? To hell with the middle man! I have full control of the work of my labour.

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Karen Jonson October 16, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Hi Paul,

A few of the comments people made landed in my spam folder and I just found them. Sorry for the late reply.

I agree with you too! The more I read the more I appreciate the new world of self-publishing. I really like having control — especially of my book about a cult.

Please share your book publishing and marketing process. I want to learn from all of my indie author peers out there.

Best
Karen

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