In theory marketing gets people out there motivated to buy the book; publicity gets the book mentioned in the media; and sales gets the book into the bookstores. As a self-publisher you need to take care of all of these functions.

This article from Publishing Perspectives gives sensible advice. This area is probably the most tricky for self-publishers: promoting yourself is potentially embarrassing — but it has to be done if you want people to hear about your book. Here’s another article by the same author on whether you need hire a publicist.

Jane Friedman has done a lot of good work on this area. Her focus in this post is more on the published author doing publicity (as it were, on behalf of the publisher), but is relevant to the self-publisher too. Of course the problem for publishers is exactly what Jane Friedman says “this is (of course) labor intensive”. Publicity happens only for new books; maybe also if the author wins a Nobel prize or whatnot. In a traditional publishing setting marketing backlist costs time and money. Naturally a publishing company tries to keep its staff to as low a level as it can — which in essence tends to mean as few staff as is consistent with adequately marketing the number of new books published. So unless there’s a sudden fall-off in new title output, there’s just no time to do marketing of the backlist, and in any case there are probably no copies of the older book in bookstores even if people did get stirred up. For the author however, time is likely to be a differently available commodity, unless like James Patterson you are putting out 14 new books a year. Not only does the author (maybe) have the time, they also have the motivation. Promoting backlist is never going to result in as many sales as frontlist, so bang for the buck can be added to lack of staff in keeping publishers away from it — that’s too negative: I should have said persuading publishers that there are better ways to spend their money. Because of course there is no publishing company that would not rejoice to have good sales of their backlist: they just can’t spend a lot of money to achieve them.

As Mike Shazkin points out in the post referred and linked to in the Friedman piece, digital books change all this. This is of course true, but what we cannot ignore is the fact that all (or almost all) publishers still live in a dual world — 65% print and 35% e-book, or whatever the percentage split now agreed upon may be. Print books still have to be rocket-launched, so staffing tends to remain as traditionally it has been. We can’t really tell what a product launch for a new trade book published only as an e-book would look like, because we haven’t really had one.

Here’s another post from Jane Friedman’s blog, this by Eileen Goudge about her decision to ‘go indie”. What she says all makes sense, and in a way one wonders why mid-list authors are not making this decision at a higher rate. Well, there’s the prestige and the force of inertia. Plus it’s work: not the creative/writing work the author may have signed up for. Of course many self-published authors opt for professional help. One savvy provider in the marketing and publicity arena is Susannah Greenberg Public Relations, run by a friend.

Publicity isn’t everything you’ll need of course. Here from The Bookseller is an interesting development. Dulwich Books in south London has offered independent authors advice on how to approach a bookshop with a request that they stock your book. You can link to their site from The Bookseller article. It is obvious, after one reads this sort of thing, that authors wouldn’t know all our trade lore and practice: yet getting your book into the retail market is really important.

If marketing your books isn’t doing it for you, here’s advice from Lindsay Buroker on other ways to generate income as a writer. (Link via The Digital Reader.)

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