5 Shades of Green

Every (almost every?) author wants the validation of a publishing contract – an affirmation of talent from industry professionals willing to invest in their career. Since starting this self-publishing process one of those niggling, shadow parts has expected me to wake up one fine morning … covered head-to-toe in green, unable to hold back that twisted, Gollum voice any longer: “why not me?”; “I want one too”; “is it too late?”; “what must I do to get one?”. Yep, green with envy at other authors who’ve managed to secure those contracts that seem to be ever more difficult to come by. Bizarrely, the exact opposite has happened. One of the rationalisations I used for self-publishing was a vague awareness that publishers’ investment in authors doesn’t necessarily extend to a marketing/PR input. I told myself that if promotion was going to be left to me anyway then I might as well just get on with the job. But that was a vague awareness. Since going down this road I’ve come across SO MANY more stories of traditionally published authors getting little (or no) sales support. A week ago at a school Christmas fair a lovely YA author and parent bounced up and told me how she had zero marketing support and barely sold any copies of her book at all – then was dumped by her publisher a year in for not making enough sales. Grim. Because despite having three new manuscripts and the support of an outstanding, enthusiastic agent after twelve months of looking she still didn’t have a new publisher. The grass is far from greener on the published side. Another reality check has been this whole Zoella thing … not the fact she used a ghostwriter (how is that new and different from what has been happening for years and years?!) but the fact of once again witnessing that if you have an existing media profile getting a publishing contract is no biggie. A point further confirmed by a friend working in a creative industry where a string of publishing contracts for celebs are currently in negotiation. It’s enough to make any struggling writer who has spent years developing his/her craft turn Hulk green with rage and frustration! More … yesterday, I got round to reading an interview in Publishing Talk with Kit Berry, self-published author of the STONEWYLDE series. Having built up a huge fan-base Berry changed tack and signed with a traditional publisher. The article is a great insight into one self-published author’s marketing strategy … in it she also says: “Having spent so much on acquiring Stonewylde, I’m amazed Gollancz has invested so little in promoting the series.” So are publishers just getting lazy about marketing? Or has marketing become overly difficult and expensive? Personally, I have no doubt that publishers are doing what they can – while simultaneously trying to stay afloat. Publishing margins are tiny. Breaking even on a debut author is very hard. It might seem logical that promoting a book will increase its chances, but it costs bucks to promote a book – bucks that will make it even harder to break even. Conversely, publishers need the big hitters to keep the company going because otherwise they would sink. Or am I being overly naïve and green? As well as cash, good PR and marketing needs creativity. “Author Writes Book!” isn’t exactly an attention-grabbing headline. So every time a book is published (trad or otherwise) to stand out you need some kind of media ‘in’. Or a lot of hard work … which is where, I’m afraid, the author comes in. One of the biggest rationales I hear from authors who have shied away from self-publishing is “I want to spend time writing, not promoting”. Even though I’ve found the process incredibly liberating, in no way would I recommend self-publishing over a trad publishing contract … it’s just that these days anyone who wants to make a living as an author won’t be able to get away from the graft of a large amount of marketing work. Where in the past school visits were an important way for new authors to make ends meet, they are increasingly becoming a key means to getting your book out there, as well as social media – or any other tactic an author can come up with. But you will be expected to come up with something. If there are any trad published authors reading this, thinking ‘oh no, that’s not my experience at all’ – I would LOVE to hear from you!! Because I’m sure there are exceptions – and can think of a couple of books in the last months that seem to have had a lot of publisher instigated PR … In terms of UMA & IMP’s progress, this week I was at two Christmas events and sold a total of 27 books. Even though according to IngramSpark none sold through Amazon, my number did have a big spike so … go figure! Otherwise, the Wimbledon Guardian sent round a photographer to get a pic for an article due to run this week (next??), and I’ve sent out more school visit and review arrows – no hit so far! So, this is my last blog before Christmas as there probably won’t be much happening – but I’ll be back in January. Have a great holiday and best wishes for 2015! Thanks for reading, Larisa


2 thoughts on “5 Shades of Green

  1. It certainly seems like you need to spend as much time and effort marketing as you do writing in the first place- it sounds exhausting! Well done for your sales so far, and have a lovely (stress free!) christmas break 🙂

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