Book Marketing Disappointment

baby cryingI hear a lot of writers complaining about their book promotion, bemoaning how their publisher didn’t do enough marketing or PR for their book. They say things like “publishers don’t market books anymore.” But I’ve been in publishing since 1995, and this has been the single most common writer complaint for as long as I can remember. It has never been easy to market books! And publishers have never lived up to the majority of authors’ expectations.

Let’s talk about those expectations for a moment. I think authors are unfortunately set up for disappointment because of the big discrepancy between the high-profile marketing of the big bestsellers (Today show, Oprah, multi-state book tours) and the marketing of all the rest of the authors – 98% or more. Going into a publishing deal, all the writer knows is what they’ve seen, which is authors on TV and book tours, so this is what they expect. It’s never been reality for most authors. So even when publishers are actually doing quite a bit to promote their authors’ books, it never seems like enough.

Many pubs are still putting a great deal of resources into marketing books (after all, they have an investment in selling them). I wrote a post about the kinds of marketing and PR many of them do. Whether it’s you or your publisher doing the promotion, it’s difficult to get attention to your book. Why? It’s our cultural environment. It’s the world we live in. There is so much media, so much noise—how does one stand out? How  can we to find READERS in an environment saturated with TV, movies, Internet, and gaming? The difficulty of promoting books has always been here, and it’s been steadily getting worse.

Because of our noisy media environment, the author is the single person best suited to reach their own tribe, and that’s why we talk about platform. Book promotion is most effective when the author and publisher work together, each using their own strengths and the tools at their disposal.

When you’re dissatisfied with the state of your book marketing and feel like grumbling:

  • Recognize you’re not alone and this is nothing new.
  • Examine what your expectations were and assess how realistic they were.
  • Talk with your agent and/or publisher about whether there’s anything else that can be done.
  • Keep doing all you can to promote your own book.
There are no easy answers here!

Why do you think it’s so hard to promote books to readers?

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. terri patrick on April 30, 2012 at 1:36 AM

    Hi Rachelle,
    We’ve just taken our Author Marketing 101 workshop live and interactive at:

    As this is the most basic marketing information targeted specifically for authors we would be thrilled if you’d take a look and share this resource with your readers.

    I specifically chose a past post on this topic to “pimp our site” so not to be rude. But your latest post states how writers need to be social media savvy. We strongly feel it is the author persona that needs to be the dynamic core of all marketing and publicity.

    We want to help authors create that core for themselves and enjoy being media marketers, so they get back to their writing instead of stressing about which social sites to choose.

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  7. Caroline Gerardo on October 8, 2011 at 7:41 PM

    @Timothy Fish
    I also am a novelist, sold 13299 copies in 5 months of last self pub book without a publicist & without paying for an advertisement. If I ask (agents publishers and the whole business these are people who also want to make a living from what they “do”) to have passion for my writing, I am responsible to bring readers. As a newer author I must find individual methods to connect.

  8. Karen Fisher-Alaniz on October 5, 2011 at 6:22 PM

    I’m a little afraid to chime in here, but I’m going to anyway. I love my publisher! There, I said it! They are amazing. My editor truly understood what I was trying to do with the book. My publicist always seems to be ten steps ahead of me. And I have always felt like I can offer up anything at all in the way of promotion/publicity and they will run with it. If they don’t, they give me good, sound reasons why it won’t work, or won’t work in the way I imagined.

    While I was writing my memoir, Breaking the Code, I never for a moment considered I would just get a publisher and be done with it. Maybe it’s because my book is so personal or perhaps it’s because it is my father’s story too, but for me, it was never about just seeing the book in print or on a bookstore shelf. It is about getting that book into the hands and hearts of the readers whose lives it will effect. It’s about the power of the written word.

    Promotion is just part of the job of book writing. On a practical level, sure I’d like to stay in my writing room and let someone else do it, but truth is, no one can promote my book like I can.

    My book comes out on 11/1/11. I know that there will come a time when my book will not be on the front burner with my publisher. And I am preparing for that eventuality.

    There is so much an author can do to get their book out there. But the most important thing is to adopt a “whatever it takes” attitude. I will do whatever it takes to make my book successful. Whatever it takes! ~Karen

  9. Timothy Fish on October 5, 2011 at 7:40 AM

    The thing that makes it “hard to promote books to readers” for me is that I really hate self-promotion. I hear and understand the argument that the author is the person who knows the most about the book and has more reason to get behind it than anyone at the publisher, but I really hate self-promotion. I write a book and know that it is a book that I like, but then I’m expected to put it out there and say “Here’s a book that I think you will like.” Who am I to tell people that I’m a great writer? I can listen to people who have actually read the book tell me that they like the book, but I have a hard time believing them because they know me. Add to that the fact that readers are more likely to listen to a third party say the book is great than they are to listen when the author tells them that it is great. I really hate self-promotion.

  10. Dayle on October 5, 2011 at 1:48 AM

    Great post, Rachelle. All of my books were published prior to 2003, so the market hadn’t changed nearly as much as it has since then, but I was pleased with what my publishers did, in the way of promoting my books, but I WANTED to be involved in the marketing aspect. I presented a personal marketing plan with each of my proposals.

    I can’t understand an author who doesn’t want to promote his or her own book, and the window for doing so is so small there’s no time to waste.

    Sometimes truth hurts, but first-time authors need to understand this side of being published.

  11. David A. Todd on October 5, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    I’m learning how difficult marketing is with my historical/political non-fiction book. I did no marketing in September, as I’ve been working feverishly to finish my novel (which I did tonight), and as I’ve been waiting on the cover for the print version of the book. The next marketing I want to do I’ll have to have the print version available. So, during the month of September, with zero marketing, I had zero sales. This is going to be tought.

  12. Joanna Aislinn on October 4, 2011 at 11:49 PM

    Building a platform is time-consuming but can be done via a step-by-step approach that’s not necessarily overwhelming. Throw a virtual stick and you’ll hit a gazillion blog articles about how to do so.

    I love Kristen Lamb’s books, wonderful, practical resources geared specifically to writers/authors looking to build their brand in today’s unique and ever-evolving publishing climate. We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer.

    As always, great food for thought, Rachelle.

  13. joan Cimyotte on October 4, 2011 at 10:41 PM

    I’m still looking for an agent. It is a good thing to realize that just because a book gets that far it doesn’t mean it will get noticed. We fill ourselves with dreams, but ultimately we need the harsh reality of the odds.

  14. Kristen Hogrefe on October 4, 2011 at 9:51 PM

    Why is getting the readers’ attention so hard? Perhaps the answer can be summed up in one word: differentiation.

    A book is expected to conform to a genre but also offer something fresh and unique.

    As someone once said, there are a limited number of plots available. (Kathyrn Lindskoog in Creative Writing for People Who Can’t Not Write shares 10 basic fiction plots.)

    Writing a plot with a new twist that readers will love is only half the battle. The real challenge is finding a way to convince your audience that they will love it.

  15. Beth MacKinney on October 4, 2011 at 8:47 PM

    Maybe it’s just because there is so much more vying for the attention of readers nowadays.

  16. Lauren F. Boyd on October 4, 2011 at 8:15 PM

    Here’s an article by marketing guru Rob Eager that offers some ways to market your book offline:

  17. Lynne Connolly on October 4, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    If I were to quote the writers who have told me they were dropped after the publisher didn’t do much to promote the book, and then effectively blamed them by dropping them, I’d be breaking confidences. So I really can’t, but you don’t have to dig too deep to find some.

    Anyway, that wasn’t why I came back. It’s just to say that some of the most effective promotion I’ve done has been in concert with other authors. A multi-author blog, for instance, like the UK Regency one here
    brings more traffic than we can generate on our own. We all bring our own readers to the table, and hope they’ll be interested in trying someone else. Moreover, we all know each other and we’re friends, so it works there as well.
    I did it with another genre, so this approach isn’t genre specific. The Cougar Challenge from Ellora’s Cave
    is a multi-author series, and is more than a joint blog. There are 17 of us, so there are some of us at most conventions, enough to have a Cougar Growl event, with prizes and signing.
    It means the author doesn’t have to work so hard, and gets the benefit of another author’s fans. It helps reinforce the image or platform, so you need to decide what you have in common.
    But it doesn’t mean you can stop with your individual efforts. Just don’t bore people with constant “buy my book” posts.

  18. Theresa Froehlich on October 4, 2011 at 3:52 PM

    In my situation, it’s not the lack of willingness to market my work, it’s the lack of marketing savvy. I’m a decent writer and I’m a good public speaker. But I don’t know how to put together an effective marketing program.

    Publishers and agents need to come up with some kind of affordable and effective solution to facilitate this.(I know there are companies I can contract to make this happen, but I can’t afford to spend a ton of money before the book even starts selling.)

    Coach Theresa

  19. Roxanne Sherwood on October 4, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    A former publisher said out of 14 books he published, only one made a profit for the house. 1-3 books broke even, and the rest were published at a loss. Suddenly, the big promotion of John Grisham’s latest book made sense. His book was carrying the load so a publisher could take a chance on a newbie like me. I plan to market on my own.

  20. Brianna on October 4, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    It’s difficult to market, because people are flooded with requests to read books and help authors promote their books. Eventually, we just shut down and don’t help anyone, let alone ourselves. It’s hard to say what would make it easier and maybe there isn’t anything that can make it easier, except lots and lots of patience.

  21. Larry Carney on October 4, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    Why is it so hard to promote books to readers?

    Because the colleges are behind in requiring students to minor in marketing to get their degree in the creative arts.

    Since that has always been the reality of the industry (the New York Times Book Review did a wonderful article a while back on Mark Twain and others who employed some interesting marketing strategies) it is a bit surprising that students pay tens of thousands of dollars to learn how to make a product that they can’t even sell.

    And it would help the publishers out too, since they could get rid of their marketing department (which as your post makes clear most authors assume publishers already have).

    As for designing and crafting those nifty book covers…..well, we don’t have to require marketing degrees for visual arts students now, do we? Pay them in paint and peanuts.


  22. Janet on October 4, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    To quote William Johnson, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” Truer words never spoken when it comes to marketing a book.

    If we are clever and creative enough to write an entire book (and a good book, at that!), then surely we can come up with clever and creative marketing methods.

    For myself, I fear that the most difficult part of marketing a book today is being able to carve out the time required to do so. I wish I could recall the name of the brilliant author who recently told me that I need to establish a 80/20 ratio if I want to be successful: 80% of the time to write and edit and 20% of the time to market. Unfortunately, I also have to find 66% of the time to work at the job that pays my bills and at least 10% of the time managing my household and doing chores. Obviously that adds up to way more than 100% – so I’ve sworn off sleeping.

    ; )

    • Joe Pote on October 4, 2011 at 5:59 PM

      Janet, based on my very narrow and limited exposure to this industry, I think you may have the 80/20 ratios backwards.

      It might be truer to say 20% to writing, editing, rewriting, etc., and 80% to marketing, building platform, brand-building, etc.

  23. Charise on October 4, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    I cried when Oprah went off the air because I knew there was my last chance to be one of “her” authors…Kidding.

    I think this is so tough because some authors just really don’t want to market- because of their discomfort with self promotion or they’re introverts and struggle to be “out there” so much. And as Rachelle said in one of the comments, the formula for what will REALLY make a book sell WELL is unknown so everyone is probably just doing their best. But low numbers are always going to result in someone looking for someone to blame. When my son loses a football game, there is always a reason (refs, field, weather, injuries). But same conditions resulting in a win- no problem! I find it hard to believe a publisher would do nothing for a book. But if you’re not liking your numbers, are you ever going to say the publisher did enough. And if you like your numbers, does that mean they did too much?

  24. Joe Pote on October 4, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    Interesting discussions!

    There do seem to be some self-fulfilling prophecies involved.

    The publishers put the most money into marketing the known popular authors’ latest book, because they know it’s going to generate a good return on investment, which, of course it does. The lesser known author doesn’t get as much marketing money investment, because they are considered a bigger risk, and…no surprise…they probably don’t sell as well or generate as much revenue.

    Equally frustrating is that comparable self-fulfilling prophecies exist in the use of social media. Google and FB give more exposure to the most popular pages. So those who already have popular sites can relatively easily gain more popularity, while those with new and unknown sites struggle to get friends and family to subscribe and “like”.

    It’s not fair…but then neither is life in general…and whining does not improve the situation.

    It is what it is, and any given individual can either find their own way to leverage the available tools as best they can…or not…

  25. Reba on October 4, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    Thank you for this post. Being self-published I know why it is hard for me to promote my books. It is because I lack the know how. I am learning as I go.
    It is hard to notch out a space for yourself when you are the new kid on the block. I’ve just published my 3rd book, and marketing seems to be harder than writing the story.
    I think another problem is there are a lot of authors out there, good ones and not so good ones, seasoned ones and new ones, but there are only a few spaces available on the shelves. With the closing of books stores recently, it is getting harder, space has become less. While promoting our book,the problem is telling your reader where they can purchase this book. Customers still want the ability to obtain any product without much effort.
    Sad thing is we the people, the consumer have dome this to ourselves, now we the authors, publishers and agents have to find a way to make this new way of marketing work.

  26. Elise Daly Parker on October 4, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    I think a lot of this has to do with plain and simple ignorance. Many people start out with a notion of writing and getting published that is completely false, myself included! There is such a learning curve. Writers, especially first-timers who have no sense of how to get a book from manuscript to published to selling, just picture or imagine the process so differently. It goes something like this…I have a great idea for a book. I’m a good writer. I’ll write it and then hand it over to a publisher who will catch my vision/love my story. And, voila, the best-seller takes off, as the writer accepts media invitations across the country, due in part, to the well-known, media savvy publishing company who is selling the book. Oh if only it were so. I know this sounds like a ridiculously romanticized notion. But I think this is the thinking for plenty. And so when some writers find they have to do the marketing and promotion on the book, it’s disappointing and maybe mind-boggling too. They’re just not naturals when it comes to getting out there and selling their book. The reality is so very different…and given a certain perspective shift, along with an education (that can be gained through blogs like this, for example), the process can be an exciting adventure!

  27. Tirzah on October 4, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    Well when signing with a publisher anymore (from several friends signing), one of the questions they ask you is what kind of marketing are YOU planning on doing and do you have a platform/web presence. You are expected to do a lot of leg work on your book these days.

    But I think this has always been the case but in the past, you could do more traditional promotions with physical visits and word of mouth.

    Now everyone is competing with you and everyone with a CreateSpace account has a book, you have to step up that marketing to compete.


  28. hal lilburn on October 4, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    My first YA novel comes out next year. As a baby in this industry I have noticed a few things. Artists who are also business people will sell more work EVEN if it’s not the best quality. A writer has to also be a sales person which is tre difficult for many (myself included)
    Authors tend to stick together, which is great because authors need to read too, but authors are not my market. My market is teen readers. I realized my entire list of twitter followers were authors. They can network for me, sure, but I can’t directly get my book into the hands of my market.
    I know my publishers will do their best, but I don’t mind helping out when it’s my income on the line.

  29. Lindsay Harrel on October 4, 2011 at 11:40 AM


    Thank you for this post. It definitely is a reality check. I guess I’ve always been naive enough to think that if I wrote the book, the readers would come–and by way of the publisher’s marketing efforts!

    To answer your question, I think that finding readers can be difficult because people are so busy; many of my friends are young moms or young professionals just getting started in their careers, and they don’t have the time to read for leisure. However, I think that newer tools like Facebook, Twitter, and the internet in general are likely making finding readers easier than maybe it’s been in the past.

    In my opinion, so much of it is about patience and prayer. I’m just learning how to build a platform and what it is really going to take to become an established author. Thanks for your insight into the publishing world. It is extremely helpful!

  30. Erin on October 4, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    Hi Rachelle- I was actually pleasantly surprised at how much my publisher did to market my book. My publicist (hired by them) set up a radio tour, TV interviews, etc. That said, I’m not sure how much good it did… but I appreciate it nonetheless.

    • marion on October 4, 2011 at 6:04 PM

      Erin, that’s wonderful!

      Rachelle, is this usual–for the publisher to invest in a publicist?

      Do you recommend that the author hire a publicist?
      Doesn’t the publicist need at least a 6-month lead time before the book’s publication date?

  31. Diana Dart on October 4, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    If I was going to be honest and express what’s really going on in my emotional gut, I would say that my hard work building the product (writing, revising, querying, etc.) has earned me the right to sit back and let the publishers do the marketing. That’s what they’re job is, right? Selling books. My job is writing books. The agent’s job is to navigate the waters in between.

    But (and it’s a big but) while that may be how I feel in my gut, my head knows that is not a realistic scenario in this business. And although I am still working on novel-length publication, I’m in this business for the long haul.

    Yes. It means more work for me, and more than likely more work for the agents and publishers (it’s not like they’re sitting back and watching me toil). But there are resources available to help. And innovative, fresh approaches have always been what drives the marketing world.

    Get creative, believe in my product, connect with my readers. That is my job. And it entails much more than creating the book(s).

    • Diana Dart on October 4, 2011 at 11:09 AM

      And please pardon the typos… sheesh. I need more coffee this morning 🙂

  32. Crystal Laine Miller on October 4, 2011 at 11:01 AM

    The good news is that you have a lot of competition with so many books releasing. The bad news is that you have a lot of competition with so many books releasing.

    In a world with so much competition for entertainment dollars (and reading is an entertainment many times) you just have to realize that getting that attention isn’t going to be a cakewalk.

    I had a friend on Facebook(not a writer) ask me if I knew Vanetta Chapman. I asked her if she’d read any of her books. Her answer was no, but she’d seen something of hers on my page (or something like this.) Since this person loves Amish cookbooks, I thought maybe she would like Vanetta’s writing. She may or may not read her, but now she’s familiar with the name.

    I think that may be a key (not THE key, but A key) in promotion–get plugged into social networks of interest. Today I saw Sherry Gore (a popular Plain People cookbook author) promoting Cindy Woodsmall’s Amish fiction on Facebook. That kind of activity you really can’t pay for–but you can network. Maybe friendship is one of the big keys. 🙂

    Interesting blog!

  33. RayS on October 4, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    There’s a story, perhaps apocryphal, that 98 cents of every publishing dollar goes to celebrity books, books about the latest hot news item or by already-famous authors. The other 2 cents get spent on the other thousands of authors.

    I’m not sure I buy the argument that books are harder to market through the ‘noise’ of modern life. As a reader, my biggest problem is that there are more good books out there than I have time and money to read. Somehow, word of these books is getting to me.

    I think the biggest problem writers have is that there are simply fewer people reading books today because there are more ways for them to spend their leisure time. Two of my five children read with some regularity, one reading junk, the other quality books. Three of my seven grandchildren read.

    It certainly helps for an author to establish a platform and market, but this is not so much a matter of the publisher shifting the burden to the author as it is taking advantage of modern communication options. Fifty years ago, a non-fiction author’s background gave him/her a platform and fiction writers built their following year by year. New fiction writers simply didn’t have the tools to build a platform – no blogging or social media. Serious ones did push to local newspapers and radio stations and might eventually get some exposure.

    • Andres on December 18, 2012 at 5:40 PM

      Yes, Elizabeth Jane Howard has a remarkable tlenat for writing characters who are flawed, yet endearing. (The family relationships can be a bit difficult to follow, though!) Hope you enjoy the final two books in the series.

  34. Ginny Martyn on October 4, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    This is reality for most of us. There has to be a better way.

  35. Lynne Connolly on October 4, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    So when the publisher puts no effort into marketing a book, none at all, and if you’re midlist that is what is increasingly happening, and then your books are dropped, it’s your fault?

    This story is happening more and more. Not to me, thankfully, but to many of my friends. Their books are great, they’ve won awards, but the publisher has not promoted the book at all, or made a half hearted effort. Promised promotion doesn’t happen.

    The author does her best, sponsors events, makes appearances and signings, even employs a promotion professional to help, and still the book has low sales. The loss of outlets to sell the book, the failure to sell the book to the big supermarket chains and the fact that the author can only do so much contribute to the loss of sales.

    Then the publisher sends a note or calls, saying they are not renewing the contract due to disappointing sales, and they imply that it’s the author’s fault for not trying hard enough.

    It’s not always the author’s fault and it’s unfair to keep putting the blame on him or her.

    • Ginny Martyn on October 4, 2011 at 9:26 AM

      Totally agree! See video below for a visual representation of what you just said! Hilarious and sad.

    • Rachelle Gardner on October 4, 2011 at 9:32 AM

      Lynne, this is a complicated topic and I can’t do it justice in a brief comment. But the one thing I want to say is that publishers, when deciding not to pick up more books from an author, are NOT typically “implying that it’s the author’s fault for not trying hard enough.”

      They may be the author’s impression. But mostly, they’re just recognizing something didn’t work as well as expected, and they need to move on.

      Publishers are operating in an uncertain environment where even big promotions don’t always influence sales. There’s such a huge serendipity factor. Some books catch fire and get that word-of-mouth, pass-along factor, and some don’t. You can’t manufacture excitement for a book that’s not catching on. Publishers have seen this SO many times … a book isn’t selling well, so they throw more marketing money at it and it still doesn’t sell well. They usually can’t figure out why, because obviously they thought it was a good book.

      Like I said last week, oftentimes breakout bestsellers from new authors are freakish surprises, even to the publisher, because they’re not objectively better books than many others out there.

      Anyway, all that to say, I don’t perceive either agents or publishers as blaming the author if a book doesn’t do well. We all take responsibility, we all suffer from it, and we all have no choice but to move on.

      • Peter on October 26, 2012 at 1:11 PM

        True. There’s a lot more randomness, chance, and speculation involved than we’d like to admit. Insightful post.

  36. Ginny Martyn on October 4, 2011 at 9:14 AM

    I used this article to formulate some of my opinions. It is the profit breakdown of traditional vs. self pub.

  37. Peter DeHaan on October 4, 2011 at 8:30 AM

    I’m beginning to view a publisher’s promotion of a book, the same way I view receiving social security: don’t plan on anything — and whatever you get is a bonus!

  38. Ginny Martyn on October 4, 2011 at 8:24 AM


    I know people are afraid to ask tough questions here because they want you to accept their work, BUT… a TON of work happens on behalf of the writer. The last few posts outlined the responsibilities of the writer.

    1)Writing the book (huge. Takes years in some cases)

    2)The revision process (3rd party editor paid for by the author)

    3)Building a platform (which is apparently a prerequisite to getting an agent and a deal – might also take years)

    4)And, now, marketing the book

    Forgive me, but that looks like most of the work. I’m not trying to be mean. I’m trying to understand. It seems easier, and far more profitable, for a first time author to self-publish rather than publish the traditional way.

    Nathan Bransford asked his readers last week if they had ever read a self pub book; 70% of his readers answered YES! That is significant because it means the stigma about self publishing is changing.

    I don’t think the average Joe E-Reader cares about the publisher as long as the cover and hook look appealing on Amazon.

    I’d love to see more polls and facts about this topic.

    • Joe Pote on October 4, 2011 at 1:27 PM

      Ginny, unfortunately, self-publishing is no instant cure, either. It gets the book published quicker, but you’re still stuck with the marketing and platform-building.

      Just because you have a great book with a great hook and nice cover does not mean anyone is finding it on Amazon. You still need some way to create some splash and generate some word-of-mouth discussion.

      I’m learning as I go, and discovering it is a very slow process…requiring much patience…

    • Timothy Fish on October 5, 2011 at 7:26 AM

      Ginny, the stigma of self-publishing has never existed among readers. That may have changed somewhat with the advent of the Kindle, since many Kindle owners feel like they’ve been burned by people who are putting their books out there without the aid of a publisher, but even that tells us that readers generally don’t know and don’t care who the publisher is. (With a few notable exceptions in some categories.) Since the stigma is within the publishing industry itself, the removal of the stigma does nothing to help or hurt the sale of self-published books.

  39. Lisa Blainey-Lewin on October 4, 2011 at 7:59 AM

    I’d like to contribute to this blog by bringing up the responsibility of the writer to market themselves.

    If you differentiate between the book, or work vs the person who created the work, its really the creators job to market themselves. If you don’t know how then you can learn, or pay someone to do it for you.

    Writing IS a business. A million articles and sites share information for free on how to improve your marketing, in fact I do on mine too.

    When it comes to promoting your work, yes the publisher is responsible for getting it out there. However if you have made great networks and done a super job promoting you and your writing business, you will be in a much better place to both sell your work and get new opportunites.

    The best thing about this brave new world of technology is all the possibilites. By creating a more ‘public’ profile of you, the published writer, you will find you are connecting with more writers, readers and industry professionals.

  40. Neil Ansell on October 4, 2011 at 5:06 AM

    It’s an incredibly competitve environment – there are tens of thousands of books published every year, probably more like a million if you include self-pubbed books. Most of them will get very little attention indeed.
    It helps to get a good advance – the more the publisher has invested in you the more they will allocate towards marketing and publicity.
    But publishers will still tell you that it is impossible to predict which books will fly and which will sink without trace, because the best publicity of all is still word of mouth.

  41. M on October 4, 2011 at 3:22 AM

    Speaking as someone who has been through this, it’s a slap in the face when you realize that your book isn’t getting the promotion that other books from the same house or editor are getting.

    But writing is a business, and the cream rises to the top. You can spend millions of dollars on a marketing campaign, but if the goods aren’t there, it won’t sell more than a certain amount, because those who do read it based on marketing will not go out and tell their friends to read it. And that is where the real marketing happens.

    On one hand, you need some amount of marketing to let everyone know that your book is out there. You can do this as easily as going on Twitter and interacting with reviewers/bloggers who review your genre (treat them as people though, not marketing machines). Get to know them, act like yourself, then after a while (we’re talking weeks, if not months), casually mention your book and let them know you have review copies. A few of them might just snatch it up (linking to Goodreads is always a plus). If they love your book, they WILL tell others. They will shout it from the rooftops. Same goes for any reader. So there’s your free-of-monetary-costs marketing plan that can get you terrific numbers in the long run.

    The trick isn’t to have a six-figure national marketing campaign and signings with Stephenie Meyer and Stephen King. It’s to write a great book that people want to read, and more than that, it’s to write a great book that people tell their friends about once they’ve finished.

  42. Ike Obidike on October 4, 2011 at 2:50 AM

    Rachel, it would help your blog followers if you come in occasionally and answer their questions. I see a lot of unanswered question from respondents.

    • Olivia Newport on October 4, 2011 at 8:33 AM

      Rachelle often pokes in to respond. But even more, she takes the questions people raise here and drafts blog posts that can address them more thoroughly at a later point.

    • Rachelle Gardner on October 4, 2011 at 9:22 AM

      I agree with you – it would be great if I could do that everyday. I try as often as possible. But I’m not always able, and since I’m offering so much free information here on the blog, I try not to worry so much about it. Like Olivia mentioned, I often use the questions on the blog to create whole new blog posts.

      My real job is not “blogger” but rather literary agent, so that’s how my time is spent during the day. Sorry I can’t get to all the questions!

  43. Anna Labno on October 4, 2011 at 2:31 AM

    I do think that agent didn’t promote book enough if the book was really, really, really great!
    Maybe, they were busy with other things.
    Life of an agent isn’t easy. I don’t know how I would be able to do it if I would be one.
    Or the story wasn’t good enough, but agent took a risk of publishing that story anyway keeping fingers crossed.
    The story needs to be designed, and the design needs to be great! 🙂
    Hopefully, everything will fall into place.
    Writer of a story needs to market their own work as well.
    But what turns me off writers who are too business oriented.
    You can see how websites have been designed. Everywhere you read, there money involved. I don’t like that personally.

  44. Caroline Gerardo on October 4, 2011 at 1:21 AM

    Some of the old methods just have lost their appeal.
    I adore my local bookstore, but they are missing it as well. They offer a small space that authors visit two times a month. Rather than piggyback on the first Thursday night of the month when Art Walk occurs and thousands pass on a warm evening, they hold on to what they believe is tried and true, a quiet eight to ten visitors.
    Last year I released a book, invited a thousand people to the first event where there was “performance poetry” with the signing. Visitors participated (paying $ 40 to get a free signed book, video clips of themselves and I earned 411 loyal readers). Authors can write something great but they have to be the positive action to promote their work.
    Musicians learned with CD/mp3 downloaded free – they are only as good as their last live performance. How do authors who are generally not glamorous dressers or public persona’s compete? Find our own unique skills to connect with like-minded people -these will be career readers.
    Debut authors get into the trenches with a smile, herd to sell an expensive hardback book or offer it online so cheaply that they hook new readers.
    Building a posse is a start, band with authors or creatives to overcome the fear of entering the fray. If you have enough courage to write long form, you have the entrails to accept face to face rejection as well. You may be a literary genius but this is a business. In this cold economic time, I am perfecting my craft and improving the bottom line by participating in the risk.
    My hand is up call on me I’ll never whine.

    • Timothy Fish on October 5, 2011 at 7:16 AM

      Caroline Gerardo,

      I’m happy for you that you can attract 400 to a poetry reading, but when it comes to novels and non-fiction books, the “live performance” is the book. It isn’t like the music industry where the CD and MP3 sales are extra on top of the performance. In the book world, the book is it. People who can put on a show at book events may be better able to sell books, but the most important thing is still the book.

  45. Shari Stauch on October 4, 2011 at 1:14 AM

    It’s not so hard… if you have help drilling down to find YOUR readers… I work with clients all the time who had no idea of the real resources out there for authors to find the people who are eager to read their words, and nowadays that’s key – the days of mass marketing and shooting fish in barrels is long gone… But on the bright side, this brave new world is actually built just for authors! Thanks for your fine blog and the advice you offer new writers…

  46. Addison Moore on October 4, 2011 at 1:10 AM

    I’m ready for the Today show, Oprah, multi-state book tours, anytime you are. 😉 Oh and by the way, just looking at that crying baby makes me want to pick him up and nurse him. I’m maternal that way.