Publishers Are Not Marketers
Updated: Dec 5, 2020
I know. Bummer.
Often—okay, nearly always—my first-time authors state unequivocally that they want to go with a traditional publisher. Their number-one reason being they know nothing about marketing, and they want a publisher to handle all that for them. Which kind of indicates they know nothing about traditional publishing either. Which is fine. Why would they or should they. That’s the kind of decision I’m here to help with.
But just so you know...traditional publishers buy the rights to a manuscript, turn that manuscript into a book (editing, design, proofing, printing), and sell that book to retailers, libraries, and schools. Thus, retailers, libraries, and schools are their market. That’s where their sales force directs their efforts. Not readers.
So if you go the traditional route, you can expect your book to be listed on your publisher's website and in their catalogue. Your publisher can also be depended on to send out review copies. But the marketing to actual readers—a dedicated book website, appearances, social media, author pages, a launch party, retail ads, etc.—is more than likely up to you alone.
So why choose the traditional publishing route:
Credibility. Having a traditional publisher says to the world that a respected business entity chose to invest in your manuscript.
Professional production. Your manuscript gets a proven team lending their skills and talents to it.
Bookstores. Your book will have an easier path into bookstores than other publishing options can supply (though this is changing).
Upfront costs. Publishers pay for the printing, and you earn royalties from the sale of your book. You might even get an advance with your contract.
But unless you’re famous or have a ginormous following, your advance and royalties are not likely to recoup the cost of your labor in writing the book or your out-of-pocket expenses marketing the book. Of even more consequence, since the publishers pay for everything, they control everything—like the title, editing choices, cover design, the price, even when the book is released.
Also worth considering, it typically takes about two years from signing a book deal to publication. Extending that timeline further is the reality that to get your manuscript in front of a traditional publisher, you’ll likely need to secure an agent. For nonfiction writers, that means creating a book proposal…but that’s a subject for another blog.