Friday, July 10, 2009

Response to Self-Promotion: A Challenge with Self-Publishing and Small Presses

The VBT - Writers on the Move welcomes members who share hosting each other to promote authors and books. Also, each month, a member hosts a Viewpoint/Hot Topic blog posts, and others post a response, but most leave comments.

Today Crystalee Calderwood hosts with a segment about self-promotion when self-publishing or publishing with a small press.

I would like to address the topic from a bit different perspective, not only as an author, but also as the head of a small publishing company.

Crystalee has valid points. Yes, small publishers aren't able to provide all the bells and whistles that major publishers can. Of course major publishers don't do that for all their authors, just the famous ones.

Due to lack of funds (which even the big boys lack more and more), small presses cannot afford to pay bookstores for large displays and shelf room. Yes, the major publishers pay bookstores to carry books as well as granting a large discount and return options. Of course bookstores are going to carry books, and more books, if they are paid extra for doing so. Another "of course," that practice is one of the reasons publishing houses are going broke.

Some small presses do not give large discounts, work through a distributor (NOTE: most chain bookstores and many independent ones will not carry books unless bought or at least available through a distributor), nor have a return policy. However, 4RV Publishing does all three.

If an author is through a press that offers the above, they need to notify bookstores of that fact when speaking with the managers. It will make a difference. Of course if authors provide the books, they can offer the same benefits.

One suggestion, face to face meetings with managers or event coordinators for stores are better than phone calls. Telling a person "no" is more difficult when looking at her or him.

Next correct point made by Crystalee, promoting is hard work. However, the burden isn't lighter when working for a major publisher unless one happens to be already famous or a major well-know author. Personally, I know a few best-selling authors under the big four, and they work themselves half to death promoting their books. As one of them told me recently, if they sit back and don't do the promoting, their books don't sell.

One way to promote and "get one's name out" is to volunteer to hold a reading at a library or to give a presentation at a school. Even if not allowed to directly sell books, you can have a poster on a stand behind you with the cover of your book and have handouts available with ordering information. Be sure to have photos taken and publicize whenever possible.

I don't have a publicist, either. I have to do all my own promotions, and my time is extremely limited to spend on promotion of my books. However, I have appeared at schools and libraries. The results were outstanding. I was able to set up more signings when I could say I had participated in those activities and the result was sales.

An appearance, whether a book signing or a reading, may not mean instant sales. Many times more books are sold the next week than during the actual signing.

One paragraph from Crystalee's blog,I must quote because it's so true: I have thought of a few qualities which authors must possess in order to make it big. Not surprisingly, time and money are on top of the list. Also included are patience, drive and determination. You can’t be timid about writing, calling or visiting local bookstores and libraries. You also can’t let yourself take it too personally when you get let down.

Anyone who isn't willing to battle, many times "beating one's head against a wall," then writing should stay a hobby. Being an author whose books sell is very hard work, often with little financial return.

Ahh, but wasn't holding that "new born" book a thrill?

Just my opinion.


Nancy Famolari said...

Lots of good points. Certainly, writing and most important selling is not for the faint hearted. We all have to get out there and tell the world about our books. If we don't care enough, who else will?

Crystalee said...

All very valid points, Viv. Thank you for your take on the subject. Small presses (and, as you mention, increasingly more larger publishers) certainly don't have the money to buy large displays in bookstores. It all boils down to both parties are running a business and need to make good decisions for their business.

By the way, I never considered that mentioning offering discounts, working through a distributor, and offering returns would help get books into stores. I guess that's because I didn't realize not everyone offered that. I can really see how that might work to an author's advantage.

Crystalee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katie Hines said...

Great article and good points, Vivian. I feel fortunate to be a part of the 4RV family.

Rena said...

Read Crystalee's blog earlier today. Thanks for your input, Vivian, since it's from another side of the coin.

Carol J. Amato said...

Lots of good comments! As the owner of a small press myself, what we've done is focus on books that can be sold to the school libraries. The library wholesalers have acted as our sales reps, practically singlehandedly selling out entire 2,000-copy print runs for us. Don't forget about those wholesalers!

Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children said...

Thanks for some great information. It is a tough business and I'm sure those who aren't in it don't realize that.

I just spoke (emailed) with a woman from New Zealand who has 43 books out with 10 publishers and she's looking for ways to promote in the U.S. and Canada because sales are doing well.

When the supply is greater than the demand that's a problem for the supplier.

Karen Cioffi

Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children said...

Oops! Correction - the woman's sales ARE NOT doing well!

Ransom Noble said...

Thanks, Vivian. There is a lot of great information in that post! I'll work with that as I continue to try to set up appearances. n

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Great advice, Vivian. I'm going to write it down to help me get my books out there.


Vivian Zabel said...

Thanks, everyone, for coming by.

Crystalee had a good idea.

John said...

Good post Vivian. Having worked with other micropresses that do not have distributor deals I cannot express how important it is and how glad I am that 4RV makes that extra effort and puts up with the associated headaches. Without that its very difficult to get the bookstores to work with you. Thanks again.