Working without a Net, on the Net
By Bob Hughes - Jan 24 , 2011
Do we need the marketing power of publishers?
Yes. And no. In either case, you have to do work yourself on building an audience, finding readers and buyers for your product.
A publisher friend of mine, the head of one of the biggest publishing companies in the world, told me recently that the average book sells, at best, four to five thousand copies. And that the next rung up sells maybe ten thousand. Then it’s up to the bestsellers, with their 40,000-and-up sales. But, as everyone well knows, most books don’t sell.
We were talking about various predictions for the growth of e-books, which is a good thing. A recent article by publishing expert Jason Epstein, in the New York Review of Books, talked about the growth of e-reading and e-publishing, and how that might lead to kind of leveling out: the small author might do better today.
What was also interesting was his writing about the rise of self-publishing, and how the stigma (probably created by publishers) is pretty much gone from it. And in the past, a lot of classics were self published, such as Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.
When I mentioned to my friend that self-publishing might take off, he said, understandably, that writers still need publishers to help market books.
Yes, that’s true. But publishers are increasingly called upon to market more and more books with fewer resources. So something’s gotta give. Yep – it’s the author who sells the most who gets the most attention.
That’s why it’s up to authors, as never before, to get to work. Walt Whitman was an expert self-promoter: he got his name out there and his book got read. You can be Walt, too.
Authors need to create an online presence, of course – but do so in a way that engages the audience, and connects with the audience, through their own author sites and through the social media available to them.
This is not hard. But it does take work and concentration.
You can self-publish, but you must also self-promote. And self-promotion isn’t a bad thing – its’ a way of connecting, and to connect you’ve got to start a dialogue with your audience. So start a site, start a blog, connect with the audience, comment on other people’s blogs and posts and link back to yourself, and start engaging. That’s how you do what publishers for all their power, can’t when they have so many authors. They have to make decisions on whom to promote. But you can do it yourself.
Your message is nothing if no one hears it. But you know that.