Authors as Marketers

Gone are the days of the reclusive author, writing from a mountaintop only available to a lucky few by train, boat, and plane.

Now there’s a whole new publishing world, where authors perceived as mediagenic may add a priceless flair and point of difference to their work. The nostalgic image of writer by candlelight, refusing interaction with fans and the media in a heroic act of sacrifice and self-discipline, has disappeared—–because if you’re not willing to let others into your life, why should they bring your book into theirs?

Writers are conveyors of art, but the transition to author signifies selling a product, which means you need to get it out there and shared. As Kassia Krozser thoughtfully wrote in a blog post last year, Life on Venus: Authors Do Market:

The publisher helps to achieve its own goals by publishing a single book while the author is responsible for the care and feeding of an entire career.

The article also makes the connection between the expectations of musicians and authors – which makes a familiar link, as many point out, that publishing is going through the same technology shift the music industry has recently gone through.

Many writers may not realize their job is far from over when the final edit is done. Debut author Marilyn Brant writes about pre-pub marketing  in preparation for her upcoming novel, According to Jane (Kensington Press, 9/29/2009) comparing the experience to pregnancy in a post titled For the Love of Chaos:

How 1/3 of the time you were thrilled and 1/3 of the time you were kinda nervous and 1/3 of the time you were panicking beyond all reason?” vs. the brimming of excitement commonly expected of all authors.

An important aspect of getting published that Brant mentions is her increased time spent blogging. She also links to a column she wrote for a relevant publication – both free marketing efforts often suggested by the publisher but done by the author. Lately, marketing costs have been discussed in various online outlets, questioning where the responsibility and costs should lie – author or publisher?

Obviously, both sides have a vested interest in the success of the work. I like to think publishing is a business of passion for the publisher and the author, though it is also a business partnership that must make financial sense.

To get a better sense of the discussion, I suggest reading the recent article by author M. J. Rose, Publishers Must Change the Way Authors Get Paid. Being an experienced and successful author, she is able to speak with knowledge and skill about marketing pain from the author’s perspective.

Publisher Bob Miller of Harper Studio responded to Rose’s editorial with one of his own: Re-thinking the Publisher/Author Partnership. Miller is an authority on new business models, as his Harper Studio has become the first to adopt a 50/50 payment structure.

Despite the interesting conversation, it’s clear that neither party has a definitive solution. Rose may be correct in saying royalties should be reexamined in light of recent changes in publishing, but Miller has a solid point on asking where the divisions of cost lie. Having spent the last month working in the marketing department of a large publishing house, I am not yet an ultimate authority, but I do believe I have seen results from the personal efforts of authors, regardless of who is footing the bill.

As Brant implies in her post, there are many no-cost marketing opportunities that authors can and should take on themselves – from blogging to connecting with current fans and potential readers on other social networking sites. I believe so many readers idolize their favorite authors, and being offered a glimpse into the life of an author is beneficial to all parties.

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