How Can Authors and Publishers Partner Better on Book Marketing? [Smart Set]

Smart Set

Welcome to the weekly The Smart Set, where I share three smart pieces worth reading about the publishing and media industry. I also point to issues and questions raised, and welcome you to respond or ask your own questions in the comments.

“To seek: to embrace the questions, be wary of answers.”

—Terry Tempest Williams


Publishers Need to Rethink Their Marketing Deployments by Mike Shatzkin

Industry analyst Mike Shatzkin discusses the phenomenon of accomplished, traditionally published authors who decide to self-publish due to lack of backlist and marketing support from their publishers (among other things). His commentary is one of the most lucid and reasoned arguments for why publishers need to change—dramatically and soon—how they market books. Of the two authors who recently switched to self-pub, he observes:

… [Marketing effort applied to backlist titles] can resuscitate a dormant book, and that fact, combined with the higher share of revenues self-publishing brings, can make the effort of [authors] managing their own publishing business well worth the effort to them. … Both authors want to work on making their books sell.

Of course, this constitutes a loss to the publishers whose initial efforts helped create both the product and the platform that the self-publisher and the self-publishing infrastructure (most prominently Amazon, but there are plenty of players there) then capitalizes on. …

Traits [that these self-published authors share] are marketing and publicity capability and constructive business sense. These are traits publishers should be looking for in their author partners and the fact that they can gain better expression and leverage outside a publishing house is a failing the industry really needs to fix. 

Shatzkin goes onto discuss a strategic question that has not been resolved: authors need to control and manage their own online presence, but this is (of course) labor intensive. While authors could benefit from the publishers’ help, the author can’t and shouldn’t entrust that work to any single publisher. Read his full post, long but worthwhile.

Thoughts & questions:

  • How can publishers best support authors who can contribute to their own marketing? How do you make the partnership, as Shatzkin says, “fair and synergistic”?
  • You can find (my very extensive) thoughts here from a 2012 presentation: The Future of the Author-Publisher Relationship

Review of the eBook Subscription Services by Jane Litte

This is one of the first comprehensive, non-industry speak overviews I’ve seen of the ebook subscription landscape. If you’re trying to catch up on what’s out there and what sort of titles are available (or which service you might consider buying into), don’t miss this post.

Thoughts & questions:

  • Are you subscribing to any of the services? What’s your take on the title selection and value? Has it decreased how much you spend on books overall? (I do not subscribe to any of the services; my reading is far too niche, highly targeted, and library driven.)

A Marketing Pitch From Author Solutions by Victoria Strauss

I mainly add this as a public service announcement for anyone still not familiar with the sales tactics of publishing services company Author Solutions (ASI) and its many subsidiaries. If you are searching for a service to help you self-publish, educate yourself about the many excellent options that aren’t Author Solutions. Mick Rooney’s site is a good place to start.

Thoughts & questions:

  • How long will it take before ASI goes out of business?
Posted in Smart Set.
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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6 Comments on "How Can Authors and Publishers Partner Better on Book Marketing? [Smart Set]"

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[…] Welcome to the weekly The Smart Set, where I share three smart pieces worth reading about the publishing and media industry. I also point to issues and questions raised, and welcome you to respond or ask your own questions in the comments.  […]

William Ash
Author Solutions clearly states that self publishing is a lucrative business. It is. And with a whole lot of luck, the author might make money as well… This might be the first time I disagree with Mike. Large publishing houses simply cannot do what he suggests as it would take too much time and effort, especially when they are downsizing. And to have the author do the “dirty” work without any increase in royalties is just slavery. Properly, this article should be about the rise of micro-publishing with authors with a backlist. It is not about the publishers, but the… Read more »
Marcy Mason McKay

Boy, Jane, this is spot on. I have three traditionally-published author friends in my weekly writing group. Hearing some of their stories, I often think, “WHAT are publishers thinking?”

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