“But I’m a Writer, Not a Salesperson!” or, Intro to Marketing for Authors
The role of a children’s book author in the marketplace is dramatically different today from what it was even ten years ago. Books are now acquired based as much on an author’s perceived “platform” as on the merits of the book itself. In other words, authors are now expected to take equal responsibility for the marketing and sales of their own books.
We learned this the hard way. My mother (and co-author) and I naively imagined, when we began our collaboration, that writers wrote and publishers published. We thought our job was to try to write a good book, and then to show up for whatever was asked of us in terms of marketing and promotion – but to leave the logistics of all that to those in the various in-house departments whose job it was to organize it. Those early efforts barely broke even. We soon realized that we stood a better chance of selling our books, and being able to write more books, if we got proactive about the sales and marketing ourselves.
We have experienced firsthand the vast chasm between the relative failure of some of our books (albeit arguably worthy ones) that we took no real responsibility for helping to sell, and books that we got behind with every creative idea and resource we could muster, which subsequently ended up on the bestseller list or going into reprints.
Because I also moonlight as a freelance children book editor, I know we are not alone in our experience. Emerging and established writers still dare to hope that once the book is written, their work is done. It’s now about finding the right agent or publisher who will take it to the next step while we go back to work on the next project. But the truth is that writers today have to do a lot more than write – if we want to keep writing, that is, and if we want to experience high sales (and royalty) levels instead of high return levels.
The good news is that new developments in technology and fresh approaches in marketing have made it considerably easier than it would have been even ten years ago for writers to chart their own publishing course. It’s also fun – strategizing marketing and promotional ideas to support a book can actually be as creative as writing the books themselves. It’s just a question of applying the same level of imagination to our marketing plan as we do to writing our stories.
Over the next few weeks I will be blogging about marketing for children’s book authors on what I call “Marketing Mondays,” in preparation for a Marketing Webinar I’ll be offering in January. I’ll also be continuing with my weekly blog series on writing children’s books. Stay tuned!