The face of publishing is changing. At least that’s what they tell me. As an unpublished author I guess I don’t have much say in how things change or stay the same, and I’m taking a risk here of annoying or upsetting or just plain pissing off possible agents, editors, and publishers, but I thought I’d make a few comments on the subject. From reading articles on this topic, hearing people talk about it, and talking to those who’ve gone down the publishing road, I’ve found authors are being required to do more and more of their own promoting, marketing and selling of their finished product. That’s the way it is, so you’d better get used to it, they say. Publishers don’t do that anymore. Authors are even supposed to work up a marketing plan with their book proposal or fiction submission.
Fair enough. But I’m not a marketer. I’ve never studied marketing or selling or public relations and don’t know the first thing about any of those subjects. I’d have to take time off from writing to study marketing in order to figure out how to devise a marketing plan.
Writers are, as I’ve also been told over and over, solitary creatures. That’s my experience too. Sooner or later, even the most extroverted, outgoing, gregarious author has to sit down in a quiet room and write. He may be an absolute marvel at marketing, have zillions of friends on Facebook, produce YouTube videos by the dozen, Tweet a hundred times a day (and be followed by everyone in the known universe), but he’s got to write something to begin with and send it out there.
Now, I’m not saying I’m against marketing, just that I don’t know much about it. I’m not against Facebook and other social media, just not very good at it. I’m not against selling my own books, though I’m willing to try. I doubt that I could produce a decent YouTube video; it might repulse more people than it induced to buy. I do have a blog (well, if you’re reading this, that’s obvious). I’ve got about the bare minimum foundation for an author in this century of exploding social media, but that doesn’t allay my concern. My problem is related more to the fact that I’ve been required to do it because no one else will. With the big publishers abandoning marketing and promoting, it falls to the author to do it, and he/she is, in the main, one of the least qualified. It’s like asking Homer Simpson to run a nuclear power plant.
Some authors are great at social media and make a decent living selling the books they’ve written. More power to them. But not all are, and requiring them to handle all of it themselves makes no sense whatsoever. My biggest fear is that authors will eventually be judged more by the quality of their marketing than by the quality of their writing. That so many lousy books will be sold because they were promoted (as Lisa Simpson would say) so shamelessly.
I find myself wondering what the famously reclusive Harper Lee would do if she submitted To Kill a Mockingbird to a publisher today. I can’t see her doing a YouTube video.