In a short news report I read a few days ago, Sherry Lansing, the former head of Paramount Studios, is quoted as saying, “I’ve come to believe that the marketing of a movie is now more important than the movie. That to me is a very, very sad thing and perhaps it explains why there are less films of social relevance. Because they’re harder to market.”
Now, in this day and age of fake news, I suppose this could be a fake story, but the source seemed believable to me, and anyway, Sherry Lansing, as the former CEO of a major studio, should know what she’s talking about. We’ve all probably seen a lot of trailers for movies lately, and I’ve noticed that many of those movies are ones in which the special effects are prominent, like science-fiction movies. Marketing is certainly a big part of making a movie, that’s for sure.
But as a writer of fiction (but not screenplays), I found myself wondering if the same isn’t true for books. Perhaps not to the same extent as for movies because there are probably a lot more books published each year than movies released. But certainly, marketing for books is an important part of the publishing process. Publishers nowadays do little marketing anymore, leaving it largely to the author, and if you self-publish, you have to do it all. So many things go into marketing a book: you have to have a website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, and you’re even expected to go onto other social media platforms, just to get the word out about your book. Book signings, a spectacular book launch, working with bookstores, libraries and other outlets, just to get the book in the hands of the public. Go to book fairs and conventions. Always keep a box of your books in the back of your car. An email list is considered mandatory. Many writers hire a publicist. If you don’t market well, you’re considered a failure. It goes on and on. I wonder if an author does more marketing than actual writing. Does that mean that marketing is more important than the book itself? Do writers spend more time marketing anymore? Are we channeling Sherry Lansing in all this?
Marketing, of course, is selling. To market means to ask yourself, “What can I do to sell my book(s)?” Ours is a selling society. The gradual increase in commercial time on TV is one indication of how TV networks and local stations have to raise more and more money just to produce their shows. I’ve even seen commercials that are five (5) minutes long, for crying out loud. Push, push, push. Sell, sell, sell. It’s getting to be the same in publishing. We have to market more and more just to recoup the cost of producing the books. I’m wondering if there will be a breaking point somewhere along the line where one or more authors will say, “Enough is enough. I can’t sell enough books to make writing worthwhile any more.” I don’t think we’ve reached that point, but I really wonder how far away it is.