We are looking at the basics of book marketing. If you missed the first post in the series, you can find it here.
When considering marketing, the first and most important element is the product: your book.
The single most important thing anyone can do to succeed in any job, in any profession, is to do the job to the best of their ability. Before you release your product, your book, onto the market, it needs to be the best you are able to produce. No excuses.
Keep working at it until you get it right. This means revising, editing, getting assessments and critiques from people you trust, more revising, more editing, getting more feedback from readers, still more editing, proofreading, editing those changes, then proofreading again to make sure the editing and proofreading hasn’t added any more errors. When you are 99% sure that this is the best you can do – that’s when you seek publication, either directly or through a literary agent.
If you are self-publishing, you are going to be responsible for making the decisions about everything:
- Developmental editing
- E-book conversion (it’s not enough to simply take a Word file and upload it)
- Cover blurb
- Cover design
- Format: paperback, hardcover or e-book?
- Print-on-demand or offset?
- Organise an ISBN
- Register copyright (where required)
Nick Thacker wrote an excellent blog post comparing the products and services of the three main print-on-demand companies: CreateSpace (owned by Amazon), Lightning Source (owned by Ingram, a major print and distribution company), and Lulu. It’s an excellent article, complete with photographs which illustrate the relative quality of each product (unfortunately, they also illustrate that Thacker’s interior design isn’t up to industry standards).
Self-publishing is a lot of work, but the rewards can be huge.
If you are working through a small publisher, they may require you to go through one or two rounds of editing and proofreading (at your own cost) before they accept your manuscript, or they may do it all in-house. Be aware that not all small publishers understand what good fiction—and good fiction editing—looks like. They may simply proofread and not comment on issues like insufficient character development or lack of conflict, and they may not correct inconsistencies in point of view. I’ve seen books from small publishers with these faults. The books look professional—until you open them.
However, a good small publisher will take responsibility for all aspects of book production, and will produce a book you can be proud of. They will do all this at no cost to the author—remember, the first rule of publishing is that money flows to the author. If you are asked to pay for cover design, ebook conversion or for an ISBN number, the chances are this is a vanity publisher. If you are asked to pay a contribution towards marketing, your publisher is probably a vanity publisher. And if you are required to purchase a specified number of books, your publisher is certainly a vanity publisher (a real publisher allows you to purchase books at a stated discount, but does not require it).
A larger trade publisher will take full responsibility for all tasks to do with the design and production of the book, although you (as the author and the person who knows the book best) will need to assist by completing the manuscript on time, completing all edits on time, and returning the final proofs when required. You may be given some input into cover design and back cover blurb, but this will depend on the individual publishing house.