Twilight Times Feature

 

What You Won't Be Getting….

by Charlotte Boyett-Compo

 

 

Electronic publishing is a godsend for writers who might never have been published had they held out for a traditional publisher to come knocking at their door.  With the advent of e-books and small press e-publishers, the voices of those talented writers who could not get their foot into the traditional publisher's door now have a pathway into the mysterious, wonderful world of publication. Unfortunately with their entry into publishing, these fledgling writers brought with them a plethora of misconceptions about the industry.  The shooting down of these misconceptions—most garnered from  novels, television shows and movies about published authors—is the hardest lesson newbie authors will have to learn about this business.

I've never liked to burst anyone's bubble, but sometimes telling it like it is will prevent a new author from forming unrealistic expectations of what being published means.  Knowing the realities of publishing might help an author to understand this is a business and not a journey into self-gratification.  It is a serious business that should be conducted in a professional manner.  Understanding a few essential elements of the publishing process might prevent misunderstandings between a new author and his/her publisher.

Book Promotion: This is an area where new authors have the most skewed perception of what will and will not be done in the advancement of their book.  Even after reading and signing their contracts, these writers do not fully understand the ins and outs of promotion. They fully expect their publisher to do all the work and all they need to do is sit back and rake in the royalties.

Sorry to tell you this, but that is not the way it works.

With very few exceptions, most e-publishers will leave the promotion of your book almost entirely up to you. They will expect you to send out the press releases. They will expect you to contact radio and television media in your immediate area.  They will expect you to book your own book signings. They will expect you to find your own reviewers. They will expect you to get your website (and you would be foolish not to have one) linked to as many genre-specific and promotional websites and webzines as possible.  They will expect you to continuously promote yourself on listservs.  In other words: the process of promoting your book to the fullest extent will be your responsibility, not theirs.

Why? Well, let's consider the fact that your publisher has very limited resources.  With small e-publishers, the entire staff is almost entirely voluntary.  There is no mega-budget with a limitless purse from which that publisher can draw to promote each and every one of their authors.  Given the fact that authors are from all points of the globe and the local radio and television stations in their areas are so numerous, it is silly to think the publisher can make arrangements to have each of them interviewed.  If the author makes the initial contact, perhaps the publisher will follow up with a letter on the corporate stationary to help sell him/her as an author, but that will be the extent of what most will have the time or money to do.

In most cases there is neither the staff numbers nor the time to parcel out promotional opportunities for each author.  There might be a list of willing review websites who will accept ARCs of new novels being released, but that isn't a guarantee that the website will actually review the book or, if it is reviewed, the review will ever see the light of electronic pasting. Having someone on staff follow up to see if the ARC ever arrived, the review was done and/or posted, takes time away from other needs more pressing in getting books out to the reading public.  Multiply that need to look into the progress of the review times however many authors are contracted with the publisher and you can see it is a logistical nightmare at best.

And just who pays for sending out print ARCs? It won't be the publisher. You will be expected to print out, copy, and mail the ARCs to places that will not accept email attachment ARCs.  With the cost of paper, ink cartridges, binding, wrapping, and mailing out print ARCs, the expense can be prohibitive to new authors who don't have a lot of money with which to play. There again: multiply this times all the publisher's authors under contract and you'll see why the publisher will not be sending out your print ARCs.

Book ads are another avenue down which new authors often travel all alone or in groups of three to fifteen.  Some genre-specific magazines like Romantic Times will not accept your book for review unless you do an ad with them. To some that is blackmail, but it is the cost of doing business if you want a review from RT.  The price is high but if several authors go in together, they can get a pretty decent one page black and white ad. (Don't even ask what a color ad would be!).  Although you will be sharing space with an author who is in direct competition with you, at least you will have your name before a large segment of readers. 

You have to weigh the exposure against the cost. Most authors don't mind doing a joint ad and many have parlayed it into decent sales. But you will be the one paying for the ad, not the publisher, although some publishers have been known to ante up a small, token amount to help defray the cost.  Will they or do they commit such largesse to every author under contract? Not often.  Expect to pay for ads yourself.

As for that spectacular thing called THE BOOKSIGNING TOUR: this is a myth I would like to see expelled from every author's repertoire of Things My Publisher Will Do For Me.  Unless you are a big star at one of the traditional publishing houses (and then you'd better have a name that is a household word), the chances of your publisher setting you up on a fifteen-city tour has as much chance of happening as you winning the Iowa Lottery.  It just ain't gonna happen.  Here is what will happen:

You will be the one to contact the bookstores.  You will be the one to nudge the store manager into granting you permission to have the signing.  If you're lucky and get an enthusiastic store manager, you might have that manager suggest you do other signings in some of their other stores. That will entail you speaking with the corporate office's Event's Coordinator who might help you set up a multi-store/city signing.  Even with the signing scheduled, you will still have to deal with each store manager on your own. You will have to call them, introduce yourself, and hope they aren't having a bad hair day. You will be the one to make sure the bookstore contacts the local media to hype you. You will be the one to follow up to make sure your books are at the bookstore so you won't look like an idiot if you get there and there's nothing for you to sign. (Even the best publisher can not guarantee the books will reach their destination on time, folks. Given the mail system we have today, your books might wind up in Katmandu, so you'd be wise to check before heading to the store.)

That brings us to promotional items to give away.

No, your publisher will not provide you with free books to hand out at seminars and conventions. They will not make and give you free copies of sampler diskettes or CDs. They will not give you a box of PODs or mass market paperbacks for you to have as contest items on your webpage.  It is highly doubtful publishers will provide you with bookmarks, coffee mugs, mouse pads, pens/pencils, magnets or any of the other sundry promotional giveaways big name authors fling into the crowd like riders on a Mardi Gras float.  There is no budget for such things and again: multiply that with the amount of authors under contract and you'll see why most publisher shudder even at the thought of providing promotional items. 

You will be expected to shell out the money for these items to launch yourself at conventions.  You will be expected to learn how to make pamphlets, bookplates and bookmarks with your book cover on them to give out at seminars and to drop off at libraries. (Don't know how to do this? Ask a fellow author. We've learned and we'll be happy to share!)

Convention, seminar and book fair fees:  Nope. This is another of your responsibilities, not the publisher's. If you want to attend, set up a booth, have the books to sell, you will be the one to do the work. You will be the one to shell out the money. Consider all the ramifications of attending conferences and seminars when you do your budgeting for promotion.  These things can be quite expensive and you have to weigh the possible returns against the cost.   The exposure can be great, but unless you sell enough books to warrant attending, think twice before committing to forking over money you might not recoup.

Going into publishing knowing the pitfalls, the drawbacks, and the realities will help new authors become the professionals they need to be.

 
 

Author Bio

Charlotte Boyett-Compo is the author of twenty-one books, the first nine of which are the WindLegend Saga.

Visit one of her publishing houses at Twilight Times Books (http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com ), Hard Shell Word Factory (http://www.hardshell.com ) and Amber Quill Press (http://amberquill.com) to learn more about her available books and what's coming up next.

She has a new sword & sorcery romance book, The Windhealer: Book Four of the WindLegends Saga series) coming out in July and DarkWind, the long-awaited sequel to BloodWind, will be out in November.

Drop by her website at http://www.windlegends.com to get know a little about her. Please be sure to sign the guest book so she'll know you came by for a visit.

Check out Charlee's interview at Sharp Writers.

 

Reviews of Charlee's books:

"IN THE WIND'S EYE is an exciting Reconstruction Era romance that may seem to follow the rules of the sub-genre, but actually is extremely complex and filled with twists. The story line is exciting, yet very dark as it brings to life the aftermath of the Civil War on the losers. Anyone who takes pleasure from a story about that period will find the deep layers of Charlotte Boyett-Compo's skills turn her plot into a triumphant complex historical fiction. ... it has some of the best writing I have ever seen. I predict this author will make it big time in the near future."
Reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

"BLOOD WIND, the first novel in the "Wind Demon" trilogy, is an exciting science fiction tale that uses romance and vampire elements to enhance a strong plot. The story line never slows down as readers observe an advanced technological society using its science to control and change people. Cree has many vampire traits, but love is not supposed to be in his genetic make-up. Does he love Bridget, an intrepid heroine who turns his bark into more than his bite, because of science or his heart? Charlotte Boyett-Compo has written a fabulous novel that will leave readers thirsting for books two and three.This is one of the best new authors I have come across in a long time. Her storytelling abilities are brilliant and I can't wait to read the next books in this series or anything else she writes. Don't pass on this book. It is well worth waiting for."
Reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

 


 

 

"What You Won't Be Getting…." Copyright © 2001 Charlotte Boyett-Compo.
All rights reserved.
This page last updated 12-28-02.
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