A lot of authors think that they may have to market themselves at the beginning of their careers, when they are unknown, but once they have a few books under their Amazon listing, and larger advances, things will change. They dream of book tours, publishing parties and readings at the 92nd Street Y.
It's a dream. Wake up!
This is unfortunately a true story, that really taught me that writers have to do everything themselves, if they care.
I had an author who had collaborated on nine books, some of which had gone into multiple printings and foreign editions. This was the first book she was going to do on her own, and it was an awesome, commercial idea. We got a sizable advance. The publisher agreed to match the advance with an equal publicity budget. We thought we had it made. We were so wrong.
We met with the publicity department where we were made to feel that they knew what they were doing and our contacts (even though my author had been published and interviewed for over a decade) were meaningless. We were told not to interfere.
My client had an in at a nightclub that was willing to throw her a party to tie in with the book. We kept on asking if they wanted to do something. First we were told that publishing parties were a waste of time and money - that nothing ever comes of them and that they were just a means to massage the author's ego. Then, suddenly, the party was on! Invites were printed so quickly that we couldn't invite any of the publishing professionals who knew her work. We were told it wasn't really up to us. The good news: We got articles in the New York Times Style section and Cosmopolitan out of the party, and had a great time. The bad news: between food, drinks and invitations, they spent a quarter of the p.r. budget.
Suddenly more bad news: The assistant who was in charge of sending out the galleys (bound copies of the typeset manuscript without a real cover that are sent to reviewers) was fired because a closet stuffed full of said galleys were found two weeks after she said they went out. The galleys were sent out very late.
My author was sent on a five-city author tour. Some events were grand, some no one showed up to. They flew her around the coutnry and booked her into $500 suites for the night. The p.r. budget was gone in less than two weeks.
My author was told by the p.r. department that she was not to book her own event on the big day that tied into her book. She had been featured at events on this annual day for the past five years. Two weeks before the big day, she called to tell me they had been unable to book an event and now she would have to play catch-up to take advantage of this opportunity. I asked what she wanted to do that night. She said she wanted to do a book signing at a big store. I called them. They knew who she was and had a display of her books in their window, and said she could have the night before. I called the P.R. honcho to inform her of this, and she asked me how I managed to get the reading. I told her I called the store. She said,"Well, you must not be a very successful agent, if you have the time to book readings for your authors." She eventually got fired.
But the publishing company considered my client's book a failure, because even though it earned out it's advance, they had spent so much money on publicity, they didn't see it as profitable.