More Love/Hate

My friend—and fellow author—Pamela Foster recently wrote a blog post in which she talked about the love/hate relationship you’llsmall press undoubtedly run into with the publication of your first book by a small press. She’s right, you know. Small presses don’t have the resources to do PR for you. That’s all gonna be on your shoulders.

But I would add to what she had to say. Unless you’re a consistent New York Times bestseller, the big presses aren’t gonna do it, either. And you’re not gonna be able to have a personal relationship with your publisher. Your editor…maybe. But at a small press, the editor wears many hats. Make no mistake, though: they’re in it to make money for themselves. And to do that, all they have to get you to do is buy copies of your own book to sell. And you will, because you’re lost in a sea of books on Amazon. Trust me.

The big presses just do it…bigger.

Back when the Great Recession hit—and I could still stand to listen to what passes for news these days—I heard several stories on NPR about how the publishing industry was downsizing. Copy editors? Out the window. Technical editors? They’re in the bread line too. What’s that mean? It means even big press editors are wearing many hats these days.

Promotions isn’t one of those hats.

The major difference (besides royalty percentages) between big presses and small presses is the big presses invest a lot of money in your book before it ever hits the stands. Where small presses use print-on-demand services, the dinosaurs still make a print run of your book—and if it doesn’t sell all its copies, they have to eat it. The irony is, they’re not gonna invest a lot of money in promoting your book…just in case it doesn’t sell. Or maybe that’s more contradiction than irony.

Anyway, the point being, unless your name is Stephen King or Robert Crais or Tom Clancy, forget promo. That’s your job.

Now, once you start selling millions of copies, then we’ll revisit the idea of doing promotions for you. But not till then.

Even agents—about the only way you’re gonna get published by one of the big houses—want you to have the machinery in place to promote yourself. One of the first questions an agent is gonna ask if he accepts you is, “Do you have your platform in place?”

Ah, yes. The platform. Personally, I hate it. Why? Because they want me to spend time I should be using to write my next novel doing stupid stuff on Facebook and Twitter or writing my next blog post. Like I’m doing now.

There are ways around this. I write a blog post and have it publish to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I never get on Twitter, rarely visit LinkedIn (mostly just to approve connection requests), and shamefacedly admit to spending too much time perusing my personal page on Facebook. Using Facebook is like smoking: you know it’s a stupid habit, but you can’t help doing it.

Sometimes I’m tempted to get rid of my smartphone and go back to a normal cell phone. But I know I won’t.

So, if you get on with someone like Random House, congratulations. You’ve got an agent, and you’re hopefully on your way and won’t be another Harper Lee or Margaret Mitchell. I hope your agent got you a good deal, and I hope it takes you far. In fact, I hope to join you someday. Just don’t be surprised when you have to do the same thing I’m doing over here at my small press: hiring a PR agency to do all my hollering for me.



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