Yes? No? Well, it depends…
There’s no doubt that authors can find their readers using social media, offline networking, bartering, writers’ groups, the humble phone, etc. etc. to get to their readers. Marketing and promotion need not cost much at all (that is assuming you’ve invested money into the production of your title, so that it reads and looks professional, inside and out).
Having a budget to play with – as with any industry – opens more doors; it allows you to advertise, and increases your reach.
Something I saw on my digital travels irked me. A PR company that aims to help authors shift books had a strapline emblazoned across their website: “Get the publicity you deserve…”
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
‘Deserving’ doesn’t come into it. If authors got the visibility they deserved, Fifty Shades of Grey would not be the best-selling book of all time. The banner should read: “Get the publicity you can afford…”
They’re not cheap, as a company, to employ. I know, because one of my contacts is using them – their fees go into the thousands. The author in question has little choice; they’ve a professional career that’s demanding and they don’t have time to invest in much promotional activity, which is why they’ve to invest their money instead. Because that’s the kicker – though there are cheaper ways of finding your readership, they take hours and hours, commitment and consistency, humility and helpfulness towards others, to gain any kind of headway. It’s not a better route, nor a worse one – the free way is just different.
What’s interesting is that the more expensive option isn’t really any more successful at gaining sales. Sure, it equals increased exposure, which means more people know your book even exists, but it’s still got to rely on the book appealing to its audience.
Which brings me to my point: it doesn’t matter if you’ve 5p or £50,000 to spend on your book’s promotion if it’s mediocre. If it’s been done before or it’s too formulaic. If it meanders instead of enthralls. If it teeters on the edge of crediblity. If it’s just, well, ‘meh‘…
Please find out whether this is the case before you spend any money or any time. Don’t rely on friends, family or your own ego to tell you it’s good – get an unbiased, professional opinion. Encourage objectivity – don’t believe your own hype. Because no PR company can sell a dud.
I’ve seen so many deserving titles ignored and unseen because the author has no time or budget. Or they didn’t know where to start looking for their readers. Or they found the book’s promotion a little harder than they thought and gave up. Conversely, I’ve read books from household names that, when I got to The End, wondered how they ever got across the editor’s desk. And when I mention them to people, I realise my reaction isn’t unique. Proof, if needed, that the bigger publishers don’t fully know what good content is, only good markets.
So, does good content matter? It’s more likely a reader will stay loyal if they’re moved by, or adore, what they read. But, this doesn’t always translate to what people buy (back to the 50 Shades’ example). Publishers try and marry the two elements together as much as they’re able, but the author’s responsibility is to produce good content in the first place, no matter what.
Though self-publishing has its stars and success stories, it’s still seen as the ‘poor man’s route to market‘. Happily, most readers wouldn’t refuse a book on the grounds of it being self-published if they were interested in its content, but if you want to appear in book shops, or be a speaker, or to claim that you’ve done what only 1% of the population ever get round to doing – write a book – confessing that you’ve done it all yourself and a publisher hasn’t given you a seal of approval can alter things. Sad, but true.
As an author, you can’t do much about other people’s prejudices or perceptions. But putting out a book that would knock anyone’s sock off is certainly a start…