I’ve never quite figured out marketing, especially when it comes to marketing the books I write. It all seems like so much work. That’s part of the “business” aspect of writing that I don’t particularly like to do. It’s time-consuming and creatively draining. A necessary evil if you will.
Having prefaced with that, I’ve noticed a rather disturbing trend in the local newspaper. They love, love, love to cover self-published authors. Usually with a section front-page photo and blatantly fawning article which continues on the following page complete with appearance/booksigning information. I can barely get them to print notices for my booksignings and when they do, there’s often a mistake in the date, time or location.
In today’s paper (I admittedly do not read the local paper daily or religiously) is one such article. This particular author is published by an entity known as Inkwell Press (although that’s not mentioned in the coverage). One of the lines in the article caught my attention. The author is quoted as saying he “ learned deadlines and a full-time day job did not mix.” Deadlines? Really? When you’re self-publishing? Okay, maybe so. Or maybe they were self-imposed deadlines.
Any time I see an article like this in my local paper I’m immediately suspicious. Thank goodness for Google. I Googled the author’s name and found that he was published by Inkwell Press. Looking at Inkwell’s site, it’s a bit difficult to determine that it is indeed a self-publishing entity. But further digging confirmed that it is.
In the old days these were called vanity presses. An author paid a vanity press to publish his/her work. Many readers and the general public are simply not aware that the difference between a vanity press or self-publishing company and a company such as Random House, is that Random House pays the author for the privilege of publishing their work. The Random House staff acquires, edits, publishes and promotes the work. They contract with the author. They pay the author up front for the publishing rights. Self-publishing is exactly what it sounds like. The author pays the publisher to publish his work. Often this is because he can’t publish it with a traditional publishing house. In other words, he can’t find anyone who will pay him for his book. So he pays someone else to get it in print. He may get royalties on the books that sell or maybe he pockets the entire purchase price (I would hope so) because that’s probably the only way he’s going to make back whatever he shelled out to the self-publishing house.
The bottom line is when a publisher pays an author for work, it’s in the publisher’s best interest to make that book the best it can be. The better the book, hopefully, the more copies that will sell, the more money both the publishing house and the author can make. The publisher is motivated because they’ve already spent money on the book. With a self-publishing company, however, I would think all of that matters much less. They’ve made their money off the author up front. That’s what they’re in business to do.
I’ve often said my editor at Samhain Publishing did nothing but make my book, A MONTH FROM MIAMI, better. It’s very much the book I wrote, but her input made it the best it could be. Authors are rarely the best editors of their own work. They’re simply too close to it. While a self-publishing house may offer editorial services, again, the author is paying them, so the author may have the final say in the editing process. And while Samhain Publishing is a small press which pays a small advance, they are a royalty-paying publisher and I didn’t shell out one penny of my own money to see my book in print. In fact, since its release, I’ve made money every month from royalties.
But back to the question of why the local newspaper loves self-published authors. I think those self-published authors are simply more motivated to sell books. They’ve got money invested they need to recoup. They’ve got to get out there and hustle. Get those press releases out, get the coverage and sell, sell, sell. I should be so motivated, even though I’m not self-published. Maybe when it’s cooler…maybe when it’s tourist season…maybe when I decide promoting my books is more important that writing another book…I’ll be out there hustling, too.