Do you get your money’s worth?

Readers and writers alike see those expensive ads for a book. Video trailers, full-page ads in the NY Times, and huge ads in that paper’s book section every Sunday. You also have Kirkus Reviews, little more than ads themselves because they’re paid for by Big Five publishers.

You also have ad agencies and marketing experts who make a huge amount of money as the proverbial “middle men.” A Big Five publisher doesn’t usually design the ad or run the marketing campaign, after all. Someone is hired to do that.

Are these efforts worth the money? I suppose some readers respond to the hype. Marketing people working for Big Five publishers aim their big guns at those readers, of course. As a reader, I guess I’m old-fashioned. I don’t pay much attention to hype beyond being annoyed by it, especially when superstar author X endorses Y’s book. That’s similar to Henry Winkler or Mike Ditka selling insurance. Moreover, it’s dangerous for Y, because I might hate X’s writing.

To be honest, most of the big-bang marketing hype is for the Big Five’s stable of winning stallions and mares. You’ll rarely see a huge marketing campaign for a new author. If you’re an author spoiled by the Big Five, you don’t worry about PR and marketing very much either, so whatever they do is probably OK. If you’re not, the question becomes: Do you get your money’s worth?

Note that I’m NOT talking about indie (DIY) v. traditional publishing here. Even back in the Jurassic days of publishing, traditional publishers’ investments in marketing weren’t large, except for their superstars. New authors, assuming they managed to obtain a contract with a traditional publisher, received little help.

Today it’s even worse. There are so many good authors and good books nowadays, indie or traditionally published, that it’s even more difficult for a book to get noticed. Many authors are also far removed from that group of Big Five superstars, but they’re the ones who most need name recognition and recognition of their books. They’re forced to go it alone, even if they’re traditionally published—small presses just don’t have the staff or funds for a lot of marketing. Authors have to do it on their own more than anytime in publishing history.

This can be a daunting challenge, but in these internet halcyon days, an author can launch small marketing campaigns that are more cost-effective than all those glitzy ads mentioned in the first paragraph. How? Old-fashioned word-of-mouth advertising. Social media on the internet lets people know who the author is and about her or his books. Of course, an author has to be a bit more social than just saying, “Hey, buy my book! It’s great!” And many internet newsletters and websites will list your book for a reasonable price. (You can get a JustKindle ad for $18.)

Of course, small presses can and do market in this fashion. One positive of my new association with Penmore Press (publisher of Rembrandt’s Angel) was that they do a lot with Twitter and Facebook. I hate Twitter and don’t use Facebook as much as I should, so I’m more than happy to let my publisher pay staff to do that and not spend exorbitant amounts of money on those glitzy ads. Those efforts reach a lot more readers too.

I’ve always been active on social media, though. A lot of people know about me and my books. Whether internet marketing efforts translate into book sales is always a worry, whether mine or my publisher’s, but at least I’m getting my money’s worth and meeting new people.

So, readers, please pay more attention to writers who are accessible and sociable, i.e. those who reach out to you directly, either face-to-face or via the internet. And authors, don’t envy those splashy ads the Big Five pay for—you’re doing just fine if you meet people in person or online and tell them about what you’ve written.

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Rembrandt’s Angel (a mystery/thriller from Penmore Press). To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by the Nazis in World War Two. Their efforts lead to much more, as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. This book is available in ebook format at Amazon and at Smashwords and its affiliate retailers. It’s also available as a print version at Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore (if not there, ask for it). See the review and interview on Feathered Quill.

In libris libertas….

 

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