Once upon a time in a land very much like our own, authors wrote books, sent them to their editors, and then watched as their publishers launched them into the world. These authors did not Tweet, Facebook, or any other verb that was once a noun. They merely enjoyed long walks over grassy knolls or took the curing air at the seaside.
I’m sure it was lovely, especially after penicillin was invented.
(Ernest and Pauline Hemingway on a beach in Spain. Source)
But that world is gone and certainly not returning. Today after authors write and edit their books, they are expected to do 50-100% of the marketing for it too. Why? I think this shift was brought about by two primary factors. The first is publishers are producing more books than ever before. But it’s the second factor that I think was the bigger catalyst and the one I want to focus on.
The Internet was invented
by Al Gore.
Thanks to the Internet, today’s authors have unprecedented access to their readership. Sure, in the olden days authors might have holed up in the cabins and just waited for their books’ publication, but that was the most logical thing to do. There was no sense in trying to reach their readers. What were they realistically going to do? Rent a car and drive across the nation, knocking on doors? Hire a group of people to help them do a phone drive? The best that could be hoped was that their publishers would run some ads in the right newspapers and magazines–and word-of-mouth buzz would build from there.
Today, an author can Tweet and Facebook about their daily lives and even keep up a blog to stay in direct contact with their fans. And in fact, fans have come to expect this. Wouldn’t it strike you as strange if you were reading a book, and you stopped to find the author’s site only to discover he/she had no online presence? (Perhaps you’d find it refreshing. It’s okay to say so in the comments.) I know as a child it felt like an incredible thing if you wrote an author a paper letter and they sent you one back! Flash forward to 2012, and Susan Orlean Tweets backs to fans in real time.
And thanks to this direct access, how we ingest advertising messages has changed too. I like Mad Men as much as the next person but that model is dead. I don’t read the daily newspaper and I barely notice online ads. If an ad campaign tells me a soda is “The Choice of a New Generation,” I don’t care and I certainly don’t believe it. I’m more likely to research its health benefits, its ecological footprint, and its popularity with other consumers before I try it. In short, I’m skeptical.
We’re all skeptics now and that’s why an author must be directly involved in marketing his or her book. Readers want to get to know you, and they want a taste of who you really are. If you brainstorm and implement your own marketing plan, this authenticity will come through. If you sweat and scramble to build your own blog tour, tapping blogging friends who will actually read your book and recommend it to their fans, it’s going to have a greater impact on potential readers than some basic online ads in the sidebars of a site.
Publishers aren’t lazy and they do know how to do book marketing. But they need your help to make their efforts matter. And if you’re self-publishing, the marketing burden falls squarely on you and no one else. That’s why I’m going to kick off a new feature on this blog very soon. It’s going to be called Book Campaigns I Love. I’m going to focus on campaigns that are author-driven, creative, and effective. Stay tuned and feel free to send me a campaign you’ve seen that you loved.