Friday, July 25, 2008

Promoting vs. Marketing

There are times when I think people tend to confuse the terms marketing and promoting when it comes to books. PublishAmerica authors are some of the worst culprits of this - take a look at their public message board, and you'll see an entire section devoted to the marketing of their books. And skim through it, you'll see things that make you go hmmmm... Some of the suggestions there range from the bizarre - tissue boxes with your book information on them - to the downright pointless - take a copy of your book into XYZ store and just leave it on the shelf. And I'm not kidding, those are two actual suggestions over there.

And though some do seem kind of funny (business cards, with your book info, stuffed into the handles of gas pumps. Only in NJ, it really wouldn't work because it's illegal to pump your own gas here), it's almost a sad kind of funny. These people have to do whatever they can think of when it comes to marketing because Lord knows their publisher does just about nothing.

Now, to a vanity published author, marketing and promoting pretty much are the same thing - and they know that. But PA authors are led to believe they have been commercially published, and that all authors are busy having their book covers emblazoned on tissue boxes all around the world.


PA would have you believe that Stephen King has always gone from bookstore to bookstore, asking the store manager to stock his book. Or that Nora Roberts does. And James Patterson does.

Again - no.

Authors promote, publishers market. There is a difference. Commercial publishers have entire departments devoted solely to getting that publisher's books into catalogues, which in turn go to book buyers. Which, in turn, leads to books being placed on store shelves.

Promoting, however, is an entirely different animal. Yes, authors should and do promote their works. Go to any writer's conference - chances are there is what's known as a goody room, where you'll find pens and keychains, bookmarks, matchbooks, etc. - all with an author's website information, or perhaps their latest book cover and ISBN on it - cute little things that you pick up and tuck away and maybe use eventually.

Promoting is holding a contest on your website, or giving away bookmarks at a book signing. It isn't getting a book onto a bookstore shelf. That's not your job as a writer, that's part of your publisher's job and it makes sense. Avon's goal is to sell books. To people besides the author and the author's immediate family. To people well beyond a twenty-mile radius of the author's home. That is marketing. And that is something vanity publishers don't do. And it's a given that they don't.

Unless, of course, it's a vanity press disguising itself as a commercial publisher.

And, to any PA author who might happen upon this - no, it doesn't work to slip a book onto a bookstore shelf. If, by some chance, someone does pick up your book and intend to buy it, it won't be in the store's computer system. (I don't really know what happens in that case, so if anyone out there works in a bookstore and does know, please, tell me.) And if a store employee happens to find it, it will more likely than not end up in the trash. In fact, my advice would be to give up your PA book as a lost cause, chalk it up to experience, and get to work writing your next book. Write the best book you can and run as fast as you can, and as far as you can away from PA.


Marian said...

Very good post. I didn't really understand the difference between promotion and marketing until I became interested in the publishing industry as well as in writing. Marketing isn't just heavy-duty promotion; it's something done on a large scale by people specially trained to do it. To deliberately confuse it with promotion, and to claim that both are the author's responsibility is just wrong. Promotion adds the personal touch and marketing is what puts the books on the shelves. No one expects the marketing department to start a blog or do a book reading, just as no one should expect the author to try to market the book.

And since it's the weekend, I'll try to drop in at the bookstores and ask what they'd do if they find little surprises on the shelves.

Kim said...

I didn't know either, until I started pursuing writing seriously as well.

I have a few errands to run today - I might have to do the same! I'm curious to see what the answers are... =)