For over the past three decades, I have had the privilege to work in book publishing and marketing. Having worked with thousands of authors and spoken to multiples of that, I have heard many complaints by authors about being an author.
Can anything be done to help them?
Are the complaints legitimate — or are they just the whines of ignorance, laziness, jealousy, incompetence, and a lousy attitude?
Authors can certainly be the victims of bad luck, lousy publicists, poor timing, tough competition, a crappy publisher, or a change in the marketplace. But most often, they sabotage themselves or they fail to overcome challenges and setbacks.
Authors, it is time for Brooklyn Boot Camp.
I was born and raised in a time and place that has forever shaped me and informed me of how the world works. I grew up in gritty 1970s and 80s Brooklyn. My thinking leans towards being aggressive, acting with urgency, reaching beyond your means, questioning people’s motives, and working a little harder, longer, smarter, and differently than others do. Above all, whining and self-pity get parked at the door.
Seize your writing career and navigate your destiny!
Common complaints of authors include the following, but I say you must work around these obstacles:
** I can’t find a literary agent to represent me. Well of course not. Something sucks about your search. Did you approach the agents who specialize in your genre? Did you contact at least 50 agents? Did you show proof of the marketability of the book? Did you document what you — not the publisher — can and will do to make sure that the book is promoted and sold? They need to feel assured that the book won’t lose money. Did you give them a strong enough reason to say yes? Saying no to everyone doesn’t keep them in business. They want to say yes to anything profitable. Having a well-written and interesting book is a starting point and nothing to celebrate. Of course, if your book is garbage, it is game over. Agents always make mistakes and history shows many great writers getting lots of rejections. You only need one yes. In that sense, the odds favor you. Rejection is a part of life. Thicken your skin and ignore the “no thank you” until you get to “yes.” And if you have to self-publish, just do it and use the opportunity to showcase your book and your ability to promote it.
** My publisher does little or nothing to market my book. Oh, hello. This has been going on for a long time. Wake-up call: change your expectations. Most publishers are glorified printers who may do a decent job at producing a nicely edited book with a cool cover, but all too often they do little or nothing to market your author brand or promote your book. You need to take ownership of the marketing -- and no excuses, delusions, or complaints, please.
** My book is a lot better than (name a bestselling author), but no one knows my book exists and their book sells wildly. Jealousy and envy are worthless emotional states. Prove you are better than them. Don’t tell me. Show me. There is no conspiracy out there keeping you from getting published. Produce something really good and sell it. That is the formula.
** There are too many books being published, cluttering the marketplace. Well, you can’t do anything about the 5000 books being released daily into the marketplace, so put that out of your mind. Just do your best — and be a little better than most. However, I will say this: avoid crowded genres if you can. Write in areas with less competition.
** Book reviewers ignore me because I am not famous or because I am self-published. This may be true. They also may ignore you because your book stinks or at least is not as good as others. Maybe you sent it to the wrong person, the wrong media outlet, or the wrong address. Perhaps you sent it without strong press kit materials or the title is dumb or the cover is ugly. Did you send your advance review copy at least four months prior to your scheduled release date? Timing counts.
** Social media looks to be confusing and a big time-waster, with little prospect of yielding many sales. Like anything, social media can be a tool to deliver positive or negative results. The way you use social media and how often — and on which platforms — will dictate your success. Nothing is inherently deficient about authors using social media. Most authors fail to use it often, consistently, or correctly. They ignore seeking out more followers and fail to find followers that are targeted and useful to them. Learn more. Do more.
** I am so busy — fill in the blank: at work, with my family, home repairs, moving, planning a vacation, blah blah blah. I would hope that you are living a vibrant, well-rounded, fulfilling life. With that, comes responsibilities, challenges, and obligations. But you still need to get around momentary obstacles to stay on your path.
** I just want to write and not have to promote. Stop being ridiculous. Life is full of all kinds of obligations. To stay healthy, you exercise. To rest, you sleep. To remain out of jail, you file income taxes. To avoid being homeless, you get a job. Get the picture? We can’t just do what we want or what we are good at. To be a good writer means you must also be a good marketer. Otherwise, be prepared to get a big bill to outsource all that needs to be done.
** I tried x or did y but got hardly any sales from it. Maybe you said or did the wrong thing. Perhaps you hired the wrong person or company. Bad luck or timing? Not everything will work out well nor will things work the same for two different books. Try again. Experiment. Change things. Did you ever get turned down for a date? Did you stop dating? Of course not. Ever apply for a job and not get it? Did you eventually get a job? Of course you did. You keep trying until you succeed.
** I get solicitations from promoters all of the time. I don’t fully understand what they offer and have no way to evaluate whom to trust. If it sounds too good to be true, it is a bust. If you can’t understand their offer after they explain it, do not invest in it. If someone can’t give testimonials or references, move on. If they seem unreliable or sound shaky, trust your gut to move away. If they offer to do something but fail to explain how they do it, skip them. But, don’t let your fears cripple you from doing anything.
** I don’t have a budget to market my book. Bullshit. Find a few bucks to spend wisely. Invest in your book and yourself. Hold off on some other discretionary expense. Postpone that vacation. Drive a less expensive car. Of course, you have many concrete expenses and runaway inflation does not help. But home values and the stock market saw robust gains during the pandemic. Can you cash out? Can you borrow a little? Don’t mortgage the house or spend more than you can afford, but don’t publish a book without a marketing budget.
** I don’t have time to promote my books. Well, make time. Stop watching TV, surfing Facebook, or even writing another book. Make a schedule that includes book marketing or be prepared to fail or pay dearly to outsource all of your obligations.
** I don’t know how to promote my book. So learn. There are books, online courses, blogs, adult ed courses, seminars, webinars, magazines, and writer conferences that educate authors. No excuses for willful ignorance.
** I want influencers to get a copy of my book and post about it. Ok, so open up the checkbook or pay pal account. Be prepared to spend tens of thousands of dollars for these pay-to-say stars to mouth whatever you wish. These social media whores do little organically or out of the goodness of their hearts.
** My book should be a movie but I don’t know anyone in that industry. Do you know how few books are turned into films or TV shows? It is easier to be a NYT best-selling author than to get a Netflix deal based on your book. If your book is widely promoted and garners decent sales, you have a chance at a breakthrough. Be persistent and contact enough studios and agents until they send an order of restraint!
Oh my God! Just please shut the heck up!
It does not have to be this way, at least not for those who deserve more, want more, and are willing to do something about it. This is a coddle-free zone. I will support, encourage, and teach you — but I will not lie or mislead you. It is time to get your act together.
Step One: Confront the questions and issues that you have and find an answer. Either accept it, do something about it, or seek more answers. But don’t just continue to complain and wear your whine as if it is a permanent birthmark. Shed the skin that is cancerous.
Step Two: Commit to learning enough about your marketing options so that you can choose wisely, from an informed position, and not the vantage point of a fear-filled animal being hunted.
Step Three: Feel reassured that you have options, that there is more than one way to promote yourself effectively.
Step Four: Choose optimism and opportunism. This is all about your frame of mind and how you choose to see things. Create your own opportunities.
Step Five: Get help. Pay, trade, beg, or borrow to get professional marketing assistance.
Step Six: Stop being polite, reactionary, or laid back when it comes to book marketing. You don’t need anyone’s permission to be successful. Don’t wait to be discovered from the sidelines. Get out there and circulate, initiate action, start conversations, and contact people who would be interested in your book if they only knew it existed.
Step Seven: Stop being a baby. Yes, you heard me. Saying you just want to write is not realistic, productive, or parallel to anything else in life. No one can just do one thing and ignore the rest, no matter your vocation or passion. A complete writer is one who markets, often and well.
So, dear author, there is the truth. What are you going to do with it?
Please Contact Me For Help
Brian Feinblum, the founder of this award-winning blog, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org He is available to help authors promote their story, sell their book, and grow their brand. He has 30 years of experience in successfully helping thousands of authors in all genres.
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About Brian Feinblum
Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2022. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent. This blog, with over 4,000 posts over the past decade, was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Susan RoAne, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, IBPA, Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult: linkedin.com/in/brianfeinblum.
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