I am fed up with hearing how some authors, publishers, distributors, and literary agents operate under wrongful assumptions — or, worse — feed the ignorance of others by spewing bad advice. Let’s try to clear up the myths, misconceptions, or downright lies that fill the minds of those in the book world. People act under the influence of incorrect guidance when it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing a book, and it ruins their chances of success. Here are 11 such faux truisms that rule book publishing:
1. “A book just needs a lot of reviews to succeed.”
Sure, a book could benefit from getting book reviews, but it is not just a quantity game. Of course, you need great reviews — not merely reviews — and it helps to get them not just from random readers but from professional or popular book critics. More importantly, you need media exposure — interviews with bloggers and radio shows; byline articles in print publications; guest posts on Facebook pages of influencers; and strong word-of-mouth praise from those you know and from those you give free book access to for a limited time.
2. “My book is for everyone.”
If it is, then it speaks directly to no one. Sure, some books have mass appeal, but even in those cases, it is likely that one demographic is favored over others. Identify who really is your core reader and appeal to them. To go out and seek to win everybody over is a losing strategy.
3. “A book will sell if it is priced right.”
No, a book will sell if it has a catchy title, attractive cover, is about a genre a reader cares about, and is promoted heavily. Price is important only in that you shouldn’t be higher than the norm. Nor should it be so dirt cheap. People buy what they desire or need. For those who buy purely based on price, they will always find a cheaper option.
4. “No other book is like this one.”
Guess again. No book is a complete island. Every book has a competitor. You may think your book is the best or first to say something, but it may not be. You may believe your book stands alone within its genre, but it likely doesn’t. Even if it does, you still compete against all books and content that one can buy, borrow, stream, download, or access for free. Work hard at pushing your book, and don’t rest on the idea that your book is too good to fail.
5. “I have no budget to promote the book. I will first wait for sales to come in.”
This is like saying you have no time to write, which you may feel at moments, but let’s face it, you need to make some resources available for publicity and marketing, because your career success depends on it. You can’t leave things to chance, hope, or optimism. You need to assert yourself into the marketplace. Borrow, lie, cheat, steal, but scrape up some funds or else your book is at a great disadvantage. You can’t first generate sales without PR, and you can’t wait for sales to pay for PR if the sales are not going to come or be generated fast enough.
6. “My publisher takes care of all of the marketing and publicity.”
Too many authors either believe this or hope for it to be true but, unfortunately, it is not. Most traditionally published books do not get much attention or any real publicity support from their publishers.
Here is how it works.
Publishers rank their titles as A, B, and C. They figure out where to best apply their limited resources. It is not that they think they are publishing bad or lousy books when they identify a chunk of their list as Cs, but they don’t believe the priority to promote such books exceeds their need to push other books. They are influenced by a variety of factors, including relationships with authors or literary agents, size of advances, potential sales, future of a series (if there is one), competitive titles, size of potential readership, and how promotable a book or particular author is. Even under ideal circumstances, publishers don’t often promote a book for as early and as long as it can. It doesn’t have the same goals as the author. The publisher wants book sales — and fast. The author does, too, but he also wants to grow his brand, get a positive message out, and maybe even get attention for other books, products, causes, or services that he is connected to. A publisher’s PR campaign is usually a short, narrow, focused one — if that, whereas most authors need a longer, expansive campaign to develop and build a following that will last beyond this book.
7. “Self-Published Books Aren’t Very Good”
This used to be true. Most vanity jobs were not very good. But, today, there are some real gems and quality books that get self-published. They may not make up the majority of self-published books, but they are a growing minority. Some of them go on to get published by other houses.
8. “Everything is going digital. I don’t need to have books printed up.”
Though our society is under a digital revolution, the book industry still sees growth in printed books. eBook sales don’t account for any more than 30% of all books sold, which means the majority of the market is in printed books. Don’t just do an eBook without having a printed version available, especially for non-fiction books. Even print-on-demand is not ideal if you want your book to get discoverable exposure in bookstores. Whether you prefer to read online or book in hand doesn’t matter. What does your genre’s readership and the media prefer or need?
9. “This book should be turned into a movie.”
Stop being delusional. A few hundred books a year, out of more than one million books published yearly, may serve as the source inspiration for a movie. That is it. You have a better chance of becoming a best-selling author than of having a movie made based on your book. To get movie interest you need an agent that specializes in that and the way to inspire the rights sale of your book is to get a ton of book sales, a lot of media attention, and support from known people who provide strong testimonials for your book. Authors may have a great story, but it doesn’t mean Hollywood will come knocking right away. You need to invest in making the book a real success before even thinking it is coming to the big screen.
10. “There’s no market for your book.”
Sure there is. You make the market. Out of 330 million Americans and potentially 7.6 billion Earth dwellers, there should be a market for your book. Unless it plain ‘ol sucks or is written poorly. But, if it is a well-written, properly edited book, someone should be interested in it. Publishers and agents sometimes give up too easily, believing that if other books like it didn’t sell well, or if they can’t easily feed it to the masses, that it is not worth their time. Authors who believe in their work shouldn’t give up. A small or university press may be interested. Or you can consult hybrid publishers or even consider self-publishing.
11. Publicity for a book doesn’t really begin until it is released.”
The optimum window for promoting a book to the news media begins around four months prior to the official release date and concludes roughly three months post-publication date. Long-lead magazines, book reviewers at major magazines and newspapers, and network morning television shows all want to see advance review copies at least several months in advance of the pub date. If you start just as the book is released you have missed many opportunities.
BRIAN FEINBLUM is the chief marketing officer for the nation’s leading book publicity firm, www.Media-Connect.com and has posted more than 2,700 times on his award-winning blog, www.BookMarketingBuzzBlog.blogspot.com. He contributes regularly to The Writer magazine and Independent Book Publishers association’s Independent magazine.