Being Printed vs. Being Published

The November/December issue of Poets & Writers (not yet online) has an excellent article by M.J. Rose about the realities of publishing a novel. Among the many sobering facts she mentions in the article: that more than 10,000 novels are published per year; that the average publicist at a major house handles 10 to 30 titles a month; that as many as 75% of novels released today are sent off into the world with minimal publicity effort on the part of the publisher; and perhaps most sobering of all: more than half of all debut fiction writers never go on to publish a second book.
Many writers are bewildered when their publisher spends no time on marketing or publicizing their books. Didn’t they buy it? Shouldn’t they try to sell it? In a crowded marketplace, though, a book that underperforms can still be written off as a business loss, whereas for the writer that particular event could determine his entire career. Rose suggests that, regardless of how excited a publisher may be about a book, writers take their careers into their own hands.

Here’s where expectation comes into play. Instead of feeling privileged when the deal is signed, the author is better served by realizing that he or she has now become one of the many authors the publisher is working with. It’s somewhat similar to going from the academic honor roll into a competitive market.

Hiring a publicist, starting a webpage or blog, and going on a small book tour on their own dime are some of the things authors can do to find an audience for their books. Rose made blog headlines last month when she took to the blogosphere for a virtual book tour to promote her latest novel, The Halo Effect. She also maintains the blog Buzz, Balls & Hype over at Publishers’ Marketplace.