Don’t Cry If Your Book Isn’t Selling

The lament usually goes something like this: I was published by this small publisher who did nothing to market my book and because of that it sold only a few copies. Authors reference the fact that with a small publisher there’s no book signings, no full page ads in the New York Times and no national book tours. However, the cold, hard, honest facts are the size of your publishers has NO bearing on whether your book will be marketed by that publisher. This is especially true if you’re a first time author.
Don’t believe me? Ever heard of The Donald Maass Agency? If not, Mr. Maass is president of a NYC literary agency that employs several agents who, in turn, represent over 100 author clients. The Donald Maass Agency has been around since the 1980’s and has sold literary properties to all of the very major publishers, many of them at auction. He is also the past president of the Association of Author Representatives (AAR).
His book, Writing the Breakout Novel, from which I’m quoting, was published in 2001, ISBN 1-58297-182-x, by Writer’s Digest Books.
On pages 5 and 6 of the Introduction, Don writes about successful authors who have written breakout novels:
As for authors, their reaction to this lightning strike are remarkably consistent. For most, a sudden elevation into stardom feels very natural. Such authors begin to call their editorial directors by his or her first name, toss around wholesale numbers like baseball stats, and generally display the ease and confidence of someone who has made it big through long and dedicated effort.
The truth, though, is that underneath those assured exteriors, agents, editors, publicists, salespeople, and even authors themselves generally do not have the foggiest idea why this sudden leap in popularity has happened. Ask publishers and they will probably comment, “Oh, we’ve been building him or her for years. It was his time.”
Bull. Most novelists are launched with no support at all. Advertising budgets for first time authors are nil. Author tours are reserved for celebrities and experts in baby care or cancer prevention. The situation is little better for most second, third and forth novels.
Don goes on to say that the mystery of big jumps in book sales have to do with word of mouth—one reader saying to others, “You’ve got to read this book!!”
No one cares who published your book and, if you’re new and unknown, the odds say, if you don’t market your book it will only sell a few copies. These are the hard, cold facts, so quit moaning about the size of your publisher and do some marketing.

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