One of my favorite television series of all time is “Castle,” which follows a mystery author who assists the NYPD in murder investigations. In between cracking cases and driving his partner-turned-love-interest crazy, Rick Castle is always fielding calls from his editor and agent, pushing him to finish another chapter or setting up press engagements. When the show premiered in 2009, I was an aspiring novelist, and I soaked up all those scenes. I envisioned myself answering calls like that and how sweet it’d be to receive such clamoring.
Twelve years and three books later, I’m still only fantasizing about such matters!
I can just speak to my own experience on this subject, never having worked an agent or publicist and being published by small companies. Maybe depictions like that are realistic for best-selling authors who work with the big five companies and have high budget marketing teams at their disposal. For many of us, however, much more than writing the book and showing up at appearances is involved; we have to be an authorpreneur.
What’s an authorpreneur? Well, a regular entrepreneur has to initiate everything he or she needs to establish his/her proposed business, especially at the very start. Likewise, the authorpreneur is an all-in-one position. You have to be the driving force to get your book into readers’ hands from beginning to end of the publishing process.
It didn’t take me long to appreciate this. I thought my job was done after I received my first acceptance letter, apart from editing and posing for pictures. Either that day or the next after I signed the contract, though, I was asked to write up my own bio, provide a photo, and later, make up my website. You’re also usually in charge of the synopsis on the back of the book, among other marketing tools. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun and even flattering, but it makes it humorous when somebody naively tells you, “I really liked what they said about you in your bio!”
Publishers are supportive and often do their best to give your book the exposure it needs, but in truth, they have their hands full. They have books lined up before and after your release, so they can only devote a certain amount of energy to yours, and in the long run, that’s good for you. If they’re allotting all their efforts to you and your book, chances are they don’t have much else to offer—including an audience.
Thus, you have to be proactive in promoting your work, meaning keeping your eye out for contests, book fairs, reviewers, and whatever else you choose to implement in your marketing. These days, an online presence is as important as anything, so unless you can afford a digital manager, you have to handle that, too. And oh yeah, you should probably write in your next book once in a while!
Sound overwhelming? Believe me, I know it does. In fact, I always used to back out of any publisher’s website if they requested a marketing plan with your submission. Gradually, though, I’ve realized from research and experience that nobody knows your book as well as you do. Because of that, you can promote it better than anyone else can, so you have to embrace the opportunity to do so.
While being an authorpreneur may not be as glamorous as taking calls from prominent agents and the like, it does bring its own fulfillment. When you look at your book and the accomplishments that come with it, you have the satisfaction of knowing you were instrumental in its success from start to finish. Just like a hand-made-quilt, you can look at each stitch and remember the story behind it. When someone tells you the coziness it brought them, you’ll cherish it that much more.
The Hidden Pitfalls of Publishing