Thursday, May 22, 2008

"You have to sell books"

That's the lowdown from Kassia Kroszer of Booksquare, in Life on Venus: Authors Do Market. She eloquently expands on what I've been telling authors for years: A book is a product. Get over it.
It is peculiar that some believe that authors should be exempt from marketing themselves. It’s expected for musicians — who have a similar relationship with their record labels (yeah, still call them records) — they book tours and sell merchandise. Yes, all obvious business differences are duly noted. While the labels are trying to get a piece of the action, musicians realize that they need to engage in marketing to be successful. Visual artists set up shows; nobody blinks when a photographer sets up an exhibit at a gallery. To say “this is not my job” is to say “well, you know, I’m not really serious about my career.”...

Writing a book is art, publishing one is business.


emily xyz said...

I respectfully disagree. As an author, your job is to write a good book -- not market it. It might sell more copies if you do (depending), but the author's job is to write a good book. People who like sales and marketing, who have chosen that field, who are knowledgeable of it and have those skill -- they're the experts who should be selling the book. This is why there are so many crappy books out, b/c artists are so busy running around trying to hustle and sell.

Here's another news flash: the measure of a good book is not how many copies it sells. In fact, the whole sales-and-marketing thing has had WAY too much importance attached to it, especially where the arts are concerned. Oooh!

Blair said...

Excellent post!

While there are differences, the parallels are definitely there. Musicians understand that yes, we make music because we love it. But once we decide we want to be heard by someone else, we have to hustle--whether it's trying to get a gig playing for tips at the local coffeehouse, selling self-produced CD's, or getting signed to a record label. My experiences as a midlife folk musician/leader of a Cajun band have forced me to get comfortable with this idea. It's been good preparation for doing my part to market my upcoming memoir ("Accordion Dreams," University Press of Mississippi, January 2009.) Not that I don't need an occasional kick in the pants! (Thanks, Bella!) But I accept the need to be involved in the "business" aspects of my writing.

Sarah Collins Honenberger said...

The problem with authors having to sell books is not having to do it, but their lack of skill at thinking on those terms. The skills required to write a page-turner are not the same as scheduling events, mailing postcards, being interviewed, and keeping copious notes on who was helpful for the second time around. I love speaking as an author or even motivational talks using my novels as material, but the work that goes into requesting a spot is endless and takes me away from what I do best, working through dilemmas with my characters, using words as paint. It's not all bad, just hard and time-consuming. And the establishment (newspapers, TV, reviewers) don't give small press authors nearly their due, so it's frustrating to spend the time and not be deemed 'worthy' of recognition based on not having a large NY house behind you or not having received a newsworthy advance.