Monday, July 28, 2008

It's Hard Out There for a Book Publicist

I hear a lot of stories from authors about the dumb things their inhouse publicists do; or worse, how the publicists aren't doing much of anything at all. I've also experienced dumb author tricks up close and heard stories from publicists about even more. (See my publicity--and other--horror tales.)

So I read GalleyCat's Friday post, The Blame Game, with more than passing interest. GC co-editor Andy wrote:
At just about every publishing house I've worked at I've run into this problem of having too many books to publicize, as do most of my colleagues. Some you just have to send out into the ether blind, some you champion, others you do the bare minimum on because that's all the time you have. I've actually had my boss tell me to NOT do anything for a book because another book needed to take priority.
GalleyCat ran a poll asking "Who's to blame for book sales?" The single reason with the greatest number of votes--23%--was "The publisher has too many books on the list." However, 42% of the votes (including mine) went to "All of the above":
  1. Sales didn't get enough books into stores.
  2. The publicist dropped the ball.
  3. The editor bought an unsellable book.
  4. The publisher has too many books on the list.
  5. The author wrote a dud.
  6. The agent built up the author to be more than they were.
As counterpoint to the above, there are the two latest posts on slunch. On Friday, Deathtron wrote Why I Hate Book Publicity and will Never do it Again. The reasons, explained in the post:
  1. The work never ends.
  2. Too many books.
  3. Unreasonable authors and their expectations.
  4. Meetings.
  5. Quality of life.
Yesterday, Ladytron posted her agreement:
Deathtron is right in the fact that we're all overworked, and that there are just too many damn books for anyone to do a decent job. But when one of the authors who I have focused on, who I have pitched to hundreds of outlets, who I have gone above and beyond for...well, when they question my "commitment" to a project. Yeah, it's enough to want me to throw in the towel....

Yes, your book is important. I get that. You wrote it, it means a lot to you, and I'm publicizing it.... WE ARE TRYING. And calls about how you think maybe we could try harder, or maybe we're not doing it right...well, it's not a motivator. It's a turnoff.


Anonymous said...

Publicity is as bad as they say. The answer is: do it yourself. But be prepared to get even WORSE service then. If your book is getting some hits, the publicist feels free to move on to someone else's floundering title. Ugh.

I'm sure my publicist is overworked, and the system sucks. It didn't make it less stressful. Publishers whine and moan about how hard it is to make a buck. So why did my Random House publicist MESSENGER me a bad photocopy of the only national mag hit she got. TWICE. That's right, TWO TIMES she paid a messenger to bring me photocopies to my home.

Bella Stander said...

Yes, the RH publicist wasted a bunch of money--twice--by messengering photocopies to Anonymous. However, I disagree that "If your book is getting some hits, the publicist feels free to move on to someone else's floundering title." To the contrary, I've seen that once a book starts getting buzz--even when due to the author's efforts--it will get more publicity attention from the publisher.

Eric Riback said...

As a marketer it always amazes me that an industry will put out many thousands of products and provide little or no marketing support. I can't think of an industry besides book publishing where this is true.

That said, if they put out a lot fewer "products" there would be more authors that are unhappily unpublished.