Mike Shatzkin said in his opening remarks at Digital Book World 2016 that publishers need to help authors with their marketing efforts.
“At the very least, every house should do a ‘digital audit’ for every author they sign that includes concrete suggestions for filling in gaps and improving discoverability and engagement. To my knowledge, not one does.”
He also wrote an important blog on his site titled “When it comes to supporting authors in marketing efforts, no publisher has it right yet.” I hear his point, in fact, it is the reason I wrote Online Marketing for Busy Authors. It is an introductory book for authors who have been dragging their online marketing feet. However, expecting publishers to be able to help every author build their online author platform is unrealistic.
For over twenty years I have been promoting books online, and our web publicity campaigns usually start a couple of months before publication date. More often than not, it is at that time that the authors learn that they should have a website or that their current website does not work. We have a conversation about social media and blogging and mailing lists. I ask them why they have not been thinking about these important online marketing assets and they say no one told them. Or they tell me, "My publisher told me to build an author platform but no one told me what to do."
It is tough to see authors a few months from the publication date not ready. The solution it seems is for publishers to buy books from authors who don’t need online marketing support, authors who are already established online. I understand that impulse, but are we not then missing important, yet-to-be-discovered voices in the book industry?
Most of my clients don’t want to be marketers, but they understand that they need to be. Most publishers have online marketers who help authors but they come in closer to publication date as well. The direction and help that authors need is when they sign the contract for the book. Although it can take years to build an online author platform, it can be done while authors write the book. My own publisher Berrett-Koehler understood this. When Kristen Frantz, VP of sales and marketing explained why she was publishing my book, she said, “We are excited to be the publisher of Online Marketing for Busy Authors because many of our authors desperately need this guidance. We are going to send a copy of the book to every author with their signed contract, so that they can get started right away on planning their online marketing strategy.”
It is unfair to expect that publishers can help every author regardless of their level and interest in marketing. Authors need to go to the publisher months before publication with their online marketing assets in place and their engagement humming along so the publishers can help raise their visibility and amplify their message. Publishers can do that, but they can’t help every author every step of the way.
Fauzia Burke is the founder and president of FSB Associates, an online publicity and marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors. She’s the author of Online Marketing for Busy Authors (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, April 2016). Fauzia has promoted the books of authors such as Alan Alda, Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra, Melissa Francis, S. C. Gwynne, Mika Brzezinski, Charles Spencer and many more. A nationally recognized speaker and online branding expert, Fauzia writes for the Huffington Post, MariaShriver.com and MindBodyGreen. For online marketing, book publishing and social media advice, follow Fauzia on Twitter (@FauziaBurke) and Facebook (Fauzia S. Burke). For more information on the book, please visit: www.FauziaBurke.com.