Skip to main content

The No. 1 Disappointment of Published Authors--And How You Can Avoid

Image placeholder title

While all authors' situations are unique, they tend to experience the same disappointments during the publishing process.

The most common disappointment (and the one that can have the most damaging effects on the author-publisher relationship) is:

(Real or perceived): Lack of marketing and promotion support

This disappointment is becoming more and more common as publishers pull back on marketing resources.

All the old buttons publishers used to push don't work that well any more when it comes to making consumers buy books. (Read this if you don't believe me.) And there's a whole new set of buttons that sometimes work, and sometimes don't.

So let's tell the truth: No one knows what sells books these days, though I would boil it down to the following:

  1. Great content in the perfect package
  2. An author who knows and reaches their audience
  3. A publisher who places that book in every appropriate retail outlet

Given the importance of the online world these days, I'd also add: that book needs to be a better vehicle for delivering information/entertainment than what may be competing with the reader's attention online.

If you're still unpublished:

  • Begin to establish your online presence (site, blog, social networks) and develop relationships with your target readership as well as opinion makers who recommend books. Make a dream list of online venues where you'd want your book reviewed or mentioned; start cultivating relationships with those sites or people.
  • Identify groups or organizations that would be most interested in your book, and start a database of e-mail addresses and snail mail addresses. For instance, let's say your book is going to appeal to surfers. Develop a contact list of every surf shop and club.
  • As you write and revise your work, think of ancillary materials or products that complement the work. Think of competitions or giveaways or fun diversions that would be interesting to someone who enjoys the book. In the future of publishing—which will not be restricted to paper—ancillary materials and experiences can add value, appeal, and something special to your work.

If you're working with a publisher on an upcoming title:

  • It's vital you cut through the fog (with the assistance of an agent if necessary) on what the publisher will and will NOT do to market your work. If you're lucky, the publisher will be honest with you.
  • Come up with your own marketing plan that you can execute on your own. (There are many wonderful books and sites that can help you; see the end of this post.) Remember: Marketing is not about shilling. It is about reaching people who would benefit or enjoy your work, and letting them know it is available. This often doesn't take money (e.g., advertising), but an authentic means of connecting with your target audience. You, the author, are the best person to know how to forge that connection. Your publisher may have professional inroads, but authors usually know the audience better.
  • Tell the publisher what you will be doing, and identify areas where the publisher could be of great assistance to you. Publishers are much more likely to be helpful if you proactively show them your plan and ask them for what you want (as opposed to you calling up and demanding to know what they'll be doing to support your book).

Keep in mind:

  • Publishers are most receptive to marketing your book during the 3 months before your book launch, and the 3 months after your book launch. Much longer before or after, and you may get ignored (though everyone will feel bad about it).
  • Publishers will not be offended if you hire an independent publicist or firm to assist you. Yes, this can be a worthwhile investment if you have a very focused and realistic set of goals.


Resources to help:


Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz
The only book I know of that can help you avoid the disappointment before it's far too late.

John Kremer's Book Marketing & Book Promotion

Marketing Tips for Authors

MJ Rose: Buzz, Balls, & Hype (look for her AuthorBuzz service)

If you know of any good online resources, or have tips to share on book marketing, please comment!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Forgetting To Read

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Forgetting To Read

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's mistake is forgetting to read.

Tapping Your Memories for Emotional Truths on the Page

Tapping Your Memories for Emotional Truths on the Page

Sharing even a fraction of our feelings with our characters will help our stories feel more authentic. Here, Kris Spisak explains how to tap into our memories to tell emotional truths on the page.

Poetic Forms

Trinet: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the trinet, a seven-line form based on word count.

Tammye Huf: On Real Love That Sparked Inspiration

Tammye Huf: On Real Love That Sparked Inspiration

Debut novelist Tammye Huf discusses how her own familial love story inspired her historical fiction novel, A More Perfect Union.

Announcing the Second Annual Personal Essay Awards Winners

Announcing the Second Annual Personal Essay Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the second annual Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards!

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Going Rogue

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Going Rogue

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character go rogue.

How to Love Writing a Book

How to Love Writing a Book

When you’re in the weeds of the writing process, it’s easy to lose sight of why you started in the first place. Here, author Radhika Sanghani shares her tips on how to love the process of writing your book.

How Daily Meditation Can Lead to New Stories

How Daily Meditation Can Lead to New Stories

In seeking meaning did author Randal Maurice Jelks also find purpose and understanding. Here, he shares how daily meditation can lead to new stories.

5 Tips for Writing a Domestic Thriller

5 Tips for Writing a Domestic Thriller

Author Leah Konen offers 5 tips to help keep the goosebumps coming in your domestic thriller—from focusing on a small cast of characters to allowing yourself to be surprised in the process, and more!