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

Publish date:
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If you're still unpublished: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!

25 Ways Reflective Writing Can Help You Grow as a Writer (and as a Person)

25 Ways Reflective Writing Can Help You Grow as a Writer (And as a Person)

Reflective writing—or journaling—is a helpful practice in helping understand ourselves, and by extensions, the stories we intend to write. Author Jeanne Baker Guy offers 25 ways reflective writing can help you grow as a writer (and as a person).

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your character know they're being followed.

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Author Amanda Jayatissa discusses the fun of writing "deliciously mean" characters in her psychological thriller, My Sweet Girl.

3 Tips for Writing a Memoir Everyone Wants to Read

3 Tips for Writing a Memoir Everyone Wants to Read

A memoir is an open window into another's life—and although the truth is of paramount importance, so too is grabbing hold of its reader. Writer Tasha Keeble offers 3 tips for writing a memoir everyone will want to read.

Zoe Whittall: On Personal Change in Literary Fiction

Zoe Whittall: On Personal Change in Literary Fiction

Bestselling and Giller Prize-shortlisted author Zoe Whittal discusses the complexity of big life decisions in her new novel, The Spectacular.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 582

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a transition poem.

4 Myths About Writing Animal Characters

4 Myths About Writing Animal Characters

Author Codi Schneider debunks four myths about writing animal characters, including that audiences won't connect with animal characters and that they're only for children's books.



Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, your character is a modern day voyager.

Stephanie Marie Thornton: One How an Entire Rewrite Added Suspense

Stephanie Marie Thornton: On How an Entire Rewrite Added Suspense

USA Today bestselling author discusses how rewriting a portion of her new historical fiction novel, A Most Clever Girl, added suspense.