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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why Authors Do So Much Promotion: An Apology & an Explanation (And a Giveaway)

Note: We're only a week away from book release day! Oy! This is a long explanation about all the book promo, and worth reading (I hope)...but feel free to skip it and just enter the contest at the bottom!

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve spent a lot of time over the past months talking about my books, rather than my garden, the writing process, the practice of witchcraft, or the antics of my adorable felines. I hope you’re not getting bored! I do try to keep it fun and amusing, and periodically reward people for sticking around by giving out goodies…but I thought it might be time to explain why I—and lots of other authors—do so much promotion when they have a new book coming out.

You’re still free to skip all the promotional stuff, of course, and wait for me to get back to putting up cute cat pictures and the occasional spell, but I figured that I might give y’all some insight into the realities of the modern publishing world, and why there is So Damn Much Book Promo.

Reason One: Publishers Don’t Do Much Promotion Anymore
In the good old days, an author could sit at home and write in his skivvies, and his publisher would take care of most of the promotion. If the author went on a book tour, the publisher paid for it. Not anymore. These days, if your book is coming out from one of the major publishers (like Berkley), they will do some promotional things—find you a few guest blog spots, maybe, put your book up on their website and include it in their newsletter for those who have signed up for it, even make you some bookmarks (yay! Giveaway!). But not much. For those authors who are self-publishing, like my friend Mindy Klasky is these days, it is all on the author. So if you want people to find out about, and hopefully buy, your book, it is up to you to spread the word.

Reason Two: Fewer Bookstores
Back in said ancient days of yore (you know, ten or fifteen years ago), most people found new books and new authors in one of three ways—at a bookstore, at the library, or through a friend’s recommendation. Sadly, there are fewer brick and mortar bookstores these days (I miss you, Borders!), and many people are buying their books online, where instead of competing against thousands of books to be noticed, you are literally competing against millions. Mind you, many of those millions are crap, but that doesn’t mean they’re not completion. Thankfully, there are still libraries, and Indy bookstores are making a comeback, and now your friends can recommend your books on Facebook and Goodreads. But still, it is tough to ensure that people even know a book exists. Hence the promo. (Even the big name authors have to do it to alert their fans that the long-awaited sequel to Kinky Sex with Steampunk Zombies is finally out.)

Reason Three: It is Harder than Ever for an Author to Make a Living
I know, I know—everyone thinks that authors get rich once they have a book published. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me, “So, do you make a lot of money as a writer?” well, I’d have a lot more money than I got from my last royalty check. Just sayin’. There certainly are authors out there that are doing quite well for themselves (Stephen King, I’m looking at you, dude), but for most of us, the income is simply a supplement to the day job we have to keep to put food on the (cat’s) table. Not that I’m complaining—nobody makes me do this wacky job—but don’t be fooled; most authors need to sell a lot of books to make anything resembling a living wage.
Most people think that if a book sells for, say, $16, that the author makes that much every time one is sold. Oh, har. Yes, you heard me. I said HAR. First of all, even the publisher only makes about half of that (because after all, the book seller has to make money too, although if you buy directly from Llewellyn, they make more than if you buy one of their books from a bookstore or Amazon, for instance). So on that $16 book, the publisher might make $8. That’s not so bad, right? But the author only gets the percentage they agreed to in their contract—usually 6% to 8%. Maybe 10%, if they’re very lucky. And that’s out of the money the publisher makes, not the cover price of the book. So for my Llewellyn books, I might average .60 cents or .70 cents on each book that’s sold. No, don’t ask me to multiply that by anything in my head. I’m a word person, not a math person. Ah, NOW you’re beginning to see why promoting books is so important to an author, yes?

Reason Four: In Matters How Many Books Sell and When They Sell
It isn’t just about the money. (Okay, it is, but not how you think.) When you buy a book can make a big difference. The reason most authors pile on the promo right before a book comes out (and encourage people to preorder), and also as the book is actually released, is because some important decisions are made based almost entirely on the sales of a book in its first WEEK. (Preorders count towards those.) All those best seller lists you see? Based on early sales or preorder numbers.

A publisher may also determine whether or not to contract for another book from an author based on early sales, and will certainly do so based on sales numbers in general. For instance, Berkley will probably make a decision on whether or not to give me a contract to write Baba Yaga 3 at some point in late September or early October—based entirely on the early sales numbers for Wickedly Dangerous and the preorders at that point for Wickedly Wonderful. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying this is a bad way to do things. After all, it they’re going to invest money in a third book in a series, they’re going to want to see that the first two are succeeding…but there isn’t much time allowed for that success to happen. So I need to do anything I can to make those numbers as impressive as possible, because darn it, I want to write that third story!

So, hopefully you can see now why so many authors can be found all around the Interwebs casually dropping the title of their upcoming book into conversations about just about anything.
“You had pizza for lunch? That’s great! Did I mention that my protagonist in the upcoming Mary Does Lunch eats pizza almost every day?”

All of which is a very long-winded apology for spending so much time lately promoting MY UPCOMING BOOK, OUT SEPTEMBER 2nd. And if it is any consolation, I would much rather be writing the next one. Or reading Kinky Sex with Steampunk Zombies, which I hear was really good. On the bright side, soon the book will be out, and I’ll go back to posting cute pictures of my cats. You know, until book two comes out in December.

Here, have another giveaway. You guys are the best.


  1. This is an excellent exploration of writing promotion by authors. I'm totally resharing it, and thank you!

    1. You're very welcome, and thank you for sharing. I think it is a slice of reality that not many people are aware of.

  2. Amen (welcome to the wonderful world of writers)... Excellent post!

  3. This may be tacky, but do you make more from a book from Amazon at $5.99 or Barnes and Noble at $7.99? I plan to buy your books and would like to buy them where they will benefit you most.

    1. Not tacky at all--and honestly, I'm not sure of the answer. But I'd guess that, for better or worse, if it costs you more, I make more. But I'm just happy you're going to buy it! *smooches*