Publishing/Promoting Perils by Peg Herring

With the explosion of publishing methods over the last ten years, it was only a matter of time until scams multiplied too. I’ve met many wannabee authors who were misled into accepting help that wasn’t all that helpful. They want that book “out there” so the world can see how talented they are, and someone claims to know exactly how it should be done. Before you move forward, here are some truths you might want to ponder.
 
*Your story isn’t all that original, and it won’t interest the vast majority of readers. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t publish, but don’t expect Amazon’s servers to jam as people rush to buy your unique/heart-warming/fascinating/shocking/ scintillating/must-read/eye-opening/sure-fire best seller.
 
*Reading is subjective. Good writers are sometimes ignored while bad ones become stars. There really is no accounting for taste, and therefore, horrible plots, terrible writing, and multiple errors often get five-star reviews while good stories get none.
 
*Your publisher doesn’t see you as the uniquely creative, eminently capable individual you undoubtedly are (unless you self-publish—see below**). Publishing is a business, and authors are cogs in the corporate wheel. When my publisher went bankrupt a few years back, lawyers sent a list, ranked in order of who would be paid with the funds available. Want to guess who made the bottom of the list? The authors, of course.
 
**Self-publishers have to be creative and capable, since they’re responsible for everything that happens. Once my cover artist put this on a book’s spine: Someboday Doesn’t Like Sarah Leigh. Do you think people who bought the book before I noticed the mistake said, “What a terrible cover artist”? Nope. My fault. I was responsible.
 
Author-service providers are out to get money from you. Some do it fairly; others not so much. Think hard about these:
“Help” getting an ISBN. Go to Bowker.com. Get your own.
“Help” getting work copyrighted. There are arguments for and against copyrighting, but you can go to the US Copyright Office and do it yourself, cheaply and easily. No need for “expert legal help.”
“Help” with publishing. Firms vary widely in what they offer, what they charge, and how well they do what they promise to do.
Check the fine print. One friend signed with a publisher who charged him full price for his own books!
Research relationships with past/existing clients. I once signed on with a publisher then learned several authors had quit because they never got paid. It took a lawyer’s fee to get me out of that one.
Check sites where authors list complaints (http://absolutewrite.com is a good place to start.)
If a publisher “encourages” you to buy a lot of books, run the other way. I’ve met dozens of naïve authors who bought hundreds of their own books in order to be prepared for the mega-sales they were told to expect. Today those books molder in garages, attics, and of course, the trunks of cars.
 
“Help” with promotion. This one’s hard to judge, but don’t expect your publisher to do much. There are independent PR people available (like my host PJ) who know the ropes and do an excellent job. There are also scammers whose most consistent action is sending you a bill each month. It’s a bit of a crap-shoot, since nobody knows what sells books. (If they did, publishers wouldn’t pay huge advances for duds, like the recent memoir of a retired politician that cost its publisher $476.00/book.) Don’t fall for promises of mega-sales or a spot on the New York Times listings. It ain’t happening.
 
What can an author do to limit frustration and expense?
*Educate yourself, so you don’t fall for the scams.
*Plan on doing most of the promotional work. Whatever my publishers do or don’t do, I set up my own author events, do mailings when a book releases, maintain website/blog/social media presences, and send newsletters to fans.
*Spend your promo money wisely. I advertise on reader sites that are free or cheap, because I think it’s mostly about getting the book in front of readers multiple times. If I hired a PR person I’d choose someone who’s been around a while (again, like PJ) who keeps track of what’s hot right now—and what’s not.
*Choose what works for you and ignore anything else you’re told you “must” be doing. Don’t overwhelm yourself when you really need to be writing that next book.
 
Stepping into publishing is like taking a wild ride in a little boat on an unknown sea. I’m not sure how much I navigate and how much I simply ride the waves, but I do try to keep in mind where I want to end up.
***
 
Peg Herring’s new series of cozy-thrillers (if that’s a thing) begins with KIDNAP.org. Radio show host Patzi Gil says the book, ”…kept me up until 3 a.m. Peg is a master in the art of the slow reveal.
If you’ve ever wished you could grab a corrupt politician or a greedy business-person by the ear and give him a stern talking-to, you’ll love the capers Robin and her odd “gang” use to restore a little justice to an unjust world. KIDNAP.org is funny. It’s suspenseful. It’s satisfying. You’ll love it!
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6 thoughts on “Publishing/Promoting Perils by Peg Herring

  1. carlbrookins says:

    Very good! Useful assessments of various pitfalls, potholes, blind alleys and other scams.

  2. marissoule says:

    Excellent post, Peg. Writers choosing to self-publish need to heed your advice. There are vultures out there, ready to take a writer’s money. And there are some very helpful services. We all need to educate ourselves, read the fine print, and make sure the book(s) we write are our very best.

  3. EARL STAGGS says:

    Good stuff, Peg. There are vultures out there and every writer needs be careful, There are also reputable people (like PJ Nunn) who are reliable, honest, and capable of helping us.

  4. radine says:

    Thanks for taking the time to list pitfalls for writers, especially those who self-publish. Ask for the opinions and experiences of other writers…YES. As Earl says, many of us can attest to the honesty and capability of Breakthrough Promotions and PJ Nunn. There are others who would be glad to share their personal experiences.

  5. pjnunn says:

    You guys are kind! But it’s true this is excellent advice. It seems every week or so I come across someone trying to take an author’s money. Have to be careful!

  6. EARL STAGGS says:

    By the way, PJ, I love the new look of your Bookbrowsing page. Classy.

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