Think of your favorite book. Do you know who published it? Probably not, because as a reader, it doesn’t really matter to you.
When it comes to books, publishing is probably the aspect most veiled in mystery. Through school visits, meet-and-greets, social media, and even book jackets, readers have the opportunity to peek into the worlds of writing and illustrating. Even a reluctant reader knows a little about how a book is written, but how a manuscript goes from author to reader is much less known, even to writers.
This isn’t a problem for the average bibliophile, but when that reader turns writer, a lack of knowledge can lead to bad deals and disappointment. To help you avoid these downfalls, we’ve compiled a list of a few misconceptions new authors often face when they first start out in the publishing world.
1. The Publisher Handles All Marketing
You just snagged your first book deal-woohoo! Now you can just sit back, relax, and watch your book soar to the top of the sales chart, right? Wrong! Whether you are published by a small, independent publisher, or you have a deal with one of the Big 5, you are expected to be actively engaged in marketing your book. The smaller the publishing house, the larger your responsibility is likely to be.
Why is this the case? While, yes, it is your book that’s selling, it is also YOU. As the creator of the book, you have insight and interest that no one else can--or should try to--replicate. Readers want to know what inspired your character choices, how you came to become a writer, and what you have planned next for their favorite characters. You offer a heart to the story that can’t be mimicked by a marketing professional. Many authors struggle with feeling “gross” or mercenary selling their books, but remember, marketing is just a fancy word for connecting. If you don’t let readers know about your book, they will never get to enjoy it. And isn’t that the whole point?
2. Your Book Will Sell Millions
Many new authors believe that once their book is picked up by a publisher, they will soon be rolling in the royalty checks as their novel flies off the shelf. The reality is that very few books sell millions or make their writer’s wealthy. According to Publisher's Weekly, The average U.S. book sells an average of 3,000 copies over its lifetime.
A publisher can put your book out in the world, but they can’t make people buy it. Even when readers do love your book, it is up against strong and numerous competitors, fighting print, ebook, and audio, not to mention other viers for attention, such as Netflix and Hulu.
This can sound negative, but don’t lose heart. The beauty of the modern age is that there is more than one way to make a living off of writing. Consider blogs, guest articles, selling merchandise related to your book, speaking at events and conferences, or conducting school visits. These are all ways to connect with and build your audience, exercise your writing and communicating skills, and make a little extra cash along the way. Additionally, each book that you sell becomes one more coin in the bank of your brand and your recognizability. The next book you publish will likely have greater traction because readers have already purchased and loved your first book.
3. Your Next Book Will be Picked Up
In the world of publishing, you have to earn each book. Just because a publisher purchased your last title, does not mean they will publish your next. The truth is, publishing is a business and that business must cater to its target audience. Maybe your last picture book on tigers flew off the shelves, but this year tigers are out and your follow-up isn’t projected to do well. The publisher can’t risk a loss, and so they decide to pass. It’s all about finding a fit and a partnership that works well for everyone. You haven’t changed, but the book being sold--the product--has. New product equals new audience equals new consideration by the publisher.
4. If Your Book is Selected by a Publisher, No Changes Need Made
Yes, we know you have written draft after draft, edited, rewritten, and tweaked until your manuscript is perfect, but that by no means signifies it is done being changed. Once a company picks up a book, the hands that touch it go up exponentially. Editors will suggest character changes, plot shifts, not to mention title changes-yes, the author doesn’t always get to title the book! Your book might be your baby, but it is also a product, and that product must be perfectly packaged to sell.
5. It is a Quick Process
See above. There are a lot of people your book must pass through before it hits shelves. Once the manuscript has been finalized, the illustrator must be chosen, illustrations agreed upon, fonts selected, and a cover made. And that’s just the production of the book itself. Then there is a marketing plan to be set, publicity shots, tour schedules, pre-release reviews to be gathered, and more. In reality, most books take around 2 years to reach bookstores.
6. You Get to Choose Your Illustrator
7. If You’re Good, You’ll be Discovered
“If you write it, they will come”
Sadly, this does not apply in the publishing world. While there are one or two stories of authors getting discovered online or a publisher happening to pick up a book by an unknown, love it, and get it to the top of the best seller’s list, these stories are one in a trillion. Publishing is a business and publishers want to make sure their money is invested wisely. They don’t just want to make sure your book is good, they want to know that you are nice to work with, willing to put in marketing effort, and able to build positive relationships with stakeholders and readers. The more a publisher trusts you, or the person pitching your book, such as an agent, the better your chances are for being picked up.
If you want a publisher to notice your book, you have to get in front of them. This can mean pursuing an agent who can help connect you to a publishing house, mailing in queries, or establishing yourself in the industry by attending conferences and participating in conversations. Do you have to have connections to get published? No. But it helps. A miner is much more likely to discover a gem sitting in front of them than buried in the dirt!
The world of publishing is one that most readers know little about, yet it is a vital cog in the wheel that brings to life what we all love--books! In today’s easy-access universe, anyone can write a book and send it out to the world. As a result, some view the publishing industry as a money-hungry vestige of days gone by; however, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
While getting your book out through a publisher might mean longer timelines and the relinquishing of some control, it also means a lot of smart people doing their best to make your book the best it can be.
Going through a publishing house, whether traditional or independent, isn’t for everyone and, like all paths, it has its pros and cons. The important thing is to walk in with your eyes wide open so you can make the best decision possible for your book and get it into the hands of those that will cherish it.
You’ve written a book--congratulations! However, as any seasoned author will tell you, writing is only the beginning of the journey.
Next comes the vital job of letting people know your book exists--and this can be no small task. In a world where anyone and everyone can publish a book at any time through digital formats, new authors have more noise to cut through now than ever before.
The good news is, the digital world that creates so much noise also makes it easier than ever for authors to share their stories and connect with potential readers. Social media, email lists, blogs, podcasts, newsletters, and more open direct lines of communication that could only be dreamed of less than 2 decades ago.
When people hear the word “marketing”, they often think “money”, but this doesn’t need to be the case. There are wonderful, high quality resources that can help first-time (or experienced!) authors create beautiful marketing materials for absolutely free.
Today we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite FREE tools that will help you take on marketing with ease.
Canva is a one stop shop for your design needs. Not only does it offer simple social media optimized templates, free photos, illustrations, and custom-sized templates, users can upload their own photos, artwork, and logos for completely personalized designs. A paid subscription will open additional fonts and features, but is in no way necessary to use the platform successfully.
If you are part of a team, Canva has a feature which allows others to join a project to edit, share, or comment. Since everything is saved online, you’ll never have to worry about leaving your computer at home. All designs can be accessed anywhere an internet connection is available.
Designs can be downloaded as pdfs, jpgs, or pngs. Whether you need to design brochures, promotional bookmarks, blog feature photos, or even book covers, Canva is a tool that can help you get the job done.
While Canva is a fantastic tool, it can’t always do the heavy lifting when it comes to graphic design. Unless you spring for a paid subscription, Canva does not allow background removal and no version allows layering, color changing, or general photo editing.
Professionals use programs such as Photoshop for these tasks, but as a new author with no aspirations in graphic design, paying $100+/year for a professional photo editing program may not be practical. Enter: Pixlr. Pixlr is an online photo editor that offers many Photoshop-like features for free. As with Canva, you can pay a small fee to receive extra features, but it is not necessary to create a beautiful product.
Before working in the world of marketing, I thought photoshop/photoshop-like products were only for photographers. This could not be further from the truth! While they may have started to improve photographs, these programs are now used to bend text, create new fonts, paint images, merge graphics, and more to create everything from social media banners to commercial-quality advertisements.
2 free programs are currently available on Pixlr. There is Pixlr X and Pixlr E, both of which are free. The key difference is ease of use. Pixlr X was designed specifically with new users in mind. It has fewer tools that are simple to use. Pixlr E is for more advanced users. It offers more features, but has a stronger learning curve. Fear not: Pixlr offers text and video tutorials for both programs, and you won’t find it difficult to track down user-uploaded tutorials, as well.
With Pixlr, upload your own photos, pull from Pixlr’s collection of stock photos, or design something completely new. The finished product can be downloaded in a variety of formats including jpg, png, and pxd.
Sometimes you don’t have the time--or the budget-- to take or make all the great photos you need. While they can be overused and abused, a good stock photo used properly can take a piece to the next level without breaking the bank. If you’ve been grabbing your stock photos off of Google images, this section is for you.
The name and links of the photographers are usually given if you want to give them credit or reach out to them for paid images or work in the future, but all photos are free to use and edit. All 3 sites are relatively equal in quality, but vary in selection, so if you can’t find what you need on one site, another just might have it.
Social Media Management Tool
When you are managing multiple social media sites and posting multiple times each week, a social media management tool is the superhero you never knew you needed. Instead of spending hours each day posting, you can spend one day putting together a week’s worth of posts that will go up automatically throughout the week. Not only does this free you up to work on other things, it helps to ensure you never forget to post. This is especially helpful on important occasions such as book launches and publicity dates.
Many of these schedulers also allow you to see and respond to comments, likes, and other notifications from the platform. Rather than bouncing from site to site, everything can be easily accessed from one location.
One scheduling website we love is Hootsuite. Hootsuite’s free option allows you to manage 3 social profiles and schedule 30 messages per month. Upgraded plans have additional features such as unlimited scheduling, additional users, analytics, multiple users, exportable reports, and more. While these tools are helpful, they are not needed for the person just starting out.
Another benefit to Hootsuite is that it plays well with multiple social platforms, including:
It will also work with a few lesser known 3rd party apps.
A final small, but welcome, benefit is the ability to shorten urls within the publishing tool. This adds a nice, clean look to your posts. A downside to be aware of: Facebook does not allow you to tag people through the Hootsuite publisher. If you want to create a tagged post, you will have to do so through Facebook’s scheduling tool.
This blog does a great job comparing some of the most popular tools.
We hope you find these tools helpful! If we missed one of your favorites, please feel free to share it in the comments! Embarking on your first marketing journey can be daunting, but rest assured that, with a little help and the right tools, you can take the next step in your writing journey and connect with readers eager to hear your story.
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored and all opinions are our own. We were not paid or reimbursed in any way for writing about these companies. These are simply organizations and tools we found helpful over the years.
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About Laughing Leopard Press
Hello! We are Laughing Leopard Press, an independent book publisher from Akron, Ohio. At Laughing Leopard Press, we’re interested in publishing works that contribute to our understanding of this wonderful world. Through this blog, we hope to add to that understanding with commentary on life, literature, and a few things in between. We hope you enjoy the blog and take some time to talk with us in the comments or on our social media sites. Happy reading!
This is A. Blob by L. A Kefalos. $14.95
$1.00 is donated to charity for each book sold on this site--half to St. Jude's and the other half to PetFix Northeast Ohio.