Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Publishing myths uncovered

by Stacey

I came across this recent piece by former editor Erin Brown about the top 10 publishing myths that I wanted to share. She talks about a number of very interesting topics that are worth thinking about at any number of points in your publishing career. There's advice that's applicable to published authors about the market and what kind of support they are likely to get (or not get) from their publisher. And there is a lot of good advice for unpublished authors about the process, and especially from a personal perspective, about agents (yes, you need an agent and bigger is not necessarily better! See cute illustration).

I feel like most of them are just discussion starters, like #4, Publishers take care of all your marketing and publicity. I tell all of my clients that the reality is that if we are able to find a publisher for their work, that publisher will do very little to market and promote their book. It has less to do with lack of interest or enthusiasm, but rather that they have limited resources, including staffs that have been cut but are still responsible for the same number of books to market and promote. Plus more and more the books that work (certainly on the nonfiction side) have author platforms that enable books to practically sell themselves.

I also tell clients that if they are able to hire an outside, freelance publicist from their advance or other savings (this can be expensive, but can also be well worth the investment) that they should consider it seriously and discuss it with their editor and agent to see if it makes sense for that particular book. If you do hire a publicist to help launch a book, they work for you and have your interests in mind, and can work with the publisher's publicity department to coordinate efforts and avoid duplication (important!). I can't tell you how many authors I've had who have had bad experiences with their well-meaning but overworked in-house publicists.

Take a look and let us know if you agree or disagree with her ideas, and either way, I think they bring up some interesting food for thought.


  1. Can you give "ball park" figures for the services of a publicist?
    I also draw attention to the cover of the current New Yorker, with the author sitting in isolation at a book signing where he isn't signing! Sad!!

  2. Oh how true how true how true!!!! It's amazing how many people buy into these myths, especially about quitting your day job! Arghhh!

    And #4 - boingo. You must work at it - very hard. Pay-off will eventually follow, but get out there and sell your book yourself!

  3. Happily, none of this is news to me, but I have a colleague who is convinced that he can't get published because his work is too good for the masses. I've gently tried to tell him this, but he's also convinced that I can't get published because I lack talent -- and shamelessly pander to the lowest common denominator. Denial is more than a river.

    I don't want to quit my day job! I just wish they'd let me teach in pajamas.

  4. The list is good, although I disagree with #3. The best advice I ever received was from an author who suggested pursuing small to mid-range publishers first, gaining success, and then landing an agent. (She'd done just that.) Yes, acquiring an agent is the holy grail, but there's so many more publishers who accept direct submissions than there are agents. Why limit one's chances of success?

  5. Thank you for the link; very interesting.

  6. Stacey: good post. I think it's fair game not to expect tons of promotion from a publisher. They have many books and little resources. But on the other hand, isn't going for a known publisher the one reason to choose that over self publishing? Perhaps the value is in the brand of the publisher and that only. I'd love to hear your perspective on this.