All authors know that with eight hundred books or so being published each day the art of promotion has probably overtaken the art of writing. Those who command large advances from major publishers are relatively few and can rely on the publisher, who needs a handsome return on investment to stay in business, to concentrate on the promotion of book and author in an attempt to guarantee it. Proven successful authors and leading politicians with memoirs lead this group, followed by famous actors, sports people, pop singers, cooks, gardeners and anyone who has been in the media spotlight long enough to be named by the general public. Publishers have good reason to be selective of the books they choose, as promotion is an expensive business. The list below refers to one large UK bookshop chain and is taken from an article in the Times of 2007 so prices may have escalated since. But as there are two further major chains in the country it gives an indication of the costs facing a publisher.
What it costs
£45,000 For one book to appear in window and front-of-store displays, and in the chain’s national press and TV advertisement campaign
£25,000 To feature in a bay at front of store as a ‘gift book’ in its genre and be displayed at the till
£17,000 To be one of two titles promoted as the ‘offer of the week’ for one week in the run-up to Christmas
£7,000 To be displayed at front of store as a ‘paperback of the year’ and be mentioned in newspaper adverts.
£500 Price of an entry in the chain’s Christmas gift guide, complete with a bookseller review
Making the promotion of one book in one chain cost £94,500 in the UK alone, to which on occasion must be added further costs for press and TV coverage. Assuming other book chains in other countries work in a similar vein, publishers are faced with a considerable investment when selecting a book, making their many rejections understandable. Which is also why the rest of us are on our own when it comes to promoting our own books.
At our disposal are press releases, reviews, interviews, book signing and sometimes the help of friendly radio and TV stations. But by far the most valuable conduit to the reading public at our disposal is the Internet, which gives us access to a hitherto unimaginable worldwide audience though here too we are up against commensurate competition. Thousands of books from fiction to needlework go online every day, not to mention the ever growing multitude of ebooks. The Internet is a promotional world where knowledge and technique are king. Web content, photoshop and HTML are vital, with CSS for the advanced, plus a helpful familiarity with wordpress and blogger. Most young people take all this as the norm having been brought up from school with computers, but for Old Codgers it’s a definite problem. We must either learn or find help; we might like to hark back to the days when the writing was all important. But like King Canute it won’t do us any good. He got his feet wet and without Internet savvy our books will sink without trace.