It wasn’t my fault my book didn’t sell – it was my publisher!

I was watching a video clip on the internet the other day where four authors were discussing technology trends and how it affects publishing. Invariably the subject of e-books vs traditional publishing came up and all wanted to explore that area. All interesting stuff but the comments that a couple of authors made resonated with me because it is one I hear all the time. They both alluded that the reason their respective books didn’t do well was because the publisher lacked effective marketing. They suggested that it had nothing to do with them, the subject, the writing, or anything else. In fact the book was perfect. The publisher – or rather publishing screwed it up! In their eyes it wasn’t them – it was the publisher.

I hear this all the time. If only the publisher had put more copies out or organized up more publicity or marketed my book properly then it would have been a bestseller. Now I am not absolving any publisher of their duties in the process of selling a book. And God knows they do screw up. Some are better at different aspects of book publishing than others. They might be advised to pay more attention to each book they publish. But there is a key point that many authors miss. I read it when queries or pitches come into our agency. Hear it in party conversations with authors and certainly when they are frustrated.

“It wasn’t my fault the book didn’t sell – it was my publisher.”

Really? I put it to you that any publisher can only do so much so understand, in the end, it comes down to you. The marketing budgets in publishing are laughably thin. The publicity departments face wave after wave of books and authors and are understaffed. Printers screw up, shipments delayed, sales people pitch as best they can – in short there is a long process and a lot of stops along the way to even get the book in stores and get some attention for it. But the only person who can take ultimate reponsibility for the success or the failure of your book – is you. You are the best salesperson, best marketer, spokesperson, advocate, etc and etc. If your book isn’t finding an audience figure out some other way to find it. If your publisher isn’t helping find out what you can do to help. Some resist, some are jerks, some are incompetent – just don’t forget it’s your name on the book. This is a piece of you and leaving that to fail should not be an option and every sales avenue should be explored.

I have been in publishing for 32 years and the last 12 as an agent and every successful author I represent – every single one – where the book has succeded and they are earning royalties have worked and worked and worked their tails off building an audience, expanded it, and finding even more ways to sell their book. They don’t give up and certainly don’t leave the destiny of their book entirely up to what the publisher might or might not do. I tell any new prospect that they should not count on the publisher to make the book work – it’s up to only one person – the author.

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