Book Marketing Expectations

Jennifer Mattern over at All Book had an interesting blog Tuesday about book marketing, of course. Austin S. Camacho, author of Successfully Marketing Your Novel in the 21st Century, discussed his book and evidence-based marketing.

In reading it, I realized the different expectations writers have regarding their marketing efforts.

Authors with Traditional Publishers

Those who publish with conventional publishing companies, i.e. advance-paying, royalty-earning publishers are looking primarily for name promotion when they do publicity. Selling a few extra books is just a little gravy on the side.

Authors with Non-Traditional Publishers

Those who publish with small presses, POD presses, or who self-publish are looking for one main goal in publicity and promotion: sell books. Name recognition would be nice especially if they want a career, but selling books is paramount.

Why do these two categories of authors differ in their expectations? The answer can pretty well be summed up in one word.


With conventional publishers, there are distribution deals in place that guarantee your book will be in one or all of these: brick and mortar bookstores, website bookstores, publisher sites, super markets, discount stores, drugstores, airports, libraries, etc. You don't have to worry quite so much about readers finding your book.

With small presses, distribution is often limited to library sales along with publisher website and website bookstores.

With electronic publishing that produces a print copy, POD, subsidy, vanity, or self-published, distribution is extremely limited. In fact, it's rare to find books like these occupying highly-coveted rack-space.

You may get listed on the website that published your book depending upon your deal with them. You may get on Amazon if you pay for ISBN, bar code, and, now according to their latest requirement, if it was published by their in-house publishing technology BookSurge. Any other distribution is up to you and your marketing efforts.

If your book gets into brick and mortar book stores, it's probably because you made personal contact with the store in some way and coaxed, urged, pleaded, convinced, or networked a relationship to get your book stocked or to set up a book signing. Many times with independent book stores, you have to agree to buy back copies of the books that don't sell if you are fortunate enough to get an autograph signing set up in the store.


With electronic publishing for download, sales are made when authors drive traffic to the publishers site so e-published authors have a double burden of trying to achieve name recognition and getting book buyers to go to the publisher website to download a book. That's still something that only a very small percentage of readers do. (I've just finished research for a series of articles about finding the true visitor stats for publisher websites. Eye-opening to say the least.)

Fiction vs. Nonfiction

Fiction authors with non-traditional publishers have a tough job. They must sell books, but they must also create name recognition, especially if they plan to sell more books so they will have a successful track record at least with their own publisher. (Erotica writers have it easier. I'll discuss that another day.)

Those who write nonfiction in a non-traditional venue have it a little easier because they are catering to a niche market. That's why books on C++ or CSS programming are top sellers on self-publishing sites like Most of the nonfiction book writers know their target audience, and they reach their readers fairly easily either via the publisher site or by setting up their own domain and website to market their books.

Takeaway Truth

There are good books being published by traditional and non-traditional publishers. The sad truth is that if readers can't find your book then they can't buy it.


  1. Just home from Thrillerfest, and I wanted to thank you for mentioning my guest blog.

    I also wanted to say that I agree with all you've said. However the distribution issue isn't quite as grim as you've painted it for the persistent.

    Small press, self or even POD published authors CAN get a Borders Express to order their books if they're with Ingram or Baker and Taylor. Each time they do, Borders puts more of their books in the warehouse. Over time, warehouse stock is high enough that the bookseller assumes you're with a mainstream publisher.

    It's all part of the camouflage principle. Look like a mainstream author, you get treated like one.

    questions? Write me at at

  2. *Laughing* Nothing is as grim - for the persistent. Persistence enables one to achieve when others are discouraged. I didn't mean to sound overly pessimistic, but I know too many authors who've been caught in the death spiral. I think if you realistically view a situation, you have a better chance of meeting the challenge. Better that than to have your rose-colored glasses jerked away at the last second, leaving you ill-prepared for what you face.

  3. You're right of course, Joan, and I didn't mean to sound overly Optimistic - the best you and I can do for your readers is try to keep them from spending time and energy on things that won't help at all, and at least focus on what may pay off - although we know that the chances of independent authors reaching the best seller list are slim... just not impossible. :-)