Recently an author told me, “After I finished writing my book, I thought my job was done. I then discovered that my job was only half done.”
More and more publishers are relying on authors to sell their own books. The traditional model is, of course, that authors write books and publishers sell books. But that is changing rapidly—if the transition is not already complete.
Publishers rely on authors to obtain endorsements from well-known people the authors have personal contact with, to have access to snail mail and email lists they can use to publicize the book, to write blogs to keeping touch with their readership, to be speaking regularly to groups where their books can be sold, and much more.
Publishers will still send out books for review, set up media interviews for the author, get the books into the wholesale and retail distribution systems, publicize it in catalogs, websites and some advertisements, do direct mail, and much more. But all of these have become much less effective in actually selling books in the last ten years. Why?
Primarily it is because there are fewer bookstores—fewer Christian bookstores and fewer independent general bookstores. Perhaps less than half what there were a decade ago. Why?
First came the wave of megabookstores (Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc.) that sucked away a lot of business from smaller bookstores. Then came Amazon.com and other online booksellers. Then came the wave of the Big Box Stores (Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, etc.) sucking away business from the megabookstores and remaining independents with massive discounting on a few bestsellers.
Half of all Americans will not buy a book this year. Most of the rest will buy only one book this year. So when they buy that bestseller at Costco, they’re done. No visiting bookstores for them.
Publishers have learned to survive by increasingly going direct to consumers since retail outlets just aren’t there to do the job. Sometimes a publisher will send out catalogs or other mailings to consumers. But they also rely on authors to be directly in touch with potential readers and make the book available.
The lesson for authors, of course, is, you can’t just pitch your ability to write a good book to a prospective publisher. You also have to pitch your ability to promote and to directly reach people who will buy your book.