News, commentary, and fiction by Barb Hendee, co-author of the Noble Dead saga (; author of the Mist-Torn Witches series, the Vampire Memories series, and more.

The Wednesday’s Writer’s Corner: Marketing

Let me start off by saying that when it comes “How to market a book,” I haven’t got the first clue.

Why is that, you ask?

Because marketing in the traditional publishing industry is not aimed at letting “readers” know that a book is about to be released, it’s about the marketing department at a New York publisher trying to figure out every conceivable way to get the book-buying representatives at brick and mortar stores like Barnes & Noble to order as many copies of a book as possible.

The publisher makes up a big glossy catalog, and in the catalog, right beside the cover image for an upcoming book, they include all the fabulous sales points to tempt the book-buying representatives.  For Blood Memories, they wrote things about sales figures on the Noble Dead Saga and other enticing facts to prove to the representatives that the book would sell, and it would make money, and so they should order lots of copies.

Years ago, one of our editors mentioned that she’d just been to a “marketing meeting” for our next book. I was excited and asked what kind of marketing they were going to do.  She was a very “up front” editor and told me, “Oh, we don’t actually do marketing in the sense you’re thinking.  We’re trying to get the cover just right and the blurbs just right, so that the book-buying powers-that-be will order lots of copies for the bookstores.”

This is the goal of the publisher. 

When those “book-buying powers-that-be” don’t order lots of copies, the book is considered a failure.  I’ve received excited emails from an editor, saying, “Oh, my God, the bookstores ordered 25,000 hard cover copies of (insert title),” and I’ve received the disappointed emails such as, “Oh . . . my God.  The bookstores only ordered 5,000 mass market copies of (insert title).”  I’ve seen friends have their series pulled mid stream and been given this reason, “We’re so sorry, but the bookstores just aren’t ordering copies of this title.”

Of course, once the books are in the stores, they do need to sell to a large audience of readers, or the publisher will wind up with a boatload of returns, and at that point, the book will be considered a failure, but that’s a different topic.

Now, regarding marketing, most of the major publishers in SF/Fantasy also take out full-page ads in Locus (which is mainly read by other SF/Fantasy writers), and they now have pages on Facebook and other social media outlets.  They also send advanced review copies to places like Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, and Romantic Times Monthly (and how many normal Americans read those publications?), but the majority of money that publishers put into “marketing” is to pay Barnes & Noble quite a chunk of change to put their new releases onto tables up front in the store and in those center aisle book racks where they will be seen. 

So, are you getting the picture here?  Most of the money and labor and effort by the major publishers regarding “marketing” is to make the books both abundant and highly visible in the bookstores.

Okay . . . so now, we are in the middle of a paradigm shift where the future of brick and mortar bookstores is unknown, and readers are moving toward buying e-books for their Kindles, Nooks, iPad, Sony readers, etc.

Some writers are moving toward “going indie” and just e-publishing their fiction themselves.

There are a number of blogging gurus who are shouting to the rooftops, “Go indie! You don’t need a publisher!”

I have no problem with independent e-publishing.  At the moment, JC and I are working on writing some novellas and possible collections that will go straight to being e-published.  But for us . . . we already have a “name” in the business.  People search out our names on Amazon and the B&N website and other places, so if we have e-titles up for sale, they will be seen. 

The Noble Dead website receives about 25,000 hits a month.  So if JC makes an announcement over there, people will see it.  We have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, etc . . . etc . . . all the stuff we’re supposed to do.  We do guest blogs.  We utilize the Internet as best we can.  So, I think our indie titles will be “seen” to at least a certain degree.

Other than that, marketing one of our indie publications seems a total mystery to me.

But I’ve seen young, brand new writers posting on the blogs of these indie gurus with the same question over and over, “Yes, but how do I market my independently published, e-published book?  How do I get readers to even know it exits?”

At first, I also waited with baited breath for an answer.  As of yet, no answer has been forthcoming.  I think if this were possible, the major publishers (with boatloads of money) would have figured it out a long time ago.

As we shift further and further toward e-books, I have no idea how the major New York publishers will alter their marketing strategy—as the one I described above may become completely moot. 

I have no idea how new indie writers will get more than a few people to know their book exists.

But I believe in evolution, and I’m on the edge of my seat, wondering how all this is going to play out.