Demystifying the Publishing Contract - article

If you manage to get a contract with a traditional publisher, that’s a great accomplishment; about 250,000 books are traditionally published each year, whereas about 770,000 are self published. So if you ever are approached by a traditional publisher, you should definitely consider what they have to offer. But what kind of marketing support can you expect from the publisher?

Usually, the responsibilities of the author and publisher are clearly stated in a contract. The publisher will promise to take care of certain aspects of publishing, and the author will be expected to take care of others. Even five years ago, each author used to get a dedicated marketing manager and publicity manager, and the whole marketing plan was created by the publisher. Those days are gone.

One of the reasons for that is technological change. We can now read books from our phones and iPads and Kindles, which is great, but traditional publishers have struggled to maintain revenue streams as these changes have occurred. A book that used to sell for thirty dollars as a hard cover now sells for $8.99 as an e-book. The result is that publishers are suffering significant losses in revenue. Unfortunately, major publishers have had to cut staffing in order to make up the shortfall. They don’t want to give up quality control, so for the most part they haven’t cut down on editors and designers, the people who put the content into the book in an attractive way and make sure it’s perfect. But they have cut down on marketing people.

Publishing companies will still probably try to provide some marketing support, but they’re going to expect the author to play a role too. For example, I’ve heard of traditional publishers setting up social media for authors and then giving them brief tutorials, but it’s then up to the authors to do the work of making connections, updating blogs, posting on Facebook, and so on. They are expecting authors to act as their own marketing managers.

I’ve heard self-published authors say they don’t want to spend money on marketing, because they think once they’re picked up by a traditional publisher someone will do that work for them. But that’s simply not the case any more. In fact, although I work primarily with self-published authors, some traditionally published authors have come to us for help with marketing because they weren’t getting the support they had hoped for from traditional publishers. These authors already have traditional publishing deals, but they want the help we can offer when it comes to identifying target audiences and getting exposure.

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