It’s time authors began to call book promoters’ bluff. Yes, some types of marketing are necessary, and yes, some of them can work. But please – stop selling us a bill of useless goods and claiming that it will all turn out all right if we just keep spinning our promotional hamster wheels.
That’s an intro I could have typed almost any day since I began learning about book promotion. What motivated me to actually write it today is a breathless Huffington Post article by Rachel Thompson (RachelintheOC.com is her own site) tactfully titled Authors Are A**Holes. It includes a self-styled rant that expands on the following statements:
This book marketing is what I do for a living — for myself, for my clients. And new tools come out almost daily, so doing everything and finding it all unsuccessful is well, BS. Sure, we all have bad days. I get it. I do, too. Being an author is hard work, regardless of how one is published. So, what to do? Stop being an a**hole, and get to work!
Bitch and moan that you’ve done EVERYTHING (bet you haven’t), and still haven’t sold any books. I don’t believe you. Sorry.
When you’ve done ALL of the above in great detail, and I mean everything with a concentrated effort and still haven’t sold any books, then guess what? Maybe you need to rewrite your book, or write another.
In between those accusations is a predictable list of not quite everything (more on that below) you can think of that does or does not sell a book, including the following:
— Give back, for fuck’s sake. Stop talking about yourself all the damn time.
Ahem. Well. Having established her bona fides as an expert in marketing (including to A**Holes) by stating that she is an expert in marketing and an author of three “best-selling” books, let’s take a look at how those books are selling.
Well, there’s her first eBook, called A Walk in the Snark, which at this moment has an Amazon rank of 182,246. So that one hasn’t sold a single copy in several days. Her own site has a link only to Amazon, and sure enough, only one of her three books is available at Barnes & Noble. How about iTunes? Google? Nope and nope. Apparently doing everything it takes not to be an A**Hole does not include getting a book into all the channels where many people might like to buy it.
What about her next book, The Man Code Exposed, which through today is on sale for $.99, and again appears to be available only on Amazon? Its rank is 184,418.
That leaves just one book, her latest, titled Broken Pieces, Essays Inspired by Life, It’s the only one also available at Barnes & Noble, and also the only one with a professional looking cover (having a spectacular, professionally designed book, by the way, is the first item in Ms. Thompson’s list of things a writer must have in order not to be an A**Hole) and the only one also available in paperback form (the format in which more than half the reading public still prefers to read books, but obviously also not necessary to avoid A**Hole-dom – although publishing in eBook form is on the list) is at 94,124 and 181,813, respectively, so a copy sold in eBook form a couple of days ago, and a soft cover version sold a couple of days before that.
So, in summary, Ms. Thompson appears not to have sold a single copy in the last 48 hours of any of the three books written exclusively by herself, unless it was her latest, through Barnes & Noble. She also hasn’t always bothered to invest in good book covers, or even to make it possible for people to easily find them. Could it possibly be that Ms. Thompson is an A**Hole?
Okay. So my purpose here really isn’t to trash Rachel Thompson. Besides the fact that she makes money by telling authors how to sell more books than she is currently selling, she offers a lot of useful information at her site, which also includes statements that she’s happy to help authors for free. But her Huffington Post article is over the top, and a typical example of blaming the victim for not spending enough time – and money – on promotional methods that are often rote exercises in futility. As demonstrated by her own current book sales.
The problem isn’t that authors aren’t tweeting enough, for Pete’s sake, or that their books must suck if they’re not selling. It’s that there is no guaranteed way to success, and only a small percentage of great books are ever going to have decent sales. It’s always been that way, and always will be due to the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of new titles every year, and only so many ways to get people to notice them. Not to mention only so many books people are going to read in a given year.
But why would a marketing professional care about that? You’ll see exactly the same result illustrated above no matter where you go. The next time you’re pitched for a service or are introduced to a marketing site that has books displaying that they’ve promoted, check the Amazon rank of those. It almost never fails that those they are featuring on their own home pages have Amazon ranks of 800,000, 1,800,000, or worse.
It takes a lot of brass to showcase your failures. And yet people presumably keep buying their services anyway. What’s wrong with authors?
The answer, it seems, is that we must be suffering from a sort of Magical Thinking or Stockholm syndrome (or both), under which we are willing to keep rolling the same Twitter/Facebook/book trailer/GoogleAds/dot,dot,dot up the hill, even unto eternity, not because it works, but because the Rachel’s of the world tell us that’s what we have to do, and hey, we can’t think of anything else to try.
Oh. Right. There’s always writing. But who has time for that, when there are tweets to send that no one will pay attention to?
As I wrote in my last post, What’s Next for Self-Publishing: The Marketing Agent, what authors need is a marketing partner whose financial interests are aligned with their own. If that type of service provider ever comes along, she’ll be incentivized to only urge authors to spend time on marketing activities that actually work, rather than wasting their writing and promotional time on things that don’t. And they’ll only want to spend their own time on productive tactics rather than selling their clients another useless bill of goods.
Until that happens, let’s all start pointing out that the marketing emperors have no clothes, and more to the point, quit buying the same invisible fashions.