There is no doubt in my mind that this dubious title goes to the in-house publicists at the publishing houses. They have an intense daily job (book mailing for reviews, pitching the mags, setting up book tours, coming up with catchy promos or giveaways etc.), tight deadlines and when one book launch is over, the next is right behind it without any time to breathe.
They are young, usually underpaid, and the burn-out rate is high. Many an author has had to say good-bye to their publicist before or during a book launch.
That is why I encourage new authors to think about the care and feeding of their internal publicist but also why they should seriously consider hiring some outside help to supplement the effort of this overworked person.
The internal publicist is almost always grateful and the author gets the benefit of having some control over what happens to the book.
Besides, authors never believe that their publishing houses do enough publicity or marketing for them. That is the biggest complaint I hear (and a justified one in a lot of cases). Part of the problem is that the majority of money publishers spend on marketing is done in the less sexy and not so visible venues—such as bought co-op placement in bookstores. It’s harder for the authors to see the marketing dollars in action so to speak—unlike, let’s say, a billboard in Times Square or an ad in People Magazine.
And for the record, I do think authors should invest part of their advance toward promotion—why not give your book the best shot you can? But how much is really a personal question. All the money in the world spent on publicity won’t necessarily make the book a success.
(I can’t help thinking about a huge promotion that was done last year—at least out here in Colorado—by a self-published author for his book called Wild Animus. There were full page ads in Publishers Weekly. Books were distributed at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, and it was also a promotional gift in the goody-bag of the half-marathon I ran last year. It started becoming a joke because everyone had this book. When I talked to one of the promoters handing them out, they said 500k was being used on the campaign. I wonder if that’s true. I wonder how this translated into book sales. I don’t hear much about the book now—six months later.)
Some authors do all the publicity in the world and for whatever reason, the book doesn’t sell like it should. Some authors do hardly any promotion and boom, the book takes off and sells like hotcakes on a frosty Sunday morning.
It’s a weird business and if publishing houses could tap and bottle the power behind word-of-mouth, they would.
Wouldn’t we all!