Four Reasons Why You Must Take Responsibility for Your Own Marketing

Several years ago, I had lunch with a prominent, formerly best-selling author. He was angry that his sales had been in steady decline for several years. Unwilling to accept any responsibility, he poked his finger in my chest and hissed, “My job is to write the books; your job is to market them.”

A Businesswoman Holding a Business Card - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Cimmerian, Image #3338142

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Cimmerian

In the old world, he was right. Authors created the product and relied on their publishing company to market it. But that world is dead. That doesn’t mean that publishing companies expect you to do everything. But it does mean that they are more effective if you have a platform already in place. It provides something for them to leverage.

If this is true for authors who publish with traditional publishers, it is even more true of self-published authors. Yes, it is easier than ever to get a book into print, but it is more difficult than ever to sell it.

As a result, marketing is not something you can afford to leave to others. You must take responsibility for it yourself. This isn’t just true for authors. It applies to almost every other field as well.

There are at least four reasons why this is necessary:

  1. No one knows your product better than you. I hear authors complain all the time, “My marketing director hasn’t even read my book.” I’m sorry but that’s the norm. Get over it. Post-recession, the typical marketing director is responsible for 50-plus books per year. Even if they did have time to read your book (which they almost certainly don’t), they will never know it the way you know it.
  2. No one is more passionate about your product than you. Do you really think anyone could care about your book more than you? I doubt it. You took months—perhaps years—to write it. You kept going when that little voice in your head told you that you were crazy. You endured a string of rejections from agents and editors. But you kept going. Why? Love. You were passionate about your message or story. You just had to share it with the world.
  3. No one has more skin in the game than you. If your book fails, the marketing director at the publishing house will go on to the next project. It is not that he or she doesn’t care; it’s just that the publisher’s bets are spread across a portfolio of projects. Not so with you. Your publishing fortunes rise or fall on the success of your current project. If it succeeds, you reap the lion’s share of the rewards. If it fails, you suffer the consequences. Your career is on the line.
  4. No one is likely to do it if you don’t. I wish this weren’t the case, but for 95 percent of all authors it is. Sure, a traditional publisher will deploy a standard set of marketing activities. But these are generally not enough to get your book noticed—especially in a world where more than one million new book titles are published every year. Marketing directors and publicists generally don’t have the time and resources necessary to make your book a success.

This is why you must take matters into your own hands. Let me suggest that you take a long look in the mirror. The person you are looking at is your new Chief Marketing Officer. Stop complaining about the fact that your book is not getting the marketing effort it deserves. Instead, take responsibility for your own publishing success and invite others, including the publisher, to join you in the endeavor.

Question: As an author or prospective author, how do you feel about taking on this role? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Ben Komanapalli

    As a prospective author it is both exciting and a little scary. Exciting because you have control and have the opportunity to try different ideas and scary because of lack of experience and knowledge.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Lack of experience might actually be an asset—especially in this world where everything is changing.

  • http://www.godsabsolutelove.com Patricia Zell

    One of the real benefits of self-publishing (POD)  is that I don’t have to worry about a publisher getting antsy about selling a certain number of books in a specific time frame. Since I have a demanding day job, I’m able to take my time with marketing. My goal is to build a slow, steady fire that will grow in intensity. My book (with the look inside feature) is listed everywhere and comes in three formats (hardback, paperback, and e-book).  My publisher is working on a targeted press release campaign for me and when it starts by the end of July, I will be mailing postcards to independent bookstore owners. Then, we’ll see where God leads after that.

    Just a little plug–so far, the feedback I’ve been getting from people (not relatives) who have read the book has been positive.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dennis-Brooke/1642870187 Dennis Brooke

    Passion persuades! Who is more passionate about your work than you?
    I took a great seminar on marketing for authors from Randy Ingermanson (Author of Writing Fiction for Dummies). Personally, he hated marketing but learned to do it because, as Michael has said in this post, it’s the way of the world today.
    Randy mentioned talking to authors who say about marketing: “Jesus will take care of that.”
    In his irreverent style he asked, “But he didn’t take care of the writing or editing? Is he bad at those but good at marketing?” He may inspire, but we’re the ones who roll up our sleeves.
    Embrace ALL elements of the writing process. You owe it to yourself and your future readers.
    http://www.dennisbrooke.com

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I love that quote. Perfect!

  • Jmhardy97

    Great post. There are many good points here.

  • Jmhardy97

    Great post. There are many good points here.

  • Jimmy

    I completely agree! 

    However, I would love for you to blog about the publisher’s responsibility in this “new world.”

    • turner_bethany

      I agree. That would be an interesting read. 

  • http://www.theinvitationstory.com Sk8

    I have a hard time with self promotion but at the same time I feel like our book has a message to share.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You are not promoting yourself but the message. You have to develop this mindset.

  • Antdina

    I think you hit this one right on the head. However the thesis extends to more than authors. One could argue that any project even inside of a large firm would benefit from this principle. In fact, when I lead a team of messaging professionals, I would suggest this formula for them: publish…promote…promote. Repeat. The key is the proportion of creation to advertising. It takes 2+ times the effort to get the word out. Because a great painting is not great until someone sees it. Otherwise it’s just a swirl of pigment and resin on a board stuffed into a dark closet. The key recipe for nearly every endeavor is participation. And that requires awareness first.

  • David C Alves

    Mike, I’ve followed your blog for several years and continue to enjoy it. But this post begs the question “What 7 Premiums a Traditional Publisher Can Offer an Author.” Sounds rather like we’re not needed. If we do our own writing, our own editing, our own marketing, we should collect our own money. Why include a fair-weather friend? Not griping, just wondering.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This probably deserves a full blog post. More than I have time to write in this comment. But thanks. Duly noted.

  • http://twitter.com/swj_thewriter Sherri WilsonJohnson

    I have my first novel coming out this year with OakTara and I am totally ready for the challenge of doing the marketing myself. I have already begun to do so to build up the anticipation with future readers. Like you said, no one loves your product or knows more about it than you do. You have to take responsibility.  http://sherrijinga.wordpress.com/

  • Anonymous

    Well said. I think the same applies to my school and district. We need to become adept at telling our story in the face io rising competition from charter schools, who seem to get the lion’s share of positive press.

  • Maril Hazlett

    I started reading this, then had to stop in a guilty panic and rush to update my blog platform. Between garden, family, and work, I had let it slide this past week. Not a great approach to marketing.

    One new blog entry later I came back, finished reading your blog entry (excellent, as always), and now am taking a moment to say – thank you!

  • Kristy Ensor

    While I completely agree that you should market yourself,  one question I’ve been pondering is how to do it without it seeming like your bragging.  Any suggestons?

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  • Craig Curtis

    As an author in the making the marketing of my books actually excites me. I already have a web site envisioned to compliment my books and spur further exploration by my readers. I also want to get out and meet my future readership. Go to book shows, schools (my initial series is intended for middle school age), store appearances, interviews, etc.. I believe reclusive writers become forgotten writers.

    • turner_bethany

      Your plan sounds great! I wish more authors would do things like that. 

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      I think you’re right, Craig. If authors don’t get out there, then they are
      forgotten.

  • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

    This is so true. I’m not working on an eBook project right now, but I am working on an event that I’m pushing through social media venues (http://artsfestaltar.com/). I’m finding that stuff happens when I make it happen, which is a little counter intuitive maybe, but a great learning experience.

  • Robert – CEO

    We are a publisher of 3000+ authors, an author marketing company, and a global foreign rights consultancy.

    One nuance is that “taking responsibility” doesn’t mean that you have to do the work. You do have to understand that nothing in life is free and if you hire a marketer, it is very rare they they work for commission only.

    There are a lot of marketing techniques that you can have done for less than $200. You might visit http://www.AuthorMarketingIdeas.com for a list of them, including a bunch of free ones.

    We think that the number one goal for an author is to saturate the Internet as much as possible and then, if the book is destined forquick  success, it will naturally pick up steam. If you are like the rest of us “20 year overnight sensations” then you just keep plugging.

    We tell authors that marketing is cheaper than golf.. so enjoy the process and just keep adding unto..

    Best to all authors!

    Robert Fletcher – Chairman
    http://www.PublishOnDemandGlobal.com
    http://www.AuthorMarketingIdeas.com
    http://www.StrategicBookPublishing.com

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  • Christina

    I wrote and self published a diet and health book ten years ago. I didn’t know anything about marketing and still don’t. I am in the process of re-editing and self publishing again but the thought of marketing myself is daunting. It isn’t as if I haven’t tried to learn, I have been to seminars read others insights but it still alludes me. As a film maker and seminar speaker I find I can’t get away from self promotion. I keep thinking I will find someone who believes in me and has those skills. I know I’m dreaming. Any suggestions?   

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-OLeary/1023443846 John O’Leary

    Man, is this a cornucopia of publishing and blogging wisdom!  The comment thread is as hot as the post — which is a credit to the blog. I just learned a half dozen things I didn’t know I didn’t know. Just signed up for the newsletter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chana-Vowell-Keefer/1016503719 Chana Vowell Keefer

    Thank you so much for an excellent article.  I am in the process of printing my first novel–e-formats available too–and I admit the marketing/distributing aspect intimidates.  However, if I keep the focus off numbers and more on the joy of connecting with and, hopefully/prayerfully, touching people, the business intimidation aspect slips away.  Every mountain peak reached reveals another mountain, eh?

    Blessings,

    Chana Keefer
    http://www.thepassionfields.com

  • K. Rowe

    As an Indie author, I find it extremely time consuming to market. But I don’t have a huge bankroll of royalties to hire a PR person, so between me and a few other authors, we’re working together to find the right places to put our books so we get noticed, but don’t have to spend hundred of hours marketing when we’d rather be writing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.vogler1 Daniel Vogler

    Great insight! Thanks!

  • http://www.thesingingnurse.com/ Dawn Ginese

    As a Christian I get a little stuck on,”Let another man praise you”.  It seems that there is a balance between honking your own horn and believing what you have to offer would be helpful to someones life.
    Thanks for your blog. I’m writing a lesson book with a Sing-along CD that helps parents/teachers/health advocates teach healthy living/hygiene to children.
     Like giving birth, you have to keep going, no turning back, got to deliver this baby.
    Thanks, Dawn

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I don’t think it is so much about promoting yourself as it is promoting the message. This helps me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=743860065 Jay Inman

    1st Book written and published… In my opinion, most Christian fiction is wimpy… slow… whatever. I am guilty of “waiting” for my publisher to “Help.”  I took charge and stood up a facebook fan page.  Also did the cheapest advertisement possible… 77 “likes” in three days.  There is a large audience for hard charging fiction that wrestles with things like nation building, science, revolution, aliens… in the context of hard scripture.

  • Anne Lyle

    On the whole I’m OK with it – I’ve been online for over a decade, I’ve built up connections and enjoy talking with fellow enthusiasts about my genre. As a result, I already have a number of pre-orders for my debut novel, months ahead of its release – not family and friends, but people I’ve never met. I’m pretty sure that never happened in “the good old days”!

    At the same time I appreciate any advice my agent and publishers can give me about how to exploit those connections further. Publishing is a cooperative venture between author and publishing house – or should be.

  • Anonymous

    Michael,
    I appreciate your insights in this industry.  I’ve read this from you before, and it raises the question in my mind – why continue to work with publishers at all?  If the publishers need authors to write the material, and demand that the author has his own platform, why don’t authors vanity publish their material?  What is the value that publishers are bringing to the table? 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      It’s because of what publishers can do with a platform. They can leverage and make it bigger than you could on your own. But they have to have something to start with.

  • http://twitter.com/beapositive1 Mike Chamberlain

    Michael,

    One of the most common misperceptions about marketing is that it is only about promotion. Marketing really starts with the development of the product and includes pricing and distribution in addition to promotion. So, the reality is that the creator should be involved in every stage of the “marketing” of their work, not just how the finished product is advertised.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I couldn’t agree more. I plan to have a whole section in my book on the product. It will include many of the items you mentioned.

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  • Anonymous

    What you’re talking abut in this post is something we discovered to be so profoundly true in our ministry that it completely changed our direction a couple of years ago.

    I’m the Artistic Director for a Christian production ministry.  For years we told ourselves, “We are filmmakers, not a sales and marketing team – so we need to forge a strong partnership with an organization that can do that job well.”  So we partnered with some of the biggest names in Christian publishing…and despite the stories of life change that came from those using our resources, our products languished in terms of sales.

    Eventually, we came to the same conclusions that you have made here – that we are the best people to move our mission, our message, and therefore, our products.  In fact, we believed that so strongly that we didn’t just start paying attention to marketing, we actually formed our own publishing company, taking our marketing, sales, and distribution in-house.

    Our first product released under our own steam is on track to surpass the sales of all our other films combined within the next 12 months.

    So here’s my question… What really is the place of the publishing giants anymore, when what you’re saying is certainly true?  We sure won’t ever go that route again.

  • Patricia Leonaitis

    I am scared because I am 79 years of age and I don’t know a thing about marketing my books. They are poetry books, by the way. Thanks, Patricia Leonaitis,RN, ret.

  • Patricia Leonaitis

    My books–”Horses are Stars” and “November Dreamer” were published by X-Libris Publishers, but I haven’t had the money to buy any of their marketing packages, so I guess I will have to do it myself—Help!!!

  • Robyn Leatherman

    My debut novel, Summer Rain: Getsikahvda Anitsalagi is on my editor’s desk now. I’m on twitter and have a blog in place because I realize that there is a great need for me to have my own platform in place before my book hits the shelves. I’m working at gaining a greater audience so sales will be higher. When asking an author if s/he has yet compiled a marketing list of their own – the question I ask is: who wouldn’t want to do that?

  • Jim Waugh

    Michael, very good words of wisdom. In the case of my book, “Living Safely with Electromagnetic Radiation”, I am having to create awareness of a subject that is not well understood and market the book as the best source of information. There is no doubt that the author is the best person for the marketing job.

  • Clwedd

    5. Increasingly readers expect personal contact with authors. I.e. twitter, facebook etc.

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  • EnnisP

    I can’t imagine an author not wanting to find ways to successfully market their work but I can understand why they don’t.

    Writing is kind of an isolated process. Musing doesn’t go hand in hand with socializing so it is easy to get comfortable sitting in one’s private space while waiting for someone else to bring the customers. But, with everything else in life, adjust or die.

    Thankfully, there are free options for marketing oneself today, which writers must make use of.

  • http://www.vilate.tateauthor.com/ Forksinthedishwasher

    You know, I felt like I had gotten alot accomplished when my book was accepted for publication.  The whole process was new but I loved the 8 months or so it took for the book to come to fruition.  I have been very disappointed with the marketing department and what they have done or are willing to do.  Marketing is not my talent and I struggle to push my own product.  What I needed was a marketing department that actually talked to me and followed up once in a while instead of saying, “follow me on Twitter and Facebook.”  I am willing to do any interview, any book club or book signing but I don’t know how to open those doors.  I am not sure how to get newpapers and magazine to review your book. 

  • Tamika sims

    This is an excellent article. I am a newly published author (less than a year). I realized this a few weeks ago after hiring a publicist  – that this was not her SOLE responsibility. I knew that I had to be a partner in my own success. Since adopting this attitude, many new opportunities have come my way and I’m very excited about the doors God will continue to open.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      It’s really freeing to acknowledge that you are responsible for your success!   It sounds like you are well on your way, Tamika!

  • Kristyspeer

    I have already begun lining up future book events I don’t expect my book to even be ready for actual book events until roughly October and I didn’t stop there I’m already writing the second book to my three book series!! This is my new world and I don’t want other people doing things for me I want my hand in every pot on this book and the next two to complete my first series!! This article was spot on for me.

  • Laura Michelle Thomas

    I firmly believe that being a successful author is a sales and marketing problem, not a literary one. http://www.laurathomascommunications.com

  • David G. Johnson

    I have my first two novels coming out at the end of the year, but one of my challenges is that my family and I live overseas and are only in the States for about 6 months every three years or so. That means things like book signings, etc only have a limited window where I can do them. Fortunately our stateside window is going to coincide with the release date of my books this time, but for future work, or for ongoing marketing, what types of things can an overseas author do to keep active with promoting books?

  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    Thanks. Yes, you may link to it. That’s fine.