Writing is a business. Getting published is a business. Publishing is a business. Marketing is a business. There's a chain of events tied to having a story reach the public. Whether you are submitting to a big publishing house, an epublisher or publishing yourself, you have to look at it as a business.
You should write the book of your heart, write it with passion and give it life. There is no doubt that most authors write with their heart. Whether it is fiction, non-fiction, poetry or songs, there is a yearning within the heart of every author to get their words to paper. And, in the end, to have those words read, cared for, cherished by someone. Anyone.
But writing is a delicate balance of creative outlet and business sense. Unless you're truly only writing for yourself, you need to think of the end user of your product. That's right. Your book, once published, is a product. It actually become a product once you complete it. It is definitely a product once it is sent out.
You can't be the end user of your book. It doesn't work that way. Your first end user is the agent or editor that receives your manuscript. Do yourself a favor. Keep that end user in mind. Did you follow submission guidelines? Did you check and re-check your manuscript before you sent it out? Did you send a cover letter with contact information? Right now, at this point in the process, the end user needs everything to be organized and tidy. If all looks well, they will take a look at your manuscript.
If the agent or editor likes the manuscript they will read the entire thing. They will either accept it or reject. Or, in some instances the manuscript will make its way up to another level or review. Either way, you're closer to publication.
Once you have signed the contract and get over the thrill of someone wanting to publish your novel, the work is not over. Not at all. You need to do re-edits, get your website made, think of a marketing strategy. Be prepared.
If you think all you need to do is let your publisher handle the marketing then don't come crying when you never hit the NY Times. Or if your contract doesn't get renewed.
Think of it this way. Put yourself in the end user's shoes. The end user being your publisher. There are thousands of books that go out each year. Hundreds of very talented authors, some with multiple books and multiple publishers. Many of these talented writers have their own marketing plans. Your publisher has limited funds to market your book. Who are they most likely to do more for? The author who does nothing to help their book sales. Or, the author with a marketing plan who will work their tail off helping to get that book sold?
Now, let's go to the next end user. The reader. Publishers need to think of the reader as well. They need to give some consideration as to what type of story it is and who is most likely to want to read it. From there they need to choose a book cover and back copy. I'm convinced, after seeing some choices for covers and blurbs, that not all publishers give a lot of thought to this issue. I've seen some beautiful, appropriate book covers and I've seen some that left me scratching my head and wondering if the person who chose the cover had read the book. I had one client who got a book cover and a back cover blurb that did not indicate at all that the book was paranormal. I got a call from someone at Borders asking for the video because they knew the book was poorly represented by the cover and back copy and they needed something to show that it is a paranormal book. The book video was the only indication of that material. The end user of that book would have been someone who likes paranormal romance. There was obviously little thought given to the end user by the publisher.
The reader needs to consider the end user as well. When you put out press releases are writing stuff like "A beautiful love story that will tug at your heart" or "An epic love story that spans generations". And please, oh please, stop comparing your book to James Patterson, Stephen King and Nora Roberts. If I want to read a book like that I'll read those authors. Thank you very much. Those type of marketing ploys are a total cop out. You want to have your book related somehow to Stephen King or Nora Roberts? Get one of them to give you a quote for your book. Otherwise you're just a celebrity-name-parasite.
When writing your press release, think about who will read the book. Why will they love this book? What is unique about this story that will be the tipping point that makes them buy it? What is the conflict of the story that might intrigue your potential reader? Put yourself in the end user's shoes. They don't care how great you say your book is. They care about the story. You need to make them care about the story. They are less likely to care about your awards for writing than that your heroine is a psychic/vampire/queen (fill in the blank with something cool about your character here). Some people who are more "literary" minded may care about those awards, but are those people your end user? Think about it before you waste a paragraph telling people about your awards. Put your awards on your site, don't list them all in your press release. A few, okay, but ALL? Please don't.
Make a list of the types of people who are most likely going to buy what you write. You'll see a pattern develop and there will be at least one common denominator among the different types of people. Use that information and compare it to your website, press release, collatoral and anything else you're using to market yourself or your books. Try to see through the eyes of that person, not through your own eyes.
Unless you're buying your own books you need to keep your end user in mind. They need to be what is most important. Their tastes, their likes, their needs are what matters. You have the book of your heart. No one can take that from you. But, it is now in the wide wide world. Be considerate to the people who will keep it alive.