From centuries past, authors have had to fight for just rewards through royalty payments from the publication of their novels. A new era in the publishing industry is evolving to deliver challenges yet again to the author.
Promotion by authors for their own novels now holds as much importance as the storytelling itself. The expectations of the 21st Century publisher encroaches on the bounds of their authors creative abilities to insist upon self promotion and marketing of the novels being published.
Responsibility silently shifts, from a long-forgotten era when publishers took sole responsibility for marketing a new release, to a new era where a large share of the responsibility is being placed on the shoulders of the authors signed to contract.
The question therefore needs to be posed: Will royalties for authors rise in accordance with this shifting load? It appears not. While the cost of promotion for authors explodes, its display of fireworks showering publishing houses with good fortune, the author seems to be left bathing in the ashes.
Publishers forever search for new talent from great storytellers as they rush “big name” authors to bookshelves to bring about the flow of profits for business. For famous authors, whose names slip easily from the avid readers tongue, large advances are forthcoming for future releases while Literary Agents negotiate higher royalty payments through new and exclusive contract.
For authors with only fleeting glimpses of recognition within the industry, there is seldom an advance for the publication of their novels, and only the standard percentage of returning royalties, signed to contract. For these authors, the new era emerging within the publishing industry is going to be financially fraught at best.
For an author to create any story involves tireless hours, weeks, months, and sometimes years, from the moment of conception to the hopeful explosion of thunder on the novel’s release, yet the publishing industry now asks authors to produce a “rabbit out of the hat” trick. Authors are being asked to market for the publisher on the 12% to 15% royalty base, being offered in return for publication.
So where does marketing money come from when authors promote their own books… a promotions allowance from the publisher? Not if an author is contracted to a small publisher. Royalty payments are seldom forthcoming until the first quarter after the release of the novel. So unless new authors have their own capital for promotion the chances of a new release meeting with the publishers’ expectations of “best seller” status, will be a far cry from reality.
The publishing industry is a business, while the fabled days of authors being found in quaint cottages by the seashore, or deep within the seclusion of countryside mansions, are far removed from the reality emerging from the heart of the publishing industry in the 21st Century.
New releases of novels are in the spotlight of bookstores for little more than six weeks-- a hurricane often takes longer to sweep from open seas, to be assuaged by land, than it takes for a novel to recede from the limelight in bookstores. Authors are then expected to promote sales of their novels through book signings appearances, or promotion of one kind or another, that is, unless the author’s novel sells on the mere mention of his or her name. For these lucky authors self promotion is seldom necessary.
Any marketing costs money, serious promotion for authors costs serious money when taken into consideration the long road of author appearances. Who pays for travel expenses? Who pays for accommodation and advertising? The list of promotional costs for authors run as tributaries of lightning across starlit skies.
Whether it is a simple bookmark for promotion or an extravagant promotional display for book fairs, or any other marketing avenue available to the publishing industry, it all costs money, unless the author’s good fortune finds their novel on the “best seller” list. Lady luck does play her hand in the publishing game, and the chances of a new author recouping a huge profit from the time and energy it takes to create the story, along with promoting, weighs heavily on the wheel of fortune.
The disgruntled rumble of thunder rolls from centuries past to reverberate from the lips of authors to this day, and with good reason, not only do many authors have limited budgets for promotion they are often not skilled in the art of marketing, thus the need for promotions companies. These again, cost money, but the author seldom understands why they must pay for promotion when they feel it is the publisher’s responsibility to market their books.
For best selling authors this is not a problem, media outlets rush for interviews, delivering free promotion to the publisher’s door, but for those talented authors who are not yet best selling names, promotion sometimes becomes an impossible ask of the creative writer.
If publishers are to place the added responsibility of promotion on authors’ shoulders then it is time for the industry to deliver higher royalty payments, catering to the latest expectations being delivered through the evolution of the Publishing Industry.
Arts Editor & Marketer
Rolling Seas Promotions Pty Ltd
PO Box 262