Confused Authors: Too Many Services Available?

Guest Post by Irene Watson

I recently received this from an author:

I am not sure what services that I need beyond a review. I have a book signing kit and materials on their way. I have several local events set up. I am pretty sure [subsidy press] is working on a press release. They are making several internal changes within their company and I have literally had 13 different people discuss what stage I am at, what will come next and options for marketing. 

Should I begin with the small package and go from there or is it best to invest in the largest package? I am most interested in having one person talk to me that will read my book and advise me from that point. I have been told so many different avenues that I should pursue, based on the special being run at that moment, that I am now thoroughly confused to be honest.

I am willing to invest what I need to, but I do not want to be taken advantage of either. Perhaps, too many options have been tossed at me and I am beginning to feel confused as to what I truly need to do next

I’ve heard this so many times and I’m sure, you as an author, can relate to these words. There is a saying that goes “get the biggest bang for your buck” but the problem is, there are many options for that designated buck and many people want it.

If you are an author that used a subsidy press you will find that some of them will inundate you with all the promotional packages that they have to offer…and they sure do sound great.  But wait, they want how much???  Did she say $2500 for a one minute video that I can get for less than a hundred dollars elsewhere? But wait again…they will distribute the video to 200,000 potential customers.  Okay, so that sounds really attractive but is this distribution worth $2400? And, who are these potential customers?

Or should you get a “standard review” for $395 in about 9 weeks, or should you pay an extra $100 and get it in 5 weeks.  But wait…all you get is a review.  That’s it. They don’t post the review anywhere except on their own site.  They do say “[Site removed] critics have written for The New York Times, Washington Post and more; others are editors at publishing houses like Random House. This is why, more than any other source, a [site removed] endorsement is a self publisher’s red hot ticket to reader and industry-wide attention!”    Looking over the page where the reviews are posted gives me an indication you don’t get much except a review for your buck.  And, not only that, the reviews are done by a “no name” reviewer so we can’t even check if the specific reviewer is as qualified as they say. Further checking I find there is no SEO for the page and it’s a running page of reviews. No cross referencing, no index, nothing.  I’m wondering what the attraction is with this offer because I know of several subsidy presses that have contracted this site to give reviews for their authors.  I think they have a good sales person that promised the moon for a lot of bucks.

Or should you pay $999 to have 12 press releases sent out to a “customized database”? Or should you pay $1999 to be promoted to 500 venues to “assist you with securing speaking engagements”?  Or should you contract a publicist for a three-month period to the tune of $12,000 to $15,000, with no guarantees?

Yes, it is confusing and I can confidently say that each one will give you a good sales pitch as to why their service is so good and you should use it.   But, is it really what you need?  Deciding what you need is not easy especially with so many telling you what you need.  I’ve never been able to understand how someone else can decide for you what you actually need.

You may find this statement from me, shall we say, “interesting,” considering I’m in the business of selling publicity packages.  Yes, I am selling them but there is no way I can tell you what you need to purchase.  I can certainly make suggestions and offer advice but to tell you what you need would be very highly righteous of me.  I don’t know about you but that kind of stuff starts crossing the ethics line for me.

So what do you do? First of all, you need to consider what your budget is for marketing your book.  If it’s only $3000 why would you blow the whole enchilada on a video that you wouldn’t have any money left to market it with?   The next thing is to research what is available and ask a LOT of questions.  Choose someone that has credibility and is an open book (pun intended) by being upfront with their pricing but watch out for red flags.  I’m being reminded of an author that was promised all kinds of publicity only to sell 6 books. It ended up it costing him $995.00 per book.  If someone promises you results run the opposite way!  It ain’t gonna happen.  The only thing that can be guaranteed is something physical…like a review, or posting it on sites, or featuring you on a website.  Even that becomes iffy and you should always follow up.  I know of a site that offers books videos for less than $100 and promises to distribute it to 100 “high-traffic video channels” yet when the authors have asked for the list of links where their trailer shows up some are told it is proprietary information. Others have been told they will get a list but it never appears. Huh?  To me it actually means “we didn’t distribute it anywhere.” 

Yes, it’s confusing.  What do you find most confusing when deciding what marketing you should do?  How did you handle it?  Comments please!

Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews  of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity  and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.



Posted on June 26, 2011, in Publicity & Writing, Writing & Publishing. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. As a new author, I had become quiet overwhelmed and confused as to what marketing services that I should invest in for my book. After investing the largest sum of my money into the actual publishing of the book, I was left with a frugal amount for promotion and marketing. I had been given so many options that I was now beleaguered as what to do next. I almost became frozen from fear and decided to do nothing until I felt at peace with the decision making process. After writing a letter to Irene Watson explaining my dilemma to her, she advised me to look over my options, take my budget into consideration and “do what resonates” with me. She even suggested that I look at other sites than her very own. I spent the next few weeks literally researching every option available, what service for what price through which company. To say there is an abundance of options available is an understatement. There are many sites offering a vast number of ways to do what the author desires most, to make your book recognized so that readers know it is available for purchase. Like it or not, this often takes more than a grass roots marketing campaign and a few dollars. By the time your book has reached this stage, you have so much of yourself invested that you have come too far not to take the marketing step very seriously. Do I believe in following my gut? You bet I do. After all, the subject matter of my book of memoirs is about following your inner knowing. I had resigned to a simple prayer on Sunday night before going to bed. I had narrowed my options down to beginning with a book review. My prayer, being more of an affirmation, went something like this, “I will be shown tomorrow who I need to send my book to for a review. I will be shown the best way first thing in the morning.” Upon waking, as I do every morning, I did morning devotions then begin to look over my incoming e mails. The first one to pop up was, Irene Watson Reader Views. At the top of the page read, Editorial: Confused Authors: Too Many Services Available. Wow, I thought to myself, this is just what I needed to read this morning! As I began reading, I thought out loud, this sounds oddly familiar. By the time I had finished the first paragraph, I realized that the letter I was reading was my very own. It was the letter that I had sent to Irene weeks prior to this morning. It was a no-brainer! Not only was my question being answered, but my affirmation had showed up as Divine Intelligence through this editorial. All it really took was a fundamental approach that writers use when they become overwhelmed with the process of writing itself. Take a few moments to step away from the project, breathe, and regroup. The block that we often run into can simply vanish and we can then again flow in the creative stream of consciousness. I am on target now. I am going to submit my book for review this week and feel a perfect peace about sending my book to Reader Views. Not only did Irene personally answer my letter a few weeks ago when I sent it, she referred me to her link to review all the services available with their prices in a non- pushy way. Perhaps, her approach, which was one saturated with integrity, was so profoundly ethical that I was almost taken back by it. Thank you, Irene. I look forward to having my book read by your reviewers and having your company provide me with the services that I need. I am confident this is the path that I should embark on. I bet my bottom dollar on it!

  2. Another great article Irene! I am delighted that I am not an author- too confusing when it comes to promoting one's book.Regards,Norm

  3. Coming up with a marketing plan is one of the toughest parts of writing a book. That saying that writing/publishing is only about 20% of the work is very accurate. Then, when there are so many choices available in so many different price points, it's easy for an author to wonder what they should invest in. Sometimes "you get what you pay for", but other times, you are just paying a higher dollar price tag for the exact same service.I will have to respectfully disagree just a bit with Irene on the fact that no one else can tell you what you need. The reason I say this is because if you are an author, you are good at writing books. You know that you want to sell books, but you don't quite know how to go about it. You need to market your book, but you don't know that much about marketing. A consultant can certainly help. I think it is important to have your goals thoroughly outlined and you address that with the marketing consultant. I would also suggest that authors shop around. Look at about 3 different services before making your final decision.

  4. Hi Irene,Thanks again for bringing up pertinent subjects in all of your editorials.The subject of author services is most important to independent authors and publishers. Sadly I learned the hard way with my first independently published book. I had mediocre to poor advice through the entire process, but what I learned saved me thousands of dollars in my next publication, and will save even more on my upcoming book. I "bought" all the publicity promises that were emblazoned on the website of the self-publisher service. That meant about $1500 for phone calls to TV and radio stations to solicit author interviews, which netted me zero interviews. Another $2,500 for press releases, 99% of which ended up in waste baskets unread. When is the last time you've read a press release? And if you read one, did you buy the book?All in all, I had a virtual 100% failure rate with paid publicity until I discovered smaller blog services, independent review services, and do-it-yourself publicity work. Within 3 months I had entered my book in 3 literary award programs, and was awarded the Silver Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards (2008), and Honorable Mention in the New England Book Festival for best books of the Holiday Season (2008). I also enlisted a product placement service, which placed my book in two TV shows (One of them was "House."), and one movie, and had the book placed in 100 VIP gift bags at the LA Lakers victory celebration. I remember speaking with one author who told me that the second job of an author is to learn marketing. I agree wholeheartedly. Part of that is to learn how to enlist good services and good reviews, and another part is to participate in library readings, book clubs, classroom visits, etc. This is a cumulative investment of your time and personality, which may not pay off quickly. Don't expect your money to go off and do your job. Nobody cares about your book as much as you do.

  5. Hi, Irene. I just read the article above and have to agree that you must have a marketing strategy or some kind of promotional for your book. I am familiar with these publishing companies offering you all those fantastic packages that promise to reach everyone out there from New York to California, and even the movie industry. But investing "big bucks" dose not mean they're going to want your book or story. I get emails, text-messages, and phone calls from a self-published service, that I once used, constantly—I told them to stop. They did their job and published my books (two) and I went on and promoted and did my own advertising which did give me some results. Authors need to get involved in book signings, clubs, conference meeting, if you can, go to conventions, or any functions that will help you meet the right people. This is something that I enjoy doing. It's word of mouth. And the internet is full of free advertising. A website is also a must for any author. You Must Have One. I am about to finish my next book and will looking closely at the e-books market as well as traditional publishing. I think that these some of these self-published companies are taking advantage of authors who are desperately trying to get their books out there. And if you do go self-published, make sure you check out their sites and see what books they have published; click on the books, check out the cover design, and look inside at the contents. Good luck and be aware.

  6. Irene, I believe we're at the chaotic beginning of services provided to independently publishing authors. Some of the thousands of services out there will deliver and succeed. I hope yours does because you seem honest. Most of those would-be services, though, will neither deliver nor succeed. That's how capitalism works. Those who spend their money on the latter are probably throwing it away and will never see it again. Some can afford the loss; some can't. My advice to independently publishing writers: dismiss every "guarantee" you see; take a lot of time studying and comparing the services that appear to be honest like Irene's; if you have a limited budget, take even more time. And, of course, never give up. Forgive an agnostic for sounding biblical, but I'm confident this too shall pass.

  7. Great article! There are so many marketing/promotional strategies available, but one of the best I've found is the book trailer you did for Hot Issues, Cool Choices, my book on bullying. It has received almost 900 views so far, and I receive comments about the trailer almost every day. If we're talking about getting the "biggest bang for our buck," then your book trailers would probably be my #1 choice–they're very professional, they're reasonably priced, and they're very effective! Thanks for a great product!

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