Is Your Publisher Selling You Worthless Marketing Products and Services?

worthlessI received the following email last week:

Since my initial entrance into the World of Writing, as I like to call it, I have not generated any sales for my four novels, including the one we, (my wife and I) paid a POD Company $650.00, for what turned out to be a rather bogus list of media outlets and bookstores with which to try and get my latest novel into. I am not looking to get rich overnight, but it would be wonderful to walk into a bookstore and see my novels displayed upon a self.

If you’re wanting to see your book in bookstores, the best way to do that is to get an agent and then try to land a traditional publishing contract. While many POD companies are happy to sell you useless lists of bookstores, you need to understand that most of them are always looking for more ways to separate authors from their money. Let’s face it – that’s their revenue model. (At Booklocker.com, we don’t sell any marketing products or services to our authors. Our advice and contacts are free because, when a bookstore buys a book, or a magazine reviews a book, or a book gets any publicity at all, that benefits the author AND the publisher.)

I am stunned whenever I see those huge lists of incredibly expensive and worthless “marketing” products and services offered by most of the POD companies. Honestly, who needs 25 coffee cups with their book’s cover on them? Believe me, coffee cups don’t generate sales. Likewise, buying a list of bookstore names and addresses (you can find bookstore info. online for free if you need it, and it costs nothing for your publisher to email that list to you), is also a waste of money. You can bet the bookstores appearing on that list are being deluged with pitches from your publisher’s other authors as well. We actually appear on some of these lists and we’re not even a brick and mortar bookstore. Believe me, all those spams, junk faxes and junk mail end up in the trash. That gives you an idea how great those “lists” are.

And then there’s that New York Times ad that one POD publisher sells. You pay them $2650 for a small in the New York Times…and your small ad is surrounded by small ads from other authors who have also paid $2650. The ad is also, of course, for the POD Publisher’s services (soliciting even more authors, some of whom will likely also eventually buy that $2650 New York Times ad). They say they allow ads for 12 books per ad. However, the sample they have on their website features 14 book ads. So, giving them the benefit of the doubt, they earn $2650 x 12. That’s $31,800 gross for each one-page ad they run in the New York Times. I wonder how much they have to pay for their portion of the ad? Hmm… If I had to wager a guess, I bet they earn more in fees from new authors than they earn in book sales from those ads.

I’d be curious to hear from authors who have forked over that $2650, authors who are willing to tell me how many sales resulted from that “advertisement.” And, since I’m always wary of fraudulent emails coming from the POD publishers themselves (we get those all the time), the author will need to prove who they are and I’ll be checking on the actual sales of that title.

I suggest not paying your publisher any more money for their marketing products and services and instead purchasing good books on how to sell books. And, to get your book into bookstores, you should really consider trying to land a traditional contract. However, you should know that even then, most bookstores still won’t stock your book. Bookstores just aren’t big enough to stock every book in print, even the traditionally published ones. Many authors make a lot more money concentrating on one-on-one marketing online, directly to their readers, via a well-designed and informative website and a regularly-published ezine.

If you are tempted to buy that list of bookstores (which the publisher could easily email to all authors for nothing) or that New York Times ad, ask yourself this. If these products/services really do sell lots of books, which benefits the publisher, why is the publisher charging you for these items?

Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing emag for writers that features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is one of the top-rated POD publishers in the industry.