New writers often think if they write a book, the readers will appear and it will sell like the proverbial hot cake. Once the book is written, edited and published, the author is not done. He must work at promoting his book. If he publishes with a small press instead of a NYC publisher, he will probably find the following to be true.
Publisher of Main Street Rag, Scott Douglas says, "Marketing requires manpower. In the small press arena (where Main Street Rag lives) that generally means the author. We give them the tools, directions, and support. Those who take advantage of these do well. Those who do NOT, tend to sit back and blame the publisher for not believing in the book enough or working hard enough to make it a success. The truth is: it’s a matter of manpower and expectations.
Some authors expect the publisher to do all the work after the book has been written and edited. That may work well if they were working with a high-profile publisher, but most of us (small press publishers) do not fall into that category and if an author wants a book to be a success, he/she needs to be proactive."
Kevin Watson of Press 53 also said that the author has to be willing and able to promote and sell his book.
I asked, " Will the publisher help promote the book or offer guidance to the writer as to how to do that?"
Kevin replied. "One reason we work with authors who are widely published is for this reason. Being a small press, we do not have the time, manpower, or finances to also provide marketing. A widely published author typically has connections for book reviews from the magazines and journals where their work has appeared; they also have experience setting up readings, leading workshops, and being featured on panels at conferences and literary festivals.
In the small press world, the author must get out and give readings and meet their readers. The promotion we do is making sure the book is available from all the major online booksellers, mail out review copies to reviewers with whom we have an established relationship, provide a book page on our own website for the book and author, and send emails to our list of subscribers. If an author today is with a small press or, in a lot of cases, even a larger press, the majority of the marketing (scheduling events, etc.) is left up to the author."
I learned from Kevin that widely published means having a goodly number of stories, essays or poems published in well-read magazines or publications that are well known. So, new writers get busy and submit your work. If you receive a rejection, don't give up. Send out the same manuscript to another publication the same day. Don't let it hang around. Keep a list of places where your work is likely to fit. Always have a place to submit if your work is turned down. If it receives many rejections, then take it to your critique group or good writers you know who will tell you the truth about your writing.
That is why I think belonging to a writing community where you receive good and honest feedback is extremely important. That is why I have been a member of NCWN-West for over twenty years. Our groups, prose and poetry, have professional people attending who help me see where I need to make changes. A well-seasoned group understands those who come regularly and wants to help them improve and be the best possible writers.
If you don't have a writing group, start your own as my friend, Karen Holmes, did. She discovered our NCWN-West group here in the mountains and when she went back to Atlanta, she organized one of her own. You will meet others who have similar interests to yours and make long lasting friendships.
The important thing is, don't try to publish a book until you have built a name for yourself as a writer. Don't get the cart before the horse. Many self-published writers get in a big hurry, publish a book that is not yet ready and then are stymied when it comes to selling the book.
The market is flooded with self-published books today and many of the authors probably should have waited until they had taken writing classes and submitted to journals or magazines. In my classes, I tell my students when I think their work is ready to submit. One of my students had her first story published recently in an anthology with 49 other western North Carolina women writers.
Writing is a craft that must be learned and practiced daily or at least often. If the writer expects to build a community of readers, it is never too early to start.