I can write about this from two perspectives: as a published writer and as a publisher. I have almost finished completing a proposal for an academic book. It is actually finished but festering on my computer while I get some distance and revise once more before I send it off. As with all non-fiction, you write a detailed proposal before you write any of the book apart from maybe a sample chapter or two. And yet still more of the questions were about marketing strategies and how I would self-promote than about the content I was going to produce.
Those of us who write fiction are only too well aware that our publishers expect us to get involved. In fact, successful writers can become so caught up in a whirlwind of book signing, local newspaper and radio interviews and readings - and for children’s authors also school visits - that they don’t have time to work on the next one.
Shouldn’t the publisher be organising all of that? Yes, of course, to a certain extent. Yet there are only so many hours in the day and pennies in the budget. There is actually only a small window of opportunity. A publishing house, big or small, has to at some time move on to the next book and the next author. The budget only goes so far: review copies, a book trailer, and submission for prizes. Which is best? Small press or the Big Six? The former has fewer overheads; the latter has a higher profile. Word of mouth is the most effective tool in both cases.
Sadly, the Beatles weren’t the only rock band who were that good in the ‘60’s, much as I love them. Some serendipitous circumstances came together. I’ve read some work submitted for university assignments that is far better than some published work and I’ve read some published work that has made me cringe. There is a lot of subjectivity in this business.
On a personal note I’d like to say that I find it far easier to promote other people’s work than my own. This is where word of mouth – or word of Twitter, Facebook or Amazon review and even words in blogs come in. Quality will out but must be seen. The biggest favour we can do ourselves and each other is to shout about something we find good. Yet, if I shout about my own work too hard, or about what I’ve published, it might not quite be believable. Maybe a way forward is for us always to proactively flag up quality when we see it in others.