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January, 2008

Word Wright

Neubauer's Nuggets
No problem is too big or too small for our Joan
By  Joan R. Neubauer

Each month, award-winning author Joan R. Neubauer answers questions from you, her readers. She will answer questions about writing, promotion, publishing, and any other aspect of the publishing industry you can think of. Send your questions to her at Subject: Neubauer Nuggets, and maybe yours will be the question she answers next month.

Dear Joan,

I just sold my first book, but now it occurs to me that I didn't see anything in the contract that mentioned any marketing budget on the part of the publisher. What can I reasonably expect the publisher to do for me in the way of marketing?
El Paso, Texas

Dear Vienney,

Welcome to the real world. Unless a publisher has made a huge investment in you and your book (big production costs and big advances), they will do very little for you. The burden of marketing and promotion falls to you as the author.

If you wonder why you should bother, the best reason I can give you is your next book. If you don't promote, you won't sell many copies. If you don't sell enough copies to make back the investment the publisher has made in you, they won't want to sign you up for a second book. So don't look for a marketing budget in your contract, look to yourself.

Look for every and all opportunities to make a presentation, do a book signing, get your name and the name of your book out there in the spotlight. If this book makes people think of you as an expert in any field, then market yourself as an expert to the media, especially if something happens in the news that makes information you have to offer pertinent.

Attend city or town events armed with copies of your book, press kits, and bookmarks. Give bookmarks away like candy. Tell people about your book. Talk to anyone from the press and give them a press kit. Talk to book sellers and other retailers and ask if they will carry your book and host an event for you.

Book yourself as a speaker at service organizations, chambers of commerce, writers groups, and in short, any place that has a speaker. You'll be able to sell your book at those places. Attend book festivals to promote your book. Get newspapers write a feature about you when you go anywhere to do an event. Try to book two or more events in the same place to make your travel more efficient.

Use your imagination, and never discount an opportunity or any person. You never know who can help you promote.

Dear Joan,

I've been freelancing for several years now and have published three books with royalty houses. I understand that my publisher will do little or nothing for me in the way of promotion, but promotion is an expensive proposition. Unless I sell lots of books, I can't continue to eat the costs of promotion. What can I do to defray these costs?
-Steve Pantoleano
New York

Dear Steve,

Congratulations on your success and credits, and you're right. You can only go so long absorbing the costs of promotion before it no longer pays. However, by now, you should have earned enough of a reputation as an author and speaker to ask for some payment when you go somewhere to make a presentation.

Most groups can't pay a huge amount of money; however, you certainly should be able to negotiate an honorarium of $50 to $100 per group in addition to selling books. You are after all an expert and a dynamic speaker, right? Remind event organizers of your expertise, experience, and ability to wow an audience, and then get down to negotiating.

If, for example, you have to travel 100 miles to a city for an event, try to book a few more presentations in that same city or nearby cities. If you get lucky and schedule four events over two days, and have negotiated a fee of $100 at each event, that would pay you $400 in speaking fees, plus whatever books you could sell. That should cover your costs plus give you a bit of a profit. Better yet, if you have to travel 100 miles to your events, try to book a paying gig on your way to or from those events. You won't add any miles to your trip and you probably won't have to spend an extra night in a motel.

Of course with larger groups or farther travel, you could negotiate larger fees. The cost of gas these days is very high, and you could very honestly use that as one of the reasons you charge. Network with other writers who are promoting their books. I have found that others have ideas I have never thought of and have found them most helpful. Then get out there and make some money.

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Joan R. Neubauer is an author, publisher, public speaker, and editor. Her latest books are A Serpent’s Tooth and Shadow Dancing. For information on topics that Joan speaks about or to invite her to speak to your organization, you can contact her at

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