Those of you who have visited my blog before may already know that I was offered two weeks work experience with Penguin Random House in London. The introductory post for that can be found here: I’m going on an adventure: Work Experience @ Penguin in Editorial! I worked with Penguin’s Vintage branch for two weeks from the 13th-24th March. As part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, hosted by Raimey Gallant here:
I decided to summarise what I learned about the editorial process.
I hope that my experiences will provide a useful insight into how one of the big five publishers works. Last time, I covered Agents and Cover design. This time, I will take a look at marketing and how authors are paid in traditional publishing.
Part Three: Marketing and Money
My biggest argument for pursuing self publishing before my work experience was that, apparently, in traditional publishing, the author is expected to do most of the marketing anyway. I figured if I have to do most of the work, I may as well cut out the middle man and go it alone.
I decided to ask Penguin about the marketing they offer authors.
Penguin have a whole department dedicated to marketing, and another to publicity. They pay the author a lump sum in advance for their work, and they want your book to succeed so they can recuperate the initial cost and start to profit.
What marketing/publicity departments do:
Marketing and publicity techniques are numerous, and include:
Billboards/Adverts at train stations:
One of the coolest techniques I saw during my work experience were the billboards for Timothy Snyder’s, ‘On Tyranny.’ The book was advertised using a series of 20 posters, one for each chapter, on a single street in London: On Tyranny Posters
Newspaper and magazine adverts
Sending out proofs to gather reviews and quotes:
The publicity department send proofs to newspapers, TV, websites, authors and bloggers, and hope they will review the book or feature the author. Reviews are published around the release date, and quotes/endorsements are added to the cover.
Submitting your book to contests and book clubs:
For some books, the marketing department will try to get them featured in Richard and Judy’s book club, which generates a lot of publicity in the UK.
Writing copy: For newsletters, website, magazines, adverts, etc:
Penguin have many email subscribers, and latest book releases feature in their newsletters.
Twitter and internet adverts:
Penguin have a huge following on Twitter. They tweet about new books, interviews with authors, special features, and interesting articles about books and writing in general.
Creating an author page on their website:
Every author Penguin publishes has a page on their website: Penguin Authors. It includes links to books, the authors website and social media, a biography, videos and latest articles.
A publisher aims to get your book into key shops, like Waterstones in the UK. They also make sure listings are correct on Amazon, and design and format the e-book version.
A publisher will handle metadata: Choosing the right keywords so your book shows up in google searches and on Amazon. More on metadata another time.
The publicity department will arrange author tours, blog tours, signings, events, and readings to generate a buzz around new books.
Marketing departments will also watch sales, to see which strategies work.
An indication of how much marketing goes on? The marketing and publicity departments were too busy to sit down with me and show me how things worked during my experience!
The marketing department looks after numerous books, so they can only give any one book so much attention. It is definitely worth doing your own marketing to supplement the marketing your publisher does. After all, no one knows your book better than you do!
I’m not published yet, so I can only go on what I observed. It would be interesting to hear experiences from published authors about marketing before, during, and after launch.
Marketing doesn’t always work or reach everyone. Until a new friend lent me the book, I was convinced that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was on stage only!
Some days, I live under a rock. Fancy TV adverts, bill boards, and magazine articles may seem impressive, a good point in favour of traditional publishing, but they don’t always work. Thinking about the market you are trying to reach, and what reaches them, is far more important!
Show me the money: How authors are paid in traditional publishing.
In the big 5 publishing houses, there are two types of payments:
When a submission generates interest from a publisher, the author is offered a lump sum in advance for their work. The figures I saw were between £2000-£10000 ($ 2500-12500). Established popular authors generate higher offers, especially if more than one publishing house is interested in their work.
An agent will take a cut of this lump sum. (15-20%)
Once a book sells enough copies to cover the advance paid, an author’s work becomes eligible for royalties. Royalties at Penguin are about 8-12% of RRP: On a cover price of £7.99, an author makes roughly 79p/1USD per book sold. Your agent also takes commission on royalties.
Not only is traditional publishing competitive, one editor admitted most authors don’t earn a lot.
With self publishing, profit margins have the potential to be higher if you get the marketing right and your book sells well. The drawback? You have to do everything yourself, and, if printing, you have to make an upfront investment. With traditional publishing, the publishing house makes the investment, and, they pay you!
On my lunch breaks, I sat by the river across from the MI6 building playing Pokemon Go and writing stories. I was surprised how quiet my sunny lunchtime spot was, given how big London is. (Although I did take lunch later than the others because I forget to eat when I’m distracted!)
As someone from a tiny town, the underground tube at rush hour was overwhelming because of how overcrowded it was. The system is mostly good though, and a cheap way to travel. It can seem daunting at first, but even someone with no sense of direction like me managed!
I hope that my insights into publishing proved useful. If any one is interested in doing work experience at Penguin UK, applications for August/September are now open until the 25th June. It’s not just editorial, you can also do work experience in marketing, publicity, rights and international sales: Work experience: Details & Apply
What is your experience with marketing? How much input did your publisher have? Are the royalties and payments more or less what you expected? How do you spend your lunch hour? Let me know in the comments below!