A recent comment on a writing blog caused me to start mumbling under my breath and making impolite mutterings to my cats and furniture. (This is what one does when one is housebound and sick for a long time.) I'm paraphrasing the commenter here, who said something to the effect that s/he missed the good old days of publishing, when writers only had to write the books and publishers marketed them all, but alas, writers no longer live in that world and now we are (wailing and gnashing of teeth!) forced to (horrors!) self-promote!!!
I have news for you: We have never lived in that fantasy world.
Most authors have been responsible for the bulk of their own self-promotion all the way back to Dickens' time. (And Dickens was a master of self-promotion, by the way.) Because publishing brings in such a narrow margin of profit, publishers have always relegated the bulk of their promotional resources to those books that they see as their best opportunity for a return on their investment. And the more money they have invested in the manuscript, the more they're going to want to promote that manuscript. It's pretty simple math.
But authors have always been expected to do their own self-promotion and outreach. It's in every author questionnaire ever sent to an author by a publisher. It's in every conversation an agent has with a potential new client (and if it isn't, it should be): What will you be doing to aid in the promotional efforts for your own work?
It just seems that today I'm hearing writers complain about it a lot more.
Well, stop whining and suck it up. Every job comes with unpleasant tasks, even being a published writer.
When I first started working in bookstores in the early 1980s, new authors came by our tiny little store every week to self-promote, setting up their own signings, and leaving flyers, brochures and sample chapters that they'd created themselves. And might I remind you that this was years before word processors, people. Think about how much time and energy they'd invested. (Have you ever tried using rub-off typesetters letters from film? It's not easy!)
They had elaborate mailing lists - MAIL! ON PAPER! WITH STAMPS! - that they'd use to invite friends, neighbors and business colleagues. (Stamps, people! USPS!) And it worked, because the writers worked their collective asses off.
In 1985, one local writer drove himself to every tiny little bookstore in the San Francisco Bay Area (including ours) to introduce himself to the booksellers and talk about his new fantasy novel about...(wait for it!) cats. The author was Tad Williams. The book was Tailchaser's Song; it's still considered a classic of modern fantasy and - more importantly - it's still selling.
The rise of the Intarweb has only made the author's job that much easier. The marketing tools at your disposal - many of them completely free! - are endless and amazing: blogs, websites, Facebook, Twitter, Good Reads, Library Thing, a million other social networking sites, chat rooms, writers forums, YouTube, Google video, video blogs, podcasts, iTunes, free access to the internet at nearly any library (yeah, you just don't have that excuse anymore so let it go).
You want to create a professional looking postcard to give away? There are places for that, like Vista Print. Another great place, GoCard, will even distribute the postcards for you. Want to create a flyer? Open up MS Word and look at the free templates available. Or go online, where even more free templates are available. Don't know what good marketing or publicity is? Buy a book! There are dozens of great ones out there written by professional PR people designed specifically to help you self-promote. Like this one and this one and this one.
Do any of the millions of creative and positive things that are available for you out there to promote your own book. But what I don't want to hear you doing anymore is moaning about how the writer has to do all the work.
Suck it up, people. Things are hard everywhere and whine-time is officially over.