They couldn't be more wrong.
If this happened every time someone wrote a book, everyone would write a book. We could all just buy each others' books and become rich and famous. Where do people get this idea? I blame movies and TV shows which show an idealized version of authors who become instantly famous when their book is released. That is about as realistic as most cop shows on TV.
Authors can, and do, become successful. However, it doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't happen the way most authors think it does. Many new authors think their publishers and publicists make them successful. The truth is, the author has to do the heavy lifting.
Listed below I have posted actual comments I have received from new authors, along with an explanation of why the publishing industry just doesn't work the way they think it does. Many are marketing requests demanded by authors who have a (false) impression of how publishing and marketing a book works.
I want to become famous as quickly as possible. How can you make that happen?
If fast is what you want you could always become embroiled in a Washington DC sex scandal, like former Congressman Anthony Weiner, or operate a Ponzi scheme and steal billions of dollars worth of money, like Bernie Madoff. The truth is there is no quick path to fame. Nearly every successful author has worked several years to become an overnight success.
I don't have the time or money to market and promote my book. That's why I signed a publishing contract. I'm sorry, then you just aren't going to sell many books. If you have a publicist or are assigned a marketing rep by your publisher, they will assist you with marketing and promoting your book, but they can't do everything for you. If you are a reader, who do you want to talk to, a publicist or the author?
I have a friend who is also an author, and they didn't have to work to promote their books.
If that is what they told you they aren't being completely honest with you. Every author has to work to promote their books. Mary Higgins Clark is currently doing a book signing tour of supermarkets, and I'm willing to bet she has sold more books than your "friend."
My family didn't get to see my TV ads. Can you run them again? First of all, if you have a publisher that will run TV ads for your book, congratulations! Not many authors get that kind of treatment. However, your publisher isn't trying to impress your family. They are trying to sell books. Your friends and family already know about your book. Your publisher is trying to reach the rest of the readers in the country.
My friends tried to buy my book at Barnes & Noble and the store didn't have it. You must do something! It's up to the bookstore if they will carry your book, not your publisher. If the bookstore feels they can sell your book, they will stock it. Demand determines supply, not the other way around. Start working on building demand for your book, and you'll see it stocked in bookstores. Besides, if your "friend" really wants your book that bad, why don't you sell them one of your copies? The real story is the author thinks their friends and family will be more impressed if they walk into a bookstore and see the book on the shelf. However, if that book gets returned because it didn't sell, you won't be impressed with your royalty statement. Build demand and let the market do its job.
Promoting a book is too much work. I'm just going to let the publisher do everything. First, your publisher won't "do everything" so you'll really be in a tight spot. Second, if it were easy, everyone would publish a book. In the words of J.G. Holland "God gives every bird its food, but he doesn't throw it into its nest." Again, I blame movies that glamorize the life of an author. The truth is, it IS a lot of hard work.
I want my book on (fill in the blank) web site. I don't want to tell you why, I just want it there. Your publisher already has distribution agreements in place, but if they feel placing your book on a certain web site will help sell books, they may try to do it. However, if the web site isn't appropriate for the book (example: placing a secular book on a Christian book web site) forget it.
The bottom line is your publisher is concerned with one thing: selling your book to make a profit and stay in business. They aren't in business to stroke anyone's ego or make anyone famous. Fame and fortune are sometimes the by-products of publishing a book, but the publisher is concerned with making a profit, not making you a celebrity. If doing something is a good business decision (i.e. will help the publisher turn a profit, and in turn, pay an author's royalties) then they will do it. If an author simply wants something out of vanity (to become famous or in order to impress their friends and family) and it doesn't make good business sense then your publisher isn't going to be interested.
The purpose of this post is to demystify the publishing industry a bit. Too many people have the idea that publishing a book is the instant road to fame and fortune. It is a job, just like any other, and it does require work. Expecting to sell tons of books just because they are in print is like expecting to lose 100 pounds just because you bought an exercise DVD. You still have to do the work.