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Five Things Your Publisher Won't Tell You

Five Things Your Publisher Won't Tell You
by Fern Reiss, CEO,

There are many, many good reasons to seek a large publisher for your book. But there are also many reasons why writers, who’ve danced in jubilation at landing a big publisher, aren’t laughing anymore even just a few months after their book comes out. You can get more information on your other publishing options at, but in the meantime, here are five things your publisher won’t tell you:

We do no publicity. Ten years ago, publishers did some marketing for books. Today, even the biggest and best do almost none. (They send out advance galleys, and wait to see if anyone is interested. Then they focus all their publicity on the books that look like they’re going to hit the big-time.) So if you want your book to fly off bookstore shelves, guess who’s going to have to do all the publicity? You got it.

Your book has 4 months. If your book doesn’t sell in the first four months of bookstore life, it gets remaindered, and disappears from bookstore shelves. Unless you hit the ground running with publicity, your book could be at Buck a Book almost before you’ve held your book party.

95% of books don’t pay back their advance. You know that royalty that’s supposed to kick in as soon as you’ve accrued in sales as they’ve already paid you in advance? Fergeddaboutit. These days, very few books pay back their advance, according to Publishers Weekly. So what you get up front is usually all you ever see.

Traditional publishing is slooooooow. Unless you’ve got a political tell-all, your book is going to spend two to three years wending its way to the bookstores. You need to be sure your topic won’t wilt in that time. And you need to be sure you’re still going to be interested in publicizing it three years from now.

If you screw up on your first book, you’re dead in the water. If you do well with your first book, publishers will be eager to see your next title. But if you don’t sell a lot of books, your publisher might not be returning your phonecalls when it comes time to peddle your second book. The pressure is on.

Nothing can replace the cachet of having published with a traditional publisher. But if it’s money or bookstore shelf-life you’re looking for, look elsewhere. And be prepared to do a lot of publicity.


Fern Reiss is CEO of ( and ( and the author of the books, The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days, The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days, and The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days as well as several other award-winning books.  She is also the Director of the International Association of Writers ( providing publicity vehicles to writers worldwide. She also runs The Expertizing® Publicity Forum where you can pitch your book or business directly to journalists; more information at  Sign up for her complimentary newsletter at

Copyright © 2011 Fern Reiss


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