Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
My previous post explained how there are only four types of authors in the world, and we looked at the strange, but successful, group known as the Dead Author category. These authors are able to sell books without giving any personal marketing effort because they’re…dead. That may seem strange, but there’s an even stranger kind of author – the living dead. I call them Authors Who Play Dead, and they are the scariest group of the four categories.
Authors who play dead can also be classified as “zombie writers.” They aren’t dead, but they walk around lifeless, groaning, and suck the life out of a publishing house. These authors “play dead” because they refuse to give marketing effort, act apathetic towards promoting their books, and let their book sales begin to wither.
Some zombie authors were formerly successful bestsellers. But, they handled success in a negative fashion, which transformed them into lazy, egocentric individuals whose creativity and ambition wasted away. Others come from the Unsuccessful Author category where they got tired of trying and completely shut down. They may continue writing new books, but there’s little energy in their writing or marketing. Zombie writers drag down a publishing house by feeding on the company’s personnel and financial resources and give nothing in return.
I’m always in favor of offering authors a second chance to succeed. In my experience, however, most authors who play dead are best left for dead. I rarely see an author in this category make a striking change and resurrect their career. Instead, the zombie writer tends to carry an indifferent attitude that becomes their fate. They’d rather listen to themselves moan about their problems, rather than seek advice from others and change their ways.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Likewise, you can tell zombie writers how to improve, but you can’t make them execute. Lasting success must come from an internal motivation.
If there’s not much hope for authors who play dead, then what’s a publisher to do? Treat them as if they were already dead. When contractually tied to a writer who acts like a zombie, most attempts to revive that person will be futile. Change tactics and adopt marketing strategies from the Dead Author category. Leave zombie authors alone to prevent them from becoming a bigger burden on your time and resources.
I recently consulted with a publisher where the book sales of a top author had steadily slipped by over 10% for the previous three years. The author was starting to turn into a zombie. He complained about his shrinking sales, but ignored all requests to help with the marketing campaign. This author still had a multi-book contract, though, and the publisher was in a quandary. I encouraged the publisher to leave the author alone and adopt marketing tactics from the Dead Author category. Over the next year, we promoted the author’s books without his participation and were able to increase sales by over 8%! By keeping the zombie at bay, we produced results and kept our sanity.
This blog series has explained the four types of authors in the world and the proper approach publishers need to take with each type. Consider these questions:
1. What percentage of each category do you have at your publishing house?
2. Are you out of balance in one category more than the others?
3. Are you letting too many unsuccessful or zombie writers feed off of your resources?
4. Are you investing to help raise the bar for your successful authors?
Half the battle is correctly classifying your authors and approaching them from the proper perspective. As long as authors are willing to give effort, they can be trained to improve their sales. Not every author can be a bestseller, but that’s not necessary to grow your publishing house. Raising the bar across the board by even a modest amount can generate hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of additional dollars.
By the way, there are only TWO kinds of publishers: those who can survive the future with Amazon and those who can’t compete. Supporting your authors by investing in their ability to become better marketers can be your secret weapon to stay alive and thrive – no matter what Amazon does. Successful authors are able to build the closest relationship with readers. And, he who owns the reader ultimately owns the sale.
You know the four types of authors in the world. What type of publisher will you be?