Dear Miss Snark,
It would seem that all the cards point to authors having to be more proactive in their own promotions. Okay, fine.
Assuming we aren't all Lizzie Gruber, even the best efforts of most authors will get them a nice big buzz locally, maybe even regionally. But what about the rest of the nation? How many units sold is considered good enough that a publisher will consider extending another deal to an author?
If an author's ability to promote and market their own work is so important and has a direct impact on sales, what about the flip side of it all - when even the best efforts doesn't move enough units?
Does the publisher take any accountability when a book's sales aren't best-selling or even good-selling?
It's already been drilled into my head that I'll have to promote my snarkilicous buns off to sell my books. But if 90% of the burden is on me and my resources allow me only to build a buzz within a 4-hour car drive..okay, maybe six, that still leaves a heck of a lot of potential readers out of my reach.
When is my best good enough, so that my publisher will say - hey, we like her writing and she tried...Meh, let's go ahead and extend a new deal?
Frettin' the promo circuit,
First of all, your agent has an arsenal of stock phrases to get around bad sales. Some of them even work.
Second, you're assuming that you need national reach to sell "enough". Absolutely not so. If every single one of your 50,000 hardcopies sell in a particular zip code, it's still 50,000 copies.
Third, one word: internet. Even the most remote of authors (hello again Winnemucca!) can reach past the 775 into the 212 via her trusty ISP. If you want to reach readers in far flung ports, well, this blog is a great example of the reach of reader sites. Go click on the fan club link and follow the links to the map of where the Snarklings are located. World wide!
Fourth; Lizzie Grubman isn't a book publicist. I knew that instantly when, queried about which six novels she was taking with her to jail, she said simply "Danielle Steel"
Fifth: you can do a lot of outreach to indie bookstores via phone and email.
Sixth: you can do a lot of outreach to book discussion groups via phone.
Don't worry about this. Yes, you have to do it but it's not the Mt Everest you think it is. It's not a walk in the park either, you'll have some elevations, but one step at a time, and the next thing you know you're over the mountain and into the undiscovered country.