Just how much promotion and marketing is your small or indie press doing for your book?

Granted, I know from past publishers that the author should participate and do promos (per most of my contracts), but I keep hearing from other authors that their publisher "puts their best foot forward" and does lots of promotion and marketing. Oh, really? And how do you know that unless you Google your book's title and perform a thorough online search to find out if that book is listed in any other venues, like review sites, blog fillers, online retailers, display sites, press release services or paid advertising slots? Has your publisher emailed you and alerted you to these showings and announcements? Publishers who actively promote and market your book will have no problem alerting you to the fact. If you see nothing but listings on your publisher's website, Amazon and nowhere else, you've got a problem.

If you see these problems it is an indication that the publisher's "best foot forward" is going to kick the author in the butt and tell him/her to get out there and sell books.

Just like a recent publisher told me what to do upon a new release. "Get out there now and sell books." All I had to do was Google the other publisher's books to see where they appeared. Then I would have to differentiate between what the publisher had listed and what the author had done themselves. Look for the publisher's distributor. If they have no distributor that actively sells to the libraries and bookstores, they have no significant distribution. They are in what amounts to be online book catalogs.

I took great offense to the publisher's direct order and, frankly, am getting fed-up with hearing these push/shove tactics from small press. I've had my share of grief from these amateur printers, and have delighted in tearing up more contracts than I've signed in the past 12 years

A free sales force is the most enticing aspect of why small mom and pop publishers go into business in the first place. They have to make money to survive. That's understandable. A love of books and respect for their authors comes second, IMO. There are exceptions, but the fine lines are still there.

I don't mean to paint this with such a broad brush. I do have some very involved and aggressive publishers who really know what they're doing. But you have to watch out for the others and perform due diligence during research. It took me a while to spot the lazy or insolvent ones by carefully reading their mission statements. Any excessive author promo and marketing commandments that appear in a publisher's mission statement is enough for me to back off and seriously reconsider. I'm talking about above the normal expectations of what an author is expected to do.

If they ask you to outline how many book readings and personal appearances you're scheduling for the year, how much money you're spending on ads, what is the size of your mailing list, how many books are you prepared to buy and resell, or if you can meet their minimum author book purchases, consider yourself hired on as a non-paid traveling book salesperson. If you see any of this in your contract, don't sign it.

If you've signed such a contract too hastily, unaware that these nasty little clauses escaped you, start proceedings to remove yourself from the contract and have your rights returned. (Watch out for termination and buy-out clauses that will cost you money upon contract release).

If you're asked to purchase the publisher's promotion/marketing book--run like hell before contract signing. Don't pay for a catalog listing your book.

If you're asked to compile a friends and family list with email addresses, house addresses or phone numbers--refuse it. This request can pop up after contract signing.

If you get bombarded with instructional emails on how, why, when and where to market and promote your book--beware.

If you're asked to contribute financially to a group ad for the publisher so your book can be included in a major media publication--duck and cover.

If you're asked to guarantee a comprehensive marketing plan and budget--run like hell.

If you are required to do book signings and you must perform a certain amount of signings within any type of a time frame at your travel expense--run like hell. Especially if you're required to purchase your own books for resale.

If you can see that the publisher sells exclusively from their website, with little or no penetration into the other online retail stores or lists--run like hell.

If you are warned that low sales might be grounds for halting paperback publication and going to out-of-print status--run like hell. If fact, if you have to sell a minimum amount of e-books to qualify for a paperback version, give it serious thought.

Read that contract and obtain legal advice, preferably from an attorney that specializes in literary contract (law) clauses and publication rights. If you'd had an agent, he/she would have never let you get into this situation to begin with.