to the words that Nicola Morgan used in her recent post on "An Awfully Big Blog Adventure"
http://awfullybigblogadventure.blogspot.com/2011/03/dreaded-p-words-nicola-morgan.html and that word is "Perhaps".
Nicola was talking about the work an author is now expected to do "Publicity, Promotion, Profile, Platform". She was talking about being "pro-active" and "paralysed" by the need to do these things. With all of that she suggests that most books sell very few copies.
Nicola is a very pro-active and high profile person. She set up a blog for her novel "Wasted". A lot of her work is done in schools. (She is fortunate that her working life allows her to do so much work in schools. Most authors can only ever dream about that.) She talks about authors who do "blog tours" and other events in order to publicise their books.
There appears to be an expectation on the part of publishers that authors will do all this, the job they once did. They still employ publicists but their budgets are, naturally, limited. Some books will get very little publicity, if any. It is now the author's job to do the publicity and carry the cost of doing it or, if they are fortunate, get the readers to do it for them.
It is the author's job - perhaps. I am not sure it should be the author's job. I believe it should be the publisher's job. The author needs to cooperate certainly but they should not have to set up their own round of school visits, bookshop signings, talks in libraries etc etc.
It is all very time-consuming. It can be physically exhausting. Authors are at risk of being under-valued. It is much more difficult for an author to say "I charge for my time" than it is for a publishing company's publicist to say, "Our fee for an author visit is...". People expect the former, if approached personally, to be flattered enough to do it for nothing. They do not expect the latter to do anything except charge them.
Not all authors are assertive. They may be very fine writers and dreadful public speakers. Some will enjoy the interaction with readers, for others it will be a chore, for still others it will be an experience they dread. Even if they do make the effort there is no guarantee that they will sell any books at all. They will not sell enough copies to cover their costs, perhaps not even the petrol money to get to a local destination.
Yes, an author knows their own "product" but other manufacturers of products employ marketing firms to sell for them. The author has, in a sense, employed the publisher. So I would add that other "p" word and say perhaps an author should do these things but publishers also have a responsibility to publicise - a responsibility to their shareholders and, more importantly, the author. It should be part of the contract. I doubt it will be.
Publishers know they can get away with asking authors to do the work. All they need to do is say "If you do not want to do it we are not interested in your book. There are plenty of other authors out there who will do it."
Perhaps it is time to revolt?