Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Now on publishing...

So you can still read the post I contributed about 10 minutes ago, but this one is new and fresh and on publishing more specifically, for those keeping score.

I followed a link from my friend Jason's blog - he had linked this without writing on it. It's a New York Times piece by Rachel Donadio on that mysterious time between turning in your manuscripts, authors, and seeing a final book. No, no, not the production - no one gives a fig about that. About the publicity and marketing, rather. Production... that is sooooo 20th century. To read this article, in fact, one might think production involves someone hitting a bit button that says PRINT whenever the publicity and marketing is ready. Production directors everywhere must be groaning.

Anyhow, the article is making the point that book publishers still rely on good ol' fashioned word-of-mouth to sell books, despite technology making our world, certainly our culture, move at quicker and quicker speeds. But of course, that speed catches up with us book folk as soon as the book hits the shelf:
“For all the weeks and months that go into the gestation of the book, we’re up against the so-called lettuce test once we get into the stores,” Kirshbaum said. “If we don’t get sales fast, the book wilts.”
(that's Laurence Kirshbaum, a literary agent and former chairman of the Time Warner Book Group)

Sorry writers, 'tis true. So trust your publisher, while you're twiddling your thumbs and waking up in cold sweats and not getting voicemails returned, they're (hopefully) busy at work creating buzz, with sales reps and booksellers and media, and it's tedious, labor-intensive work.

In fact, everyone benefits if you, writer person, offer to lend a hand.

If you can't trust your publisher, I'm not sure what to tell you. If they never call back, if they get your book out too quickly, or if they delay it without due consideration, you may be in some trouble. This makes me wonder about a new profession: author counselor. I guess as an Editor that's already part of my job description, though.

I really wish they had said a word about production, though. I heard from someone that worked at a big NY house that they had books they'd leave in the warehouse, printed up, just waiting to fill a hole in their publishing schedule by putting it out. That's crazy. For most publishers, they keep things moving, and if they stand behind a book, they really are working feverishly to get a readership ready, to get people psyched for the book so they grab it when it's out. You have to prepare culture for a new addition. This is something new indie publishers should consider when they get ready to launch - are there readers waiting? And how can I both let booksellers know of them and let them know of our launch? And it is ridiculously old-fashioned.

As is much of my language in this post. My apologies for the Dickensian moments.

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