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Jonathan Karp puts authors center front in 12 Steps to Better Book Publishing

April 21, 2009

Tags: book publishing, authors, marketing, editing, publishing process

"We all like to believe we are essential to a book's success, but the truth is, we are a marginal factor. The author, and the book, matter most, followed by the media, booksellers and readers. We're facilitators. The most important decisions we make are at the acquisition and positioning stages. That's where sales and marketing experience is most useful and why those executives should be assigned to specific titles at the outset.



"...authors usually write the best promotional copy (they're writers, after all), and they certainly know their readership best. Yet they are underutilized in the publishing process. Empower them. Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin's Three Cups of Tea, for example, has been sustained by a dynamic author and a multi-year speaking tour, and the hit Twilight series has greatly benefited from Stephenie Meyer's extensive online promotional efforts. At Hachette, I've had a peripheral view of the Twilight phenomenon. It began with an astute, passionate editor and publisher named Megan Tingley, who read the manuscript on an airplane, and made a pre-emptive three-book deal. The readership built gradually, and with the help of much inventive in-house marketing. But everyone within Hachette points to the author as the driving factor in the books' success."



CHECK OUT Jonathan Karp's excellent piece, 12 Steps to Better Book Publishing, from which this quotation is taken (PW 4-20-09).

Comments

  1. April 21, 2009 11:33 AM EDT
    The first part of the paragraph quoted goes like this: "Pay authors to market their work We all know that one of the big functions of today's in-house marketing professional is to explain why the publisher can't afford to do much marketing. So who has the money? Authors, from the advances we pay them. Publishers should contractually require that a part of the advance be allocated to marketing and promotional efforts supervised by the author. Publishers, of course, must also do their important marketing work. But authors usually write the best promotional copy (they're writers, after all), and they certainly know their readership best. Yet they are underutilized in the publishing process. Empower them."

    To which I would add from the author's side: If the advances are tiny (e.g., $12,000 or less), that doesn't cover the time it takes to write the book, and as authors know doing the promotion often seems to take almost as much time as the writing, if it's done well. We know that only we can promote the book successfully. But most of us are scrambling to keep up with the cost of living. We're willing to promote a book and can do so far more successfully if we have the publisher's support (get books to the bookstores near where we're speaking, before our speaking engagement, for example). If the publisher expects everything to happen in the first six weeks of the book's life, and then it's over, we don't have a chance. Building the book's audience takes time. Sustain that support over a slightly longer stretch of time. And support promotion of back list titles, too.
    - A nonfiction writer