Friday, October 29, 2004

A Call to (Published) Writers

[Replies, please, to ]

I want to hear from authors about how their books are published & marketed (specifically, those whose careers have included more than one publisher). OK, laugh if you must--I predict that 97% of your comments would've sent Lenny Bruce to prison back in 1967. (Thank our lucky stars for these more progressive times!) But the (human) database available to us is considerable, and I'd like your help in tapping into it--both through the details of your own experience, and also in terms of your passing this along to other writers you think might be willing to participate.

Here are the rules: Authors will NOT be named. Publishers will NOT be named. Sales figures (if you choose to provide them) will NOT be included, except perhaps in a relative sense--if you tell me Book 1 sold 10,000 copies and Book 2 sold 11,000 copies, I'll call that a 10% increase, without specifying the base figure. Michael Connelly, James Bradley, Margaret Atwood, Nick Hornby, Karen Armstrong--if you're listening (yeah, right!), you have my word of honor that I won't sell you out to the National Enquirer. [I know what you're thinking--tough to enforce, this word of honor stuff, when you're dealing with somebody who's not using his own name!]

Here are the questions--again, for writers who've had more than one publisher.

1. what (if anything) did publisher #1 do especially well as pertains to the positioning/marketing of you/your book(s)?
1A. how many books did you publish there?
1B. if more than one, did your sales increase/decrease/stay the same?
2. why did you switch publishers?
3. did your sales on the first book w/ publisher #2 increase/decrease/stay the same relative to publisher #1?
4. did you do subsequent books with publisher #2?
4A. if so, did your sales increase/decrease/stay the same?
5. when you switched publishers, were any promises made (or implied) about a bigger marketing effort than what you'd had before?
5A. if so, list them; and to what extent did they deliver on their promises?
6. promises notwithstanding, what differences did you see in the efforts between pub #1 and pub #2?
7. what (if anything) did publisher #2 do especially well?
8. are you glad you switched publishers? why/why not?
9. based on your own experience, what one or two things have had the most impact on the successes you've achieved so far?
10. what are the one or two things that have had the least impact--waste of time, waste of money, etc?
11. knowing what you know now, what strategies would you most want to see implemented for your next book?
12. any other comments?

THANK YOU! Replies to


Anonymous said...

What about also looking at contract issues? I have seen publishers scrap their author-friendly contracts in favor of contracts that have clauses that demand that copyright be held in the publisher's rather than the author's name, that the author assign title/trademark rights to the publisher, that would allow the publisher to do subsequent editions of the author's book with a different author if the original author were unavailable or unwilling to accept the contract terms being offered the next time around, that chop away at royalty rates, that insert warranty/indemnity clauses that you'd be crazy to sign, etc. Sometimes you have to switch publishers because you can't afford to do business with them any longer, given the contract that's being presented to you.

Libertarian Girl said...

I try to know as little about contracts as I can get away with--but I know enough to know you definitely shouldn't be doing business with a publisher that insists on the copyright being in the publisher's name, not the author's. In the book trade, copyright belongs to you--end of story.

Your other issues suggest that you're working without an agent. If that's the case, I'd advise you hire a lawyer to look at your contracts before you sign them.

Keep in mind that all contract "boiler-plate" is designed by the publisher and so, generally, looks to gain as many advantages for the publisher as possible--if you'll allow them. Think of the publisher as the used car salesman, and the contract as the sticker price. It's what he'd LIKE to get, but he generally expects there'll be some negotiating done. If you're doing this solo, I suggest you simply delete any language that seems wholly unreasonable. Delete it, initial the change on all copies of the contract, and sign it with language you can live with.

Anonymous said...

How much response are you getting on this? I'm asking because I wrote it all down, then got chilly feet. What if I know you? What if mortification sets in, etc.?

Libertarian Girl said...

Dear Anonymous w/ the Cold Feet,

I recommend socks and Xanax, not necessarily in that order--and then hit SEND and be done with it. You're already a published writer; what further humiliation could there be in store for you that you haven't already experienced ten-fold?

Response so far has run at about 116%. I'm not supposed to name names, but (since this is just between us) a few of the respondents include Bernard Marmalade, Henry Scott Thurow, Patrick O'Briarpatch, and Ralph Waldo Energizer. In other words: you are apparently the only writer (living or dead) who's had any hestitation whatsoever about sharing your most intimate details with an utter (and un-named) stranger. So let peer pressure be your guide and send me your comments. I give you my most sincere pseudonymous promise to protect your identity.

As to mortification--ah, mortification!--that's something that we publishing types know nothing of, swaddled as we are in our cashmere sweaters and single-malt scotches, sitting by the hearth at our country estates with nothing to worry about except, perhaps, whether or not to add another log to the fire...

Anonymous said...

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More business marketing information you can use.

A VOCATION OF UNHAPPINESS [Courtesy Georges Simenon (1903-1985)]

"Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy."

PRACTICAL MARKETING [Courtesy Zornhau, 2005]

"They should put the 1st couple of pages up in subway adverts. Having read them several times, you'd feel compelled to try the book - if it was any good."

PLATE OF SHRIMP [Courtesy Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, circa 1984]

"A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realize that there's this like lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. I'll give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say like "plate" or "shrimp" or "plate of shrimp" out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness."