Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Reality of Promotion, part 2

Last entry, I talked about some of the poor ways promotion is handled by the book publishing industry. How about one more horror story?

Case in point #2: An author friend of mine who has a large number of books out that, while they're not best sellers, are selling well enough for her publisher to keep requesting more. She works hard at promoting, pretty well spending most of what she makes, touring in various parts of the States and Canada.

What has her publisher done for her promotionally in the 10+ years they've been publishing her? Well, other than sending out books to the usual places for review, they've occasionally done up a mounted poster of the cover for her to take out touring with her. They've never sent her anywhere, offered to pay any of her costs, and then to add insult to injury, strongly suggested to her that she might want to hire a book publicist to help her sell more books.

Wait a minute here! Isn't that what the publisher is supposed to do? You might think that all her hard work might get some sort of acknowledgment in the form of additional help for all her hard work. Couple this attitude by one of the major American publishers with a comment another person at this house made to my friend: "we put all the money on authors we know will sell a lot of books, so that we can publish authors like you." Pretty harsh, eh?

Let's get on the positive side here, now: Charles and my resuscitation of the magalog idea. Our spin on a publisher having to spend mega-bucks to put together their own promotional device like this is to ask all the publishers to join in. Each could put up some of the money, buy their own pages and at the same time form some sort of organization as an umbrella group, maybe something like the American Mystery Publishers Association.

The publishers have all sorts of other organizations to cover their interests, lobby Congress, things like that. They would, of course, have complete control of what goes on their pages (although using one graphic designer to keep the look of the publication consistent). A response device would be used, maybe the promise of an e-newsletter in the future, very focused distribution and tracking codes would provide all the feedback possible. Sounds like a really good idea, right?

What kind of response did it get? From the writers, a bit of enthusiasm that waned as soon as the Bouchercon where we were discussing this ended. From the publishers, other than Robert Rosenwald of Poison Pen (a smart man!), there was no response. I mean, no response as in I called five of the biggies in New York, spoke to receptionists, outlining what the call was about (and indicating that I was the president of Crime Writers of Canada), and asking for someone to call back. Not one call. Nada.

Not to be put off, I spoke to some ex-publishing people, book publicists and agents. All said that the idea was a good one financially and promotionally, but all poured cold water on the idea because "these people won't want to help out one another".

Am I missing something here? Aren't they in business to sell books? This would allow them to do something different, potentially very effective (and with the response devices, trackable) and wouldn't cost them a huge whack of cash.

I haven't given up completely on this idea, but I have to get to SOMEONE in the publishing industry who doesn't have blinders on, wants to "think out of the box", not afraid to make a few eyebrows go up because "this isn't the way books are promoted".

Anybody in the publishing industry reading this who wants to talk about the idea, just drop me an email. I promise I won't talk your ear off!

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