Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Making sense of it all

It used to be that an author only needed to write the best book he/she could. That’s a tough enough job right there, isn’t it? Write a good book, find a publisher and the rest would follow.

Over the years — and accelerating as we move into the future — technology, our faster lifestyle, and I suppose, a bit of publishers’ laziness and disarray have all combined to tilt the authorship playing field quite significantly. It’s no longer enough to pen a good book, especially in the crime genre.

Authors have always needed to make themselves available for book signings and appearances (whether on the radio, TV, for readings, whatever) to help in promoting their works, but currently, unless you’re a top drawer name, publishers are increasingly leaving it to their authors to do it all themselves. I’ve even heard of one NY publisher telling authors, “You really should hire yourself a good publicist for this book.”

Excuse me? Correct me if I’m wrong, but my job is to write the book. It’s your job to produce and sell it.

But let’s not get sidetracked.

The publishing industry is floundering over how to reinvent itself for the brave new world we all inhabit. Vicki’s blog entry yesterday points out how book trailers have just not worked. That magic promotional bullet turned out to have wet powder and wouldn’t fire. It was supposed to be a can’t-miss marketing strategy, wasn’t it? It was cutting edge, it was sexy, and it bombed. What do we do now?

Then there are ebooks. To “e” or not to “e”, that is a big question. Are paper books really dead? If we insist on producing them, are we turning our works over to what will be a quaint little cottage industry in a decade?

Does an author website actually do an author any good? Publishers expect them now and they can be damn expensive if you want one with a nice design factor. If you do it on the cheap or try to do it yourself, the results can be a big negative to your career (just like do-it-yourself book trailers). Then there’s ongoing upkeep, fresh content for returning readers, and all that takes time and possibly more cash. And weren’t you supposed to be keeping your nose to the writing grindstone?

Then there’s the inevitable road trip to promote the book. If the author has to pay for it, do the results gained outweigh the cash and time outlay?

And let’s not forget blogs like Type M. Is Type M doing the six of us any good? All authors who seriously want to get ahead are told to create a blog.

Over the next little while, I’m going to take you along on my personal trip as I try to make sense of it all.

Pack warm clothes and bring lots of food. I think we’re going to be gone awhile...


Rick Blechta said...

By the way, I should have asked Type M readers that if they'd like the series to delve into any particular item of interest on the frontiers of book publishing, please let me know.


I'd love to hear from you!

John Corrigan said...


I'm always trying to learn more about the e-book industry and the value of electronic publicity. I'd love to get your thoughts on those.

Rick Blechta said...

I'm hard at work researching both those topics!

More anon...

Rob Walker said...

You can only be sure of one thing - and that is that CEO's of companies as large as MacMillian are not interested in how much money thier writers make; trust me on that one. The Macmillan stand is only to line their corportate pockets, and stating that they are doing it for their darling poor writers is a laughable joke.
I've been in this business since '79 and folks like these are not your friends. They are so far removed from the writer unless he is a Stephen King or a Patterson that he may as well be selling hotdogs and hamburgers as books. With Amzon's model ninety nine percent of authors make more money than they will by MacMillan's model.


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