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Showing posts from October, 2008

Great Expectations: Book Advertising

By Richard Curtis

If the discontent of authors could be likened to a pie, the largest slice by far would represent resentment about the failure of publishers to advertise, publicize, and promote their books. Although I'm fairly articulate when it comes to explaining to my clients why publishers do or don't do certain things, I'm all too often at a loss for an answer when they ask me such questions as, "Why would my publisher spend $25,000 to acquire my book and $1.25 to advertise it?" Or, "How could they spend $100,000 to advertise that dreadful piece of pornography and not a dime on my book about nuclear disarmament?" Or, "Why is my book the best kept secret since the Manhattan Project?"

We live in a world in which it is universally acknowledged that the most effective way to move merchandise is to hype it to consumers. In the publishing industry, however, most of the product goes un- or under-advertised, and even books that publishing people c…

New Writers Must Be Careful Not To Emulate Bad Writing By Poor Authors

By Michael Neff

Many years ago I stumbled upon a Sydney Sheldon book on the rack at a local grocery store. I picked it up, read a bit, and said to myself: I can write better with my eyes closed.

Well, hyperbole or no, there was some truth in that statement. Most likely, the work was not written by Sheldon at all, but some hack ghost brought in by the publisher to poorly imitate Sheldon. Sound implausible? Not at all. Lots of big names are "hyperbranded" these days, i.e., they don't write their own stuff. They are a brand. Others write for them and the original authors simply wave a hand in approval, or nod their mythic head, or something such as that.

Regardless, new writers often make the mistake of emulating established authors who have grown lazy, hyperbranded, or just plain crappy over the years. They ape their characters, plots, and even writing styles, then become astonished or even hostile when agents or editors don't immediately praise them for their wondrous co…

Original E-Book Publication - A Loophole in Your Publishing Contract?

By Richard Curtis
Publishers Weekly recent carried the news item that St. Martin's Press was launching its first exclusive e-book title, The 100 Day Action Plan to Save the Planet by William Becker. Obviously it's a book about the environment and, as the news item pointed out, "releasing the title as an e-book would be the most environmentally-friendly approach." It sounds like a book everyone should read, and we applaud St. Martin's initiative for going straight to e-book.

It does however raise a provocative question for authors and agents (and publishing lawyers): is there anything in a conventional book contract that prevents your publisher from releasing your book originally as an e-book? Or, for that matter, exclusively as an e-book as opposed to print on paper? I would guess that the author of the St. Martin's Press book explicitly waived his right to have his book published first in a hardcover or paperback volume. But what about us garden variety author…

Watching Books

By Richard Curtis

Book editors are not famous for being early adopters of technological innovation. But at long last, a decade after the introduction of the Rocket Book and Print On Demand, mainstream publishing has joined the Digital Revolution. A generation of mouse-clicking youngsters has swept into editorial cubicles and even old-timers who only a few years ago couldn’t distinguish between ROM and RAM are now fully wired.

Manuscript Submissions via E-mail

One of the most significant reflections of editors’ comfort level with digital technology is their growing acceptance of email submissions of manuscripts. Until a couple of years ago the practice was discouraged and it still is, except for material solicited by literary agents and professional authors. But as editors recognize the competitive advantage of instant transmission of potentially hot projects, submission of emailed documents is becoming commonplace.

What do editors do with these documents? In many instances they print them…

Pub Date

By Richard Curtis
Few events in the life of a book are as thoroughly invested with magic and mystery as its publication date. Although the season, month, and day of publication are, as often as not, selected merely to satisfy the expediencies of a publisher's schedule, many authors and even some publishers assign kabbalistic value to pub dates, and a great deal of myth and nonsense has come to surround the process. One hears such platitudes  as, "January is a lousy month to bring out a book," or, "Nobody buys books in August," or "Can you believe they released my book on Friday the thirteenth?"

As tens of thousands of books are published annually, you may safely assume that a day does not go by without one being officially launched somewhere. I know of no records correlating the success or failure of books with their pub dates, but I daresay that if someone were crazy enough to trace the fates of bestsellers back to the dates on which they were published…

"P & L"

By Richard Curtis

One of the least pleasant duties that agents are obliged to perform is explaining to their clients why their books have flopped. And there is no dearth of reasons: the editor was fired, the company was taken over by a conglomerate, the salesmen didn't understand the book, someone stuck a lousy title on it, they didn't advertise it, they didn't advertise it enough, they underprinted it, they brought it out too soon, they brought it out too late, there was an Act of God, there was an Act of Satan - an agent's files are a veritable Grand Guignol of publishing horror stories.
The one thing it does not always occur to agents to tell their clients, however, is that their books have not really flopped, at least not from the publisher's viewpoint. Maybe your book wasn't a bestseller, but that's not to say your publisher didn't make money on it. Most authors and a great many agents tend to equate the earning-out of an author's advance with th…