The Anonymous Publisher Rep answers questions from readers! More to come, he/she says. Just in case his/her identity is guessable, he/she has requested this disclaimer be included:
Disclaimer: I [the publisher rep] am not blogging on behalf of my company, nor any of its affiliates. All opinions stated in this post are mine and mine alone. Nothing posted here should be taken as a representation of my company's views, nor am I acting here as an affiliate of my company, should I inadvertently reveal its identity.
1) Will you further explain what you mean by "authors are a brand" but "books are product/art?"
Publishing is an industry that sells artists' output. Writers are the artists, books are their art. Some books might be akin to prints bought at the mall, some a Picasso, perhaps. But all books must be purchased, and purchased by readers who choose to buy one book over all others. A book is a product in this way – it is something a consumer must choose to buy (or borrow from the library, download to an eBook reader, etc.).
The author is the brand in that readers begin to recognize an author's name and will buy all their titles (or "products"). Readers initially pick up an author's book because it's in a genre they like – if they like the book, they'll want to buy the second book. That's why you see the same authors' names at the top of the bestseller list. You know what you're going to get when you see Stephen King's or James Paterson's name on a book. And who doubts that no matter what she publishes next, everyone will buy J.K. Rowling's next book?
2) What is an in-office signing? And again, is this something only done for lead titles? Who pays for the writer's transport there if the writer is not from NYC? Again, this is really for lead titles, correct?
An in-office signing is exactly what it sounds like: when an author signs books in the publisher's office. A few times a year, an author that lives locally (publishers have offices outside NYC) will come to the office and talk about his or her book and sign copies for employees. The company gives away these copies. Not everyone in my office is in my position of receiving nearly every book on our list for free, but I've purchased one book for myself in the past year: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (I've bought a few more as gifts). That is also the only book I've read not published by my publisher. How helpful is this information? I don't think I'm answering what you want me to here, but that's because I don't organize author tours – that's something a publicist does, and meeting the workers inside the publishing house is nice, but not terribly helpful to your book's sales. If you want to talk to people who both love books and can help it sell better, talk with your local booksellers and librarians.
3) You mention you are on the road a lot. To the Barnes & Noble headquarters or to INDIVIDUAL Barnes and Nobles?
A buyer at B&N's corporate headquarters makes buying decisions for all their chain locations. The people in the individual B&Ns get what the person in the headquarters decides they do. And different genres have different buyers. One person buys adult fiction, another buys, say, cookbooks. This is the same – though I'm simplifying – at the other big places. Sales people for the chains meet with the buyers.
Here's something important to understand: at a B&N or Borders, the person selling your book to the consumer probably did not make the decision to stock it. The booksellers on the floor at a chain store probably didn't have access to the advance copies or entirely free copies a buyer at a smaller store would. At an independent, you're more likely to buy a book from the person who decided to put it in the store. And advance reading copies (ARCs) are sent to the buyers, so an independent bookseller – who works alongside the buyer or is the handseller on the floor – is more likely to have read it. Plus, staff at an independent is usually smaller so each staff member has greater access to the arc's. All in all, the staff in a small store is more likely to read your book and handsell it, because it's easier for them to have read it. (But, they get a lot of books to read so that doesn't mean it's easier for them to read yours particularly.)