Monday, February 25, 2008

Publisher Rep Blogs: In-Office Signings, Repping to B&N

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.)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oh, Wook at the Dawling Adults! Dey Think Dey're Writing for Children!

Beloved Uncle Al blogs about Hollywood writers turning to writing for children, you know, when they don't have anything better to do.

I especially liked point 5:
5.) Carefully read and consider the tone of the following quotes:
a.) "I'm a father of five and often lament the lack of really creative, funny children’s books.”
b.) “I’m finding that in good children’s books, the text isn’t just describing the picture but the two are working together to advance the storytelling.”
c.) “And, sometimes, there’s also a chance to make a political point.”

But I disagree that these three statements all say the same thing about the speaker. I would have interpreted them as meaning:
a.) I don't know a thing about the market!
b.) I don't know a thing about building picture books!
c.) I don't know a thing about children!

I'd like to point out to any Hollywood scriptwriters out there that having children does not mean that you understand them. It means you live with them. Any child could tell you this—they know that simply living with adults does not necessarily put you anywhere close to understanding how their wee little minds work. And I'll tell you, the wee little minds of some adults flummox me sometimes.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Book Buyer Blogs: Buying to Necessity

The Anonymous Book Buyer responds to some reader questions (and assures me she'll respond to more as time allows):

Maybe you can explain your job a little more? Some folks here are assuming you're the bookseller, but is that true? Or is it more like you represent the bookseller? Maybe it depends on the size of the bookseller's business...
Sure. It depends on the size of the store. In a big chain store, most of the buying might be done in a central office by people who never set foot in the shops. And in some very small independents, one person functions as the owner-manager-buyer. And there is every gradation in between. I am an in-store buyer for a very large independent, large enough that we have in-store buyers as well as a separate buying office. It is perfectly correct to call me a bookseller, though I very rarely have time to spend "on the floor" hand-selling to customers, which to me, is the fun stuff.

So what do I do? The buying office meets with reps and picks out all the new stuff that will come into the store. We go through the catalogues page by page, looking up numbers on a computer while the rep tells us details about the books we are looking at. Hopefully the rep has either brought or sent ahead samples, advance copies, etc, so we can get a good idea of what the stuff really is like. Being in a buying session can be a bit tedious or hilarious, depending on the rep, however OUR reps are almost uniformly excellent - they know their product lines inside and out, and they know us, too, so they are very able to advise us on which titles to watch out for.

I also restock books each day from publishers and wholesalers, place special orders for people, place event orders and do publisher and wholesaler returns. Oh, and answer the phone, help people in the store when they need, deal with hundreds of emails and packages and slips of paper that get put on my desk in a week, follow up and place angry phone calls to publishers when such-and-such hasn't arrived, buy consignment books from authors, book some events, work some events, re-do displays when they get messed up, crawl in and out of the store's display window, change the soap in the bathroom... and sometimes I even get to have lunch. you think it is too late for publishers to put their foot down in regards to the power the chains have, both in the US and Canada over which books they will and will not take and why, and even to them having the say in book covers, colours etc? While I realize it would take publishers joining together in a ban on the big chains and millions lost by them, I feel that if the pubs would take such a stand and only supply to the indys for a short time, the big guns would perhaps back down somewhat and make life better for all of us.

I bemoan the fact that chain bookstores wield such tremendous influence. I wish that people would give me that kind of power! (insert maniacal laugh here...) Look at that question of yours again, and you'll see two little words that no publisher would ever want to hear: "millions lost." A general ban, or even censure, of big-box stores by publishers is NEVER gonna happen. And really, why should it? If you ran an ad agency, or a garden center, or any other kind of business, you'd probably give some perks to a million-dollar account that a thousand-dollar account wouldn't get. Them's the breaks. For my own part, I am much more concerned about chains and online retailers being able to drastically undercut our prices -- but that wasn't the question.

There also seems to be great deal of general confusion in the author community about big box stores "refusing to carry" certain titles. There is a big difference between "refusing to carry" a book and just not buying it. I don't buy lots of things, for lots of reasons. Maybe the author has historically bombed in my shop. Maybe it is a genre or type of book that has never done well for me. Maybe the cover is horrifically ugly, or the book itself is cheaply made or merchy. [EA inserts: "merchy" may be defined as "so decked out with non-book extras as to functionally be more toy than book; gimmicky"] The decision to buy or not buy is always based on what will do well in my store, and is never a personal attack on the author. I carry books by political figures that I wouldn't spit on... if the books sell. I hate to be blunt, but I haven't got a lot of room in my store. The books on my shelves aren't for decoration. Think of it this way: each book is renting shelf space. For a paperback, it is about 10 cents a day. For a hardcover, more like 25 cents a day . If they are not "turning" quickly enough to make the nut, I have no room for them. [EA inserts: "to make the nut" see definition 6.]

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Boys Don't Cry

Or at least, they prefer writers who don't use the zoom lens when boys do cry.

This and other insights in a very good conversation about what makes a book attractive to boys, happening now at Through the Tollbooth.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Guest Blogger Free-for-All

I've invited Anonymous Publisher Rep and Anonymous Bookstore Buyer each to send me a guest blog post, and they (COUovereager foolsGH) have opened the door to my readers' questions. Go on, sic 'em.
Please remember to label your questions >to the rep<>to the buyer<.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

This Is Just to Say

This is just to say
I haven't forgotten the suggestions
you made at new year's.
I haven't been able to give them as much thought
as I mean to, yet,
but they were good suggestions
so constructive and so interesting.
And you can be sure that
when the time is ripe
my answers will be both
sweet and cold.


What's Up with Blogger Spellcheck?

If you've noticed a sudden spike in the number of typos in this blog, it's because for the last few posts I haven't been able to use the spellcheck function. The button is still there, but nothing happens when I click it.
Anyone know what I should do?

Don't Spam Editors

The following is not a query; it is not a submission. And whatever the author thinks, it is not a marketing plan.
It is an email I received at my editorialanonymous account. And that makes it fair game for the blog. Let's dissect and discuss.

Email subject:
New children's book: Astro Socks - THE educational tool of the year‏
From: Leigh Le Creux
To: Editorial Anonymous

Don't make this claim if you have nothing to back it up. "Educational tool of the year"? According to what authority?

Begin message:
The Inspirational Book of the Year for Kids : Astro Socks
Wait, now it's the educational tool of the year and the inspirational book of the year? My bullshit meter is going crazy.
I know most of you wouldn't do this. But there is a wider lesson. It's easy for authors (who have spent years thinking about a book) to feel it has enormous range in terms of audience and use. Anyone working on marketing, however, has to focus on the audience and use that regular people (who have spent less than a minute thinking about the book) can be convinced of. Trying to convince people that you've got a book that does everything makes you sound like a snake-oil peddler.

Oviedo, FL, Feb 15, 2008 - If J.K. Rowling and Dave Pilkey combined their efforts, they may have come close to creating a book similar to Astro Socks. It is the educational tool of the year for parents and teachers, and kids love it.

Oh, where to start? Again with a the educational tool of the year thing. Can you tell I'm extremely skeptical? You've done nothing to make me believe you might be telling the truth. And setting your creation up as on par with J. K. Rowling and Dav Pilkey (congrats on spelling his name wrong, btw), just heightens the disbelief. Do. Not. Compare. Yourself. to Bestselling. Authors. It says you have very unrealistic expectations for your book and/or have only read the bestselling children's books, and so you essentially know nothing about the market.
I'd also like to point out that the title of your book is not one that is likely to elicit any consumer response other than: "What?"

"From the beginning of Astro Socks, my students and I were pulling for the main character, Chris. The author has an exceptional ability for using description to help the reader connect on an emotional level with her characters. My students were inspired by this child inventor, and were excited to create imaginative illustrations based on visualizations they had while reading the story. The number of classroom activities that could spiral from this book with my students are endless, thanks to the incredible creativity with which the story was written." Trisha Munroe, BEd, MEd
I see a fair number of authors in slush who have included testimonials from teachers and parents. Guess what? Teachers and parents know something about children, but they are entirely unreliable in terms of knowing what's well written and what will actually sell. Editors do not care what your friends and neighbors think.

This short fiction novel concentrates on a young boy who turns his dreams of becoming an inventor into a reality. Like all children, he has a vivid imagination. As he uses his imagination and visualizes, his ideas begin to take shape. The more excited he becomes, the faster his ideas begin to take shape. The main character encounters various hurdles along his adventure, but he discovers that anything is possible when you have faith, determination, and the love of your family. The illustrations throughout Astro Socks are an amazing testimonial to the book as they are a result of in-classroom projects. Students also reviewed the fiction.
Editors also see a consistent percentage of submissions that are illustrated by children. Because children are so precious and imaginative, right? The thing they're not, though, is artists. And books illustrated by children do not sell, because they're ugly. Parents think they're ugly. Teachers think they're ugly. And here's the news flash—children think they're ugly. Children wish they could draw better than they can. (And one day, if their creativity isn't squashed, they may learn to. In the meantime, however, their work is not fit for publication.)

"What I think is great is that a ten year old, a normal ten year old, all of a sudden turns into an inventor.NuPont doesn't care if he is ten or not! They accept him right away!" "Amanda", Grade Five Student
If there's anyone who knows more about children but less about what's well written and what will sell than parents and teachers, it's children. Editors really, really don't care what the few children you know think.

Educators must have this book on their reading lists, and in their classrooms. Parents and all book lovers enjoy reading it and learning at the same time.
"Educators must"? According to whom? You, the person selling the book? What a scam.
"All book lovers"? Are you telling me you've spoken to all book lovers to ascertain that they enjoy reading the book? WTF.
Connecting creativity and the imagination are in every line of this work. "Astro Socks inspires and connects the dots for successful kids, like the movie, The Secret, is known to do for adults", says Le Creux. "Faith, determination, and imagination are qualities all of us need to cultivate - especially in our children".
You're quoting yourself?! You have no shame!

About the book:
Astro Socks by Leigh Le Creux
ISBN: 978-0595463756
Publisher: iUniverse
Date of publish: Jan 2008
Pages: 90

Dear readers, comments?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Why Are These Posts So Damn Short?

It's suddenly occurred to me that some of you may not be visiting The Longstockings, as unlikely as that seems. So you may not have realized that I sort of frittered away my blogging time this week on answering their interview questions. Evidently I was verbose enough to warrant three installments, which is embarrassing. And evidently I am, in fact, Teen Wolf. Or Lisa Graff. (Two possibilities I had not previously been aware of.) Good to know.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sales Rep Love

This blog posting by a bookseller, about how publisher sales reps interact with bookstore buyers is priceless information. Read it, learn it, live it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Vampires and French People Agree-- Communists Suck

Is your inbox tired and lifeless? Has it lost its bounce and lustre? If you've been distracted with work and some high-conversation posts, your inbox may have developed a dulling build-up of miscellaneous questions.

Do editors ever put non-agented (but contracted) authors on the back burner for agented ones?
Not unless the agent is doing a better job of prodding the editor than the unagented author. Both agented and unagented authors should have a failure-to-publish clause in their contracts, so if you've been waiting a long time, you may want to remind your editor (carefully, diplomatically) of the points agreed to in the contract.

I'm working on my first picture book.The books script is actually a poem I wrote to my Adult daughter before she left for her year in the Americorp. The book though is about Libraries and how, like roads, they take us everywhere and to everything in the world. They show us how ro fullill our dreams through the inspiration of other peoples stories I also wanted to add another dimension to the book and that is to hide a word several times in the illustrations with a number on each page to inform the reader how many times the word is hidden there. Like Schoenfeld did with his work. ( Sorry if I didn't get the name right). This would not be an emphisis of the book but something that would only be mentioned at the very end so people could go back and go over the illustrations..
This is a theme I'd like to run through all my picture books. What do you think? Too Much?
Unless you're the illustrator, you don't get to decide this. You can suggest it, but it isn't going to add a hook to the book, so don't be surprised if it's low priority for the other members of the team. Also, planning to feature this in all of your books is thinking a bit too far ahead. Focus on doing what's best for this book.

I have an offer for my multicultural picture book from a foreign publisher. At the same time, an editor at a publishing house in NYC is seriously considering it after requesting a revision, but I don't expect a decision for at least a few weeks and of course it could go either way. Is there a way that I can have the book published by both publishers by negotiating which rights they take? Or would the NYC publisher probably be reluctant to give up any rights? Should I inform the two publishers of the situation? I hate to lose either opportunity. Any advice would be appreciated.
The NY publisher is going to want foreign rights, no doubt. And having sold some of the rights away before the NY publisher even acquires the book is likely to irritate them. I would recommend not doing this. Instead, if they want the book, they'll be pleased to hear that you already have interest from a foreign publisher. And remember that the publisher may be able to get a better deal at a better Korean (for instance) publisher than you can.

After an agent or editor has rejected a submission (either personally or by form letter), when, if at all, is it appropriate to send another submission to that same agent/editor? Assuming that this person was selected because they represent work like yours (in style/tone/subject/etc.) and in general seem to be a good match, is it ok to try again with a different manuscript? Or is one rejection to be taken as an implicit never?
Don't be silly. A "no" is a "no" only for that manuscript.

So "Buy this book for a chance to win a free trip to paris!" is a gimmick and not a hook.
It's a gimmick, and it sounds like an effective one, so that makes it a hook.

"After she wins a free trip to Paris, Beth is lost in the famous Parisian sewers and meets a vampire who thinks that it's still 1848" --- hook?

Special lazer-3D cover of a vampire in front of the Arch de Triumph surrounded by ghostly communists laying in pools of their own blood at the foot of a barricade -Gimmick and hook?
Gimmick, yes... but it's only a hook if the special laser-3D cover makes people buy the book.

Hi there!! LOVE your blog! I have a question...I am a new writer and I have had GREAT feedback on my stories. They are geared towards 2-5 year olds...short and sweet. I am not sure where to even start to submit. I have thought about self-publication but even then, where do I go and what do I do? There is so much information online and I just don't know where to start. I am sure you get many questions like this...I can tell you how much people in my situation must appreciate your answers!!!
Get Harold Underdown's book and Writer's and Illustrator's Market. And listen to the advice of my readers, who will post more tips in the comments section. They've been where you are.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

I'm OK, You're OK, Venting Is OK

We're just using this forum to vent about a problem that is old news, yet still always a worry for all writers.

The publicists I've worked with have seemed great to me... but I hear you that that's not always the case.
As long as we all understand that harassing your publicist isn't going to influence her support of your book in any positive way, I would like to hear more, specifically, about what you feel is not getting done. Obviously I cannot change the industry, but if we can find some common ground, maybe there is some progress to be made.

The more comments the better, so pile it on!