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.)


Kristi Holl said...

I really appreciate how you explain things in plain, understandable English. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thank you! Really informative and helpful.

Melissa Walker said...

Yes, your insights are great. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great post!

And it makes total sense that an author would be a brand. I know that when it comes to doing any type of shopping whether it’s for a book or a new suit, I look at who the writer or designer is. I know as the consumer what I most likely can expect from that particular artist. For instance, Chadwick’s suits do not have princess seams. Hate them. Cheap and thrown together. Don't even open the catalogue when it arrives in the mail. One bad purchase was enough to permanently erase them off my list. But now, Ralph Lauren and Antonio Melani . . . ah, that’s another story. Waiting for a half price sale though.

Anonymous said...

Great info, thanks!

Incidentally, The Blue Rose Girls have an interesting post (on Saturday, March 1st spot) on how one agency has a "No Whining" rule for its authors.

It explains how authors shouldn't expect a publisher to do anything other than edit, copyedit, and get a decent cover for their book.

It's an interesting persepective concerning all the complaining posts (mine included) in the previous posts here on EA about how publishers did nothing to market books.

In the huge disconnect between what I expected a publisher to do for my book and what was actually done, it would've been nice for me -- and other authors -- to realize all this info earlier. Less hurt feelings and disillusionment that way.

Anonymous said...

Actually, there are two additional items listed on the Blue Rose Girls' agent's list: putting the book in the catalog (and these days that means also on the publisher's Web site) and selling it through their regular distribution channels.

I think this IS what publishers consider marketing (in the interest of full disclosure, I'll note that I was a marketing director for 10 years but am no longer in publishing). Publishers also send everything they publish to a small number of reviewers, who are the most important opinion-makers, and take "list ads" listing all of their books, each publication season.

I'd agree that anything beyond that is considered "additional," although it's common to offer services such as listing authors who wish to speak, assistance with setting up speaking engagements, production of promotional materials FOR AUTHORS WITH A TRACK RECORD OR A CONTRACT FOR A NUMBER OF BOOKS at the house, support for appearances at conventions if there is a speaking engagement (it's often not worth it to have someone autograph in the booth without a speaking venue to drive attendance), and bolstering starred reviews with title-specific ads.

Before everyone leaps all over me, let me also say that I used to get a list of newly-signed authors from our editors and send welcome letters to everyone, with a list of what authors could and could not expect from us in terms of marketing. I agree, no matter what level of marketing support is offered, that publishers should always let the authors know what it is, and to the extent that they can, the reasons behind a decision to do or not do something.

I will say by the end of my time there, the proportion of the time spent on "why not" explanations versus the time spent on actually DOING marketing was beginning to get reversed. It's not that we were doing less marketing; in fact, we were doing more, but expectations seemed to have exploded.

Christine Tripp said...

>in fact, we were doing more, but expectations seemed to have exploded.<

Anonymous, I'll venture a guess that the "explosion" occured around the same time as the "celeb" books got so prolific?
With the celeb's trucking their new book around and appearing on spots like "the Today Show" the "View" etc etc. Before this, I don't think the general public had ever heard of books, other then through reviews in their local paper and NYT's and authors were probably more understanding of that.
It might help to know that the actors pay for their own whirl wind book tour, not the publishers... they do right, right??

Anonymous said...

Hi Christine! I am anonymous 11:05, and yes, I think those expectations did explode around that time. My house was not one of those that published celebrities, so I personally wasn't affected by celebrity needs (thank goodness), but I think other authors witnessed that kind of treatment and understandably wondered why they didn't get it, when their books were clearly superior! I remember when Oprah hosted her first children's author, after saying for so long she wasn't qualified to pick children's books for her book club, and several of the authors I published wondered if I would now pitch them to Oprah. The children's author she hosted: Bill Cosby. Needless to say, this wasn't a sign of doors flying open on the Oprah show to children's book authors, even excellent ones.

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