Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Publisher's Perspective on Professionalism and Promotion

or, Q & A with Managing Editor Martha Cook, Pt. III

(On Monday, in Part I, Ms. Cook discussed writer's platforms. Yesterday, in Part II, she explored the art of pitching.)

Our interview concludes with Ms. Cook's advice to writers about how to make the most of their careers.

Q: What should a first time author know about contract negotiation?

A: As a first time author, you’re unlikely to be in the driver’s seat. Don’t put yourself in the position of having a publisher think, “The book sounds interesting, but the author isn’t worth it.” You may have to give up some of the things you’ve read in books about negotiating your first book contract, but remember that publishers are taking a risk on first time authors--especially ones with no platform.

Publishers of color-illustrated books generally are investing $15,000 to $30,000 or more to get your book into print. We are not trying to take advantage of authors. Publishing is a business and the finances need to work. You may concede a little on your maiden book contract, but you won’t be a first-timer next time and if you did a good job and your book sold well, you will be rewarded in the future because publishers know you have a track record.

Also, remember that an advance is just that. An advance that sounds lower than you hoped for only means that you will get royalties sooner, if the book is successful. If you have written a good book and it sells well, the advance is really beside the point.

Q: How useful is a list of magazine credits to establishing an unpublished author's viability?

A: It helps. We like to see perspective authors who have had bylines appear in magazines. They may have earned name recognition among the magazine subscribers who are likely to be the audience for a book on the same subject. Furthermore, it’s useful to have magazine credentials to list in an author bio.

Q: What do you expect a writer to do in order to increase his or her book sales?

A: Nowadays, a serious writer should have an online presence that includes a website and blog or regularly posted content in some other online venue. Collect email addresses of anyone and everyone who is a likely buyer or promoter of your book. Promote yourself for speaking engagements, personal appearances, interviews, and related activities. In short: actively talk about and sell your book!

I had an author tell me point blank after her book was published that she found it too uncomfortable to take her book to judging and speaking engagements to sell. It made her feel too much like a self-promoter. Wrong answer to your publisher!

No one is a better salesperson for a book than the author. If you want your book to be a success and become a perennial backlist seller, don’t have the attitude that your job is done upon delivery to the publisher.

Constantly look for ways to generate awareness of your title and to increase sales. Not only will you move copies and improve your bottom line, but you will also make the publisher much more willing to contract you for another project!

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