“I met her, and she was sooo nice!”
The beagle and I hear this a lot. Well, I do. The beagle normally stays home and drinks without me. I’m referring to meeting editors at writer’s conferences. Now, I have nothing against being nice. Even I mentally prepare my own bad self to be charming and witty. But wit and charm has squat all to do with a company’s viability.
At one of the conferences I attended, there was a vanity press, and the owner couldn’t have been nicer. And boyo, she was out there charming the verbs and nouns off the conference goers. I had a lot of writers asking me during our private pitch sessions whether her company was a good idea – after all, she was sooo personable. Eh, how to answer that, right? My insides are screaming, “HELL NO! Save your money!” But what I said was that nice is as nice does, and it should never be a consideration when making a publishing choice.
Now that’s not to say personality doesn’t come into the mix. A number of our authors tell me that they clicked with me. Odd, considering I have no soul. But I do have the nicest authors in the entire world. And you do hope to click with your editor because that relationship becomes more like a marriage. It really is the difference between a good publishing experience and a nightmare.
But nightmares come in all sizes and shapes, and just because someone meets and greets well doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing and can do the very best for your book. Don’t get sucked in by someone’s winning smile or great personality. Ask yourself WHY you want to choose that particular publisher. Do they have great distribution? Do they have award-winning books? Do they market and promote their books? What does their final product look like? How much editing do they do on their titles? Have you seen them in the bookstores?
And yes, I can’t recommend this enough: buy or look at their books. Many of them will have their books in the conference bookstore. I’ve seen publisher’s books that, at first blush, sounded like a solid company. Then I looked at their books and ran for the hills because the interior design looked like drunk gophers did the work. Margins were skewed, the layout was sloppy – all the simple, yet vital, things that make a pristine product were missing. There is no excuse for putting out a shoddy product.
So the fact that they’re nice and make you feel good should be the last of your concerns. Utmost thoughts in your cerebral cortex should be whether they can get the job done. And that takes research, not a free drink and some pats on the back – though I’ve never been one to turn down the free drink.
“For two payments of $2499, you can join my 21 hour marketing seminar at my lakefront home!”
We received an email from one of the gazillion marketing gurus that skim around the sidelines of the industry, waiting to sell their “OhmygodlookwhatIcandoforyou” pablum.
Of course marketing and promotion is important. Vital as breathing, in fact. But for the price of a great conference, authors can get a far better education about the ins and outs of effective marketing because conferences always invite a marketing expert to give a seminar or two. And it doesn’t cost the equivalent of one or two month’s mortgage payments.
The reason Mr. MarketingPants has a lakefront home is because he excels at one thing – marketing and promoting HIMSELF to gullible writers who think that paying five grand will give them the keys to the kingdom. It doesn’t. I’ve seen how these guys work, and they’re all the same. They make it all sound sooo easy peasy and anyone with a heartbeat can be as successful as they are. Much of their advice is stuff we’ve all seen since dinosaurs roamed the land. And much of it is plain hokey pokey stuff that only someone not in possession of their brain would try. That leaves a portion that may actually be useful.
You cannot fill up 21 hours of marketing info. Not without the fervent desire to take your own life.
The truth is that promotion takes a lot of work and planning and organization. It also has to be tailor-made to the book because not all promo plans were created equally. Idon’t often get the opportunity to sit in on a lot of seminars because I’m busy giving my own, but I the one time I played author and attended Antoinette Kurtiz’s seminar at her La Jolla Writer’s Conference, I learned stuff that I use to this day. She was brilliant. And there are plenty of great seminars at writer’s cons all over the country. And they cost a fraction of the money AND you get to network with all those lovely people.
You do not need to spend a fortune at someone’s lakefront home learning the ins and outs of marketing and promotion. This isn’t a deep dark secret where only a few “know the truth.” It takes ingenuity and guts – and a very good product. Besides, you have to consider how many books you need to sell in order to justify that $5k outlay.
And really…wouldn’t you rather pull up a beach chair with the beagle and me and have a margarita?