In the background

I was at a writer’s conference not too long ago and I overheard (in the bathroom, of course – where all the unguarded conversations take place, well, besides the bar) where a gaggle of women were lamenting that publishers don’t do anything to market books. I realize there is a whole subset species who don’t do any marketing or promoting of their author’s books, but that’s because their main sales clientele is their own authors. The rest of us sell to the reading public, so we have promote and market because we’ve already spent thousands in producing the book. We gotta sell it.

It got very quiet as I walked up to wash my hands – ah the power of a badge with a red stripe on it. They knew they’d been busted talking about…the enemy. And here I was…the enemy…in their midst. I managed a smile and said, “Depending on the kind of publisher you have, there is a ton of stuff publishers do in the background. We do catalogues that are sent out to thousands of markets, we do specialized advertising, printing up hundreds of ARCs to send out to reviewers and the media, and then distributing the books across the country. We push our authors’ names to radio and TV interviewers and send out countless media kits It’s all stuff you never see, and it’s all at the publisher’s cost.”

Little beacons of light shone in their eyes. Ahhh, we had no idea, said they.

And one of those background things is meeting with our sales teams in New York. Ah…Spring in New York…better damn well quit raining.

One of the manuscripts that we just finished editing is Kim Kircher’s The Next 15 Minutes – Strength From the Top of the Mountain. It’s a fabulous book that’s filled with double black diamond ski runs and equally double black diamond lives as Kim fights to save her husband’s life. Definitely put it on your To Buy list in October.

I wish we got 15 minutes to present our upcoming titles to the sales teams, but all we get is 13 minutes. Since we have four new books coming out, that’s…lessee…divide by 4, carry the 1, add 2… it comes out to 3.something minutes per title. Gah. How can I possibly shove all the wonderful things I have to say in 3.something minutes?

I love our books. I love our authors. Ask me about any of our books, and my face goes all gooey dreamy-like. I can remember first reading the submission, the editing process, cover design, watching a young bud burst into a gorgeous flower. And that’s what makes this process so wonderful. And what’s nice is that the sales teams get to see the passion we have for each title, why it’s a force to be reckoned with in the marketplace, and why readers want these books. These meetings are a godsend to creating a link between publisher and the good folks who are out there pushing our books to the marketplace.

Mind you, all of this is done at the publisher’s expense – just like attending bookfairs like BEA and the ALA. This year we can’t go because we get to see our baby daughter graduate college. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t making an appearance. Kim Michele Richardson will be doing two days of book signings (and handing out those gorgeous little book purses – along with free copies of The Unbreakable Child) at the ALA – American Library Association – in New Orleans. We’ll also have other titles there as well – again, at our expense.

These are things that the author never realizes is happening, yet these are venues where books get huge exposure. The sales teams get a better feel for a book when they talk to the publishers, and this fuels their passion for when they hit the road and talk to stores in their territories. Bookfairs expose your titles to store owners, librarians, and literary agents. It’s wonderful to be able to talk with the very people who are in the position to order books, and I’ve done countless pitches of our upcoming titles, and watched them take notes while I blabbered on.

Now why would you care about literary agents seeing your books? Well, it’s a domino thing, as in networking.  I know from experience that lit agents comb the large bookfairs to see whazzup. They talk to the editors and publishers, to get a feel for who they are. Remember, they’re looking for new publishers to query because big publishing has evolved to the point where agents need all kinds of options at their fingertips. We’ve talked to many agents at the BEA, and they’ve gone on to query us, and sell us books. Wonderful, gorgeous books.

Those agents talk to other agents, and pretty soon there are lots of solid agents querying your publisher. This elevates their reputation because they have the ability to sell those books well. And what does this do for your book? Exclusivity. Libraries and bookstores learn that publisher’s name and tend to place larger orders when they see the catalogue – and you are a part of that team.

So the next time you think about grumbling about your publisher, consider that there are a ton of things going on in the background that you’ll never see – but hopefully it will reflect in your royalty statement.

10 Responses to In the background

  1. NinjaFingers says:

    I think it’s because they hear so much buzz on the internet about how publishers don’t promote and you don’t even need one any more…

  2. Digital Dame says:

    I’ve read in more than one place that before you even query an agent about a book, the author is expected to have a marketing plan to present to the publisher (somehow an extension of knowing who the target audience is). Maybe these people had read the same things.

  3. Not all agents care about the promo plan – it depends on the genre. We specialize in nonfiction, so we do need that. Besides, it’s the first thing our distributor, sales forces, genre buyers ask, so it’s a good practice for any author to consider. Knowledge is power, and the more prepared an author is, the more successful they’ll be.

  4. kimkircher says:

    Thanks for the 3.something minutes, Lynn. I, for one, am thrilled!

  5. Digital Dame says:

    Any suggestions for a crash course in marketing? I wouldn’t have the vaguest idea of how to even begin to write a marketing plan. I have no background in sales & marketing. Sales people are like an alien species to me.

  6. Kim, my pleasure!

    DigiDame, I recommend that you treat yourself to The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box, where I talk a great deal about promoting one’s book.

  7. Ann Best says:

    I’ll bet a good agent/publisher can do a lot with 3 minutes!

    I’ve been dying to read The Unbreakable Child. Reading this post, I’m now going to do it. (I did “win” a $30 gift certificate to B&N and I think I have just enough left. Yay!)

  8. Ann: Darn skippy we can. It’s just a tad exhausting is all. Unbreakable is an amazing book. I remember when Kim’s agent told me to shut up, sit down, and read the manuscript. Totally riveted. You will be, too.

  9. Lev Raphael says:

    I learned to my great joy 19 books ago in 1989 that 1) a book is product and 2) the author has tremendous power to promote it. I did the kind of promotion no publisher would get around to: contacting where I thought I could read, and got lots of replies. I fell in love with promotion because it taught me I am never powerless when it comes to promotion.

  10. Lev, I love you. Can you be one of our authors? Pleeeeze? Authors who enjoy book promotion are a publisher’s dream come true. You, dear man, have obviously channeled your inner hambone.

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