Saturday, April 08, 2006

In Which I Speak of Things I Know Not...

JA Konrath and Lee Goldberg have gotten into a small tussle about self-promotion for authors. I self-promote as much as I can but without too much in the way of a master plan and with very few controls, so, essentially, I throw good money after bad. My problem. Now on to the larger issue.

Essentially, the discussion has the two sides that I will unfairly boil down as follows:

LEE: Advances are like pay checks and should not be used to bolster a publisher who is falling down on the job of promoting its authors.

JOE: Advances are up front money that should be invested back into the author's career. There is a side benefit to the publisher that may even bee unmerited, but there is also a tangible benefit to the author with increased sales.

I tend to be on Joe's side of this issue though, like every author, I wish more were done by publishers to promote their midlist authors (who are very often just as talented as the bestselling authors).

The problem is similar to what I see in academe. There are too few full-time jobs for Liberal Arts Ph.Ds. The universities are taking advantage of underpaid, un-benefited grad students and adjuncts to teach lower level classes. The solution proposed by many was that Graduate schools should simply admit fewer students to doctoral programs. Fewer Ph.Ds means that the available jobs will be enough to satisfy the surge of qualified applicants.

So with publishing. Simply trim the list of forthcoming books to a list that the publisher can adequately support with appropriate promotion. Publishers should never again complain that they have too many books coming out to give everyone ad money or a book tour. If they have too many, the solution is to take on fewer. Be selective. Take on fewer projects and promote them well. Select manuscripts that have real commercial potential.

But is that what we really want?

More later.

2 Comments:

Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Think of it this way: If everyone published does pretty well, then how do you gauge popularity and success?

What would happen, I think, is that the spectrum of what got published would narrow. If noir was in, then it would be all noir. There would be no place for anything else.

The bottom line is that all things aren't equal for all authors in terms of promotion, or music artists or actors. But authors like Val McDermid and Ian Rankin might get top-notch promo now, but they didn't start out that way. They paid their dues. They built a modest career that eventually started to sizzle.

So, for those of us not near there yet, we must also have some patience, I think.

But Joe is right about one thing. It isn't about propping up your publisher. It's about promoting yourself. Bottom line is, IF I found my publisher was completely dropping the ball on promoting me, I'd bear that in mind in future contract negotiations. In the mean time, I'm going to promote my book to help it sell well. But that's not the same as promoting my publisher. They benefit vicariously because if I'm making money, they're making money, and they did roll the dice on a previously unpublished author. But not promoting myself just so that they don't benefit is ridiculous, and any author that thinks "if you write it, they will come" and doens't plan to do any work at all isn't aware of what's going on in the industry.

And I say all that re: publishers with a big IF and FOR EXAMPLE. The stage I'm at, I can only say that up until now I've been pleased with my publisher.

And mystery authors, in particular, have to recognize it takes time to grow a series. A lot of mystery readers want to find someone with a number of books behind them before they even try that author. Patience is required on both sides.

April 08, 2006 1:46 PM  
Blogger Aldo said...

Damn Steve,

I'm half way through my doctoral program and this is really not good news. Having been on the other side of the fence, being able to be an adjunct has enhanced my skills and has helped pay some additional expenses. It is to be seen if I really want to enter the university side of the world yet.

April 08, 2006 8:38 PM  

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