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Writers Are from Saturn, Publishers Are from Pluto (or you pick the planets)

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The point is, writers and publishers see things so differently that they sometimes forget they share a goal: selling the book.We’ve been on both sides and alongside and in the middle of the publishing process in our years as marketing consultants to authors and to publishers big and small. Because we know from experience that better author-publisher relationships lead to better sales-and because issuing guidelines for behavior seems to be de rigueur these days-we offer 20 suggestions for building productive publishing partnerships. Take your 10 and pass the other 10 along.

How to Be More Lovable to Your Publisher, or”Sensible Solutions Profitable Partnership Tips
for Authors”
  • Be realistic. Even the smartest, most enthusiastic publisher has to work within tight time and money constraints.
  • Learn the cast of characters. Ask your editor to introduce you to the key players who will be working on your book, including people who handle special sales, sub-rights and so on-not just the person who’ll be doing publicity.
  • Brainstorm on blurbs. Compile a wish list of relevant celebrities and authorities; track down their addresses and draft letters that show how your book meshes with their interests. Then, and only then, ask whether the publisher will solicit their comments.
  • Select sections for serial sales. Could parts of your book work as magazine pieces? Mark them, match them up with specific periodicals, and pass your list along at least four months before the publication date.
  • Emerge as an expert. Media people like personalities, drama, and information. So even if you write fiction or poetry, it’s worth giving your publisher a short bio that presents you as an articulate, amusing, authoritative source.
  • Target media. Listen to and watch local and special-interest radio and TV shows; read local and special-interest papers and magazines; and see what departments, segments, or programs might feature you and your book. Then create pitches for each one and submit them to the publicist you’re working with.
  • Scout for sales channels. Just about every book can sell someplace besides bookstores. Think about other kinds of retail outlets, about catalogs and conventions, and about the Internet. Then draw up a list of possibilities, with an explanation for each, and ask your editor to relay it to the special sales department.
  • Don’t just stand there. Dream up action-packed presentations for bookstores and groups and TV. Can you act, sing, dance, and/or display something physical and visual to introduce your book, instead of just talking about it? If so, the publicity department will be glad to hear it.
  • Thank everyone in the publishing house who works on the book (as well as every producer and/or host who has you as a guest) and share good news-write-ups, events, enthusiastic audiences.
  • Relax. It won’t happen all at once. No matter how hard you work and how hard everyone in the publishing house works, it takes time to attract your best audience, fans, readers, and recommenders.

How to Be More Lovable to Your Authors, or”Sensible Solutions Profitable Partnership Tips
for Publishers”
  • Tell the truth, even if it’s not always pleasant. Authors can be more agreeable if they understand the realities-no tour, no ads, modest mailings, some pitches-and they like being treated as adults.
  • Share time frames. Even experienced authors may not know (or may have forgotten) how long lead times are. If you give them copies of the production schedule and any other timetables, your authors are more likely to deliver blurbs, serial sales leads, and special-interest media lists before it’s too late.
  • Get clearance on copy. By showing the author the cover and the catalog write-up before they’re finalized, you avoid those embarrassing-and costly-corrections of fact.
  • Honestly assess ability. Some writers are excellent public speakers. Some do better with the printed word. Each can do something. Ask what kind(s) of promotion they’ll be comfortable with and good at.
  • Provide positive reinforcement. Share the good news that comes your way, like reorders, media interest, and sub-rights sales.
  • Support volunteerism. When writers understand that a mailing will make economic sense only if they type the labels and stuff the envelopes, they may be willing to get a babysitter, dog walker, very good friend, or offspring to do it (or even do it themselves).
  • Engage them in follow-up. Since it’s so labor-intensive and therefore so expensive (although often it makes the difference between success and failure), propose that they do some follow-up. They might use a staff nom-de-telephone since booksellers and media people are used to hearing from publishers but are leery of assertive authors.
  • Encourage attention to current events. Authors who stay alert to newspeg connections for their books can fire off Op-Ed pieces and/or Letters to the Editor and/or comments to Internet chat groups, and provide you with material you can use to approach talk shows.
  • Underscore the importance of ordering information. Urge writers to tell everyone how to get their books via a toll-free number and other easy options.
  • Put out the welcome mat. Make your authors feel welcome when they get in touch to give or get information. No matter how brilliant the editor, skilled the production manager, or clever the publicist, the writer is the star.

Judith Appelbaum, the author of the industry classic“How to Get Happily Published”(fifth edition, HarperPerennial, 1998), and Florence Janovic, for many years chair of the Goddard Riverside NY Book Fair, are managing directors of the book marketing firm, Sensible Solutions, Inc

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