What I Learned at PMA-U
by Douglas Johnson
Our fledgling publishing
company needs to reach out to our audience (figurative artists) and generate
awareness of our first book, Art Models. As a result, I took many of the PMA-U
Marketing Track courses, while my wife and business partner, Maureen, soaked up
advice on business theory, planning, and budgeting at courses presented by,
among others, Marion Gropen of Gropen Associates and Tom Woll of Cross River
Publishing Consultants, whose book <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Publishing for Profit recently appeared
in a new edition.
Here are some conclusions about
what I saw as central lessons.
Trust Is Key
Relationships and relationship
building were recurring themes at PMA-U this year. For example, when
approaching the media, you are much more likely to get coverage if you already
have a relationship with the producer. When approaching a vendor such as Barnes& Noble about carrying your book, you are much more likely to be heard if
you already have a relationship and understand the chain’s tastes. When readers
feel they have a relationship with an author, they will seek out more of that
Brook Noel of Champion Press
shared a clever approach to developing reader relationships. She sent a note to
her customers in the Washington, DC, area inviting them to meet her for coffee
while she was there. For the cost of a couple hours of her time and some
beverages, Brook was able to reach out and create a personal relationship with
her readers. Will they tell all their friends and acquaintances? Of course they
will. Will they buy her next book? You bet!
While “It’s all about
relationships” was a frequent refrain at PMA-U and BEA, I think the underlying
issue is often trust. The producer trusts you to bring good stories; the vendor
trusts you to bring quality titles and deliver on all your commitments; and the
reader trusts that an author’s new book will be as good as earlier work.
What if you want to get your book
into a particular store, but you have no relationship with the bookstore owner?
You need to establish trust in other ways. An author with excellent credentials
helps, as does a well-produced book with top-notch cover design, interior
layout, and production qualities. These factors build confidence that the
publisher knows the business and has researched the market.
Certain Moves Foster
If, like me, you are new to
publishing, the idea that you need to establish relationships conjures images
of a club to which one must win entrance over a period of years. And this is
true; publishers must build solid professional relationships over long periods.
But if you keep the underlying idea of trust in mind, you can make progress
before these relationships have time to develop.
One method is to borrow someone
else’s relationships. For example, distributors have sales reps who have worked
for years to establish relationships with book buyers. When you have your book
presented by a sales rep, you get the benefit of those years of careful trust-building.
Media people at PMA-U frequently
told us that publicists are trusted to prescreen potential guests and to
recommend only people who would do well on their shows. By hiring a
well-connected publicist, you go to the head of the line for access to the
media. Of course, you need to know how to perform well on radio or TV. If you
do not, a publicist will not jeopardize a relationship by recommending you.
You can also make progress before
relationships develop by providing top-quality materials. These are not
necessarily expensive. For example, a one-page sheet in black and white that
gives a producer enough information to produce a segment on a timely topic gets
far more attention than a fancy media kit. Supplying the right information in
the right format at the right time requires research and diligence, so
thoroughly investigate a show or a magazine before submitting articles or
Timing Is Critical but
Publicity that drives consumers
into stores before books are available is wasted effort. People have short
memories, and readers who do not find your book easily will move on. Equally
bad is publicity that happens too late, when your book may no longer be on the
shelves. Marcella Smith (director of small press and vendor relations for
Barnes & Noble) says that, depending on the subject matter, new titles
typically get between 90 and 180 days to prove themselves on B&N shelves.
This implies that you need to get customers into the stores looking for your
book when it enters the marketplace if you want it to have a chance of
remaining in stock.
So how do you time your publicity?
Kate Bandos of KSB Promotions recommends first deciding what media attention
you will pursue and then sitting down with a calendar and marking dates when the
coverage needs to happen. For example, you want media coverage to occur when a
book becomes available in bookstores. From that date, work backward to develop
a schedule for when to submit proposals or materials. Keep in mind that every
outlet has different lead times, which means you need to check with editors and
producers to find out how much time they need.
Another aspect of timing involves
tying in to developing stories, which makes it easier for media people to use
your material. Not only will you be quoted, but they will also list your books
to establish your credentials. Over time, you will become an expert whom media
people can rely on as a source.
In the Future
These observations and the many
lessons learned at PMA-U have clarified the way Live Model Books will approach
publicity, reach the book trade, and conduct business.
· We are even more pleased with our
decision to sign with IPG as our distributor.
· Instead of pitching general media,
we will start by contacting associations that reach our target audience.
· We will look for a well-connected
publicist if we decide to reach a broader audience.
· We will be consistent, fair, and
professional in all our business relationships.
I was fortunate to receive a
scholarship to PMA-U 2006 from PMA and IPNE (Independent Publishers of New
England), a PMA affiliate. Scholarships are available every year, and the
chance to get one is a great reason to join an affiliate in your area. See the
back cover for a list and the Web site for additional information.
Douglas Johnson runs Live
Model Books located in Salem, NH. He is also the staff photographer for its
series of Art Models
books designed to help figurative artists refine their artistic skills. To
learn more, visit www.livemodelbooks.com.
Why I Go to BEA
by Robert Rosenwald
While setting up our booth at
BookExpo America this year, I ran into my friend Dr. James Webb, owner and
publisher of Great Potential Press. I told Jim that I had decided not to go to
BEA in New York next year because I don’t like exhibiting at Javits—partly
because of poor transportation to the center and partly because New York is so
very expensive. Jim reminded me of the old saw: out of sight, out of mind, out
So now let me tell you a story
that some of you have already heard.
Four years ago, James Sallis, a
longtime friend and much-underappreciated author, gave me the manuscript for
his novella Drive.
He had adapted it from a short story he had written for a Dennis Macmillan
anthology and expanded it to 30,000 words; he was rather pleased with it, but
we both knew he was going to have a hard time selling it. New York publishing
doesn’t like novellas. Right now, it wants more in the vein of “The DaVinci
Diet’s Guide to Financial Freedom: Solving the Riddle of Losing 20 Pounds and
Making $1,000,000 in Four Short Weeks.”
I told Jim that I would love to
if his regular publisher, Walker, declined and his agent couldn’t find someone
else. Then, a little over two years ago, I ran into his agent, Vicky Bijur, in
Toronto, I reiterated that if she couldn’t sell <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Drive, I’d love to publish it. She said
that she hadn’t sold it and that they’d be happy to have us do it.
So in September of last year,
Poisoned Pen Press published Drive. And the rave reviews started coming in. Starred
reviews everywhere; a New
York Times review that said, “James Sallis has written the
perfect noir fiction”; Chicago
Tribune and Washington Post mentions for best books of 2005; and a
spot on Entertainment
Weekly’s list of top 10 books of 2005. Then in mid-March, on the
front page, Variety
announced that Universal had optioned <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Drive for Hugh Jackman to star in. I
don’t know if I’ll ever see Poisoned Pen Press mentioned in <span
again, but I loved it—mostly because it validated our feelings that ultimately
it’s all about the book and not about the numbers.
And Now Back to BEA
When a gentleman walked into my
booth and said, “We sell some of your books,” I looked at his badge and saw
that he was from Borders. We began talking; he noticed <span
the books I was displaying and mentioned that he had read it and really liked
it. We talked a little more, and he said that whenever he was in Phoenix, he
made a point of dropping by The Poisoned Pen to check out my wife’s bookstore.
I started to get the feeling that I was talking to someone who was not just a
clerk in some Borders branch.
So we chatted some more, and I
shared with him the belief that Big Publishing had no idea what it was doing,
and then told him the story of <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Drive as I’ve told it to you. I also
told him that we had just heard that the <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>L.A. Times Book Review was going to be
doing a retrospective look at Jim’s work and would have a full-page
photo-illustration of him on the front page of the next day’s issue.
After a few more minutes of
conversation about books, publishing, and business in general, we exchanged
cards, and he moved on. I looked to see that I had just spent 10 minutes with
the chairman, president, and CEO of Borders. So the question is this: What
value to a small press is there to having visited with and obtained the email
address and business card of the CEO of Borders? What’s the probability that I
could gain access to this person if I hadn’t gone? Want to know where I’ll be
in 2007 the first few days of June?
Robert Rosenwald is
publisher and president of Poisoned Pen Press. He helped his wife start The
Poisoned Pen, A Mystery Bookstore in 1989, which has since become the largest
specialty bookstore in the United States. They began Poisoned Pen Press in
1997. For more information, write <span
or visit www.poisonedpenpress.com.