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I Paid the Penalty in the Galleys Game

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Well, I finally got caught.

I knew it would happen someday. Play with fire often enough, eventually you get burnt. And now I’m in big trouble.

It happened at Book Expo. I was talking to one of THEM–a reviewer for a library magazine, someone who has always been nice to my books. I’ve always been careful to send bound galleys to him four months before publication date, as a good girl should. I was telling the reviewer about The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days, my latest book, whose pub date is September. I was giving him a bound galley. He was pleasant, charmed, engaged. I was hopeful of a good review.

And then disaster struck. Around the corner came an acquaintance who had heard me speak at PMA University; she was one of the 65 people in the audience who bought my book. The woman was carrying it. The same book. The finished book.

“Fern!” she called out enthusiastically. “Your new book is wonderful! I stayed up all night reading it. Thank you so much!” With those words, she was gone.

But the damage had already been done. My reviewer was looking dismayed, glancing back and forth between the galley in his hand and the rapidly disappearing finished book being whisked down the aisle. I attempted damage control. “Oh, that was a BEA special edition. The book won’t actually be out until September.” But I’d been caught. Nailed. The cell doors were clanging shut. My reviewer was mentally scratching me off the list.


The Rules Rigmarole


Everyone knows that publication dates are illusory, at best. The heavyweights in publishing often sell out several printings before the official pub date. We smaller presses have memorized the labyrinth of complex rules around publication dates: It’s OK to have the books in bookstores, but you can’t have them listed on Amazon, or the reviewers won’t look at them. It’s OK to sell finished books off your Web site, but verboten to send the same finished books for review.

Traditionalists still spend mega bucks paying for Cranes. Mavericks like me have the printer bind up a dozen plain-covered “galleys” at the same time they do the first printing, feeling elusive and tricky, a drunk swilling discretely from a brown paper bag.

Keep those piles straight: the reviewer gets the galley; the chain store gets the book; the book club gets the galley; the library gets the book. Step off the narrow path, and it’s a long fall off the precipice.

So I print galleys while I’m printing books and sometimes–as at this year’s Book Expo–I get caught.

Maybe that reviewer will take pity on me and review the book anyway.


Fern Reiss is the author of three new books on publishing, “The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days,” “The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days,” and “The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days.” All three are available at www.PublishingGame.com. All three were just chosen as Writer’s Digest Book Club selections.






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