Closeup: Alan Gadney
Along with profiling IBPA board members and staff, I’ve recently had the opportunity to talk to original members of our organization who remain active. Among the founders of the Publishers Association of Southern California (which became PMA, the Publishers Marketing Association, before becoming IBPA) was Alan Gadney, who now runs One-on-One Book Production & Marketing with his wife, Carolyn Porter, in West Hills, CA.
Gadney and Porter put out their first book—Gadney’s Guide to 1800 International Contests, Festivals & Grants: In Film & Video, Photography, TV-Radio Broadcasting, Writing, Poetry, Playwriting, Journalism—in 1978, which he remembers as “falling into publishing, whether we liked it or not.”
His current location in Los Angeles County is thousands of miles from Tampa, FL, where he started in television news right after graduating from college, but the way he tells the story, it’s easy to see how he changed coasts and careers.
The hands-on job in TV got him interested in film, which led to a University of Southern California master’s program in cinema. The short film he made, starting when he was a student, needed distribution, and that led him to research cinema awards programs, which led to—you guessed it—the 1978 directory. “Oh, it was primitive,” he says, chuckling. “Two columns of tiny type on each page, pasted up and printed locally, 610 pages, 5,000 copies warehoused in our garage.”
Gadney’s Guide may have lacked the slick design of today’s publications, but it was the first directory of its kind, and it sold 15,000 copies. After it was honored by the American Library Association as the best reference book in its topic area for 1980, the guide also attracted the attention of Facts on File. Today a publisher of print and online reference materials for the school and library market, that company was then beginning to issue titles with crossover appeal to the trade market, and it contracted with Gadney and Porter for a series of books on the “how to enter and win” contest theme: film, video, photography, sculpture, even fiber crafts.
“Eventually 12 were published,” says Gadney, whose experiences with Facts on File included a 20-city tour, with as many as six gigs a day, the sort of promotion few publishers fund these days, especially for reference titles. And the same broadcast interview opportunities don’t exist now, he points out, given the decline in talk shows that often featured indie authors.
Many of the same promotional opportunities available when Gadney got started still are available, however, and he believes that books are truly successful only when publishers and authors work together both on those and on newer marketing strategies: “A publisher needs to pursue everything that I call ‘traditional’ promotion: wholesale distribution to both storefront and online retailers, reviews and awards.”
In addition, he emphasizes the importance of authors in book promotion. Author appearances and back-of-the-room sales increase both revenue and author visibility, sometimes leading to paid speaking engagements. Authors must also take on the bulk of the responsibility for social media, Gadney believes. “It’s a lot of work, and it’s work that must be done by the author.”
Fiction via Fusion
New at Chicago Review Press: original fiction, due to the acquisition of Academy Chicago Publishers by Chicago Review Press Inc., the parent company of Chicago Review Press and Independent Publishers Group.
Academy Chicago founders Jordan and Anita Miller have stayed on as editors-at-large for what is now an imprint of Chicago Review, with 15 to 20 new titles scheduled for this year.
Recognition For Self-Published Romance
A recent Library Journal article on romance buying by librarians highlights member Tule Publishing Group, and identifies both important review publications for romance publishers and a changing attitude about self-publishing.
Tule’s Jane Porter was among those interviewed by Seattle librarian Marlene Harris about the number of romance writers who are being published both by major presses and by their own. As the LJ article explained, “The first type of hybrid author achieved the dream of a traditional publishing contract after having sold oodles of copies (and made beaucoup dollars) by self-publishing a novel, generally through Smashwords or Amazon. . . .
“The second type of hybrid author has had a long career and has now reclaimed, retained, or even wrestled back rights to her backlist titles . . . while her frontlist titles are still under a traditional contract. . . . Those backlist titles have already been professionally edited, and the author may still have the electronic files. They may not need much work beyond a new cover. The author is not merely well known but downright beloved, and readers want that backlist now in e-book format.”
[Editor’s note: To learn about IBPA members’ experiences with “reclaimed, retained, or even wrestled back rights,” see our three-part series “Bringing Books Back,” which concludes in this issue.]
Harris describes how Porter, a bestselling author and Romance Writers of America RITA Award winner, “has created her own publishing concern . . . to launch the Copper Mountain Rodeo novella series of Western romances,” and how that “highlights the new opportunities made possible in this ‘Wild West’ of digital publishing. As an author, Porter can create a haven for other writers wanting to publish books that might not fit within their current publishing contracts, hiring experts to do the things that traditional publishers handled exclusively.”
Harris also points out that many librarians who select romances are looking past the usual review publications (she cites LJ, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and RT Book Reviews) to Entertainment Weekly and such genre-specific blogs as Smart Bitches Trashy Books and Dear Author.
The LJ article concludes with unusual enthusiasm for publishing newbies: “At libraries, there is a tendency to hear the term self-published, hearken back to the days of vanity presses, and equate those books with low quality. The rise of electronic publishing has made it possible for authors of every type to publish independently work of high quality. From the author’s side of the equation, the stigma of self-publishing is dissipating rapidly.”
Keys to Full-Color Success
At Wild Iris, David FitzSimmons is celebrating two years of successful sales of Curious Critters, and the publication of Curious Critters, Volume Two, already the subject of a positive review in Publishers Weekly.
“When I published Curious Critters in late 2011, my sales goal was 50,000 copies in two years,” he reports. “Exactly 24 months later, I had sold more than 90,000 copies!”
Sales are continuing at the rate of several thousand a month, he reports, and he’s preparing audiobooks to complement both books, as well as doing photography for Curious Critters: Marine, to be issued in the fall.
FitzSimmons credits the success of the first Curious Critters, a 323-page full-color hardcover, to a number of factors:
● production by an art book printer on high-quality materials
● the development of a marketing plan prior to production with the help of two experienced publicists
● a media blitz that resulted in hundreds of review copy requests and more than 100 interviews or reviews by network-affiliate radio and television stations, Animal Planet, Huffington Post, and Environmental News Network
● a starred review in School Library Journal and similarly glowing reviews in Audubon Magazine and Scientific American
● five book awards, including an IBPA Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book and a PubWest Book Design Award
● an ambitious schedule of presentations around the country at independent bookstores, nature organizations, and photography clubs
Also, FitzSimmons notes, he eschewed book signings, focusing “solely on book events, dramatically reading my book to children while they acted out parts of the book and assisted with puppet performances.” Often, he “partnered with local nature centers or zoos to have animals on hand, creating a community event. One such event in Grand Rapids, MI, drew more than 150 people.”
FitzSimmons wrote thank-you notes to everyone who reviewed the book, assuming that would help with publicity for his new volume.
The author/publisher also credits his professional partners, including Sigma Corporation of America, whose lenses he uses with his cameras. “Sigma promotes my books and work at their trade show booths at major expos and sponsors my presentations at major photography conferences. Because marketing my book helps showcase its equipment, Sigma utilizes its East Coast PR firm to promote the book to photo media, both through releases and a video.”
In addition, Sigma sponsors an exhibit of Curious Critters images, now in its fourth year of a national tour, and the how-to workshops that FitzSimmons conducts on photographing live animals. “And, of course,” he adds, “the sigmaphoto.com site showcases my images, shares upcoming events, and posts awards won by my books.”
He encourages new publishers to focus on developing such mutually beneficial partnerships. “You build strong partnerships by emphasizing how what you are doing will benefit them, only then mentioning what you need in return.”
W.W. West Publishing’s tie-in with the National Parks Conservation Association continues to pay off for both the nonprofit organization and the Bend, OR, publisher.
Because the NPCA receives part of the revenue from sales of America’s National Parks: A Pop-Up Book, it kicked off the 2013 holiday season with an email about the title to some 150,000 of its members.
The e-blast and a few media recommendations, most notably the Washington Post’s December 6 “Holiday gift ideas for the travelers in your life,” resulted in sales of almost 1,000 copies in a two-week period. Besides filling rush orders from wholesalers, W.W. West publisher Don Compton said he retailed 44 copies of the $105 limited edition, and 239 copies of the $34.95 edition. The Amazon.com sales ranking soared, too, from about 14,000 to as high as 1,650.
Calling on Costco
Sonia Marsh, author/publisher of Freeways to Flip-Flops (Gutsy Publications), has been signing her books at Costco in Southern California, thanks to a little initiative.
She walked into her local Costco, asked to see the manager, and pointed out that she’s a local author, and the book has a local hook. The manager asked her to send a copy of the book to the Kirkland, WA, Costco headquarters, where the book department is. Soon after she did that, she was contacted by American West Books, which wholesales books to Costco in the Southwest (and is also an IBPA member), with an order.
A Different Kind of Book Tour
“Tour a book before you’ve even finished writing it? Five reasons why it’s not as crazy as it sounds.” That was the title of a blog post by Deb Vanasse of Running Fox Books last fall. By year-end, the Eagle River, AK, publisher had concrete proof of the value of prepublication promotion: a detailed article in the Vancouver, B.C., Globe and Mail, “Discovery casts doubt on Klondike gold claim.”
“That the reporter found me was a testimony to the power of my prepub touring in Alaska and the Yukon,” says Vanasse, who explains, “His online search took him to a museum where I’d spoken last summer on Kate Carmack, the subject of Wealth Woman: Kate Carmack and the Last Great Race for Gold, coming in 2015.”
The author/publisher’s first five reasons for advance touring:
● “You’ll be reminded why you’re writing the book.” If so much work on the project has left you wondering why you ever began, Vanasse says, “a few talks in new places before eager listeners will get you jazzed all over again.”
● You get to test-drive the book before a live audience and see where interest peaks and where it fizzles. “You’ll find out which parts will benefit from further work.”
● You’ll build excitement for the project. “It’s nice to meet readers who are enthusiastic about your book before it’s even finished.”
● You’ll expand your platform. “Enough said.”
● You’ll get help, both actual and psychic. The strangers who became friends of Vanasse’s included the woman who lives in a house once owned by a figure in the Carmack history; a local genealogy whiz who helped her confirm some details on Carmack; a descendent of Carmack’s who shared views of the place Vanasse’s character called home; and a couple who provided a tour of the Anglican church that Carmack’s daughter attended. And then there were the researchers and writers she met in archives and at presentations who generously shared their information with her.
If you’re considering a tour well in advance of publication, Vanasse does have a caveat: “You have to be at the right place in your work. My research was nearly wrapped up and I completed the last of it while touring. I’d written half the book, and the other half was thoroughly outlined. So put it this way: I could talk about Kate Carmack in my sleep. All night. For several nights in a row!”
Revenue Rises Remarkably
A memoir about helping a dog through cancer, and then suffering it herself by Teresa J. Rhyne—The Dog Lived (And So Will I: A Memoir—was a New York Times bestseller for Sourcebooks, and, by year end, in almost 400 libraries. Thanks in part to it and a children’s holiday title, Santa Is Coming to Texas, by Steve Smallman and Robert Dunn, Sourcebooks reported a 22 percent increase in revenue for 2013.
Buoying the sales also were significant increases—about 60 percent in each category—for romance, children’s books, and calendars. The company also reported a 58 percent increase in mass market sales, which it said had been “a challenging format” in recent years for many publishers.
Holiday season reviews and roundups featured several members’ titles.
● A Mysterious Something in the Light: The Life of Raymond Chandler by Tom Williams (Chicago Review Press) was featured in a half-page story in the Wall Street Journal, which called it “strongly researched and highly readable.” And the title was included in a holiday story in Mystery Scene Magazine, which called it “the new standard by which all future biographies will be judged.”
● The Orlando Weekly’s “Give Books” holiday roundup included A Mysterious Something in the Light as well as Met Her on the Mountain: A Forty-Year Quest to Solve the Appalachian Cold-Case Murder of Nancy Morgan by Mark I. Pinsky (from John F. Blair, Publisher), and Savory Cocktails: Sour Spicy Herbal Umami Bitter Smoky Rich Strong by Greg Henry (from Ulysses Press).
● The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch’s “Outdoor Books by Ohio Authors Really Are Page-Turners” included Get Your Kids Hiking: How To Start Them Young and Keep It Fun (from Beaufort Books), crediting author Jeff Alt for explaining what kids need to learn to enjoy walking distances. And the Midwest Library Review also described the book in its December “Parenting Shelf.”
● Chelsea Green Publishing’s Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights: The Escalating Battle over Who Decides What We Eat, by David E. Gumpart, was reviewed in the Harvard Business School Alumni Bulletin, which referred to the author’s opposition to government regulation of some foods and their sources.
Linda Carlson compiles the Spotlight column from Seattle, where she has just published Advertising with Small Budgets for Big Results (lindacarlson.com/p/advertising.html).
Spotlight is compiled by Linda Carlson (lindacarlson.com), who welcomes members’ news of notable special sales and licensing deals, significant recent media coups, movie and television options, and other achievements at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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