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The Rewards of Attention to Authors

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The Rewards of Attention to
Authors

 

by Valerie Connelly

 

I confess. I rely heavily on
the wonderful information in PMA Independent for my talk show, <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Calling All Authors
,
and, as you might expect from the show?s name, I believe in focusing on
authors. But more than that, I believe that spending a good deal of time and
energy on communication with and personal service to authors helps publishers
keep the ones they have and attract new ones.

 

My business model involves authors
paying for some services before publication (they are reimbursed from the sales
of their first 100 books and get royalties on all book sales after that), but I
have discussed my methods of getting the best from authors with enough
publishers at royalty-only houses to feel confident that it?s generally useful.
The tips that follow are based on my experiences and theirs.

 

Email
to authors.
It?s not just for
announcing the latest marketing tip. Email is the most reliable way to reach
most authors on a publisher?s roster. While I spend a lot of time nudging our
whole group of authors forward with emails about co-operative marketing
opportunities and new ways for them to try punching up their sales, I spend
nearly as much time just chatting with them when they seem to need that.

 

Sometimes, it is good to just say,
?Hello, how are you doing?? or ?Did you have a good weekend?? or ?I was
thinking about you today, and thought I?d say hello.? If you make your approach
friendly and personal, if you?re truly interested in the author?s life and
willing to share bits of your own, your thoughtfulness will be repaid. Last
December, when I was forced to have major back surgery that cut down my ability
to be available for a couple of months, I was greatly encouraged by the
outpouring of goodwill and by the patience authors extended to me until I could
take up the reins again.

 

I answer emails from authors right
away or, if that?s impossible, within a couple of hours. I do this partly
because it is easier than trying to remember to respond later, but also because
it shows I care about whatever purpose an author had in writing.

 

Even when my authors forward an
email they think is particularly fetching, I thank them for the thought. I see
it as a compliment that they want to include me on their forwarding list.

 

Avoid using all caps and multiple
exclamation points in emails to authors, even if they use them, since they make
it sound as though you are shouting. And if you must convey something less than
pleasant—such as news having to do with money, corrections, or slow
sales—be factual and give reasoned explanations. Remember, everything you
write in an email can be held against you later, but communicating the tougher
news is much easier when you have a solid email relationship going.

 

Send
a card now and then.
<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt;font-weight:normal;font-style:normal’>
<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Old-fashioned, but tried and true. I enclose a
handwritten notecard with every snail-mail piece I send to authors (except for
invoices), with just a few words geared to each author (no fair writing the
same thing over and over). I also enclose a handwritten card with new
contracts, with CD-ROMs of digital proofs, with galleys, with reviews, and with
royalty payments. And sometimes I send one just to say, ?Thank you for being
one of our authors.?

 

Now that this very old
marketing/PR technique has faded into oblivion in the digital world, it
actually makes a difference. It says that you are a real human being and that
you think the author is too. A card can pave the way to open communications
with an author who has not been as responsive as you had hoped. It is hard to
ignore a personal handwritten card sitting right there in your hand.

 

Don?t
rush on the phone.
I answer my own
phone—using caller ID to say ?Hi, Bill, how are you?? instead of
something formal whenever I recognize the caller?s name—and I make it a point
to return missed calls the moment I get the message. Of course, I encourage our
authors to call during business hours. And I call authors fairly often for any
number of reasons.

 

Some authors can be demanding,
expecting you to drop everything to deal with their problems ?right now!?
Calming them with an encouraging word often takes some doing, but it is far
better to talk over problems or needs on the phone than via email.

 

Be
where your authors are.
As
publishers, we spend so much time pushing our authors to get out the door and
do something to market their books that we would do well to show up when they
do (when an event is too far away, I call or email afterward to see how it
went).

 

You probably can?t arrange to
shake hands with all your authors, but those you can meet will enjoy the
attention. When two of our authors and I went to New York City for BEA 2005, we
had a great time attending signings and events and dining out together. We
became colleagues and friends, not just authors and publisher.

 

And I always go to the semiannual
local-group book signings we set up for our authors in Barnes & Noble
stores in Illinois and Wisconsin. I work with the store managers to get the
clients in the door and direct the flow of customers. When I give talks at local
colleges and universities, several of our authors return the favor and turn out
to see their publisher at work.

 

What has happened in our case,
over time, is that our authors are increasingly willing to participate in
marketing opportunities because they feel they are part of a publishing family,
and not just an ISBN, a cover, and numbers on a ledger sheet.

 

The fact is, without our authors,
we would not be publishers. So, as human beings in the business of making and
marketing books written by sensitive, caring, creative people, it seems smart
to keep the human, personal side of the business on the front burner.

 

Valerie Connelly, the
founder and publisher at Nightengale Press, hosts a weekly Internet radio talk
show, Calling All Authors
(www.globaltalkradio.com/shows/callingallauthors), and has written two novels.
Her first children?s book, Arthur,
the Christmas Elf
, is just out. For more information, visit
www.nightengalepress.com or call 847-810-8498.

 

 

 

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