Tuesday, December 07, 2004

So you want to be a writer--Part II

Your book is published. You got through the seemingly endless editing, tweaking, and writing/rewriting. You've seen the galleys, read the whole thing so many times you're sick of your own words. The final proof has been checked and rechecked and your book is ready to ship. You have your complimentary copies and you can have more for a very small fee. Now the real work begins.

Since you're not Stephen King or even Dan Brown, marketing is minimal at best. You might get a mention in Publisher's Weekly or some other trade magazine, but don't count on it. Book signings? Maybe if you set them up. Expensive advertising campaigns, radio and television spots, talk shows? Only if you set them up and pay for them. You are still persona non grata in the publishing industry. And even if you make back your advance and get a second book contract, or 100 book contracts, and you never sell more than 30,000 to 100,000 books you might as well get ready to spend some of your own hard-earned money to set up your own media blitz. There are exceptions.

It seems the romance industry treats their authors a bit better, but they can afford to do that; they publish more books and authors than any other genre publisher in the world. The only other way you'll get better treatment is if some MBA at the publisher decides you are the next new trend. Case in point: Meg, which was supposed to follow Peter Benchley's Jaws and it's meteoric success. Seven figure advance for an unknown author who writes a massive book that the movie studios even optioned. Unfortunately, it cost the publishers a bundle and it never made it even to the mid list, even with inflated sales, and died a quiet and ignominious death...as well it should have. It was a bloated shark carcass of a book. But this is what you're battling: the mind set of a bean counter who doesn't know beans about publishing.

Back to the media blitz you're not going to see. It isn't enough that you spent a lot of time writing, revising, rewriting, and editing your manuscript before you found someone who was willing to take 15%-20% to look at contracts and deplete your advance and the earnings of your book, now you're going to have to hit the road, the Internet, and every reviewer, radio and television station, and talk show host to get someone to pay attention to your magnum opus. There are press packets to put together -- at your expense -- and send out -- at your expense -- and you will have to buy more of your own books to give away to reviewers, newspapers, magazines, and talk show hosts who may or may not actually read it. You will have to buy advertising, set up a web site to publicize your book, write about it, and even send out press releases and set up your own book signings. You're going to spend a lot of time marketing your book to make it a success, which isn't going to leave you a lot of time for the manuscripts buzzing around in your head that beg to be set down in black and white. If you decide to range very far afield, better make sure your credit card can handle the load because you're also going to have to pay for your food, gas, plane/train fares, and hotel/motel wherever you go. The government is generous enough to allow you to take a percentage of that off your taxes, but that will not offset the hours of smiling and cramped fingers (if you're lucky and did a lot of marketing in that area) you're going to have to endure. You won't see your family or friends and have to live out of a battered suitcase for a while if you do any extensive marketing.

Of course, all of this translates (hopefully) to sales and that will make your next advance better because you sold a lot of books, but unless you win the lottery you're not going to see the New York Times Best seller's list. The way that works is even more insidious than you know. The trials are just beginning...and they're going to get a lot worse.

(To be continued)

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