Knowledge is Power—
Jennifer O’Donohue has worked in Borders Group working retail in stores and well as a sales rep. She worked in sales for several publishers including Harvard University Press, Chronicle Books, Time Warner and Penguin Books. Though she left that world to pursue a sales position with Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, she still consults with a small children’s publisher and maintains her ties with the publishing industry. Here are a few bullet points touched on during her talk:
§ --The single best thing a prepublished author can do, besides learning the craft and writing a great book, is to educate yourself. Go to conferences, workshops, retreats, and learn to network. Develop contacts. Get in a critique group. Do research. Keep up with the industry.
§ --There were 267,000 books published last year and another 134,000 print-on-demand books—which was up 100,000 from 2002. That’s a LOT of competition! T’s comments—and that’s only books. Publishing is the entertainment industry and books sales compete with movie, video games, and other ways of spending the consumer’s entertainment dollars.
§ --Make goals. Think about why you are writing and what you hope to achieve with it.
§ --At Bookstores:
o --check out who are the current big names. What promotions are going on?
o --How are books categorized—the subtle nuisances of how they’re shelved. This will help the agent / editor position your book—help people identify where they can find your book. Face out or spine out? Face out gives you a sense of the publisher’s commitment to the book because the publisher pays extra to have a book face out.
o --Pay attention to the packaging.
o --Which publishers predominantly publish which authors?
o The Big 6 Publishers—like the Ivy League
§ Random House, Penguin, Harpercollins, Hachette Book Group, Simon and Schuster, and MacMillian--Holtz
o Privately Owned Publishers—
§ Workman, Chronicles Books & W.W. Norton
o Small Boutique Publishers—The largest number of tiny presses-
§ MacAdams Cage, and hundreds more
§ Big 6-
§ Powerful sales and distribution arm and a lot of direct contact with retailers
§ Have key managements to track sales and they “own real estate” meaning they own the first 10 feet--ish of the bookstores—literally! They pay between $300-500,000 to have their authors books stacked at the front of the stores. They also pay a huge amount for the book displays at the end of the rows.
§ The Big 6 have a LOT more resources for design and packaging for their books.
§ They can afford to absorb a lot more of the overhead to keep the price of the books down. They have a smaller price point, giving them a competitive advantage over smaller presses.
§ Your book is only 1 of hundreds coming out that year, hence you’ll get less attention throughout the whole process.
§ You need to have an agent to get to the big 6.
§ Smaller Publishers-
§ Many accept unsolicited queries—so no need for agent.
§ Fewer books published each year so better chance of your book being the “star” lead book
§ Better chance of getting more attention all around from the publishing house.
§ Less distance between the different departments (Editorial, Sales, Art/Design & Marketing) so better chance at generating “buzz” and inhouse excitement over your book. Communication often better in small houses.
§ Better chance of a lot more editorial attention paid to your book.
§ They tend to be more creative with marketing strategies
§ More willing to take risks on creative packaging.
§ Tend to be more connected to independent book stores, which gives them a little edge in generating grassroots excitement.
§ Question I asked:
o Why approach an agent or publishing house of a big name author in the same genre as what you’re writing? If I’m writing legal thrillers and they have John Grisham, why would they want me? Or women’s fiction and they have Jodi Picoult, what would they want with me?
§ Her answer—one day John or Jodi may abruptly retire. You never know. Yes, they will still be interested in you.