Saturday, April 07, 2007

Out of the Vault: BEA 2004 Program Report

So what if all the below programs took place three years ago? The information & advice offered are still golden, especially:
  • Manage expectations.
  • Yelling doesn't work.
  • If you want to be a successful author, you must show up dressed like one.
  • Your writing career shouldn't exist in a vacuum.
  • Spend part (or nearly all) of your advance on publicity.
  • To reach media and your audience, you must be passionate, persistent and personal.

Editor & Bookseller Buzz Forum
Nora Rawlinson of Publishers Weekly did a good job of keeping things on time and--wonder of wonders!--for once the panelists actually spoke into their microphones. However, most did not do as instructed: talk about 2 "sleeper" books for fall. I think the only true sleepers may be the MacAdam Cage titles and WEST OF THEN from S&S. Interesting that MacAdam Cage's Anika Streitfeld was the only woman on the panel--and also the youngest, and that only 3 of the 14 authors are women (one with a male cowriter). Umm, which 51% of the population buys something like 80% of the books in this country?

Little, Brown - Michael Pietsch:
  • BLINK: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcom Gladwell (Jan.) Great tagline: "Don't think, blink!"
  • THE HA-HA by Dave King (Jan.) I know what a ha-ha is because I read Jane Austen. Ha ha!

MacAdam Cage - Anika Streitfeld:
  • HOW TO BE LOST by Amanda Eyre Ward (Oct)
  • PINKERTON'S SISTER by Peter Rushforth (spring '05)

Penguin - Scott Myers:
  • WE ARE ALL THE SAME: The Life and Death of Nkosi Johnson by Jim Wooten (Nov.) About a 12-year-old African boy who died of AIDS.

Random House - Dan Menaker:
  • ELEVENTH MONTH, ELEVENTH DAY, ELEVENTH HOUR by Joseph Persico (Nov., of course). About the end of WWI.
  • THE LAMENTS by George Hagen (June, i.e., now)

ReganBooks - Cal Morgan:
  • AMERICAN SOLDIER by Tommy Franks. Some sleeper!
  • An 11-book (fantasy? mystery? thriller?) series by some author I never heard of. Zzzz.
  • CITIZEN VINCE by Jess Walter (Sept.) About a wiseguy who goes into the witness protection program and gets into trouble again.
  • HOW TO MAKE LOVE LIKE A PORN STAR: A Cautionary Tale by Jenna Jameson (Aug.) It was pretty funny when Morgan said of Jameson, "Well, of course everyone is pretending that they don't know who she is," and most of the people, including Your Humble Correspondent, stared at him blankly until he explained that she's a billion-dollar-grossing porn star. The room was at least 50% women. What do we know from porn stars? (Or from making a billion dollars, for that matter.) Incidentally, the guy sitting next to me hadn't heard of Jameson either, nor had my husband. But Morgan did get some laughs (incl. from YHC) when he said, perhaps ingenuously, that it was going to be a "Trojan Horse of a book." Oh, and here's a big surprise: She has a cowriter, Neil Strauss.

Simon & Schuster - David Rosenthal:
  • WOLVES EAT DOGS: An Arkady Renko Novel by Martin Cruz Smith (Nov.) A sequel to GORKY PARK.
  • THE KNOW-IT-ALL: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs (Oct.)
  • WEST OF THEN: A Mother, A Daughter, and a Journey Past Paradise by Tara Gray Smith (Oct.)

How to Work Best with Your Authors' In-house Publicity & Marketing Departments
This was sponsored by the AAR (Association of Authors' Representatives), and I thought for sure would be packed. Instead it was sparsely attended, which was a shame because the panelists were excellent speakers and shared a lot of vital information. I was very gratified to hear them say some of the same things I tell people at the Book Promotion 101 workshops. (My rule: If two people who don't know each other give the same advice, it must be right.)

(Ms) Pat Eisman, publicity director(?), Scribner:
Scribner (div. of Simon & Schuster) puts out 125-150 books per season, with a "tiny" publicity staff of 7. They devise a master plan for each book, from the shelf to the cash register. Each publicist reads every book s/he handles & works on some 30(!) per season--past, present & future titles. The first question they ask is, "Who buys this book?" The publisher--not the publicity director--decides how many cities an author will tour based on prediction of advance sales. The publicity director calls: the three morning national TV shows, New York Times, major reviewers. The books are presented to NPR. The problem with book coverage these days is, "fame vs. the rest of us"; i.e., the media pay attention to celebrities first.

The typical author's complaint, "'They did nothing,' isn't true." Each book gets a galley mailing: 125+ galleys w/ a letter. They call PW, Kirkus & the major dailies; send out 300-450 review copies. They do few press releases and use few freelance publicists. "The campaign never ends. We chase books. We worked on ANGELA'S ANSHES for 5 years."

Important points for agents (and authors):
1) Manage expectations. "I'm paid to be enthusiastic, but enthusiasm should never be confused with 'got it done.'"
2) Communicate via email.
3) Yelling doesn't work.
4) The publicity department is the link. Send them video & audio of the author. Save press clips.
5) It takes six man-hours to set up a book signing.

Louise Brocket, publicity, W.W. Norton:
Releases 250-300 books a year; 50% original hardcover, 50% paperback. Eight in publicity department; each person handles 4-5 new titles per month. They prepare early on & look carefully at the author questionnaire. A statement on why the author wrote the book is very helpful, as is an author Q&A. Publicists send out: galleys 4-5 months pre-pub; a "very generous" mailing with press release, bio, etc. They pitch to all major book review sections and media. "Fiction authors need a nonfiction hook. Fiction and nonfiction are pitched in an increasingly similar way."

Lisa Gallagher, marketing director(?), Wm. Morrow: Morrow/HarperCollins is different from other publishers, in that the publicity and sales departments are involved in acquisitions. Hence, "If a book is acquired, we are passionate about it." She speaks to the publicity director "25 times a day." Morrow does 3 lists a year, each with 45-50 original titles. They prefer not to work with independent publicists.

Jeff Seroy, VP marketing & publicity, Farrar, Straus & Giroux:
"We publish authors, not books." Publish 150-175 new hardcovers a year. 7-1/2 in publicity department (the 1/2 person comes in 3 days/week). Books are assigned to publicists by affinity. They start publicity after the editor presents the book to the marketing and sales force (the "launch meeting"), approx. 10 months before pub date. They try to have the author in to talk about the book between the launch and post-launch meetings. They just did a pre-publication tour for a first author, who went to San Francisco with the agent and the publicist.

They use very few outside publicists, except maybe regionally. "It's no less work for us to have an independent publicist; sometimes it's more."

Advice to authors:
1) Have a realistic view of the publishing process and have feasible expectations. Build from there.
2) If you want to be a successful author, you must show up dressed like one. You must be good to go.
3) Your writing career shouldn't exist in a vacuum. Are you willing to write book reviews, articles for women's shelter magazines, NPR essays, op-ed pieces?
4) Ask when the launch meeting is.
5) Identify holidays & anniversaries that tie into the book.
6) Introduce yourself to local booksellers.

Making the First Novel Work

People said a lot of good stuff, but I didn't take many notes because I say much of the same stuff in my workshops. As I recall, Tucker's inhouse publicist was in the audience & she added some sage comments. Basically, they all stressed the importance of teamwork in making a book successful. Tucker certainly seems to have had the dream team, starting with her wonderful agent. This is especially remarkable for a paperback original, rather than a hardcover.

An important component in the book's success was that Rusoff (a former publicist at William Morrow & other houses) got a manuscript--or maybe it was a galley--to Shipley, who, despite her store's remote location, is legendary in the bookselling world for spotting hot titles, getting the word to other booksellers & reviewers, and handselling to her adoring customers.

Shipley noted that your local bookseller is far more likely to pay special attention to you and your book if you're a regular customer. So if you have a book in the works, stop buying from Amazon & start showing your face in your neighborhood bookstore.

Important points:
1) Spend part (or nearly all) of your advance on publicity.
2) Build author credibility by getting blurbs to go on the ARC (advance reading copy).
3) To reach media and your audience, you must be passionate, persistent and personal.

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