Monday, April 28, 2008

Inside Scoop: Remaindered, Bothered & Bewildered

(This just in from a YA author who, for obvious reasons, wishes to remain anonymous.)

Prior to my publication date, I wisely took Book Promotion 101 and got Bella's handy dandy packet o' info. In that packet was the hilarious poem "The Book of My Enemy has Been Remaindered," which made me laugh aloud because I was sure that such a thing would NEVER happen to me.

Oh, how wrong I was.

But first, let me recap what the publicity department at my publisher did for me. They sent my book to reviewers. As far as I can tell, that's about it.

The book was universally well reviewed, and was placed on an important annual reading list for teachers and librarians nationwide. Not bad for a first-timer.

Beyond sending the book out to reviewers, I'm not sure what my publicity person did because I couldn't get anything else out of her. I tried to be helpful, I asked if there was anything I could do--if they wanted a bio or photo or anything, but they didn't seem open or receptive to that.

So I took the hint, and did else myself, including booking appearances at numerous book festivals, setting up signings and school visits, getting newspaper articles, teen targeted web reviews and NPR interviews and, of course, doing the things I knew I'd be doing myself anyway, like printing up book cards, and getting my website up and running.

My first book fest was an inhouse publicity eye opener. I booked myself into this fest which was in the state where the book I wrote is set. A no-brainer, if you ask me. Because my book was set instate, there was a feature article on me in the Sunday arts section of the newspaper.

I contacted my inhouse publicity person well in advance of the fest and made sure she knew it was happening so she could alert the regional sales rep to see that all went well. She congratulated me and assured me that everything would be fine. Weeks later, I contacted her again to give her the newspaper article and to remind her of the festival dates. Once again, congratulations and assurances. I figured all was right with the world.

Then I arrived at the fest. No books. None. Nada. Zip.

Luckily, having taken Book Promotion 101, I was prepared with book cards and book plates to sign for the many people who would have bought my book if they could have. When I returned from the fest, I contacted my publicity person and told her that the fest was wonderful, except...well, that pesky little detail: no books.

Her reply? I should have told her I was doing the fest so she could have been sure that books would be there for me.

Like a far too polite trouper, I refrained from forwarding her the entire chain of emails between us about the fest, and assured her that next time, by golly, I'd absolutely tell her where I'd be appearing and when.

Without going into any more gory detail, this is the rest of what happened between me and my inhouse publicity department. I set up more appearances. I contacted my publicist. My calls didn't go through and my emails started bouncing back. She'd left the house, I hadn't been informed and had, in fact, been without a publicity person for weeks.

I was assigned her former assistant. Another book fest came and went with NO BOOKS. Emails began to bounce back from the former assistant. She too had left the house.

I was assigned another assistant. She cheerfully returned emails, and made sure my books were at the next fest, though by that time there was little else she could do for me, although I asked. My title was now over a year old and the house had written me off.

A couple months later, the house remaindered my book, and offered me copies at deep, deep discount: $1.49 a copy. I promptly ordered 300 copies, since I figured I'd been handselling the book anyway and might as well continue to do so.

Then, mere DAYS after my book was remaindered, it was nominated for a state book award. With this award, the state puts forth a master list of titles, students throughout the state have a full year to read books from the list and then vote on their favorite. Of course, students have to be able to GET the book to READ IT. A conundrum, no?

Also, I've been told by an author I know who won this state award last year, that being on the master list generates lots of school visits and book sales, and that most books on state awards lists are at least two years old; it takes that long for books to filter through librarians and teachers. My book was a full quarter shy of two years old. Prematurely remaindered, methinks.

My agent asked my editor if the house was keeping books in stock through their own website so students from this state could at least order it from the house. Three weeks have passed. As yet, we've had no reply.

To add insult to injury, the day the 300 copies of my book arrived at my house, the FedEx guy knocked at my door and told me to sign for delivery of a pallet loaded with 25 boxes of books that was dropped at the end of my driveway because, and I quote, "It's a curbside delivery. You want me to break up the pallet? It's another $75 bucks."

Luckily I have a hand truck, a healthy back, and an attic that's high & dry.

So, the book is for sale on my website, I've donated copies to a teen readers website for a monthly contest, I'm doing a summer event at a local bookstore as part of a teen readers series and I'll handsell the book and, generally, I'm pretty sanguine about the whole thing now.

And I'm sure that, in time, I'll laugh at "The Book of my Enemy has been Remaindered," again. But not just yet.


David said...

What a grim and depressing experience.

I've also had the experience of no books showing up for signings. That seems to be common. Still, Anonymous YA Author's experience seems extreme.

Anonymous said...

As a blogging book reviewer, I was stunned to realize I knew things about authors and their books a long time before their publicists made a peep. In some cases, I was sworn to secrecy, but most of the time the publicists either didn't know or didn't care. I got the feeling I was easier to talk to. Also, I was surprised to realize the publicists knew little about the books and had never read them.

Enthusiasm can't be bought, but an author ought to get her money's worth from a publicist.

Southern Writer said...

Can you say, "hospitalized in critical condition?" Okay, I may be overstating it a bit, but I'm really appalled by the author's experience. Was the publicist an in-house person assigned to the author, or one she hired on her own?

I'm all for walking on eggshells within the publishing industry, but apparently there can come a time when it's not in your own best interest to do so. Why didn't you contact your agent about the matter as soon as it happened? S/he is losing money as well; I would think they would be all over that.

Anonymous said...

This was all inhouse - if I'd HIRED someone so lame, I'd have asked for my money back.

I did tell my agent the minute any of these "mishaps" happened, she did tell my editor, who should have been championing the book inhouse, but had a BIG BOOK that was sucking all the air out of the room, apparently.

The sad thing is that they have first dibs on my second book, which my editor is (I think) perusing right now. If they do pick it up, BELIEVE me, things is gonna be different with publicity. I won't go through THIS again.

But the truth is, to some degree, I probably will. Unless all your reviews are starred and the house decides upfront that they're gonna get behind the book (often because the publicity angle is horrifyingly obvious) then you get little or no love from publicity, marketing and promotion and you just gotta DIY.

Which is where folks like Bella save the day. I hate to think how fast they'd have tanked my book if I HADN'T been out there plugging it myself.

Melissa said...

Can I ask if you had a Literary agent or were you going thru the publisher directly.

I would ask which publisher, but I don't want to see you burn any bridges. Was it a big name house or an smaller or independent?

Bella Stander said...

The post indicates that the author has an agent. The publisher is a major house.

Anonymous said...

No books for a signing. I keep hearing tales about that, but so far, KNOCK WOOD, it hasn't happened to me. However, I don't believe my publicist sent out ARCs or books to any newspapers, TV or radio (even though she told me she would). Once it got some attention in magazines, she was done. My publisher is publishing my next book, and as you say, next time things will be different. If I have the same pub I'm going to assume she's not telling me the truth.

Sustenance Scout said...

Oy, what an eye-opener. Thanks for sharing, Anonymous and Bella. K.