Wednesday, April 27, 2005

What does a publisher do for an author? Part I

I was talking with a fellow author yesterday. Her book is about to be released by a small press. She asked me what she might expect from her publisher in terms of marketing, and what the publisher might expect of her. It turned out to be a long conversation.

Another friend of mine mentioned that my blog posts are too long. So I’m breaking up my response to my fellow author’s questions.

An author’s expectations of course depend on the size of the publisher. A large house has more resources. But even big publishers do not knock themselves out for most mid-list authors. Case in point: one afternoon I went to a bookstore to meet an author whose book had been widely touted in the news. He’d been on major television programs and interviewed by several nationally circulated magazines. When I arrived, he was uncrating his books. He’d brought them with him on the plane. We talked at length in between visitors to his table.

He shared with me the following facts: (1)he’d paid his own travel expenses, with no expectation of reimbursement; (2)he needed reviews; (3)he was very much involved and on top of his publicity. I made the following mental notes: (1)he did not have any display posters; (2)there were no bookmarks on his table; (3)he stood to greet visitors rather than sitting down.

His publisher is an imprint of one of the very big publishers. I am deliberately keeping his name private. I did not ask for his permission to print what he told me.

I followed his title. It’s a nonfiction work marketed to a specific niche, and although never a best-seller, continues to sell at a consistent pace. The book was released first in hardcover, and no expense was spared on production. It is a lovely book.

Bottom line: in addition to paying for the book’s production, the publisher did arrange some very visible publicity. But the author himself was doing most of the grassroots legwork to sell his book. And his publisher has very deep pockets.

Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow. I will try diligently to keep these posts shorter.

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