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Publishing Missteps

Publishing missteps?  Naturally, anything that goes wrong is always, without exception, the publisher’s fault, right?  It’s the first thing you learn in Author-Bitch 101.  Seriously, I’ve learned through the years (I’ve been at this game a long time) that it pays to be informed.  By that I mean not just sexy marketing campaigns but the nuts and bolts involving decidedly unglamorous aspects of publishing such as print runs, distribution, and sell-through.  I came by this lesson the hard way, not with my first novel GARDEN OF LIES, the campaign for which propelled me onto the New York Times bestseller list and spoiled me for all subsequent book campaigns, but with my second novel, SUCH DEVOTED SISTERS.   Timing is everything, and in this case the timing sucked.  The novel came out at Christmastime, where it literally got lost in the shuffle.   To add insult to injury, it was during the Salman Rushdie fatwa and  my publisher at the time, Viking Press, had more important things to worry about than the fate of my novel.  We authors tend to think that nothing is more important than the latest tome, except, say, the birth of one’s children.  But I’ll allow that death threats and bomb-sniffing dogs could prove a wee bit distracting.  Suffice it to say I enjoyed a briefer sojourn on the bestseller list the second time around, and the print run, double that of my first novel, was a guarantee only of one thing: big returns.

Which brings me to the second lesson: Never put out more copies than you can reasonably expect to sell.  Nowadays, this is something you need not worry about.  Booksellers have become extremely cautious when placing orders, so there is little chance of their ending up with huge, unsold piles of books.  Still…I wish I’d known twenty years ago what I know now.  It would have saved me some sleepless nights and days of bashing my head against the proverbial wall.   At the very least I would not have seen the failure as mine.  I would have known exactly where to assign blame.   

But, hey, what marriage between author and publisher is perfect?  At the end of the day, you gotta dance with who brung you.  The plain fact is we need them as much as they need us.   

Eileen Goudge