Finally, I arrive at the point. I will now wave my magic mouse and reconstruct this four-part series with an eye on the publishing/writing business. I have condensed the piece a bit, as I am aware of how very busy many of you are.
If you have not read parts one-three of this blog, you will find them at http://redroom.com/member/lslbradford
With a gazillion books to choose from, Internet savvy consumers don't exactly drop into a bookstore and buy the first title they see. They browse every book on the shelf/Internet, and want to see all of the options. Romance, self-help, memoir, horror, mystery, thriller, etc. They pick up the work and read the back, the inside jacket, the reviews and a few pages. Non-fat, no whip, soy latte in hand, they wander around and do the same thing to another 10 or 20 titles.
Working alongside hundreds of thousands of other royalty-earning colleagues, one must be very clever about marketing their books.
Don't sell, don't eat.
Contrary to popular opinion, the talented writer does not stand around with a pen and paper simply getting publishers to sign on the dotted line by flashing their English degree.
Let us visit the typical Monday in the life of a writer/publisher.
8:00 A.M: Writer gives himself pep talk. "Please God, get me a book deal!"
Meanwhile, at the publishing house, the executives shuffle in after their weekend in the Hamptons. (Okay, I don't really know this to be true, but it sounds good).
Writers, however, are never off the clock. Their brains spin 24-7. Joe Writer can't take a day off since the ideas in his head never shut up. He's already invested thousands of hours into a manuscript and does not want to give his colleagues, a million other authors, all his royalties when they hit the market with a similar unique concept. (Side note-a unique concept only hits the market once—hence the word “unique”.)
There are a gazillion great writers out there, however, concept is King
I know what you're probably thinking, “Why doesn't Joe Writer just tell potential publishers what his concept is and to hang on until he finishes his manuscript?” Yes, this is a wonderful idea, yet does not seem to be effective. Mr. Editor is a very busy man and has 1000 manuscripts a month sitting on his desk and a three year contract to make a name for himself. If he is going to survive he needs the next big concept “right now.”
No matter what the success of the company that year, the publisher will tell his editors they better get off their asses and get some books on the New York Times Bestseller's list. The boss is tired of spending a fortune publishing books only to see opportunities wasted because an author doesn't know how to market himself.
After the meeting, all twelve editors saunter (academics don't race) to their office to see if they can find the next big thing on the slush-pile. In this market, however, a book must have a 100% chance of succeeding.
Poor, poor writer. He wishes he were a 200 pound musky in the middle of a fishing tournament. Why he's just begging to be fished out of the slush-pile.
“I need to see your 30 page marketing plan and a mediagenic photo, and hurry up. I only have 10 minutes to read 100 other manuscripts.”
You see, Mr. Editor has to get back to his list of currently well-known authors and get them to produce another commercially viable work so he can get on vacations.com and book that trip to Hawaii.
Back to Cathy.
Cathy is not the only woman who ever thought of writing a book on XYZ. She spent years researching, writing, and editing her book. She just had to get a book advance so she could quit her job at Slavedriver, Asseface, and Jag, and devote her life to producing the next great commercially successful novel.
Cathy's smile collapsed each time she received another rejection letter from agents and publishers. The pile was getting bigger and bigger.
She decided since it was raining sadness and the book deal seemed 'dead' she would spend her month studying the markets online to see what was hot. She had to keep training herself if she wanted to land a book deal. With important authors like JK Rawlings, Stephen King and Alice Munroe slamming away at the market share, she'd better bone up on inventing a great concept if she was going to sell anything.
Gone are the days when great writing and well-edited manuscripts earned a publisher's attention and sizable advances, even for new authors. This was a new era. The rules had been forever changed.
An Antonio Robbinsky email was waiting in her Inbox. Cathy had long wondered if the famous motivational speaker could help her sell her book, but couldn't justify spending precious grocery money on the course.
Cathy leaned back in her chair and pondered her past efforts.
She tried to have a positive attitude each day. She invested huge amounts of time and energy into writing, practicing her skills all the time—even in the shower. Worked night and day. She was both inventive and persistent.
Cathy spent the next five years writing manuscripts in the hopes Mr. Editor would notice her. Like most writers, she knew if she could just land a book deal her life would be complete.
Cathy finally catches the attention of a publisher who says,”Thank you for your manuscript. We love it, but with so many wonderful books on the market we must carefully consider taking you on as a client.” Once again, Mr. Editor can not take any chances in this economy.
Perhaps he would call, perhaps not. Cathy would have to wait and see. It was out of her control now.
At Penquinfeet, Jack was getting his 20K advance. When the editor took Jack on as a new author, he told him he would have to become a full-time marketer. “PUBLISHERS PRINT, AUTHORS SELL.” With all the competition flying around the Internet, he must set himself apart from the competition.
Join social networking groups and refine his skills as a public speaker. Distribute sell sheets, create a website and book trailer, get reviews, interviews, speaking engagements, go on the road, hire a publicist and marketing company, all at his own expense. Yes, yes, the publisher would put Jack through the conventional in-house marketing plan, however, this was a new model and bankable authors were the ones being doted on by PR. The 20K was disappearing before his eyes, especially since it was an advance on his future royalties. “I can't afford to quit my day job, but how will I go on the road?” Jack was perplexed.
Jack's fantasy was evaporating before his eyes. He thought when he plunked the last word down on his manuscript and found a publisher, the hard part was over. Alas, the steep hike up the wet, rocky trail had only just begun and he didn't have shoes with good ankle support.
Jack was no longer a writer.
Yes, my invisible Internet guests, Jack now had the same job as a used-car salesperson. Sell, sell, sell.
There is one very big difference between the two professions. Writers love to write. They gorge themselves on story, flow, plot and concept. 99.9% of car people hate their jobs. So the next time you saunter into a dealership, be nice. And remember; Car guy aint' much different than you.
Now, please don't whack me over the head with your PhD.
If you're not convinced, write me and let me know how you feel when sitting behind the table at your next book signing.
And by the way, this isn't' a blog about car salespeople, authors, publishers, book marketing or the current state of the book industry. It, my friends, is a blog about concept.
To visit my trailer:
Causes Leslie Scott Supports
Humane society, cancer research, youth mentorship, homeless shelters